Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Water For Elephants (2011)

Director: Francis Lawrence (1)
Cast: Reese Witherspoon (2), Robert Pattinson (3), and Christoph Waltz (4)
My favourite quote - "You're a beautiful woman, you deserve a beautiful life, nothing less."
Did you know? - The film was based on the novel of the same name written by Sara Gruen. She wrote the book as part of the National Novel Writing Month also known as NaNoWriMo.

Halfway through the film I found myself asking a friend of mine who’s already watched it ‘How long more does this take?’ Is the story bad? Nah. Is the pacing slow? It is at some points. What about the acting? All three leads are fantastic actors and whenever they are not playing off each other on screen they are fantastic. However, if they have any chemistry off screen, it didn’t really come off on screen. Also, I can’t help but think of Twilight’s Edward Cullen everytime Robert Pattinson appears. Christoph Waltz was fantastic in the film though. He was able to make me hate him for being so cruel, but also to have a sudden empathy for him for that brief moment when he was vulnerable.
I am fascinated by circus acts. I have a wish, a goal if you will, to travel the world and watch all the Cirque Du Soleil shows available at the time I can afford to do so. I call it my ‘Travel the world according to Cirque Du Soleil’ plan. Cirque Du Soleil's Saltimbanco recently came into town (Singapore) and needless to say I went to watch it. I find it amazing how they are able to do some of the fantastic stunts that they do. And for a living too! I think they are very special individuals. And that’s what I really take away from this film. That everyone, no matter how weird or different (physically or otherwise), is special and has something to offer to the world. 
Also, I think that people shouldn’t sell themselves short. If you don’t deserve the crap someone gives you, and you can do something about it, DO IT! Life is short, don’t waste time allowing yourself to be under the thumb of someone who doesn’t appreciate you or someone who doesn’t give a s**t how you feel. 
I also loved Rosie! The elephant featured in the film. My heart went out for the animals portrayed in the film. When I said I was fascinated by circus, my concept of the circus is the modern ones like Cirque Du Soleil not the ones featuring animals or “strange people” like those featured in the film The Vampire’s Assistant. So the parts where the animals were being ill-treated made me cringe so bad. Even if one were not an animal person, how can one be so cruel to an innocent being who in no way has harmed them? Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. I think people should remember this when treating other human beings (eg, nannies, domestic helpers, customer service staff) and even animals. How would you feel if someone took a stab at you with a poker just cos you didn’t want to do what they wanted you to do?
The film though a little slow moving, had a good story to share with the audience, and I loved all that it was trying to say and connected with the film on so many different levels. For once, the main thing I took away from the film wasn’t through the love story. Which I think was because I did not connect with the on screen couple Jacob and Marlena played by Robert Pattinson and Resse Witherspoon. Though, I love the set design, costumes, cinematography and theme of the film. So I really can overlook that little hiccup in the chemistry department.

(1) Francis Lawrence has directed films like Constantine (2005) and I Am Legend (2007). He has also directed countless MTVs some of them include Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake ft Timbaland, Buttons by The Pussycat Dolls ft Snoop Dogg, Circus by Britney Spears, Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé’s Run The World (Girls).
(2) Resse Witherspoon has acted in films like Cruel Intentions (1999), Legally Blonde (2001), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003), Vanity Fair (2004), Walk the Line (2005), Just Like Heaven (2005), Penelope (2006), and This Means War (2012)
(3) Robert Pattinson has acted in films like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Twilight (2008), Little Ashes (2009), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), Remember Me (2010), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012), and Bel Ami (2012)
(4) Christoph Waltz has acted in films like Inglourious Basterds (2009), The Green Hornet (2011), and The Three Musketeers (2011)

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks… Water For Elephants will remind you to fight for what you believe in and that both humans and animals deserve to be treated with respect.  (2.6 of 5)

* Movie Poster from Wikipedia

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Because I Said So (2006)

Director: Michael Lehmann (1)

Cast: Diane Keaton (2), Mandy Moore (3), Lauren Graham (4), Piper Perabo (5), Stephen Collins (6), Tom Everett Scott (7), Gabriel Macht (8), 

My favourite quote - "I just want you to understand something about motherhood okay. I mean, it's the most impossible love. You tell me when it ends. You tell me when it stops. All I know is, it's absolutely fine for me to teach you how to walk and talk, and then you grow up and you head off in the wrong direction toward a cliff. And I'm supposed to just stand there and wave and go, "Well, kids, good luck. It's Mom. I'm here. " Well, I can't do that. What am I supposed to do, huh? Am I supposed to just put my feet up at the end of the day and say to myself, "Well, you know, they're on their own and she says she's fine. " Well, you won't be.

