I See You

UK Rated: PG
Runtime: 122min 25secs (14 reels)
Tagline: You find love in the strangest places.
Director: Vivek Agarwal

Plot Outline
Raj Jaiswal (Arjun Rampal) is the star attraction on the TV show British Raj. Its a fact he knows and exploits to his advantage with the opposite sex. Not surprisingly, he knows the art of harmless flirting and serious seduction and it would seem he spares no one, not even the new recruit on the show! but that was until the evening he bumped into Shivani (Vipasha) in his own home.

There she was like a dream. Or was it really a dream? Its a question Raj cant seem to answer himself. After all, she breezes in and out of his home and office whether he likes it or not! Unfortunately, Raj is the only one who seems to be able to see her or talk to her. A fact confirmed by the quizzical expressions on the faces of his colleagues and best friend Akshay (Chunky Pandey). Over the next few days, as the world watches in amusement, Raj Jaiswal raves, rants and romances with a woman who is quite simply for his eyes only.

Review:
Okay, firstly above is the official line from the makers the real deal is that this flick is a highly inspired, Indian take, unofficial remake, whatever youd like to call it of Hollywood Reese Witherspoon starrer Just Like Heaven. Fortunately this fits into those categories of a good concept that our Indian films havent been exposed to in the past. The original ( this one) are sweet little films that explore the idea of a woman in a coma, who is half-dead so to speak. As her spirit has wandered for over 6 months she manages to now find just the one person (now living in what was once her home) who can perceive and communicate with her. The events that follow form the crux of the plot.

ISome Hollywood flicks just come off to me as Bollywood films in the making this does fit the bill. It references other Bollywood ghost films like Bees Saal Baad on numerous occasions and this adds appeal to the average Bollywood audiences. The subtle parts in the narrative like when Shivani shows Raj the way she sees things and how later we see his change from flamboyant playboy to a more mature gentleman, that has taken these visions on board are handled with finesse.

Performances:
I think the film totally belongs to the principal pair. Arjun emotes well when required to and handles the comic situations where people think he is going nuts with flourish ease. I wouldnt go out to say this is his best performance of all time, but that is merely due to the role not really requiring it. He underplays his persona very well.

The newcomer playing Shivani (the spirit/woman in coma) Vipasha handles her role with much ease too, She doesnt appear the generic glamour that you may expect from a newcomers first vehicle, but she does hold a certain charm in her simplistic presence and she totally allows the audience to feel the pain that comes with being in her characters state. One performer to keep your eye open for.

Chunkey Pandey is functional. Were beginning to see more of him over the past year or so, hopefully hell get larger roles in the future if he truly wants to make a comeback. At this stage he is relegated to playing second fiddle it would appear. Sonali Kulkarni playing his wife too is functional, both these roles however have limited scope. Boman Irani irritates as he appears to be funny and fails terribly

The character of Detective John Smith is worth a special mention. (Possibly Michael Maloney from the listed star cast, though Ill have to double check). His Hindi punch lines enacting film titles the most common used dialogues from 1970s classics such as Kanoon Ke Haath Bahut Lambe Hai (The reach of the law is vast) uttered by many a cop in those days raise a smile each every time he speaks. It also fits the character in that he had supposedly learn all his Hindi by watching films – smart writing here.

Music:
SeeOnly 4 tracks in this 2 hour venture, the opening credits with the introduction of our main lead and his boyish charms is Subah Subah, this is a catchy little tune with a riff youre likely to have running in your head in a few days time wonder why its still there. Picturised on Arjun principally its a catchy song with visuals of London that are a treat to see, I mean I live here its seems Im missing out 🙂

This song includes 2 small cameos firstly of Shah Rukh Khan strumming that catchy riff on his guitar, later followed by Hrithik busting out a singular dance move roaming away casually, being humble enough not to show off his excessive dance talents this time round. The special appearances are pleasant but may have total outsiders wonder why the focus has been driven away from Raj thrown off a little by the irrelevance of it all. None the less, it build the mood character of Raj just as required.

Halo Halo in the second half is very well picturised. The sets look stunning and colourful, the choreography of Shiamak Davar in this number is also is also worth a mention. In the narrative this was a much needed celebratory song, as the on goings around it were getting a little on the heavy side otherwise. As for the sound of the song itself, its a close tie between this one the above that Id struggle to pick the better.

The other 2 tracks are passable, the one before Intermission (Kehna Hai Jo) could easily be snipped without much notice. I guess it was trying to establish a connection between the principal pair that we already felt anyway. The last song (Sach Hui) is only noticed in the background and fits its requirement of background perfectly. More background music would have been nice.

Product Placements
YouA Sony camcorder in the initial scene showing British Raj being filmed. Once the credits roll in a few other scenes there are London busses advertising the television program British Raj on the right on Arjun in the picture we can see a Zee TV logo. In the London scenes we see a Nandos and a LloydsTSB branch a couple of times. I also noted one of the buildings was around the Bank tube station. The very same place I spotted in Bhagam Bhag last week.

In Rajs flat we see his Pioneer 50 Plasma Television. A good choice. The exact same TV that I own I might add, though I was unimpressed that his setup had the attachment speakers both together near the curtains behind the television as opposed to on the far left right of the room or attached to the TV. Ah well. On this sweeet television at one point we see behind him that showing is the Oscar winning film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – the Raindrops, falling on my head song to be specific. Raj also owned a silver Apple powerbook (probably 15 – mine is a 12 portable). BBC World was the channel on which we see an interview with Inspector John Smith in the pre-climax.

Overall Impressions:
Some minor blemishes on the technical side (mostly post-production), such as some of the dubbing which was noticeable at times some moments of silence which felt they lacked a background score but nothing unforgivable. Its a well directed film which Arjun should be proud of as it also marks the opening of his own production. Im sure the technical glitches will be noticed in-house and fixed in future productions. They currently made it feel a little more like an Art/Independent film as opposed to commercial Bollywood which may narrow down the audience it should appeal to.

This film from what Ive heard hasnt had the initial burst of good collections at the box office. The reason for this is primarily is the awful timing of release in the year it has had. With the festive period .. grrr everything being shut all it certainly doesnt help. Had it been 2 weeks earlier or later I think it would have been met with a more justice. Limited prints and the lack of profuse publicity also seems to add to its lack of initial collections. That said, I think with a little word-of-mouth the fate of the film is sure to flourish once in the Television rights DVD market.

Feel Good film that you could happily take a date to see. Highly Recommended Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

A review by Ramchandra Solanki
Posted on January 3rd, 2007 at 8:54 am by _ram-jaane’ in Foreign, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Family, Fantasy, Reviews, Musical, Bollywood

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The Painted Veil
The Painted VeilStarring: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Toby Jones
Written by: Ron Nyswaner
Directed by: John Curran

A large portion of the modern love stories captured on film today are geared to the teenage crowd so its no surprise that when a film like this one, geared to a more mature audience, comes about, it garners some attention. The Painted Veil picked up additional steam as it is the third time a film has been made based on W. Somerset Maughams novel. This particular re-incarnation has come, in part, thanks to Edward Norton who has been trying to get this film made for a number of years and, from the bits Ive read, this may be the best version to date.

A woman enters into a loveless marriage with a doctor in an effort to please her parents. After a scandalous affair, her husband moves them to China. While there, she discovers not only herself but also grows to love her husband. Though the circumstances that surround the marriage and move to China seem out of place in todays society, writer Ron Nyswaner does a good job of bringing to life an era which many of us no longer remember. Not only does he manage to breathe life into the times and characters but he does so with care and compassion. His script in combination with great performances from the leads, has produced an approachable film that is easy to relate to. Edward Norton provides another quiet yet powerful performance and, as usual, it works for him here. Naomi Watts has, over the years, managed to make a bit of a name for herself but her performances, have always left a bit to be desired yet in this film, she pulls out all the stops and her performance is memorable. Though not award material, it is one of her best performances to date and hopefully, this is only one of many more to come. The film relies heavily on the relationship between Kitty and Walter and the film works largely because of the on-screen chemistry between Norton and Watts. Watts had the more challenging of the two roles and her transition from a selfish young woman to mature wife is easily believable.

Director John Curran beautifully integrates and balances Kitty and Walters relationship with the political struggles and unrest in the far east. Though the politics could have taken over the film, Currant manages to incorporate it into the story while never letting it become the central story. Currant also takes full advantage of his surroundings, taking every opportunity to incorporate the breathtaking landscapes into the film. His swooping shots of the valleys, mountains and even the fields are beautiful and his usage of colour and landscape only ads to the richness of the film. I was particularly impressed with his choice of capturing the influx of villagers in a desert-like locale which works wonderfully to create an added feeling of grimness and death; a small yet effective choice. The beauty of the film is further accentuated by a rich score Alexandre Desplat.

The Painted Veil is not a film that will appeal to all; its much slower than younger audiences are used to but more mature viewers will appreciate the throw back to the classic love stories of the 40s and 50s. Currant has created a beautiful and moving film that tells a timeless story of love, passion and self-discovery.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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Posted on December 30th, 2006 at 1:28 am by Marina in Drama, Romance, Reviews

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Notes on a Scandal Pass Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Notes on a Scandal ticket giveaway.

The answer to the two part question is that Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both played Queen Elizabeth. Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love and Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.

The following individuals have all won passes to the advanced screening of the film which opens nation wide on January 5th:

Dianne Dennis, Sara Doherty, Tyrone Martin Polanski, Amanda, Dale McGladdery, Marcella, Doris Rufli, Colleen OPrime, Tammy, Cheryl Knott, Naomi Mardukhi, Erin Johnson, Jane Perry, Mark Walters

Congratulations to all of the winners. You will all be contacted shortly with details on how to pick up your tickets to the show. Thanks to Fox Searchlight for providing us with the tickets to the screening.

Stay tuned to MAD About Movies for more chances to win cool prizes!

Posted on December 29th, 2006 at 1:11 am by Marina in Contests

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Curse of the Golden Flower

Curse of the Golden Flower Movie PosterStarring: Chou Jay, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Junjie Qin, Li Man, Liu Ye, Ni Dahong
Written by: Zhang Yimou
Directed by: Zhang Yimou

Zhang Yimou is well known for masterful eye candy such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers and though he took a break from the super stylish to give us the masterful Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles he appears to be back to the style we know and have come to love. He hasnt just come back; hes come back with a vengeance.

Curse of the Golden Flower is bigger than anything weve seen come out of China in the last few years. Where most of these type of films are always rich in colour and texture, Yimous new offering leaves them all behind and enters into a league all its own. The rich and vibrant colours and textures that weve become accustomed to are not only present here, theyre heightened. Where House of Flying Daggers used specific colour pallets to tell parts of the story, this film uses a multitude of colours and not just rich colours but bright colours too. The multitude of colours used throughout the sets are accented by back light and the use of gold throughout both the sets and the costumes further helps to create the richness and lavishness of imperial life.

Beautiful sets and costumes are enough to keep one busy for a little while but the bottom line is that to be good, a film still needs a story and the story behind Curse of the Golden Flower is a fairly good and uncomplicated one. Actually, it reminds me of a Jerry Springer episode on dysfunctional families complete with mixed up family ties, angry children and an unloving father except that it all takes place in a time far in the past with circumstances with the power to change an empire. My only qualm with this story is that the characters are poorly developed and we never quite find out why the emperor has been poisoning the empress. The acting is, as suggested by the script and as weve come to accept from other films of this genre, melodramatic and largely unmoving. That said, I was somewhat impressed by Chow Yun-Fats limited yet controlled performance but this is largely the empress film and Gong Li is both regal surprisingly motherly in her role.

As for the fight sequences well, theres a few but theyre far from the centre of the story. Instead, there are a few minor fight scenes, all using the beautiful wire work weve come to expect from Yimou but they pale in comparison to the final battle which is nearly a direct rip-off of the Battle at Helms Deep in the The Lord of the Rings. Even so, its a spectacle to behold and equally stunning are the events that unfold directly after the battle.

Curse of the Golden Flower is both what weve come to expect for Yimous films and, at the same time, its different as well. It appears that over the last few years a number of these Chinese directors have entered into what appears to be a contest of one upmanship. Im not sure anyone is going to be able to top the look of Yimous latest offering. This is a visually stunning film that manages to offer an interesting story as well. Fans of these films for the fights may be disappointed by the lack of them but if youre willing to sit through a bit of melodrama, you may yet be entertained.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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Posted on December 29th, 2006 at 12:42 am by Marina in Foreign, Adventure, Reviews

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Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa Movie PosterStarring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia, Tony Burton, James Francis Kelly III, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone

When the trailers for the new Rocky film hit the net, more than a handful of folks talked about how this was Stallones pathetic attempt to revive a career that hasnt exactly been stellar over the last few years. I liked the look of the new trailer and fortunately for me, and a bunch of other fans, Stallone proved that he was deserving of a comeback and what a great come back it is.

Rocky Balboa re-introduces us to “The Italian Stallion”, an aging ex-boxer who, after the death of his beloved wife, is feeling a bit lost and empty and, in an attempt to regain some meaning in his life, decides that theres some “stuff in the basement” and decides to take up boxing again. Let me warn you though, if youre going into Rocky Balboa looking for two hours of training culminating in a big fight, you may be disappointed. The training footage doesnt really show up until the second half of the movie and the bout, though extensive, is fairly standard Rocky fair. What you will get, is an emotional, well developed story of growing old while still doing what makes you happy. Not to worry though, I guarantee that by the time the classic Rocky music kicks in marking the beginning of the training montage, were so seeped in Rockyness its impossible not to feel a sudden urge to cheer. Hold on to that urge though, youre going to need it for the fight.

Stallone may not be an award winning actor but hes a talented writer and director. True, we all know who Rocky is but in this, the last installment of the series, were introduced to the fighter in such a way that hes appealing to both old and new fans. We see a little of the fighter that was and the man that is and it never feels contrived or fake. Even the introduction of a new woman into Rockys life doesnt seem out of place and instead, we see something which happens in real life but rarely on screen – an opposite sex friendship that seems real without crossing into romantic love. Stallone in an excellent storyteller and his understanding of his characters and their drive is what really keeps this story together and moving. Im not sure much could be said for his acting abilities but hes so much the embodiment of this character that it would be impossible to see anyone else in the role and he owns it here.

Other than great writing, Stallone continues to prove that he has a keen eye for capturing moments and some of his choices in this film further suggest that he should really stay behind the camera. Particularly good is the title fight and the way its filmed as an HBO PPV special. Its an interesting move that really works well but, unfortunately, halfway in he changes it up and, quite suddenly, we find ourselves looking at a slow motion shot and some interesting use of colour. Its not a bad choice but I found the PPV approach more interesting.

This is definitely a come back but very few individuals could pull off such a great triumph on their own. Im sure Stallone had help with this picture but this is his baby. Its his story and his acting and he carries it off beautifully. Rocky Balboa marks both the end and the beginning; the end of a franchise that really took a sour turn in its last few films and the restart of, what I hope, is a fruitful future behind the camera for Stallone. The man has great talent and it would be a shame if we didnt get to see any more of it. Either way, Rocky Balboa is a film to watch; a film that is entertaining, exciting and meaningful.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

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Posted on December 27th, 2006 at 9:55 pm by Marina in Drama, Reviews

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The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland Movie PosterStarring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson
Written by: Peter Morgan, Jeremy Brock
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald

Film can be an amazing learning tool and The Last King of Scotland is a perfect example of that. In this particular film, director Kevin Macdonald brings to the screen Idi Amin, a man who ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979 with an iron fist that destroyed a nation and killed anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000 Ugandans.

As with the real history involved, this isnt a pretty film. Theres much death, torture and murder but theres also an interesting and personal look at a man who thought himself a god among men. Idi Amin was charming, a talker with big ideas and enough goons to make things work for him and the film doesnt shy away from these facts. Based on a book by the same title, the film begins with a young (and fictional) doctor named Nicholas Garrigan who travels to Uganda to make a difference. Following a series of odd events, he finds himself as Amins physician and, with time, one of his closest advisers. What follows is an observers view of a man whos slowly changing before his eyes but, at closer inspection, we see that Amin was always that man, the young doctor simply didnt see it to begin with. The scrip is well put together by Jeremy Brock and it manages to capture nearly 8 years of Amins rule and increasingly apparent ill temper.

The great scrip it accompanied by some outstanding acting. Thought James McAvoy as our doctor plays a critical part in the story, it is Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin that steals the show. Whitaker has, over the years, created quite a name for himself and this may be the film that gets him the attention every actor covets, Academys attention. His performance in powerful, captivating and scary while occasionally, when called upon, reverting to a amicable and even likable persona, never once breaking out of character. It was also nice to see Gillian Anderson back on screen She looks as good as ever and her accent was also surprisingly good. I hope we see more of her in the years to come.

The Last King of Scotland isnt a happy film it is, however, an insightful film that manages to personify and bring to life a man who, many of us, dont remember. Its not an easy film to take in but if you have the stomach for it and are looking for a truly outstanding performance and a history lesson / biography of a man who we cant afford to forget, give this one a chance. You wont be disappointed.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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Posted on December 27th, 2006 at 9:50 pm by Marina in Drama, Reviews

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Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls Movie PosterStarring: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson, Keith Robinson, Bobby Slayton
Written by: Bill Condon
Directed by: Bill Condon

Sometime between the 70s and 80s, musicals went the way of the dodo; essentially, they disapperared. There have a been a couple of attempts at a return but, for the most part, these have been largely unsuccessful and although some of these modern musicals have captured audiences, they have not been able to return us to the musicals of the 40s and 50s; until now. The first true musical since 2002s Chicago, Dreamgirls truly takes us back to musical roots bringing catchy music, eye popping production and a family friendly story with a message to the masses.

The film converts and captures the much acclaimed musical of the same name to the screen, making excellent usage of the star power involved. Bill Condon, who also took on the task of creating this screenplay, has created a fun, appealing film. Loosely based on the rise of the Supremes, the film follows a trio called The Dreamettes as they get discovered and, soon, take over the air waves; but not without a few was wounds along the way. Though the film centers primarily Curtis Taylor Jr. a money, and power, hungry manager and his rise top with the help of what starts off as the Dreamettes, the true star of this film is Effie White, the stubborn diva with a voice big enough to rival any super star. Unfortunately, her inner diva spill into her attitude and as the story unfolds, Effie is pushed aside and essentially disappears from the film until the last 25 of so minutes. Its unfortunate that the story unfolds this way because Effie, beautifully brought to life by the very talented Jennifer Hudson, is the real show stopper of the film and though the rest of the cast carries the story well, shes the real soul and heart of the story and her on-screen presence, though limited, is the highlight of the film.

Theres been a lot of Oscar buzz around this film and for good reason. All of the characters are well developed and rounded and brilliantly brought to life by a talented cast. Foxx and Knowles have great chemistry and they carry a large portion of the film well though they are far from the most entertaining. Its been years since Eddie Murphy has been great on film but his return is truly outstanding. Hes at home as the over the top RB sensation James Thunder Early and his performances, on stage and behind it is excellent. However, with all this talent, the real show stopper is Hudson. This girl doesnt just have lungs but she can act too. Her performance isnt just good; its stunning and her singing is hair raising. Its amazing to think that she almost didnt get this part and even more astounding that she didnt win her season of American Idol. I cant wait to see what more she has to offer; be it on-screen or on stage.

Dreamgirls is a great production. The costumes are era specific yet stylish as is the hair and make-up. Add in excellent sets and music and it truly feels like a trip back to the early years of Motown. My only qualm is that the music, though generally good, isnt particularly memorable. I did find myself tapping along to the music and, with repeat viewing, Im sure it would stick a little more but most of the music was largely mediocre. Im assuming that the songs are taken directly from the Broadway production and although theyre good, they lack the initial catchiness of the Disney musicals weve seen over the years.

The big question continues to be if Dreamgirls is capable of taking over the Oscars. Yes, its good and yes, its entertaining but Im not convinced its Oscar material. I could see Hudson taking home a best supporting statue – the girl is amazing – but otherwise, the film isnt exactly spectacular. But again, Hudson is and for no other reason, the film should be seen for her performance. She is truly outstanding and its no surprise that in a matinée screening on boxing day, people clapped when her name rolled through the credits. This is an outstanding first time performance and one that has definitely put her on the map. Right smack in the middle of it to be exact.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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Posted on December 27th, 2006 at 2:42 am by Marina in Drama, Reviews, Musical

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Bhagam Bhag (On The Run)
UK Rated: PG
Runtime: 157min 21secs
Director: Priyadarshan
Screenplay Dialogue: Neeraj Vora
Official Website

Plot Outline
Champak [Paresh Rawal] has a theatre group and he performs shows all over the country (in India). Bunty [Akshay Kumar] and Babla [Govinda] along with numerous others are actors in this group. These two in particular are quite the trouble makers who never miss a chance to flirt with girls, especially with the girls in their group.

At the completion of one of their shows, an organizer [Asrani] who is mighty impressed with the glamourous heroine of the play [Tanushree Dutta] offers Champaks group an opportunity to perform some shows in England.

The actress promptly opts out due to Bunty Bablas misbehaviors toward her, thankfully for Champak, the deal has been signed already so the sho will go on, but the place of the missing heroine does need to be filled.

Once they reach London, the mischevous Duo are introduced to Gullu [Rajpal Yadav], a local in-the-know taxi driver who offers his advice to resolve their problems being of general good service to his fellow Indian brothers as instructed by the organiser, Bunty and Babla are in search for a girl for their play, but naturally this leads to many hilarious misunderstandings.

Bunty and Bablas failed endeavours are amusing in themselves, how they also manage to get into trouble with a drug baron [Manoj Joshi], get nabbed by the Police who due to the language barriers call in their Police Comissioner [Jackie Shroff] add to the comedy of the first hour we watch enjoy as on the run they go.

How they get themselves a heroine would form the crux of the film, or so you are led to think. The tale takes a twist when eventually they do find a willing lady for their show, as the baggage that comes with this is the story of mishaps that follows.

Review:
The first half of this slapstick has its multiple laugh-out-loud comic moments – it should be said quite early on that when I say this is slapstick I do mean by that to switch your intelligence to that of a young child if not totally off and take what you see as is. Logic has no place in viewing this (at all).

For modern-day slapstick fare, its pretty a pretty decent job, but since slapsticks arent everybodys cup of tea in this day age, it seems the writer here has tried to keep an audience outside of this engaged too, by having a murder mystery thrown in the mix at the intermission point ( the second half), this turning point from which it becomes a whodunit venture, you do feel engaged by the on-goings however it loses some of its original charm as its primarily seen advertised as a comedy the problem lies in that it tries to maintain this even when the plot has become rather serious. This is where ther writing certainly does falter some.

The pace also drops at this point and we end up seeing the best of neither worlds. The climax of most Priyadarshan films get rather silly this one is no different. Though there is a clean resolution to the mystery which was introduced at the interval point, it lacks impact. Since we also have all the other comedy subplots hit centre screen at the climax point too – it kinda reminds you of the old skool Charlie Chaplin films, where there is total chaos, everything is going hectic. This fits in with the look feel of the film but it seems to ensure you do notice that the murder mystery in the midst is a huge blemish – it just doesnt fit in. (I cant even imagine it in a Charlie Chaplin film).

Music:
The opening credits with the song Signal, Pyaar Ka Signal (The Signal of Love) was a great start, The picturisation is done well capturing the colour you expect from theatre, but the ongoings with Akshay Govinda fighting over the girl reminds us of the Big B Govinda track Makhna from Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (Big Man Little Man) fighting over Madhuri Dixit – which was a superior song.

Tere Bin picturised on Akshay Kumar Lara Dutta juts before intermission is a nice one, this is the one Id play the soundtrack for. Watching it youd think the streets of London are romantic or something. HA!

Afreen merely appeals for its picturisation as ongoings as it does capture the theatre feel about it plus the mystery.Probably not one youd listen to otherwise. As a sidenote, they seem to have found some heroine after all its not Lara Dutta, nor is it one of those special appearances that we in Bollywood do so well. Just another point of many telling you to leave your thinking caps off.

Bhagam Bhag (On The Run) in the closing credits is passable to watch, no real reason to have this in the flick but sure it makes the credits a bit more interesting I guess, its a decent enough song, I think its somewhat wasted thrown in to the end of the film.

Aa Khushi Se Khud Khushi Kar Le (Come Happily Commit Suicide) wasnt in the film but is a pretty catchy number, it fits the feel of the rest of the tracks voiced by Sunidhi Chauhan it is apparent that if it was picturised it would have been upon Lara Dutta as she has suicidal tendencies in the film from the very moment you see her – another hilarious angle.

What the soundtrack seems to lack in my opinion is just a simple theme tune, the piece from the Signal track which is used in the theatrical trailer the chase scenes. Instead there are remixes of pretty much all of the above tracks. Ah well *shrugs*

Performances:
Govinda is seen as the King of comedy though hes been in hybernation his comeback is more than welcome. I wouldnt say this is his careers best performance or even close, but you have a certain expectation of a Govinda film this criteria is met. He entertains, He makes you laugh.

During Govindas absence, the close contenders for the top spot are none other than Paresh Rawal Akshay Kumar and they arent outshadowed even slightly. It becomes a little of concern that these two are becoming typecast for comedy like Rani Mukherji is for her crying, but unlike Rani this is okay, as the audience isnt fed up yet.

Lara Dutta is the sore thumb if there is one, it may just be me but she comes of as trying too hard still failing when it comes to the moments of emotion. That said the ongoing little rants she has about how she wants to kill herself are highly amusing.

From the rest of the cast the one man that stands tall to the main cast is Rajpal Yadav as the taxi driver. His comic timing is absolutely perfect as always. Ive yet to see a film where he is not on form. Bravo.

Jackie Shroff, Asrani, Manoj Joshi, Arbaaz Khan, Sharat Saxena Shakti Kapoor are functional as the other people, but the principal characters get most of the screen space rightly so.

Product Placements: a NEW addition to my reviews
Highway Coaches, the coach company that brings the theatre company to the residence arranged for them. There was a Subway in a short swift view of the exterior area of the house too. At some point I also recall a sign for Brunel University.

A pan of the streets covered a sign for the BBC Proms, in some other such scenes were some generic London busses, however the National Express coach in this may have been placement, as later when they go to the Fast Track travel agency, there is National Express advertisements to be seen everywhere. (They even mention a phone number for the place 0207 745 1234 which me being me gave a call it is in fact incorrect, I ended up calling some Hotel!! Having googled for a fast track travel agency it seems this could be anywhere – maybe a fake).

Okay, not all of these can be counted as placement per say as I doubt all the chocolate bars vaguely visible in a vending machine would count, but anyhows there was a vending machine at Brightons train station which seemed predominantly populated with Mars Confectionary near the climax of the film (including Bounty, Snickers, Maltesers, Mars others that Ive now forgotten).

The one that was really stuck out as a definite placement was the Ford Mondeo all the other multiple Ford Police cars throughout that kept ensuring that the Ford logo was more than visible. Well, there we have it. Funny how much flies by you when youre not looking for it huh

The locations around central London, especially around the Bank Tube station are noticable too if you know the area. Quite a lot of shots include exit 8 show the Starbucks from which I got my swanky Starbucks Card, I mention this last because you cant actually see a sign, just the building, but I know what it is 🙂

I guess this whole film can be seen as an experiment gone a bit wrong on the writing side, but the direction is good the performances are good, leaving to us the question of overall is it worth the watch?

Blemishes aside Im going to go ahead say Yes. Even with the blemishes, its a pretty fun film.
Worth a watch if you like silly films I do mean really silly – Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

A review by Ramchandra Solanki
Posted on December 25th, 2006 at 9:35 am by _ram-jaane’ in Foreign, Comedy, Adventure, Reviews, Crime, Genre, Mystery, Musical, Bollywood

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Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp Movie PosterStarring: Becky Fischer, Ted Haggard, Mike Papantonio
Directed by: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady

Terrorism is often blamed on religion and North Americans cringe at the news and pictures of children in far away places spewing words of hate and carrying arms unfortunately, were often blind to whats going on in our own back yard. Jesus Camp is an interesting, and eye opening look at whats going on at home and suggests that we should turn our eyes to whats happening in our back yard. Thought theyre not carrying weapons, the children of Jesus Camp are fighting a war against non-believers and its only a matter of time before someone decides that the way to fight the war is with the use of weapons alongside words. The film documents a group of children attending a religious camp and introduces us to the leader of child evangelism, Becky Fischer.