Mama by Spice Girls 
(Video linked from Youtube)

She used to be my only enemy and never let me be free
Catching me in places that I knew I shouldn't be
Every other day I crossed the line
I didn't mean to be so bad
I never thought you would
Become the friend I never had

Back then I didn't know why
Why you were misunderstood
So now I see through your eyes
All that you did was love

Mama I love you, Mama I care
Mama I love you, Mama my friend
You're my friend

I didn't want to hear it then but
I'm not ashamed to say it now
Every little thing you said and did was right for me
I had a lot of time to think about
About the way I used to be
Never had a sense of my responsibility

Back then I didn't know why
Why you were misunderstood
So now I see through your eyes
All that you did was love

Mothers know best. Do they really? It's the time of the year when working adults get their "report cards" regarding how they've fared at work in the past year. The reward/results come in the form of bonuses and pay increments. I fared very badly. And I cried as the reality of the results sunk in. I cried because this thought came into my mind - "What do I tell my mother?" 

Let me explain. In recent months, my mother has been first hinting, and now blatantly telling me I should get a new job. A better paying job. A 9 to 5 job that pays better. She's been encouraging me to apply for a "creative position" at Google without really knowing if what this "creative position" her friend has been talking to her about entails. And just recently, while watching the Zombieland blu ray together she dropped a "so are you going to start applying for jobs" line just before the opening titles rolled out when the huge chunk of words under the heading "WARNING" appeared. Suddenly I wasn't sure if the "WARNING" sign was a huge hint about my mother's "nudging" or a warning against piracy. 

All this reminds me of the way Diane Keaton's character, in Because I Said So, "convinced" and "manipulated" her daughter, played by Mandy Moore, to date the man she deems suitable for her daughter. 

A mother's love. That's what Because I Said So is mostly about. Mothers may or may not always be right. But mothers do what they do because they love you. 

It was only after I went to Australia to study that I became a little closer to my mother. You see, I come from a traditionally Asian family where the parents are the stern father and mother figure in their children's lives. Not like in western culture where mothers can be best friends with their daughters and father are buddies with their sons.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

Director: Guy Ferland
Cast: Romola Garai (1), Diego Luna (2), Sela Ward (3), Jonathan Jackson (4), Patrick Swayze
My favourite quote - "Dancing is about being exactly who you want to be in that moment."

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is a sexy film. Set in Cuba, the film has no connection to the original 1987 film besides the similar plot, a supporting role played by original cast member Patrick Swayze, and the sharing of its name.
The film didn’t get very good reviews. However, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the choreography of the dancing and the chemistry between the two leads. 

To be honest, throughout the film the two leads mostly seem incompatible with each other and their interaction occasionally awkward and out of sync. However, the awkwardness and differences serves the purpose and story of the film well - they are after all two very different individuals from very different cultures and social class. But when they dance together, its magic. You forget all the reasons you thought they did not match well together. The music and all the sexy dancing also makes you wanna get off off your seat and move along with them. 
Ultimately, I loved the film because it was about passion. Even the underlying sub-plot regarding the revolution was about passion. Believing in something so strongly that you would give up everything, even your life, just to follow your heart. I wish I were that dedicated. Four times in my life, I set a goal for myself and followed through with it all the way. And all four times I got what I aimed for. But out of my nearly 30 years on earth, four times really isn’t much is it? 
Do you have a goal in life right now? How passionate are you about it? How far would you go to achieve that goal? Do you have an opinion about the society around you today? There’s a difference between having opinion and doing something about what you strongly believe in. Many people are morally sound and have strong opinions about various issues. However, how many actually act on their beliefs and passions?
My passion? To be an archer that represents her country at the Olympic level. 
What am I doing about it? I am going to the gym to build stamina and starting to train again to regain or fix my form.
My other passion? To write a film or television drama series and have it produced. 
What am I doing about it? I am working as a writer. Though I am writing vastly different types of scripts, but I am happy to be writing nonetheless.
What are you passionate about? And what are you doing about it? Figure out what you’re passionate about, what you most what to do, and do it. Life is too short to hesitate or think too much. Today will never be today again, so treasure the time you have right now and let every moment be a step in the right direction. 

(1) Romola Garai’s acted in films like Vanity Fair (2004), Atonement (2007), and One Day (2011)
(2) Diego Luna’s acted in films like Y tu mamá también (2001), Frida (2002), and The Terminal (2004)
(3) Sela Ward’s acted in films like 54 (1998), Runaway Bride (1999), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and The Guardian (2006). Currently, she has a lead role in the TV series CSI:NY (2010-present). 
(4) Jonathan Jackson’s acted in the film Tuck Everlasting (2002)

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks… Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is a must see if you like movies about dance and passion. (3 of 5)

* Movie Poster from Wikipedia

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Hysteria (2011)

Director: Tanya Wexler

Cast: Hugh Dancy (1), Maggie Gyllenhaal (2), Felicity Jones (3), Rupert Everett (4)

My favourite quote - 
"I know by the time I'm gone, women will have the vote, they'll have equal education, and rights over their own bodies. And I'd like to play some small part in making that happen." 