Documentarians Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady have managed to put together an interesting and loaded film. It would be easy to dismiss the folks in this film as harmless however, their beliefs are far from harmless. This also isnt the deep south bible belt but in fact, the film was shot in Missouri – not exactly the first place one thinks of when we thing of “religious radicals” and dont kid yourself, this is exactly what Becky Fischer is; its also what shes trying to make of the kids who visit her summer camp each year. Its particularly disturbing to watch Fischer work because she is so good at communicating with the children and she has a keen eye for selecting the few who can be molded into good Christian leaders. Even scarier than that is the tactics used to teach the children about religion. The constant talk of sin and damnation would, in any other situation, be considered inappropriate but its the weapon of choice for essentially scaring children into submission. Im not sure whats scarier about this whole thing: the fact that these children are being indoctrinated at such a young age or the method in which it is done. Fischer defends her methods and beliefs and while I agree that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, its difficult to accept how and what shes teaching kids. To boot, the beliefs being taught in conjunction with religion go beyond morality and living free of sin and there are some interesting tidbits of information regarding everything from politics to global warming and some of it is so outrageous its laughable.

The filmmakers have spoken about how their film is unbiased unfortunately that is far from the truth. From a non-religious point of view, Jesus Camp comes across as a anti-religious film. Though this may not have been Ewing and Gradys intention its how it is perceived and really, this has as much to do with the material as it does with the fact that the film makers have given their subjects, particularly Fischer, enough rope to hang themselves with.

While watching Jesus Camp its important to keep in mind that this is a small group of radicals and that not every religious group and even religious camp is this way. This is a, hopefully, tiny percentage of the religious population and though the film is engaging, its also far from unbiased. Either way, it is an interesting look at a way of life many of us are unfamiliar with and an excellent wake up call for whats brewing at home.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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IMDb

Posted on December 23rd, 2006 at 1:30 am by Marina in Documentary, Reviews

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The History Boys

The History Boys Movie PosterStarring: Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, Frances de la Tour, Stephen Campbell Moore, Sacha Dhawan, Samuel Anderson, Dominic Cooper, Andrew Knott, Samuel Barnett, Russell Tovey, Jamie Parker, James Corden
Written by: Alan Bennett
Directed by: Nicholas Hytner

I never thought I’d describe a film as “very British” but The History Boys fits the description perfectly thankfully, it’s a few other things too.

The film is a screen version of the multi award winning British stage production of the same name. It is the story of a group of intelligent young men preparing for the Oxbridge examinations (entrance exams for Oxford and Cambridge). In an attempt to garner scholarships and, I assume, prestige, the Headmaster hires a new professor, unlike any other this group of students has ever encountered, to help the boys on the road to the examination. What quickly develops is a story which examines both learning, knowledge and, for some reason which escapes me, homosexuality. The script is quick and witty and the comedy very dry and though some of the jabs will be lost on the average viewer, the literary (and historical) crowds will absorb it like sponges. There’s also a few well dropped jokes and moments that will make everyone laugh, particularly hysterical is an exchange, in French, which doubled me over with laughter. Through all this, we have a film that looks at learning and the difference between real learning and learning for a test and, most importantly, the importance of knowledge in life. It’s an interesting discussion and the film provides positives on both sides of the fence but really leaves you to make your own decision. What I can’t begin to understand is how the homosexual aspect fits into the film. Sure it’s in there but I can’t figure out why. At first, I thought it was simply one character but as the story developed, it also included a number of other characters and really, after the importance of knowledge, it’s the second major theme of the film and, for the life of me, I can’t quite figure out why since the film takes only a small amount of time discussing the issue. It’s not that it distracts from the rest of the film but it’s puzzling, at least to me.

The film was made during a revival of the stage play in 2005 and boasts the same talented cast all of whom, I might add, are particularly handsome. Richard Griffiths as Hector, the General Studies teacher, particularly impressed me. His performance, other than his affinity for young men, reminded me of every great teacher I’ve encountered over the years and he embodied the joy of learning in a way I haven’t seen since Robin Williams in the classic The Dead Poet’s Society.

My only real qualm about this film is the production value. Thought it’s beautifully photographed and staged, there are moments of odd shots and edits that are awkward; a small price to pay for 100 minutes of entertainment.

Even with it’s problems The History Boys, with its hodgepodge of history, literature, comedy and learning works; and it works well. I missed more than a handful of jokes and that alone is enough reason for me to see it a second time and although I doubt this will garner any major acclaim, it’s an entertaining and, surprisingly, thought provoking little film.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 20th, 2006 at 3:50 pm by Marina in Comedy, Reviews

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Notes on a Scandal Free Passes – Vancouver

MAD About Movies and Fox Searchlight would like to invite you to a special advance screening of Notes on a Scandal in Vancouver on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007 at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. The film stars the very talented Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy.

For your chances to win tickets, answer the following question:

Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett have played the same character in different films. What character have they both played and in which films?
Email your answers to marina@madaboutmovies.net. Contest closes on Wednesday, December 27 and winners will contacted and announced on Thursday, December 28th.

Good luck!

Posted on December 20th, 2006 at 11:36 am by Marina in Contests

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The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness Movie ReviewStarring: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith
Written by: Steve Conrad
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino

Is it possible for a film to be too feel-good? I didn’t think so – that was until I saw The Pursuit of Happyness. Now, that’s not to say that it’s a bad movie but it is a little too sugar coated for it’s own good.

Don’t go off thinking I’m some heartless monster. There’s something to be said about overcoming adversity and rising to the top but with hundreds of stories like this one floating around, it rubs me the wrong way that so much was changed about this particular story to make it even sappier than it already was. I enjoyed The Pursuit of Happyness well enough and after seeing it, I went home and looked up Chris Gardner. No one is disputing the fact that Gardner did a great thing for himself and his family and the onslaught below does nothing to detract from the man but I was disappointed, after reading a number of articles and interviews with Gardner, that he’d allow such a deviation from his days of struggling with poverty. As if his true story wasn’t heart wrenching enough, writer Steve Conrad took ‘real life’ and blew it up a couple of notches for Hollywood sake. Not necessarily a bad thing but it goes to the heart of what’s wrong with this film: it’s a little too sad for it’s own good. No, I don’t mean the cry and sob sad but the kind of sad pulls at the heart strings and although that’s not a bad thing – after all, so few films make you feel anything other than anger that a reprieve from that is always welcomed – but in this case it comes across as too much to be believed. True, most of the story is based on events but the little extra bits that are thrown in there for the sake of drama just bump this into melo-drama too; good (or bad) to be true.

Italian director Gabriele Muccino managed, with the help of some great acting, to capture and translate the emotion on the page onto the screen. Though there is obvious chemistry between Will Smith and his son, newcomer to the big screen Jaden Smith, Muccino is the man behind the camera that manages the shots and edits to create an intimate insight into the life of this small family. On their own right, the Smiths manage to convert their real life relationship onto the screen and, thankfully, it never seems played up or over the top like the rest of the film. Will Smith is always entertaining on screen and his performance here is no exception. Though it’s not a breakthrough role for him, it is another good performance from a guy that isn’t afraid to get his toes wet in something other than his comfort zone and though The Pursuit of Happyness isn’t exactly a brilliant film, his performance is quite good and one he can proudly display on his ever growing resume. Who knew that The Fresh Prince would ever play a down and out father?

Truly the biggest disappointment of The Pursuit of Happyness is the fact that it’s just too darn sugar coated for it’s own good. Had we seen more of what ‘really’ happened, I may not have liked it much better but it would have come across as a little more realistic. In all honesty, it’s hard to believe any of these ‘based on a true story’ films because it’s difficult to distinguish between what really happened and what was added. Gardner’s story would have been better served by a documentary or an AE Biography. Regardless, The Pursuit of Happyness is a feel good family drama perfect for the holiday season.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 19th, 2006 at 2:07 pm by Marina in Reviews

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The Secret Life of Words

The Secret Life of Words Movie PosterStarring: Sarah Polley, Tim Robbins, Javier Cámara, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Eddie Marsan, Julie Christie, Daniel Mays
Written by: Isabel Coixet
Directed by: Isabel Coixet

Living on an oilrig isn’t for everyone and neither is this film.

The Secret Life of Words is Isabel Coixet’s most recent English language offering following the brilliant My Life Without Me. Here, Coixet alum Sarah Polley, a deaf young woman who doesn’t know the meaning of vacation, finds herself aboard an oilrig, nursing a man, Tim Robbins, until he is flown to hospital. The two week stay reveals much about these particular characters while lightly disclosing information about the other occupants of the rig.

The Secret Life of Words is a quiet, slow paced film and you can certainly feel the minutes draining by as you watch it. Though the acting from our leads is excellent, the story and dialogue is a little too controlled and too subdued and though the characters’ stories are interesting, they’re not interesting enough to captivate for near two hour running time. Perhaps it would have been easier to watch had there been more interaction with the rest of the crew or even if we’d learned a little more about the other characters but, instead, the focus in primarily on Joseph and Hanna and, unfortunately, the material there is lacking. Just as I started to doze, the discussion turned a corner and my eyes shot open unfortunately, it was too little too late and by that point, I really just wanted it to be over.

The poor script is, thankfully, accompanied by some excellent cinematography and outstanding acting by the two leads. Sarah Polley continues to amaze with her performances and this one is no exception. She’s a perfect fit for the withdrawn Hanna and once we learn her story, her performance becomes even more noteworthy. Tim Robbins is also quite good, managing to emote while spending much of his on-screen time in a bed. It’s not an easy task but he manages it quite well and I was impressed by his controlled emotion and eventual outburst. The supporting cast is largely absent for most of the film but I did like what I saw from the chef Javier Cámara. His performance was both quirky and likeable and really, the only other memorable part of the film. His character also manages to incorporate the other excellent aspect of the film – the soundtrack. He cooks his ethnic meals while listening to ethnic music providing a colourful soundtrack, which is a positive deviation from the subtlety of the film.

The Secret Life of Words isn’t a happy film though it ends on a disappointingly happy note, nor is it a social film. It is, however, an interesting look at two very different individuals and their pasts and how they manage to touch something in each other that brings them together. Though I wasn’t particularly impressed by the film, I was interested in the characters and that has to say something for Coixet. Not my favourite of her films but one worth seeing for the sake of performances from two very talented actors.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 18th, 2006 at 11:15 am by Marina in Drama, Reviews

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3 Needles

3 Needles Movie PosterStarring: Shawn Ashmore, Lucy Liu, Stockard Channing, Olympia Dukakas, Chloe Sevigny, Sandra Oh
Written by: Thom Fitzgerald
Directed by: Thom Fitzgerald

3 Needles is a perfect example of good films attracting good actors. A small independent Canadian production, the film focuses on HIV and it’s effects on three individuals. In Montreal, a porn star contracts HIV, in Africa a young nun makes unlikely choices in an effort to save a village and in China, a man ill luck proves to be his saving grace. The film’s title not only speaks to the way in which the virus in transmitted to the various characters in the story but it also speaks of a bigger message which is, essentially, that these three individuals are needles in a haystack – a few among many, who are trying, sometimes desperately to make a change in the world by saving a life.

For the most part, 3 Needles is a strong film but ensemble pieces are difficult to balance and the same is true with this one. The stories are all fairly well developed but I was left with a feeling that would have liked to see more. I was particularly interested in seeing more of the Montreal story. The bit of story captured by Fitzgerald was both captivating and disturbing and I would have liked to see that story further developed. Thom Fitzgerald has created three very strong stories, all of which would have fared well as individual movies however, his incorporation of the three is quite good and the recurring theme speaks through loud and clear. Fitzgerald seems comfortable behind the camera and some of the more controversial scenes are beautifully captured with care. The one thing that struck me as unnecessary and oddly distracting was the narration by Fitzgerald regular Olympia Dukakis. It added nothing to the story and as much as I like her, her voice seemed out of place.

The voiceover wasn’t the only misuse of talent in the film. Though 3 Needles boasts a good little cast, I was disappointed by the misuse of the very talented Sandra Oh. The role could simply have been filed with an extra and though I’m always happy to see Oh, I was really disappointed that her role wasn’t bigger. As for the rest of the cast, they were all fairly good but the biggest surprise for me was the fairly good dramatic performance from Shawn Ashmore of Iceman fame.

While 3 Needles boasts a great little cast and a good story, it’s a fairly slow moving film with much silence and fairly slow moving plot. Though Fitzgerald shows some good handling of the material, the film lulls in places, a sure sign of inexperience. Though some directors never manage to ‘get’ pacing, this film is a near miss. Though The Hanging Garden continues as Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, 3 Needles is a good little film from a talented writer/director.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 18th, 2006 at 10:33 am by Marina in Drama, Reviews

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Hudson Hawk

Hudson Hawk DVD CoverStarring: Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernhard, Donald Burton, Don Harvey, David Caruso
Written by: Bruce Willis, Robert Kraft
Directed by: Michael Lehmann

If I could only remember who recommended I watch this mess of a movie…

Ugh. Where to begin? Hudson Hawk stars the action house superstar that was Bruce Willis in the 90’s as Hawk, a thief who’s getting out of jail but before he even makes it out the jailhouse door, he’s being conned into another burglary and though he resists at first, he’s conned into doing it. The story doesn’t actually sound too bad right? Well, STEP AWAY people. This IS bad.

Though the story has potential for some excellent action, what we have here is a sad attempt at a comedic heist movie. I’m not sure this is so much trouble with the directing as it is with the script. It’s just a bad script. The heists are interesting enough and the overall story fairly good not to mention some fairly decent characters but the dialogue is awful. It’s miserable listening to bad joke after bad joke hoping that one cracks a laugh unfortunately, there are no belly laughs here just a handful of weak smiles throughout.

I thought Foolproof was a stinker but it wasn’t nearly this bad. At least that movie had some decent acting by leading heartthrob Ryan Reynolds unfortunately, Willis’s performance is less that stellar here and the supporting cast, aside from Danny Aiello (who manages the only salvageable performance), is just as poor. Pepper in some poor heists and there’s nothing here to keep you interested. I think I may have even dozed off for a minute somewhere in the middle unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I don’t recall missing anything of importance which further suggests that you could sleep through the entire movie and not miss anything.

Hudson Hawk is a forgettable film better left forgotten in the ‘90s. Not only does it not possess one single memorable thing (either than how bad it is along with a hysterical performance from David Caruso), you can actually feel the brain cells going to sleep while watching it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

IMDb

Posted on December 18th, 2006 at 9:43 am by Marina in Action, Comedy, Reviews

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My Super Ex-Girlfriend DVD Contest Winner

Congratulations to Ryan who has won himself a shiny new copy of My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest!

More give aways will be coming in the new year so ensure you come back often for more chances to win!

Posted on December 18th, 2006 at 9:09 am by Marina in Contests

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Kabul Express

Kabul Express is the first international feature film to have been shot entirely in Kabul after the end of the Taliban. It was shot over a perios of 45 days last year. The casr and crew were sent death threats by the Taliban to stop shooting but the Afghan government provided tight security and enabled the shoot to be completed. On some days there were more armed soldiers than crew on location.
Kabul Express – UK Rated: 15 – Runtime: 104mins
*ing John Abraham, Linda Arsenio, Hanif Hum Ghum, Salman Shahid, Arshad Warsi
Plot Summary
In a nutshell: Two Indians, an American, one Afghan and a Pakistani on a journey together, just like the poster says. Set in the post 9/11 land of Afghanistan, it is the Journey of two rookie journalists from India trying to get their break by getting an interview with a representative from the Taliban. Little did they know they would be taken hostage by one on their travels.

Review
Let it be said from the very outset that this is not your average Bollywood glitz and glamour. Its different. Its only 12 reels (under 2 hours) has no songs. The debutante director Kabir Khan who is known in India as a highly respected documentary maker, clearly believes in enlightenment above entertainment. Now thats been said Ill add this still holds as a Bollywood entertainer – thriller in fact with a strange humour about it.

One of the first things I noted was the use of multiple languages, English, Hindi and Afghani are used throughout and though this may sound off-putting I must admit it was actually very efficient. The language barrier between the characters was the first of many levels of humour I noted. What works for it is its totally natural. It doesnt matter what grim circumstance you are under, some things are universally amusing, using these situations is a definite one of the plusses in the writing of this film throughout. Obviously taking into consideration the politics and the events of the past few years into account.

The initial 3 days in, followed by a rewind, and swiftly coming back to the point where they are blindfolded wasnt necessary but adds to the drama as you want to know how the 2 reporters got there. I guess this kind of jazz also compensates for the fact that its a low budget film and noticably so.

However each character is well defined and we know what their individual goals are from the very outset. Even with all the knowns, we learn more about each of the characters as the narrative unfolds we can empathise with each of them, right through to the climax.
Performances:
Arshad Warsi brings the best timing with his expressions and dialogue, considering he is the comic relief, its fair to say he had the most challenging role in this enterprise which he has given total justice to. You cant take offence to anything he says, which I guess is what was to be avoided. John Abraham is on form but unfortunately has very little scope to shine. So thats the two Indians.

The American played by Linda Arsenio seemed out of place, I mean she looked pretty and looked the part, its her dialogue delivery that seemed off, considering her dialogue was in English throughout, it just seemed a little surprising that she seemed to struggle delivering it. A total judgement on my part here but I felt as though she had no clue what was happening in some scenes so didnt seem sure what her dialogue was contributing to the scene – a good example was the Coke-Pepsi scene.

This leaves the Afghan the Pakistani, both topnotch performances by total unknowns, they seemed to share some natural chemistry, you genuinely believed theyd kill each other given half a chance when they kept hurling abuse at each other and getting into arguments about where this whole war began whose fault it is.

Overall Impressions
Though the pre-climax doesnt really leave much to be guessed of how it will all end, this isnt such a bad thing. Since the aim of the whole film is very much about the journey being had we with every one of them have undergone a number of emotions – anger, fear, sympathy .. thats what counts.

At the end of the day, Id say this is a human bonding film, if any message is to be had it is that we should be looking for the good within us, rather than the bad in others though the first thing I said was that its not a Bolywood Fluff film, its still very Indian at heart, the fact that it incorporates talks of the universal conversation factor to any Indian (Bollywood films Cricket) certainly ensures that 🙂 .

A special mention is needed to the background score of the film, it fills in for those moments where dialogue would be too much does a damned good job of it. The cinematography direction too is spot on, but youd expect no less from someone who is used to doing live documentaries.

This certainly is not ground breaking cinema if viewed on a world-scale, from an Indian viewer pesrpective however, a definite step in the right direction to getting noticed. Its films like this that will allow outsiders to see that we arent limited to the sterotypes of Bollywood Masala flicks.

Worth a watch for sure, probably not a film to take a date to though
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
Official Website

A review by Ramchandra Solanki
Posted on December 17th, 2006 at 4:09 am by _ram-jaane’ in Foreign, Drama, Thriller, Adventure, Reviews, Bollywood, Film Festival

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Heavy Metal Parking Lot

Heavy Metal Parking Lot DVD CoverDirected by: John Heyn, Jeff Krulik
The ‘80’s is known for bad fashion, big hair and heavy metal and Heavy Metal Parking Lot has all three in droves. One fateful day in May of 1986, two guys John Heyn and Jeff Krulik, head out to a Judas Priest concert but they’re not going to the show. Oh no. With some borrowed video equipment the duo set out to capture the party in the parking lot. The party that starts first thing in the morning and runs until the doors for the show open and which sports muscle cars, underage drinking, skimpily dressed girls and guys that look like they can kick your ass (along with others that look more like girls). The outcome is a 15 minute treasure of a short film which captures an era now long gone. An era of long hair, tight pants (and this is for the guys) and parties in parking lots.

Over the years, the film has become an underground phenomenon with hundreds, if not thousands, of copies of the short floating around on VHS. The reason for the underground following is really quite simple and apparent once you’ve seen the film: it’s a wonderful time capsule that embodies a generation of music fans. I’m a bit young to remember the late ‘80’s depicted in the film but even I could find something to relate to and that’s the winning combination here: everyone, regardless of who they are, can find something of interest in this short little film. Of course, over the years fans have developed a liking for certain characters and a fan favourite has emerged in zebraman (so called for his outfit). His little rant, fueled by youth and love for the music, is both funny and poignant. This isn’t the only memorable moment from the 15 minutes rather, the entire thing is a little gem to be watched over and over again.

For the first time ever on DVD, the 20th anniversary edition of the film has come excellent extras including a very funny re-visiting of old characters where the film makers have tracked down a couple of the youths now all grown up. Other extras include clips of the filmmakers digging up ‘lost’ footage and an excellent commentary track by the directors. As if that’s not enough, Heyn and Krulik have also included a number of clips from their “Parking Lot” series including Harry Potter Parking Lot, Neil Diamond Parking Lot and, my personal favourite, the very short Monster Truck Show Parking Lot.

Everyone can afford to give up 15 minutes of their time to see this little gem but true fans of either heavy metal or the unforgettable 80’s will take delight in the extra bits. A fun and unlikely documentary which is perfect for a couple of laughs and a trip down memory lane.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 15th, 2006 at 11:20 am by Marina in Documentary, Reviews

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The Holiday

The Holiday Movie PosterStarring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell
Written by: Nancy Meyers
Directed by: Nancy Meyers

It’s nice to see great actors step out of their elements to do something a little light but it’s disappointing when the ‘light material’ is a featherweight. The Holiday uses every romantic cliché you could think of and though it manages to have some little moments, they are too few and far between.

Somehow, this production managed to attract some amazing talent yet the script is so poor is pretty much non-existent. Two women on opposite sides of the ocean switch homes over the Christmas holidays in an attempt to get over, or more accurately escape, recently dead relationships. Of course, over those two weeks, all the stars align and the world is great to both of them. The story starts off looking like it has potential but it quickly becomes apparent that there’s no substance here and that reality checked out for the holidays. Not necessarily a bad thing but throw in the clichés and the lame dialogue and it’s a mess. Oh, and lets not forget the strangely out of place side story of the next door neighbour in LA. I’ll admit it provided some of the most touching and honest moments of the film but it had nothing to do with the rest of the story and really should have been left out all together.

Amazingly, even with all it’s problems The Holiday manages to keep you engaged and entertained. It may have something to do with the likeability factor of all the actors. Cameron Diaz is hit and miss but this role suits her well though the chemistry between her and Jude Law was less that steamy. Law has officially entered the world of romantic comedies and I hope he doesn’t get trapped because the man has some serious acting chops and it would be a great disappointment if he got caught in the romantic comedy stereotype. Rufus Sewell is a total prick with just a dash of charm which really suits him on-screen and it was nice to see Kate Winslet let loose in an unlikely role. It’s interesting to note that her character went through the most change throughout the film and this has much more to do with the actress than with the script. The biggest surprise for me was Jack Black. His quirky style was a nice addition to the cast and though I’m not a huge fan of Black, I did like him in this slightly quieter but off the wall character.

Fluffy like fresh fallen snow, The Holiday is a nice little movie to throw in while cuddled up with that special someone and a nice cup of coco but it lacks the charm of other Christmas romances like Love Actually.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 14th, 2006 at 2:08 pm by Marina in Comedy, Romance, Reviews

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Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond Movie PosterStarring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Sheen, Stephen Collins
Written by: Charles Leavitt
Directed by: Edward Zwick

Director Edward Zwick is a man known for his sweeping sagas which beautifully incorporate events with the people who lived them and Blood Diamond is no exception. In this his newest film, Zwick takes us into recent history, choosing to a journey to Sierra Leone during civil war, a war which was funded largely by the illegal diamond trade. Solomon is a simple man who, through a series of events, discovers a great diamond and becomes involved with a diamond smuggler by the name of Danny Archer. Together, they try to escape Sierra Leone alive with, of course, the diamond in tow.

It’s hard not to talk or think politics after seeing something this loaded with emotion and social commentary. True, for many the information presented by the film isn’t new but for some, it may come as a shock. Although the film carries a message, it’s also an action film with everything from shootouts to chase scenes through the jungle and the two parts, message and action, are well balanced. Be prepared though, as gritty as the film is, the ending is as sugar coated as we’ve come to expect from Zwick and though it works, it’s not how I would have chosen to finish the film.

The well-developed script has one apparent weakness; the love story. True, Maddy Bowen (very well underplayed by Jennifer Connelly), the American journalist is fairly important in aiding to move the story but did romance have to play into it? She and Archer could simply have been friends but no, someone had to throw in the romance bit which really didn’t’ detract from the story but also didn’t add anything – except for adding to the sugary ending I mentioned earlier. I was particularly impressed by how writer Charles Leavitt incorporates facts into the story while managing to avoid being preachy. Leavitt has also managed to create two title characters with depth and some very talented actors have beautifully captured both roles.

Very few individuals can do pent up anger as well as Djimon Hounsou. His breakout performance in Amistad was nothing short of amazing and though over the years he has taken some smaller roles, this is a triumphant return to the spotlight. This may also prove to be Leonardo DiCaprio’s year. True, the man has had his share of years but two highly acclaimed performances in the same year is an impressive achievement. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both of these actors get an Oscar nod and perhaps even a win. A great number of folks were stunned by DiCaprio’s Oscar loss in 2004 but this could prove to be his year.

Although the acting is amazing, I’d be surprised to see Blood Diamond nominated for much else. Though it’s a good solid film, there’s very little here to put it above some of the other gems of 2006. As for entertainment value, it’s here in droves but not for everyone. It’s a film about a violent struggle and Zwick doesn’t shy away from putting the violence on screen – and it’s a sad sight. The killing is merciless but because we know it happened, it’s that much more disturbing. A great film which entertains at a cost; if you’re willing to stomach it, Blood Diamond will not only entertain, it may also teach you something you something new.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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IMDb

Posted on December 13th, 2006 at 10:55 am by Marina in Drama, Adventure, Reviews

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Apocalypto

ApocalyptoStarring: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer, Morris Birdyellowhead, Carlos Emilio Baez, Ramirez Amilcar, Israel Contreras, Israel Rios, María Isabel Díaz, Espiridion Acosta Cache, Iazua Larios
Written by: Mel Gibson, Farhad Safinia
Directed by: Mel Gibson

I tend to avoid too many interviews and video clips from movies I’m excited about, primarily near the release date, because they tend to give away too much of the story. Having read the tagline for Apocalypto which reads “When the end comes, not everyone is ready to go”. Reading this, I was under the impression that the film was about the fall of the Mayan civilization. Imagine my surprise when the film focuses very briefly on this. Instead, what we have, is The Fugitive set in ‘ancient’ South America. Not a bad thing but also not what I was expecting.

We can think what we like of Mel Gibson the person but the man is a creative genious. Over the years he has proven that he is more than just a pretty face but also a great actor, writer and director and let’s be honest, in 50 years, I doubt people are going to look back on his performances instead, they’ll be looking back at a directorial body of work that, so far, is fantastic. Apocalypto, though not what I was expecting, is also quite amazing. Some other writer would settle to incorporate a chase scene into an action film set in New York but not Mel. Oh no. He wants to do an action sequence and he decides the jungle is the place to do it. But he doesn’t just settle for a cookie cutter Hollywood storyline instead, he gives us a trip to a time long gone and little understood. There has been much argument on whether the history of Apocalypto is accurate but we need to keep in mind that this is a movie. Gibson never once made this out to be fact. He has talked about the research that was conducted and my understanding is that he’s taken the side of one of the well developed arguments but he hasn’t come out to say that what he’s put on screen is the best interpretation. It’s his interpretation and as far as entertainment value is concerned, it does a darn good job.

The story begins with an attack on a small village where a number of village members, including our main character Jaguar Paw, are captured and taken to a Mayan city as sacrifices to the gods. With a twist of fate, Jaguar Paw is spared sacrificial death only to be used for target practice but he escapes, beginning a chase that takes us through the last 45 minutes of the film. That chase scene is pure brilliance. From beginning to end it keeps you captivated and the 45 minutes seems much, much shorter. Using a digital camera and what, in some instances, appears to be a handheld camera of some sort, Gibson captures not only the quickly paced chase but also the danger and heart pounding suspense. At points the camera movement is so quick that it requires a look away but the combination makes for a spectacular chase. But Gibson doesn’t just excel here with action sequences. His cuts are excellent and move the story along while incorporating aspects, such as religion and family, while never dwelling on them.

The film also boasts an amazing cast largely made up of newcomers. Carla Hool managed to find outstanding talent and whoever made the decisions, cast everyone perfectly. The city Mayans portrayed a much fiercer, dangerous look while the forest dwellers had a very childlike and innocent appeal. I was particularly impressed by newcomer Rudy Youngblood who, in the leading role and with little dialogue manages to convey emotions beautifully. Truly outstanding work.