Hysteria first caught my attention when I found out that one of my favourite actors, Hugh Dancy, was one of the cast members. Then when I found out Maggie Gyllenhaal and Felicity Jones were in it too, I decided that I just had to watch the film. Now this film is still not shown in theaters in Singapore, but it was shown at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Anyhow, I only discovered what the film was about when I started watching it. And I was surprised, and wasn't quite sure if it were fact or fiction. 

Hysteria is a film about how the vibrator was first invented. But don't be fooled by its flashy topic. This film is also about women's place in society during the Victorian era. The inventor of the vibrator is indeed Mortimer Granville, but the facts I believe have been sensationalized or modified to make the film interesting. 

I love watching the Miss Universe pageants. And I remember Australia's Jennifer Hawkins being asked this question: "If you could choose what time period and what sex to be, what would you choose and why?". Her answer was: "I'd have to say this time period because we have as much freedom as we want. And I choose the sex of female, because females have a lot to say in today's society. So I'd say this century, today." And when I ask myself this same question that was posed to her, my answer too is today. I think women today are very lucky. We don't HAVE to stay at home and cook and clean. We are permitted to have a good education and carve a successful career of our own. We are not subjected to as much discrimination as women in the past suffered. Compared to the women in the Victorian era, we are much luckier. 

"You must admit, you men really did get the better side of the bargain. For us, its mindless housework and doting on some halfwit. Its simply not enough for me, or for most women." - Charlotte Dalrymple 

Consider all the period films like Pride and Prejudice, Becoming Jane, Beatrix Potter just to name a few, all the women during those times were subjected to so many restrictions and were thought so little of. I'm grateful to all the women in the past who stood up for women's rights and equality. It is because of their bravery and courage that women today have a say about how to live their lives, who to marry, and what kind of work they do. 

"Its very easy isn't it? To make fun of women's lives. I would like to see you walk for one mile in our shoes. I imagine that your mirth would turn first to sympathy and then to despair."  - Charlotte Dalrymple 

Men vs Women is also a theme much covered in Hysteria. Doing housework and taking care of the family is something women still do today. But the difference is that isn't the only thing they are allowed to do these days. There has been many debates over this topic since a long time ago. And today, women are still expected to be able to take care of the family, as well as to cook and clean. Having a successful career is only if you can manage to juggle everything at home first. Well, that isn't the case for every single woman, and some women have very wonderful supportive husbands. And many households now employ domestic helpers to manage the household chores and take care of the children. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Like Crazy (2011)

Director: Drake Doremus

Cast: Anton Yelchin (1), Felicity Jones (2), Jennifer Lawrence (3)

My favourite quote - 
"I don't feel like I'm a part of your life. I feel like I'm on vacation."

Did you know? - The film won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in 2011 and the film was shot using the Canon EOS 7D. The film's dialogue was also fully improvised. 

Long distance relationships. Some people can survive the distance, some can't. Like Crazy is a very slow moving film. It takes patience, and interest in the subject matter, or in film, to be able to sit through the film from start to finish. However, I have a nagging suspicion that the slow pace of the film was done on purpose. So that the viewer can experience for themselves the frustration the characters in the film felt. All that waiting to see each other again. All that trying to make things work.

I connect with the film because it reminds me of the last relationship I had. And I can empathize with whatever the leads Jacob and Anna, beautifully played by Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, are feeling and going through. It isn't easy. It takes a huge toll on the relationship and it is very tough the two people trying to make a long distance relationship work. Trust, communication, understanding, a lot of compromise is needed to sustain a long distance relationship. Something I think Like Crazy very aptly portrays. 

I actually picked up this film more because of its cast rather than the subject matter. I was pretty impressed with Anton Yelchin in Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, as well as in New York, I Love You, so I took a leap of faith and started to get the films he acted in. And I wasn't disappointed. Although I found it jarring to watch him as an adult going through the heartaches of a long distance relationship, I still could connect with his character because of his realistic and heartbreaking performance in the film. Where did the fresh faced 17 year old Chekov from Star Trek go? 