Apocalypto does have a few problems particularly the weak ending which is a bit of a sell out. It may fit well with the story but considering the other risks taken by the film the ending sort of just appears with little warning and it left more than a little dissatisfied. Fortunately, the weak ending is one of only a few qualms. Gibson is a master storyteller and this, though not his best work, is a fine example of his talent.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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Posted on December 12th, 2006 at 1:08 pm by Marina in Action, Drama, Adventure, Reviews

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Seven Swords

Seven Swords Movie PosterStarring: Donnie Yen, Leon Lai , Charlie Yeung, Sun Honglei, Lu Yi, Kim So-Yeun, Lau Kar-Leung, Zhang Jingchu, Tai Liwu, Duncan Chow
Written by: Cheung Chi-Sing, Chun Tin-Nam
Directed by: Hark Tsui

Not being very familiar with Hong Kong cinema, it’s difficult to get the same insight as someone who’s more familiar with the film industry there and who may even speak the language but one has to start somewhere and my way of selecting Asian films has been, primarily, word of mouth and Gary, my Asian movie guru. While standing at my local Asian film superstore waiting for Gary to track down a copy of The Banquet for me, I spotted a beautiful poster for Seven Swords. When my first choice wasn’t available, I asked if he had “That one” while rudely pointing at the poster. Turns out he did and, in typical Gary fashion, he didn’t say anything about the movie. We have an understanding: long winded conversations when I drop them off but no talk of the movies when I pick them up.

Seven Swords is a beautiful and very long film. It’s based on a martial arts epic story The Seven Swordsmen from Mountain Tian written by Liang Yu-Sheng. The emperor has put a ban on martial arts and the film focuses on a group of mercenaries, led by Fire-Wind, who are doing the emperor’s bidding on a silver per head basis price. The film focuses on a particular village which has more than it’s share of martial artists. Before the killing starts, an old executioner, now badly injured, appears in the village and two of the villagers take him to Mount Heaven where the old man is cured and, to boot, where he gathers the help of a master sword smith who not only provides amazing swords for the three visitors but also the help of four warriors. The seven now take off to save the villagers.

Fairly typical epic story and wow, it sure is epic. The most noticeable difference between this film and other epic films from China are the set and costume designs. Seven Swords opts for much more subdued tones and scenery using much simpler shabby costuming and down played sets. The beautiful cinematography by Kwok-Man Keung makes up for what is lacking in set and costume design. The film is beautifully shot in fairly desolate settings and though there are very few intricate sets, it’s a beautiful film which makes excellent use of the meek surroundings. Though the eye candy we’ve become accustomed to in Chinese films is lacking in this particular picture, it works though it will certainly come as a disappointment to North American audiences.

Above all, Seven Swords is a wushu film and though it’s also lacking much of the over the top, dance like touch of other wushu films as Hero and Fearless, it entertains none the less. Martial arts fans will appreciate the exchanges and though it will do little to satisfy the fans of the artistic fight sequences, some may come to appreciate this more realistic display of martial arts. I particularly enjoyed a fight sequence in a narrow passageway in which the combatants make excellent use of the limited space and the camera angles are excellently mixed to give a 360 degree view of the action.

Seven Swords attempts to incorporate a number of subplots and back stories in a very unsuccessful manner. For the most part, the stories are incomplete and add very little to the main story line. They also add much unnecessary length to the film. Clocking in at nearly three hours, I nearly gave up an hour into disc two. I also assumed that my cut of the film was a bit off but it turns out that this is true of the film in general. This was a four hour film which was cut to a more reasonable running time and the cuts are apparent throughout with scenes that occasionally jump when least expected and music that cuts away awkwardly.

Though Seven Swords is a bit of a struggle to get through, it does compensate with some wonderful cinematography, excellent fights and a beautiful sweeping soundtrack. It’s not the best film of its genre but one worth seeing if you’re looking for something a little different.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 11th, 2006 at 1:23 pm by Marina in Foreign, Action, Drama, Reviews

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My Super Ex-Girlfriend DVD Giveaway

Oh yes. Were giving away a shiny new copy of My Super Ex-Girlfriend. You know you want to see Uma kick some serious behind. To enter, simply provide the correct answer to the following question:

Which actor who who appeared in My Super Ex-Girlfriendwas previously featured as a villain in another superhero comedy, Mystery Men?
Email your answers to marina@madaboutmovies.net. Contest closes December 17th and the winner will be announced on Monday, December 18th. Good luck!

**

Congratulations to Ryan who has won himself a shiny new copy of My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest!

Posted on December 8th, 2006 at 4:51 pm by Marina in Contests

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Volver

Volver Movie PosterStarring: Yohana Cobo, Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo
Written by: Pedro Almodóvar
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar

There aren’t a lot of smart films for women out there, and no I’m not counting romantic comedies with their endless clichés and generally poor stories; so when a good one comes along, it’s hard not to jump on the bandwagon. Pedro Almodóvar has teamed up with Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura and Lola Dueñas to bring us Volver, a great film about strong women and mother/daughter relationships. But in his typical style, Almodóvar doesn’t simply supply a good drama. Instead, he spices things up with a dash of comedy and a sprinkling of tragedy to create a filling meal for the heart.

Two sisters discover that their mother has returned from the dead to deal with some problems that were left unresolved after her death. The result is a story of three generations of women coming together and finding peace with each other. Almodóvar mixes an engaging story with comedy, superstition and tradition to create a careful balance that manages to work, even when you know he’s pulling your leg. The wake is a particularly good example of his understanding of tradition and his ability to find comedic balance. Almodóvar manages to capture the sadness and absurdity of the ritual while never poking fun at the people taking part in it. This is only one instance in a handful that grace the film.

Aside from the wonderful dialogue we have a beautiful film which captures day to day Spain in all its glory. True, for home grown audiences this is probably a mute point but coming from a similar background, it was amazing to see the villages, homes and people who inhabit them on a day-to-day basis, to get a glimpse into their lives and into their ways. It was a refreshing submergence into a different culture and way of life, one that I miss very much.

The real buzz around Volver hasn’t been the cinematography, the story or even the directing. All the talk has been about Penélope Cruz and what could very well be the role of her career. Though we’ve all heard of her and seen her in films, some better than others, this is her crowning achievement. Her emotion is controlled yet passionate and her delivery is top notch yet, I’m not convinced this is the best we’re ever going to see from her. Though it’s her best performance to date, I think Cruz has a little more in her and maybe Almodóvar is the man to bring it out. We’ll just have to wait and see. As for the Oscar buzz, it’s a great performance, certainly one of the best of the year, but a little distant from the brilliant performances by Helen Mirren in The Queen and Kate Winslet in Little Children. I can see a nomination coming her way and, in any other year, it may have been enough to take the gold but not in 2006. It’s just not in the cards for her this year. Along with Cruz’s inspired performance are outstanding supporting roles filled by the ever amazing Carmen Maura and the talented Lola Dueñas in her first true introduction to international audiences.

With all it’s highs, Volver isn’t a perfect film but it’s one of the better offerings we’ve seen in a year full of disappointments. The men will love it for the beautiful Cruz who’s on display here in tight fitting yet oddly presentable clothes (it’s all about attitude), and the women will enjoy a well documented trip through mother/daughter relationships. Volver may be Oscar worthy but beyond that, it’s entertaining and darn funny in the most unexpected of ways.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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IMDb

Posted on December 7th, 2006 at 3:16 pm by Marina in Foreign, Drama, Comedy, Reviews

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Letters from Iwo Jima Wins First Award on the Road to Oscar

Clint EastwoodHeres some interesting news. Yesterday, Reuters reported that Clint Eastwoods Letters from Iwo Jima had won the National Board of Reviews top honours as Best Film of 2006.

True, this is only the first of the bunch on the Road to Oscar but could it be a trend setter? Theres been a bit of buzz around the film and the release date was pushed up to meet the Oscar deadline but I didnt think it was going to be a real contender. True, it looks like its going to be a fantastic film but considering that Flags of Our Fathers was a disappointment and that there have been a good number of excellent films this year, I really thought the buzz was just that: talk. Looks like I may have been wrong. Your thoughts?

Other notable wins include Ryan Gosling, Breakthrough Performance by an Actor in Half Nelson and Djimon Hounsou, Best Supporting Actor for the upcoming Blood Diamond. The full list of winners is available at NBRs site.

Posted on December 7th, 2006 at 10:06 am by Marina in Movie News

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Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation Movie PosterStarring: Patricia Arquette, Bobby Cannavale, Luis Guzmán, Ethan Hawke, Ashley Johnson, Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson, Avril Lavigne, Esai Morales, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Lou Taylor Pucci, Ana Claudia Talancón, Wilmer Valderrama
Written by: Eric Schlosser, Richard Linklater
Directed by: Richard Linklater

We all know about the harmful effects of fast food. The release of Supersize Me put fast food side effects on the map and really got people talking Whereas Supersize Me dealt primarily with the effects of the food on the consumer, Fast Food Nation attempts to show us various sides of the ‘business’ of fast food by bringing together an ensemble cast of characters including a fast food CEO, a group of disgruntled college students and migrant workers who cross the border to make a new life for themselves working at the meat processing plant.

This material could have made a really interesting and intense documentary instead, we’re treated to what, I’m assuming, are regular and common happenings in the fast food business but with a dramatic twist. One of the major elements that leads me to ‘trust’ some of the more disturbing aspects of the film is the fact that Eric Schlosser, who also wrote the book, co-wrote the script with director Richard Linklater. The film loses a little bit of credibility because it is a drama and I’m sure a documentary would have gathered more reliability and the facts that are put on display would be that much more damning. On the other hand, a documentary version may have been too violent and yes, the fast food business is pretty violent playing field for pennies on the dollar. Either way you cut it there are good and bad points and the choice of making this a drama may fair well for the film with long term appeal in the form of some big name stars.

The script brings together a series of characters, each with their own stories and connections to fast food. We have Don, a fast food industry executive researching a potential problem with the meat: a story that develops well to include information on the meat, the marketing and how problems are dealt with in ‘the business’. We are also introduced to Amber, a small town girl who works at a local fast food joint but has dreams of a bigger life. Her story includes an insightful and somewhat sad look at the impact of minute-meal restaurants on the socio economic landscape. Linklater and Schlosser also take a stab at big picture of migrant workers by following a group of Mexicans, focusing primarily on Raul and Sylvia, a young couple, who are incorporated into the work force at the local meat processing plant.

Performances from the central cast are all fairly good with particular note of Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sylvia. Catalina made her debut in the excellent Maria Full of Grace and, with this film, she continues to grow her career as a talented and beautiful import. I was particularly impressed by some of the smaller cameo performances including Bruce Willis as a no bullshit salesman and Linklater favourite Ethan Hawke who was, in my opinion, inspired casting. Hawke has a knack for playing the everyman brilliantly and his small role here is no exception.

Linklater includes a few minor scenes in the film which appear to be thrown in but which speak volumes about the industry and society. Particularly memorable for me was a quick scene in a lab where they’re mixing scents for the meat. Yeah, that explains why whenever I smell McDonald’s I get an unhealthy urge to bite into a cheeseburger. Also excellent, and pushing the envelope just a little, is a scene near the end in which Sylvia walks through the kill floor of the meat plant. Talk about vomit inducing.

Fast Food Nation though enjoyable and eye opening, is a fairly slow film with good moments but generally missing something that would make it great. The script is good but not quite good or memorable enough and the directing though fair, is a disappointment for Linklater. Generally Fast Food Nation is a mild film about a huge issue and maybe its mildness will win it a bigger audience in the rental market and make more of an impact on middle America but if you’re looking for a hard hitting message, you’re best to look elsewhere.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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Posted on December 6th, 2006 at 1:54 pm by Marina in Drama, Reviews

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Bad Boys, Bay Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?

From the minds of Shaun of the Dead, Spring 2007 welcomes the coming of Hot Fuzz, the creators take on action flicks.

Having seen snippets while at San Diego Comic-Con this past summer, I cant wait for the movie to come out.

Check out the latest trailer!

Until next time

Posted on December 6th, 2006 at 10:39 am by The Wong Blogger in Movie News, Action, Comedy, Crime, Genre

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Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj Movie PosterStarring: Kal Penn, Glen Barry, Lauren Cohan, Anthony Cozens, Tom Davey, Holly Davidson, William de Coverly, Shobu Kapoor, Dan Percival, Daniel Percival, Ashley Rae, Steven Rathman, Amy Steel, Beth Steel
Written by: David Drew Gallagher
Directed by: Mort Nathan

Van Wilder is back, sort of. Actually, it’s not Van Wilder at all. Instead, his trusty sidekick Raj gets a chance to be large and take charge.

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj picks up with Raj going to England to attend Grad school. There, he’s put in charge of the lowest and geekiest bunch and, in typical Wilder fashion, sets out to bring them to the top. It’s a formula we’re all familiar with and while some films have done it very well, Van Wilder wasn’t excellent but it had some great moments, Van Wilder 2 manages to miss the mark while still screeching through a few laughs. You’d figure British University could provide lots of comedic material but first time writer David Drew Gallagher misses the mark with some of his writing. It’s OK to play the class card and it does open up more than it’s share of doors however, where some of the jokes start off really well, most end in less than stellar fashion. Throw in a director who’s only other film is the infamously forgettable Cuba Gooding Jr. flick Boat Trip and what you’ve got is a pile that’s really starting to stink.

I was hoping that the talented Kal Penn could pull this one off and he tries very hard, but there just isn’t enough material here for him to work with. It was interesting listening to an interview with Penn in which he discussed his agreement to make this film. He came across as a bright guy but I’m not sure what possessed him to agree to this after reading the script. His performance is fairly good but the jokes just aren’t there. I will say that the fencing sequences were fairly entertaining but I’m not sure so much time had to be devoted to them. Perhaps this is more of a British thing but I just didn’t get it. There are some abnormally gorgeous new faces in this flick including the very sexy Lauren Cohan and a great discovery in relative newcomer Daniel Percival who’s metro sexual look is oddly appealing.

It’s not pretty and even though it came short of full fledged belly laughter, Van Wilder 2 still managed to crack more than it’s share of smiles and a handful of hearty laughs. Not worth the trip to the theatres and as for the rental, I’d recommend Harold Kumar Go to White Castle, among a few others, before Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj would even come to mind but it does have a handful of moments.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on December 5th, 2006 at 1:32 pm by Marina in Comedy, Reviews

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Inland Empire Trailer On-Line

One of our favourite strange guys is at it again. David Lynch has been working on his newest film for a while and it was shrouded in mystery until recently with Lynchs announcement that he would be self-distributing the film. Shortly after that, some set pictures became available but for the first time, we get to see what the film looks like in a trailer that has hit YouTube.

Personally, this looks like Lynch is going back to his experimental days. Shot exclusively on digital video, the film has a strikingly low budget look but it maintains all of the mood we commonly associate with Lynch. It looks odd and bizzare and I, for one, am excited to see it. Its nice to see a well known director who constantly takes chances and makes films that are main stream (as in his films are generally well covered by entertainment media and receive modest distribution) without ever compromising his twisted vision. Does this look appealing to you or is it just too out of left field?

Posted on December 5th, 2006 at 12:09 pm by Marina in Movie News

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Featurettes

ABC Family has been broadcasting some Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix snippets during their shows. Heres a YouTube video that has consolidated each of the behind-the-scenes featurettes into one video.

Check it out!

Until next time

Posted on December 4th, 2006 at 4:28 pm by The Wong Blogger in Movie News, Action, Family, Fantasy, Adventure, Reviews, Genre

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The Warriors

The Warriors Movie PosterStarring: Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sánchez, Terry Michos, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen
Written by: Sol Yurick (novel), David Shaber
Directed by: Walter Hill
Gang movies are not my forté and films before 1985 are largely unknown to me (I started late ok?) but with recent talk of a remake, now seemed as good a time as ever to see this 1979 film which, surprisingly, is pretty good even by todays standards.

The Warriors is adapted from a novel but watching the directors cut, including the introduction by director Walter Hill, theres a suggestion that this was a comic book adaptation. Either way you cut it, the bottom line is that its a good adaptation regardless of what it was adapted from. Its no surprise that Rockstar Games turned this into a video game because the story lends itself well to gaming. A gang boss, Cyrus, calls a city wide, weapons free meeting in the Bronx. Each gang sends a group of representatives to hear him out. While delivering his speech, Cyrus is shot and in the ensuing craziness, The Warriors get blamed for the murder. The film really takes off as The Warriors make their way back to their neighbourhood – having to cross through various gang territories without weapons.

The story is well developed and fairly solid and the dialogue, though occasionally dated (I doubt anyone really uses the word bopper anymore), is also quite good. Hill chose to use comic brook frames for transitions, something which I understand was left out of the theatrical release and added to the directors cut. His use of comics to ease transitions is brilliant and though Ang Lees The Hulk made use of similar transitions The Warriors makes much better use of the technique. In addition to a great script, the movie showcases excellent artistry. Everything from the costumes and makeup to the lighting, photography and music is excellently executed, adding a wonderful dark and gritty dimension to the film. I was particularly impressed by the costumes. During the meeting scene, the camera pans over the crowd and we see hundreds of extras, all from different gangs and all different but easily grouped. A task of this magnitude couldn’t have been easy for costume designer Bobbie Mannix but she managed to pull it off very well.

As far as the acting is concerned, there really isnt much to tell. The cast of largely unknown and many first time actors managed well enough with the script but only a few of the performances were particularly memorable. Michael Beck is quite good as Swan, the leader of The Warriors. Hes always cool and calm on screen and he emanates dont mess with me energy. Deborah Van Valkenburgh is another one worth mentioning, perhaps because shes the only female in the cast but also for her witty portrayal of Mercy, a woman who answers to no one. I was happy to see that she managed to create a character that stands on her own against, and with, Swan rather than playing the sweet and innocent card. By far the most memorable is David Patrick Kelly as Luther, the guy that actually shot Cyrus and who appears to have it out for The Warriors. Though he has very little screen time, there is one particular scene in which continues to stick with me. His delivery of the line Warriors, come out to play-i-ay has been forever embedded in mind much like Jack Nicholsons Heres Johnny!.

The Warriors is a fairly good film. Not only does it boast truly outstanding cinematography, decent fight sequences and a well paced story, it manages to entertain for the duration of the film

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

IMDb

Posted on November 30th, 2006 at 3:15 pm by Marina in Action, Drama, Reviews

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Movie News

Here are some posts I made to my own blog that arent movie reviews, but definitely movie related and a bit fun.

Enjoy!

Spider-Man 3 clips:
For those of you that missed the Spider-man 2 premiere on television the other night like I did, following are some clips for the upcoming Spider-man 3 film:
Cell phone use in theaters news:
If youre like me, youve sat in plenty of darkened movie theaters where a chatty and annoying person is either yapping away on their cell phone or are receiving a ton of phone calls in the middle of a movie. According to an article found on CNET News.com, Regal Entertainment Group is testing a new device that will allow patrons to alert management to any disruptions caused by silly cell phone usage.

FINALLY!!! I hope this test proves to be effective as I cant wait to be the cause for ejection of an idiot on their cell phone in the middle of what could be my new favorite movie. If only we had something for the crying babies people feel are appropriate to bring to the movies.

Read more here.

Are you a movie buff?
Evidently, Im a big movie buffare you?

Your Movie Buff Quotient: 74%
You are a total movie buff. Classics, blockbusters, indie favorites youve seen most of them.
Your friends know to come to you whenever they need a few good DVD rental suggestions.
Are You a Movie Buff?
Until next time

Posted on November 30th, 2006 at 2:11 pm by The Wong Blogger in Reviews

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Letters from Iwo Jima English Trailer On-Line

Letters from Iwo Jima Movie StillEarlier this month we announced that the Japanese trailer for Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwoods partner film to Flags of Our Fathers, had appeared on-line. A few weeks later, talk emerged that Letters from Iwo Jimas release date had been pushed up for Oscar contention and the films release date was changed to December 20th, 2006. Since then, weve been waiting for an English trailer and finally, we have one.

This morning, the official Letters from Iwo Jima site went live complete with an international trailer. Now, for those who have seen the Japanese trailer, this will look familiar. Its exactly the same traile except that for us non-Japanese speakers, we now have subtitles to help us along.

I still havent seen Flags of Our Fathers and for whatever reason, that movie has little appeal for me but the Japanese version of events is not only interesting because of the story but because Eastwood has directed a group of actors in a language that, Im assuming, he doesnt really know. If for no other reason, this should be interesting to see. At least the trailer has done a great job of getting me interested. I just hope Eastwood manages to deliver.

The film is scheduled for limited release on December 20th but look for a wider release early in the new year.

Posted on November 29th, 2006 at 2:08 pm by Marina in Movie News

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Bobby

Bobby Movie PosterStarring: Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, William H. Macy, Helen Hunt, Christian Slater, Heather Graham, Laurence Fishburne, Freddy Rodríguez, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Shia LaBeouf, Jacob Vargas, Brian Geraghty, Joshua Jackson, Joy Bryant, Svetlana Metkina, Kip Pardue, David Krumholtz, Harry Belafonte, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Written by: Emilio Estevez
Directed by: Emilio Estevez

A common appearance in movies this year, other than The War on Terror and war associated films, is the Altman approach of individual stories overarched by a common thread or big picture. Altman himself gave us a great film early this year in A Prairie Home Companion, festival season saw Paris, je taime garner attention, not to mention the much anticipated Babel and now we have Bobby. Of this years ensemble offerings, Altmans is the best of the bunch and though Bobby tries hard to be a winner, it doesnt manage to fully satisfy.

Emilio Estevez is not known for his work behind the camera but his few moments have given him a little bit of experience and it shows here. He both wrote and directed this film which revolves around a cast of characters at the Ambassador Hotel and the happenings in their lives on June 6th, 1968 – which also happens to be the day of Robert Kennedys assassination. The script is obviously a work of passion from a man with little understanding of what makes a good script. There are far too many stories here and none of them are developed enough to be satisfying. The scrip is trying to be too much by including everything when some of these individual stories have potential of their own. John Casey, the doorman, and Jack and Samantha, the well-to-do couple, added very little to the story which appears to be making a statement as to the state of the country at the time and how important Kennedy was to a better future. The script problems carry on into the directing. A good director would have cut a number of the small stories that really didnt move the film along but Estevez, either due to inexperience or closeness to the project, squeezed it all in and sometimes at great cost. His back and fourth between stories works well except for the fact that theres so much to tell that the audience is always left with a feeling of emptiness. I didnt feel much for any of the characters primarily because I wasnt given time to get to know each story; a problem that could have been avoided with a tighter script.

In a whos who of Hollywood cast and with a less than stellar script, there are a few outstanding performances here. Sharon Stone is excellent and her mix of experienced modern woman and vulnerability is the best weve seen from her since Casino. Christian Slater also manages a great performance in one of the larger roles as does Freddy Rodríguez who is really starting to make a name for himself in Hollywood. In some of the smaller roles, Lindsay Lohan is likeable (gasp!) and emotional but not over the top and Joshua Jackson and Shia LaBeouf are particularly memorable. By far, the best, and most surprising, performance here is that of Demi Moore as a lounge singer nearing the end of her rope. A drunk has-been, shes amazin in this role and manages to make much more of it than anyone else. Amidst some of this greatness, there also manages to be more than a handful of god-awful performances not limited to but including Elijah Wood (hobbit-like without the years) and Helen Hunt (still hard to believe that she won an Oscar).

Bobbys other fault is the over use of archive footage. Yes, its nice to see it well used and it started off well enough but towards the end of the film, the footage and recordings get tedious. The last 10 to 15 minutes of the film are nearly all Kennedys speech over the events unfolding in slow motion and though it works for the first few minutes, it quickly becomes annoying.

Bobby isnt without its problems and thought a few of the interconnecting stories are interesting enough to keep you watching, there simply isnt enough good material to pull the slow bits from boredom inducing to acceptable . With that said, this is a great film for Estevez. Though it doesnt really work, it does suggest that he has a vision and potential for something bigger that what hes done to date. Its not a film for which I can recommend a trip to the theatres for but it is one for the rental queue.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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Posted on November 29th, 2006 at 11:36 am by Marina in Drama, Reviews

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Dhoom 2 – Back in Action
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Bipasha Basu, Hrithik Roshan, Uday Chopra
Written by: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Directed by: Sanjay Gadhvi

Plot Summary
Alis [Uday Chopra] dream of becoming a police officer has come true. He is now ACP Jai Dixits [Abhishek Bachchan] right hand man. Together, they are trying to keep a tight leash on the crime in India. Little do they know what they are going to be up against.

Enter Mr. A [Hrithik Roshan]. A hi-tech international thief. After pulling off a series of impossible heists all over the world, his next target is Mumbai, India. The case is given to ACP Jai and Ali. Helping them put the pieces of the puzzle together is ACP Shonali Bose [Bipasha Basu], Jais college mate, now a police officer in her own right. For the last two years, Shonali has been tracking these amazing thefts and is now an expert on this thief, who no one has seen. Once in Mumbai, Mr. A finds his match in Sunehri [Aishwarya Rai], a petty yet clever thief. She makes him an offer he finds very hard to refuse. A partnership! Aryan gives it some though and chooses to accept. And so the game begins, a game of cat and mouse, a game of good v/s bad.

Music:
Listening to the soundtrack before the film, in honesty with the original Dhoom soundtrack to compare to, it didnt really capture me – the only plus was hearing the Dhoom theme music again, That said, Krazy Kiya Re manages to etch into my memory as I find myself humming it the following few days. The rest held little to no impact on me.

Dhoom Again as the opening credits picturised on Hrithik is superb and watching it I can revoke the above statement with regards to it. Thankfully it falls inro the category where once in a while its the visual to a song that makes it so much more than its audio avtar. Bravo to the choreography of Shiamak Davar, definitely one to watch out for.

The same once more with Krazy Kiya Re picturised on Aishwarya Rai, this time it is Vaibhavi Merchants choreography that makes her sizzle on the silver screen much to contrast with her most recent appearance as Umrao Jaan, this one shows that she certainly isnt limited to being glamorous in traditional attire.

Touch Me is just plain annoying, plain passable, in that you dont remember it for its audio, but thankfully the narrative is moving along as you watch it so the time has not been a total waste. My Name is Ali resembling Dilbara from the orginal Dhoom picturised on Uday Chopra, again passable, less irritating.

And then we have the surprise number Dil Laga Na, its just hard not to tap your feet to it and enjoy how colourful it is, even though from the narrative perspective – totally pointless. Going back to the soundtrack after having seen the film, 3 out of 5 are now likable which isnt bad going.

Review
Right from the word GO as we see the start of the film, Hrithiks first heist in Namibia; the robbing of a crown from a moving train to his next target (robbing a precious diamond from a museum in Mumbai) to the theft in Jamnagar where Hrithik and Aish come face to face for the first time, the film sets the mood. These thieves mean business and that they are ultra cool ding what they do.

That said, what worked for Dhoom was the fact that the cat and mouse chase seemed intense. In this sequel I found no real such tension. The thieves here were far cleverer than the cops leaving them miles behind at every step. Its only at intermission point that you feel the cops may have an upper hand, and even if you study that carefully afterwards, its a huge screwup on the cops part.

Also, Abhishek was cool in Dhoom, whatever happened here? They managed to maintain Alis character with the dreams of him his wife his many children and his motorbike, but Jai no longer is clean shaven, no longer wears cool shades, no longer really intimadates Ali or anyone else for that matter.

If the first hour focuses on the cat-n-mouse game, the second hour changes tracks as it transforms into the love story. This is no bad thing since the scenes between Uday and Bipasha #2 are cute, the ones between Hrithik and Ash build up slowly and are integral to the overall crux of the climax.

The final showdown seemed a little out of pace, after the huge gaps between the cat and mouse, when this super-thief manages to get away clean each and every time, how come this time there is a chase and they come face to face, (would it be because weve hit the pre-climax and its been 2 hours already??) .. but this is forgivable I suppose.

The one and only reason is the interweaved scenes of the intense relationship between Sunehri and Mr. A which are well penned and executed superbly that it outshines the blemishes to quite an extent.

Performances:
Just as director Sanjay Gadhvi recently said on a live chat, the USP (universal selling point) of this flick is the chemistry between Hrithik and Aish and hes absolutely right. Can not fault these two. I personally am a little unsure about the tanned look but – who am i to judge?