The other lead Felicity Jones I only noticed recently after watching the film Chalet Girl. I am still curious about her and haven't seen her in many films. This is just the second. However, so far, I like her performances. In this film, I am able to see more depth in her performance as Anna. I think being cast alongside such a fantastic actor as Anton Yelchin, she doesn't shine as bright. But still, she's one I would look out for in the future. 

I didn't know X-Men: First Class' Jennifer Lawrence was in this film until I saw her in it. And although it was a small part, I enjoyed watching her in the film. I'd have to get my hands on The Hunger Games and Winter's Bone soon. 

At the start of Like Crazy, I really didn't know what to expect. And now, having watched it. I have no regrets. It is like watching a part of my life being acted by others on the big screen. To those who have never been in a long distance relationship, be an observer to this quiet but meaningful film. Relationships are hard work, whether two people are on the same continent or not. But ultimately, if you really love one another, you'll find a way to make it work. You might make mistakes, meet other people, but at the end of the day, you'll find your way back to each other. 

The film leaves the viewer a little unsure about the future of Jacob and Anna, but that's just it isn't it? Even if the film gave us a happily ever after, if this was real life, after the credits have finished rolling, something bad might happen and they might end up breaking up anyway. All that Jacob and Anna has gone through, if the film did not portray them the way they did, then it would be unrealistic and the typical Hollywood film that gives in to the demand of the happily-ever-after-ending. 

(1) Anton Yelchin has acted in films like Along Came A Spider (2001), Hearts In Atlantis (2001), Charlie Bartlett (2007), New York, I Love You (2009), Star Trek (2009), Terminator Salvation (2009), Memoirs Of A Teenage Amnesiac (2010), Like Crazy (2011), and Fright Night (2011). He also voiced Clumsy Smurf in the film The Smurfs (2011). 

(2) Felicity Jones has acted in films like Brideshead Revisited (2008), Chalet Girl (2011), and Hysteria (2011)

(3) Jennifer Lawrence has acted in films like Winter's Bone (2010), X-Men: First Class (2011), and The Hunger Games (2012).

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks… Like Crazy makes me remember the times when I was in a long distance relationship. While the ending of my story is different, I connected with the film nonetheless. It makes me sad, it makes me nostalgic, but its okay. Because I know this feeling will pass eventually. (3 of 5)

* Movie Poster from Wikipedia

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The Vow (2012)

Director: Michael Sucsy (1)

Cast: Channing Tatum (2), Rachel McAdams (3), Sam Neil (4), Jessica Lange (5), Scott Speedman (6)

My favourite quote - 
"I chose to stay with him for all the things that he had done right, and not to leave him for the one thing that he had done wrong. I chose to forgive him" and "You accepted me for who I am, and not for what you wanted me to be"

Just a week ago, my uncle whom I am pretty close to had just gotten married. And it got me thinking about marriage and having someone special to go home to. And when they were saying their vows, I was wondering if I would one day find someone special to say those marriage vows to. And that if and when I am getting married, I would write my own vows, unique to me and my partner and say those vows with God and my family and friends as witness. In the film, I really enjoyed the unique vows said by Leo and Paige played by Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. 

Paige: I vow to help you love life, to always hold you with tenderness and to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed and to share the silence when they are not, and to live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home. 

Leo: I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms, now and forever. I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love. I vow to love you, and no matter what challenges might carry us apart, we will always find a way back to each other. 

Wedding vows are not to be taken lightly. When you say your "I dos" you are promising to love that person, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or for worse, till death do you part. The Vow is about this very promise between a man and a woman. Not everyone gets put to the test in the same manner as the characters in the film. And of course we hope people don't have to ever go through this. But if they do, or if I do in the future face a situation like this, I hope that I will be able to get through it like these characters have. 

The quote that affected me the most in this film was uttered by Paige Collins' mother played by Jessica Lange. If it happened to me, would I be able to forgive my husband for cheating on me? Would I be able to look past his one discretion and stay with him? I don't know if I can or will. And I do hope I will never have to face such a dilemma. But, I do believe that that quote, is what a marriage is about. You will have tough times, you might make each other angry or do things that hurt your partner, but the important thing is that you have promised to keep trying and working on the marriage no matter what happens. 

The other quote that struck me deeply was said by Rachel McAdams' Paige Collins - "You accepted me for who I am, and not who you wanted me to be". That is what a marriage partnership is about as well. No one is perfect, but you might be that perfect someone for one other imperfect person. I am who I am. And one day, I might meet someone who accepts me for who I am, and will compliment me the same way I compliment him. 

You know how jigsaw puzzle pieces need to fit perfectly to form the picture. I think that is how I see relationships. The jigsaw piece is made just the way it is, and if you have to force a piece to fit with another, the end result is not the way its supposed to be. If its meant to be, its meant to be isn't it?