Uday Chopra plays the comic relief slightly annoying Ali to the Tee just as he did in the first, I wouldnt have thought Id have to say this but its a shame how small a part he actually got in this. Perhaps he should see to not taking the Salman Khan route of rippping up his shirt at every opportunity though.

Rimi Sen is merely there for the continuity factor I guess, her small bitpart as the pregnant wife of Jai reflects continuity nothing else, since we see no chemistry, in fact we are led to believe there is more chemistry between Shonali and Jai as opposed to this husband and wife pair.

Bipasha is just about okay as Shonali (the cop), but is livelier as the twin sister Monali and Alis love interest, both pointless characters in my opinion and so its no surprise the actress has little scope to excel.

Overall Impressions
The plusses: From the deserts of Namibia to the backwaters of Goa, the mean streets of Mumbai and the ancient forts of Rajasthan and finally to Rio, Brazil, the locales are stunning. The performances are top-notch as far as their scope can be.

The negatives: The writing. The heroes Jai and Ali are rellegated to the back seat for most of this. Its simply a showcase for Hrithik to be cool. The action too, though probably getting much applause from the average viewers in India, I found it a notch below cringe-worthy at times.

Do the plusses outweigh the negtives??
Im not so sure. I would say, if this is your first hindi flick, know that there are better ones out there. So ..sure go watch it, its a decent enough brainless action flick of the john woo ilk – just dont expect more than that, else youre likely to be disappointed.

Review by Ramchandra Solanki

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆
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Posted on November 26th, 2006 at 8:28 am by _ram-jaane’ in Action, Thriller, Adventure, Reviews, Mystery, Bollywood

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Feed

Feed DVD CoverStarring: Alex OLoughlin, Patrick Thompson, Gabby Millgate
Written by: Kieran Galvin
Directed by: Brett Leonard

Feed me. Never before have those two little words held more meaning that simply quelling the hunger pains. Now Im scarred.

Im not sure whats worse, the fact that someone made this film or that I sat through it. All of it. The entire time wanting to vomit. Someone somewhere suggested this to me and Im not sure why. Maybe it was a sick joke. I dont know. What I do know is that I sat through it so you dont have to – unless you really want to. True, I love a good horror movie and gore has never been a problem for me but for some reason, Feed left me shaken. Its not really gory, there isnt a great deal of blood and wicked torture scenes, each worse than the last, but it none the less left me feeling strange like Id seen something I wasnt supposed to see. The film unfolds as a Phillip, a cyber cop, delves into the seedy corners of the internet discovering a website where women are force fed to death and the entire thing is streamed on-line.

Feed displays all the tell tale signs of a low budget production: cheesy dialogue, over the top acting and a partially incoherent script. Though it starts off well enough, the film soon turns from the physiological, which is mildly interesting, to a chase which lacks anything creative or new and, if anything, is sad in that its trying too hard. I cant even say that I understood the reason for the making of this film. Were the film makers commenting on cultures obsession with weight? Were they making a statement? Or were they simply commenting on the potential dangers of the internet? Though its not really clear, writer Kieran Galvin and director Brett Leonard manage to, even if badly, communicate a little of all three.

Feed is a twisted little movie. Maybe its the subject matter, maybe its the visuals or maybe its the hinted commentary on culture but any way you cut it, its twisted. How it did what it did to me I don’t know. I saw this over a week ago and reviewing my few notes and thinking back to the images are enough to make my stomach swish. Some folks would say that the feeling of discomfort is enough. I tend to agree but in this case, the discomfort is a little too much for me. Feed is successful in that it leaves you feeling like youve discovered something best left in the dark.

Though its not sat well with me, Feed has an odd appeal. Ill never see it again and I cant say I can openly recommend it but if anyone asks me about it, Ill play the youve got to see it to believe it card.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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Posted on November 24th, 2006 at 3:53 pm by Marina in Thriller, Reviews, Crime

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Casino Royale

Casino Royale Movie PosterStarring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Tobias Menzies, Ivana Milicevic, Clemens Schik, Ludger Pistor, Claudio Santamaria, Isaach de Bankole
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Directed by: Martin Campbell

Bond is back. True he was never really gone but after a couple of years in hibernation, the franchise has returned with a huge bang and perhaps one of the best Bond films. Ever.

The Bond alumni writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have taken us back to the beginning, shedding light on a number of mysteries including how Bond became a 007, his unwillingness to fall in love, the trademark martini and the meaning behind the iconic graphic of a man and his gun which has graced every Bond film and gone down as one of the movie industries most recognizable symbols. These tidbits of information are meticulously incorporated between gunfights, chase scenes, torture and sex. Director Martin Campbell was brought in to put it together for the viewing audience and hes done an excellent job. True, its a good script but hes managed to bring the big action without going over the top. There was some discussion that the opening sequence was a bit fake and farfetched but I was quite thrilled to see a big budget Hollywood production use parkour, also known as free running, and if you think the high flying stunts in Casino Royale are a stretch, check out the Banlieue 13 and their wire-free and CGI-free stunts.

People can say what they want of Daniel Craig but hes proven the nay-sayers wrong. Hes not only a good Bond, hes a great Bond. I felt some emotional connection to his Bond and, for the first time, I actually felt sorry for the guy. Id be remiss not to mention that he also fits the bill physically. The man isnt only handsome but he looks like he could kick your ass, a nice change from the meek-looking Bonds of the past. Hes not just a pretty boy…hes a deadly weapon in disguise. The love interest, Vesper Lynd, is excellently cast with the beautiful Eva Green. Unlike the bond girls that have come before (or will come, depending on how you look at this movie fitting into the larger Bond universe) shes not laughably needy or unattractively manly instead, shes a subtle mix of beauty and cunning. Though I was not all that impressed by the villain in the film, it had nothing to do with the acting. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as Le Chiffre – the accountant with a complex.

The major problem with the film is the dragging love story which really takes off three quarters of the way into the film. Just as we think the last act is coming, this romance starts to unfold. Romance is fine except this one drags on for what seems like forever. Big chunks of this could have been left on the cutting room floor. It added very little to what we already knew about Bond and Vespers relationship and it helped very little in setting up the final scenes. At this point I started looking at my watch and though the film recovers somewhat with the last action sequence, the bang just isnt enough to revive the audience.

Casino Royale brings Bond into the 21st century with style and panache. Incorporating the best of the old, the classic Bond music is back as is the funky opening credits, with some new material the film is an excellent re-start to a franchise many had thought dead – at least for another 10 years. Bond is back and he has vengeance on his mind.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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Related Links: The Wong Blogger reviews Casino Royale

Posted on November 23rd, 2006 at 2:11 pm by Marina in Action, Adventure, Reviews

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Foolproof

Foolproof Movie PosterStarring: Ryan Reynolds, David Suchet, Kristin Booth, Joris Jarsky, James Allodi, David Hewlett
Written by: William Phillips
Directed by: William Phillips

Its official. Talent isnt achieved by association.

Foolproff director William Phillips started his career next to Canadas best underrated director Vincenzo Natali. If you dont know Natali, I urge you to check out any of his films (particularly Cube and Nothing).The two worked together on a number of films and when Phillips pitched this one, someone, somewhere decided he should direct it himself. Dont get me wrong, hes no Uwe Boll but the film has some serious problems both in script and direction. Though the story idea is great the script is awful. The basics: a group of geeks stake out and plan meticulous heists that they never perform. Someone figures out what theyre doing, steals their plans and pulls off one of their heists and the trio are then blackmailed into helping the crime boss pull off a new, bigger heist. Sounds good right? Well, it sounded good to me too but goodness, I was wrong – or maybe wronged is a better term since someone highly recommended this one.

Good stories that arent fully developed are rampant in Hollywood but in Canada, money is a little tighter and productions like this one are few and far between. The script is laughable and though the situations are interesting and potentially entertaining they lack food dialogue to help them along. The few memorable moments in this film are the action sequences that are, surprising in this ailing production, quite good. Thankfully, the acting manages to salvage a little of this mess; too bad its too little.

Ryan Reynolds is his usual talented self bringing a nice comedic touch to Kevin, the ring leader and mastermind. TV veteran Kristin Booth is excellent as the girl torn between love and independence and the chemistry between Kristin and Ryan made for some good moments. Keep an eye out for a little appearance by Canadian acting veteran David Hewlett as a on-the-job masturbator. Anyone familiar with his work will get a nice kick out of this.

So the story is good, the acting is good and the soundtrack is great (its like a MuchMusic Top 1s Mix) but its just not enough to have me recommend this. I have to admit that Reynolds was the only reason I agreed to seeing this film but after reading a little about it, I had almost convinced myself that it was going to be fantastic and Id find myself following another under-the-radar Canadian talent. Unfortunately, I dont think thats the case. Im not giving up on Phillips yet, Natalis talent may yet rub off (or Phillips may have some hidden reserve he hasnt discovered yet), but Im also not going to be run out to see his next film.

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

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Posted on November 23rd, 2006 at 12:29 pm by Marina in Reviews, Crime

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Little Children

Little Children Movie PosterStarring: Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Kate Winslet, Gregg Edelman, Sarah Buxton
Written by: Todd Field, Tom Perrotta
Directed by: Todd Field

Life is full of uncertainties, second thoughts and what ifs. Little Children takes a stab at a few of them.

Sarah and Brad are unhappily married. After an encounter at the playground, the two forge a friendship that slowly evolves into a romance which puts their respective families in jeopardy. Thought the story focuses primarily on these two characters, there are a number of other secondary stories, all of which are interconnected, if you can call the fact that they all happen in the same small town an interconnection. Unfortunately, the side stories detract more than they add to the film. Though the sub-plots of the sex offender, the troubled ex-cop and the jealous house wives all interact with the central story, theyre given too much time yet not enough to be fully developed into more than mere distractions.

The film is based on a novel by acclaimed writer Tom Perrotta and having never read the novel, I cant comment on how faithful the script is to the book but I can say that regardless of whether all of this material was included in the book, some of it should have been left out of the script. Director and co-writer Todd Field had enough material with the troubled love affair to easily populate a 90 minute script instead, he and co-writer Perrotta chose to create a two hour film that feels two hours long. That being said, the film does have some excellent redeeming features. The dialogue is insightful, precise and believable not to mention excellently delivered.

Kate Winslet is, as always, raw, open and amazing. She is a woman of great talent and deeply deserving of another Oscar nod but I dont believe this will be her winning performance. Patrick Wilson, the handsome, too handsome, love interest is casting genius. He was excellent in Hard Candy earlier this year so we know he can act otherwise, it would be simple to attribute his performance here to not knowing any better; his portrayal of a gorgeous yet somewhat shallow man is very convincing. One of the most surprising performance was that of Jackie Earle Haley as a sexual deviant trying to live his quiet life. He manages to create a uniquely reproachful individual while at the same time garnering the audiences pity.

Story and characters aside, Field has created a beautiful film. He makes use of some of the best sound mixing Ive heard all year, particularly noticeable in the opening and a scene at the pool, boldly using sounds and silence to create an out of control and tragic tone. My biggest complaint is the narration. Unlike other folks I disliked the narration quite a bit and thoroughly believe the film would be better served without it. Though used sparingly, I found it unnecessary and distracting; Ill even venture to say that perhaps the problem with it is the tone of voice itself. Will Lyman is responsible for the voice-over and his voice revives memories of nature specials and perhaps that is the intent: an objective outsider simply commenting internal thoughts.

Little Children is a film of great beauty, sorrow and pain and though its not free of problems, it has a few moments of brilliance which really please for viewing – at least once.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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Posted on November 22nd, 2006 at 2:40 pm by Marina in Drama, Reviews

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Harsh Times

Harsh Times Movie PosterStarring: Christian Bale, Freddy Rodríguez, Eva Longoria
Written by: David Ayer
Directed by: David Ayer

Harsh Times is, well, harsh.

Welcome to South Central LA. A different world with its own language, rules and players. The film revolves and unfolds around Jim, a war vet, and Mike, his unemployed buddy, and their wheeling and dealing over a few days. Drugs, guns, homeys – its all here and not in that P. Diddy tryin to be a player sort of way. These are guys are real; theyre witty, gritty and occasionally stupid. Its a dark film with only shards of positive re-enforcement. There are no Hollywood happy endings here and the true happiness comes from the simple fact that not everyone dies at the end.

The film is the brainchild of David Ayer, best known as the scribe of The Fast and the Furious and, most notably, Training Day and the similarities between this latter film and Harsh Times is notable. Both films revolve around two central characters of questionable moral standards, both are set in South Central, both films look at the underbelly of the city and lets not forget that they both end the same way – with the central character dying at the end. Im not sure that should have a spoiler warning because watching this, its hard not to make the connections between the two films. Lets face it, its plain to anyone whos seen Training Day that this is essentially, the same story with a few minor changes, different dialogue and actors. I thought that was a bit of a rip but what came as a surprise was how much I enjoyed this film and enjoy it I did. It was like sitting in the back seat of a gangbangers ride, crusin along the streets with a .9mm and a bottle of beer. It was dangerous and entertaining.

The production managed to attract some major talent in Christian Bale. In this film, he returns to his dark side, something we haven’t seen much of since his re-emergence in the excellent American Psycho. Here, he is pitted with the challenge of convincing the audience that he grew up in the hood and he does a good job of it with everything from his speech pattern, to his body movements; plus his excellent delivery of Spanish seemed natural and never odd or out of place. The man is a brilliant character actor, immersing himself in the role to the point where you dont see Bale but only the character and this is one of his best performances. Freddy Rodríguez of Six Feet Under fame, is surprisingly good in this, his first major role since the HBO show came to an end. His characterization of Mike, the kid who hangs out with and knows all the ruffians but is too chicken or too smart to get fully involved, is also quite good. Even Eva Longoria, who was grossly misused in The Sentinel, is good here and she manages to dispel some of her soap opera persona.

Unfortunately, the great acting doesnt dispel the films major problems. Though the story is dark and edgy, some of the dialogue is laughable. Though some of it is obviously comic other instances are unbelievably (shake your head and moan) bad. At two hours, the film is also too long. I can think of a number of scenes that could have been shortened or cut (Im thinking the trip to Mexico with the buddies could easily have unraveled in five or ten minutes rather than the half hour). With shortened sequences, we may have had more time to work up to the ending which comes speeding out of no where. One moment theyre cruising along to do the next stupid thing and then POW. True, an argument could be made that this is what life in the neighbourhood is like but I would have liked to see some more lead up to it.

Ayer has talent. He has re-created a world mostly unknown to outsiders without alienating or making the audience feel stupid and out of place. However, Ive come to the conclusion that Ayer should consider a television series about growing up in LA. Either that or he should forget writing and think about directing full time because the guy has a great eye and a unique style. Harsh Times is visceral, unapologetic and surprisingly captivating. Worth a trip to the video store and maybe even the theatres – as long as you stay out of the hood.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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Posted on November 21st, 2006 at 2:20 pm by Marina in Action, Drama, Reviews, Crime

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Stirred Not Shaken

After a great deal of hoopla and controversy, the latest Bond has finally hit the big screen. As much as I was hoping to be swayed in my opinion of Daniel Craig as Bond, I was disappointed to find that I still didnt think he cut the mustard for the role.

Casino Royale is not the Bond movie that weve grown accustom to in the past few years. There are no fancy gadgets, not very many innuendos, and no over the top villains. In fact, there were moments during the film where I found myself forgetting that I was watching a Bond movie. Try as he may, Craig still doesnt convince me as being the debonair, smooth talking, suave secret agent. In Casino Royale, Bond is a nutty almost rogue agent hot on the trail of a terrorist financier. As I mentioned earlier, the villain in the film was not very villainous at all. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) cried blood, that was his villainous thing he did. What a wuss

Ok, the movie wasnt horrible. The action sequences were by far some of the best Ive seen in a Bond film, but in terms of Bond for the sake of being Bond, I dont think this movie did the job. I still think you should go watch it, but Im not sold on the Daniel Craig as James Bond idea.

Until next time

Posted on November 20th, 2006 at 12:30 pm by The Wong Blogger in Action, Adventure, Reviews, Genre

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Dot the I

Dot the I Movie PosterStarring: Gael García Bernal, Natalia Verbeke, James DArcy, Charlie Cox, Tom Hardy
Written by: Matthew Parkhill
Directed by: Matthew Parkhill

Bernal has turned into quite the recognizable face but this film was released the year before the film that put his name on everyones lips The Motorcycle Diaries. The story follows a young couple, Barnaby and Carmen, who have recently become engaged. During her bachelorette party, Carmen meets a handsome stranger that turns her life upside down. Sounds pretty typical Hollywood right? Thankfully, writer/director Matthew Parkhill saves us from mediocracy, throwing in a couple of interesting sub stories that really keep this film moving.

This is Parkhills first and last full feature film which surprises me a bit. His story is not only well developed and interesting but he makes use of some unique perspectives and camera work. He brilliantly switches from hand-held cameras to 35mm and though you find yourself wondering what the reason for the change is, it never feels awkward. Parkhills script is quick paced, witty and original. He has excellent control of the story which is apparent by the subtle hints dropped throughout but which never gives away the ending; something which only a handful of directors manage to successfully accomplish.

Its hard to be impressed by Bernal considering that all of his performances are excellent but I still managed to be surprised by his excellent British accent and emotional performance. Bernal always manages to involve the audience and that is also the case here. James DArcy is excellent as the wronged fiancé but his talent is really put on display near the end of the film when he excellently portrays a bit of a madman. His transitions are excellent and believable. Natalia Verbeke is beautiful and sexy and perfectly cast but I wasnt taken by her performance. I never once bought into her character and it was difficult to associate with the character. A poor performance in an otherwise greatly acted film.

I wasnt particularly impressed with the ending of the film and I thought the actions of Kit and Carmen were out of character. It would have been better to leave off with the natural ending after the unfolding and explanation. The last scenes and story line fits well with the film but not the characters.

A twisting take on the typical love triangle, Dot the I is worth a second look.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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Posted on November 20th, 2006 at 11:30 am by Marina in Drama, Romance, Reviews

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Happy Feet

Happy Feet Movie PosterStarring: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving
Written by: Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris
Directed by: George Miller

Happy Feet is an ambitious film. On the one hand, it appears to fit the typical mould of an animated movie musical aimed at kids, yet it carries a whopping environmental message in the last half hour which nearly derails the whole movie.

Like every child, Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) faces tremendous pressure to conform. But achieving “normal” is very difficult for a young Emperor penguin born with a beat in his feet rather than a song in his heart. Unable to sing, he seems doomed never to win the love of his life, Gloria (Brittany Murphy). Ostracized by his colony, Mumble must face the dangers of the Antarctic to solve the mystery of the dwindling food supply.

The music of Happy Feet is worth the admission price. From Elvis and Marilyn Monroe to Frank Sinatra and the Backstreet Boys, this film uses the idea of the penguin heartsong to create fascinating musical juxtapositions, intimate notes and stirring emotional set pieces. The visual world of Antarctica is stunningly captured and the creatures living there are realistically drawn yet creatively animated to show more individual character than any nature documentary is capable of.

Robin Williams is the best thing about this film. His comedic brilliance is evident throughout, as both the lovable lothario Ramon and the guru Lovelace. He sings, dances and just oozes penguin cool.

Unfortunately, the story veers sharply at one point, into what feels like a different film altogether. It is difficult to introduce realism into a world where penguins sing hip-hop and tap dance, let alone put across an agenda of international politics and environmentalism. The purpose is a noble one, but the audience’s suspension of disbelief is stretched too far, and the attempt to return to the magical world of penguin heartsongs at the end is not satisfying.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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Posted on November 20th, 2006 at 9:22 am by Val in Comedy, Animation, Family, Reviews

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Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction Movie PosterStarring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson
Written by: Zach Helm
Directed by: Marc Forster

I always assumed that Will Ferrell had two characteristics: annoying and more annoying. Turns out he has a third too; decent actor.

My initial thought after the trailer for Stranger than Fiction was that it looked interesting but I was immediately turned off with Ferrell. I havent enjoyed his brand of comedy and although he did look different in this one, a little calmer and all, I wasnt convinced that he could manage the entire film like that. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Ferrell moves seamlessly into the serious comedy with little effort. Gone are the gags and nudity and in their place is a subdued, weirdly attractive, perfectly timed comedic actor. Its not an Oscar worthy performance but it is a memorable one, right up there with Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love and Jim Carey in The Truman Show. Ferrells performance isnt the only good one either. Dustin Hoffman continues to surprise me with his brand of comedic performance as the slightly crazed Literature Professor, Emma Thompson is fantastic as ever as the even crazier author, Queen Latifah manages to be remembered with only a few moments of screen time and Maggie Gyllenhaal is adorable yet wacky. Lets face it, its a film full of crazy people. But then, its not surprising considering the film is a bit crazy too.

The story is as unique as they get. A regular Joe, whos name is actually Harold, going about his life suddenly begins hearing a voice narrating his day to day happenings. One day, the voice announces that hes going to die. Harold loses it and begins looking for help tracking down the voice and figuring out a way not to die. As implausible as it all sounds, the film manages to be slightly funny, slightly literary and hugely entertaining. Talented film maker Marc Forster, best known for Monsters Ball and Finding Neverland – not to mention last years hidden gem Stay – has delivered another interesting film though it does have a few noticeable flaws. The relationship between the rebellious Ana and the straight arrowed Harold just doesnt seem completely natural and though it looks sweet its difficult to believe that the connection is authentic. The film also lags a bit once it hits the 1 hour mark but it manages to come back for a strong and surprisingly touching and emotional finale.

Its not a fantastic film but it comes out of left field with a positive and inspiring message. Its not what I expected from a Will Ferrell film but positive surprises are always welcomed. Not necessarily one for the big screen but definitely one for the Netflix queue.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Official Website
IMDb

Posted on November 16th, 2006 at 12:35 pm by Marina in Drama, Comedy, Fantasy, Reviews

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Documentaries Shortlisted for Oscar

Oscar StatueVariety reported yesterday that the list of 80 potential films has been downsized to 15. The current list includes popular titles such as An Inconvenient Truth, Deliver Us From Evil, and Shut Up Sing. Other titles include Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple and Blindsight but it looks like the academy has been bitten by the Iraq bug: four of the nominated films have some connection to the war.

The list will be narrowed down to five films for the official announcement on January 23rd but this will give you an opportunity to get a head start on tracking down these films some of which are currently in theatres.

Posted on November 16th, 2006 at 2:01 am by Marina in Movie News

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“The Tribe” Trailer Now On-Line

The Tribe Movie StillJewel Saite, best known as the lovable mechanic Kaylee from Firefly and Serenity has made a new film, this one appears to be a low budget horror film called The Tribe. The hi-resolution trailer hit the web earlier this week and can be found here. The film also stars Justin Baldoni of Everwood, Nikki Griffin, Kellan Lutz and Marc Bacher.

After seeing it, I had a bad feeling that Id seen this story before and the sad truth is that it looks like a rip-off of the very good The Descent. Thought the situations are obviously different the basic story plots appear to have more than one or two similarities.

Thoughts on the trailer? Does this look like it attract a crowd other than the hardcore browncoats?

Posted on November 16th, 2006 at 1:46 am by Marina in Movie News

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“Letters from Iwo Jima” to Be Released in December

Clint EastwoodHere are some interesting news indeed. Last week I posted a link to the Japanese only trailer for Eastwood’s companion film to Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima. The second film was to be released in February of 2007 and has now been pushed up for December 20th release.

Variety reports:

New frame puts Letters up for awards consideration, with Warners planning to make the film available to critics groups and guilds in its limited run.
Pic will open in L.A. and New York, and possibly in San Francisco.
This is interesting for two of reasons: The first is that Flags of Our Fathers did not perform as well as expected and Oscar buzz has been mute and the second being that Letters from Iwo Jima appears to be getting a lot more attention – not to mention that the trailer makes it much more appealing.

I’m concerned that the release is nearly a month away and we’ve yet to see an English trailer. I’m not sure moving it up is really the best idea but I guess we’ll have to see how things go.

Posted on November 16th, 2006 at 1:21 am by Marina in Movie News

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Cate Blanchett Returning to the Stage

Notes on a Scandal Movie StillLate last week Reuters announced that Oscar winning actress Cate Blanchett would be returning to where her career begun:

Oscar-winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett and her writer-husband Andrew Upton will become creative directors of the Sydney Theater Company in 2007 the theater where Blanchett began her acting career 13 years ago.
There’s no word on what this may mean for her on-screen acting career. Blanchett has been rather busy this year and there are still two films to be released before the end of the year but at the moment it appears as though she only has one film in production for release in 2008.

I hope that this return to her roots doesn’t take Blanchett away from film for too long. She’s an amazing talent and a pleasure to watch and it would be a shame if she disappeared for a few years. Thankfully, there will be enough to keep fans happy for a little longer. The Good German is scheduled for release on December 8th. If you’ve missed the trailer, you can check it out here.

The film I’m much more interested in her collaboration with Judi Dench in a fantastic looking little film called Notes on a Scandal which is due to hit theatres on Christmas day. Check out the trailer below.
Posted on November 16th, 2006 at 1:03 am by Marina in Movie News

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“The Number 23” Trailer On-Line

Jim CareyEarlier last week, the trailer for Jim Carey’s new feature film The Number 23 hit the web. The film which is scheduled for release in February 2007 is quite a departure for Carey; it’s a thriller in which he plays a man with an obsession with a book which happens to share its title with the movie.

I just managed to check out the trailer and I must say that it looks interesting and, for the first time ever, I’m actually looking forward to seeing a Jim Carey film. His career has been in a bit of a slump as of late and his comedy has apparently dried up fortunately, it looks like a more serious side of Carey, which we saw a little of in The Truman Show, may not just be a fluke. I hope it works out. For his sake.

Other than Carey, my other concern about this is that it sounds a lot like James Mangolds Identity, starring John Cusack, in which all of the victims shared a birthday – this seems to be a bit of a rip from Mangolds film.

See the trailer for yourself at Yahoo Movies. What do you think? Can Carey pull this off?

Posted on November 16th, 2006 at 12:29 am by Marina in Movie News

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The Notorious Bettie Page

The Notorious Bettie Page Movie PosterStarring: Gretchen Mol, Lili Taylor, Jonathan M. Woodward, David Strathairn, Cara Seymour, Tara Subkoff, Kevin Carroll
Written by: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner
Directed by: Mary Harron

Its sad to see a movie only to forget, a mere three days later, that youve seen it. Unfortunately, this is the case with last years The Notorious Bettie Page.

Best known as the pin-up queen of the world, Bettie Page started modeling in the early 1950s and, in an industry where womens careers often started and ended in a few months, Page was in demand and managed to continue modeling until 1957. Today, Page is primarily known for her bondage and fetish photos and is considered by many to be the first bondage model. So we know the details of her career but what about the woman? The film was supposed to shed some light on the life of Bettie Page unfortunately, it does so very badly.

Its starts off with Bettie growing up in Tennessee with overprotective parents. She manages to make her way out to New York city where she gets involved in modeling and begins to take acting lessons. Though her acting career is slow starting, her modeling takes off and soon Page is making a tidy life for herself. A few men come and go, she gets wrapped up in the “Kefauver Hearings” of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and then stops modeling. There has been much speculation as to reason for her departure from the modeling world and this film makes yet another suggestion; she re-discovered god and the church.

Director Mary Harron, who brilliantly brought American Psycho to the screen, completely misses the boat on this one. The writing is sad and, at times completely laughable. Harron makes use of both black and white and colour shots ineffectively. I understand that the colour shots were meant to represent the real Bettie in her outside of work surroundings but because we never really meet the real Bettie Page, its difficult to see the point of the colour shot – if anything, the change was cause for annoyance. There are very few memorable moments in the film and as a whole, its a sadly forgettable affair. Among all this disappointment, there is a little gem. Gretchen Mol who until this point had played primarily secondary characters in smaller films is excellent as Bettie and her transformation is uncanny. Comparing photos of Mol from the film to some of Betties work, its hard to see a difference. Throw in an accent that never falters and mannerisms that appear to fit the character and its a winner. This is certainly Mols best performance to date; its unfortunate that few saw it.

I learned more about Bettie Page when doing a little research for this review than I did from seeing the movie which is too bad because she was a woman that helped usher in change. She was free spirited and did her own thing, regardless of what people said or thought in a time when women had very few rights. This had the potential to be insightful and informative but instead it simply manages to be a poorly made biopic that happens to have an amazing lead performance which unfortunately, isnt quite good enough to rescue this mess. Fans of Mol and Page may be interested but be warned, its slow, boring and forgettable.