Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Young Victoria (2009)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Cast: Emily Blunt (1), Rupert Friend (2), Paul Bettany (3), Miranda Richardson (4), Jim Broadbent (5), and Mark Strong (6)

My favourite dialogue – 

Princess Victoria: Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself? In a game being played against your will.
Prince Albert: Do you?
Princess Victoria: Constantly. I see them leaning in and moving me around the board.
Prince Albert: The Duchess and Sir John?
Princess Victoria: Not just them. Uncle Leopold. The king. I'm sure half the politicians are ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square.
Prince Albert: Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.
Princess Victoria: You don't recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
Prince Albert: I should find one to play it with you, not for you.


Queen Victoria: I'm so sorry! I thought I was going to lose you!
Prince Albert: I don't think he was a very good shot.
Queen Victoria: Why did you do it? So stupid, why did you do it?
Prince Albert: I had two very good reasons. First, I am replaceable and you are not.
Queen Victoria: You are not replaceable to me!
Prince Albert: Second, you're the only wife I've got or ever will have. You are my whole existence, and I will love you until my last breath.

2011 was the year of biopics – The Iron Lady, The Lady, The King’s Speech, Soul Surfer, and J. Edgar were all films that hit the big screens in that year. I don’t watch many biopics, but they always fascinate me. And somehow, there always seems to be many biopics on my ‘to-watch’ list. Of those I’ve watched so far, my favourite is The Young Victoria.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited my sunny little island, Singapore, not too long ago and I thought it would be pretty apt to watch a film that focuses on the British monarchy. Especially since Prince William and his wife are here because of his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee.

Queen Victoria ruled for 63 years, 7 months, and 2 days. And Queen Elizabeth II’s length of reign is just approximately 3 years shy of surpassing Queen Victoria’s length of reign. Wow! 

Perhaps it is because of the fact that she is the longest reigning British Sovereign to date that I am so captivated by her story and this film. Or perhaps I really enjoy this film because at the heart of it, it is about a young woman who makes her mark in a man’s world. And to add to that I love a good love story. Considering the time period, the fact that they loved so fiercely touches me greatly. 

The film chronicles the life of Queen Victoria from the time she was a young woman, up to the time she becomes a mother. Through the film you get a sense of who she is and why she is the way she is. I am not a historian and will probably not nitpick at the historical facts. So I enjoyed the film immensely.

Princess Victoria: Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself? In a game being played against your will.
Prince Albert: Do you?
Princess Victoria: Constantly. I see them leaning in and moving me around the board.
Prince Albert: The Duchess and Sir John?
Princess Victoria: Not just them. Uncle Leopold. The king. I'm sure half the politicians are ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square.
Prince Albert: Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.
Princess Victoria: You don't recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
Prince Albert: I should find one to play it with you, not for you.

Do you play chess? I do, but I have to admit I’m not very good at it. Although, I noticed that the scenes in films with chess or archery I tend to enjoy. That aside, I especially liked this scene because I felt that this was the point in the film that Prince Albert and Princess Victoria connected and began to understand each other. I like that Prince Albert talks of a marriage in which both individuals are equal and work towards a common goal.

Queen Victoria: I'm so sorry! I thought I was going to lose you!
Prince Albert: I don't think he was a very good shot.
Queen Victoria: Why did you do it? So stupid, why did you do it?
Prince Albert: I had two very good reasons. First, I am replaceable and you are not.
Queen Victoria: You are not replaceable to me!
Prince Albert: Second, you're the only wife I've got or ever will have. You are my whole existence, and I will love you until my last breath.

It’s obvious why I love this other piece of dialogue. Underneath it all I’m a hopeless romantic. But I wonder, while many of us may not ever have a need to jump in front of our loved ones to prevent them from being shot, would you? I have no answer to that question, probably because I’m single and we can say we will sacrifice ourselves for our loved ones, but you can say one thing but doing is something else altogether. Nonetheless, it is very romantic.

Prince Albert: My dear Victoria, while these days may feel endless, please do not lose faith in yourself or your people. We are all allowed to make mistakes, most especially when we have looked to others for guidance. 
Queen Victoria: The storm still rages outside the palace walls. I wonder now if everyone was right. Perhaps I am too young and inexperienced for my position.
Prince Albert: Open your mind, examine your choices and your honesty will take you through the storm. I promise that you can do this work and do it well. You have courage and heart, and you said it yourself, you are stronger than you look.

I like this exchange between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, I like that Prince Albert understands her and knows just how to support and encourage her. The film portrays the budding romance between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert through their letters and while this form of courtship seems slow and dated, do remember this is set in a time when emails and telephones were not invented yet. Perhaps the traditionalist in my likes their love story so much because theirs is a love that grew over time through mutual understanding and support despite the distance. Theirs is a long distance relationship that survived not only the physical distance, but also politics and the fact that his wife is a rich woman and a sovereign.

I must say though I love The Young Victoria also because the cinematography is beautiful. The director loves to use depth of field and plays with the visuals. This gives the film a very romantic feel and gives due credit to the wonderful sets, costumes, and props in the film. 

Before The Young Victoria I watched Emily Blunt's performance in The Devil Wears Prada and I was in awe of her talent. Since that film, I've paid closer attention to her and watched her films like Sunshine Cleaning and The Jane Austen Book Club. In fact, when The Young Victoria was first in the cinemas, it was a limited release in Australia and I had to go all the way to the Birch Carroll & Coyle cinema in Bulimba. And mind you I didn't own a car when I was studying in Australia. She does a fantastic job here as Princess Victoria.

Truth be told, when I saw Rupert Friend's performance in The Young Victoria, I was rather impressed. And then I went home and researched who he was and what other films he's acted in before. And I was surprised that I didn't remember him as Wickham in Pride And Prejudice. I think it was the accent and the make up that he has as Prince Albert in the film. Nonetheless it is his performance as Prince Albert in The Young Victoria that made me sit up and notice him. 

Paul Bettany. Ever since the film Wimbledon, I have paid close attention to his performances. He has this subtle charm that sneaks up on you and he didn't disappoint in The Young Victoria. In fact, the entire film was well casted. 

The Young Victoria is a film that is most definitely worth watching. 

(1) Emily Blunt has acted in films like The Devil Wears Prada (2006), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Sunshine Cleaning (2008), The Wolfman (2010), Gulliver’s Travels (2010), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), The Muppets (2011), Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (2012), Your Sister’s Sister (2012), The Five-Year Engagemment (2012), and Looper (2012). She also voiced the character of Juliet in the animation Gnomeo And Juliet (2011).

(2) Rupert Friend has acted in films like Pride And Prejudice (2004), The Boy In The Stripped Pajamas (2008), Cheri (2009), and The Kid (2010).

(3) Paul Bettany has acted in films like A Knight’s Tale (2001), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), Dogville (2003), Wimbledon (2004), The Da Vinci Code (2006), The Secret Life Of Bees (2008), Inkheart (2008), Creation (2009), Legion (2010), The Tourist (2010), Priest (2011), and Margin Call (2011). He also provides the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S in the films Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), and The Avengers (2012).

(4) Miranda Richardson has acted in films like Sleepy Hollow (1999), Get Carter (2000), The Hours (2002), The Prince And Me (2004), The Phantom Of The Opera (2004), Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005), Paris, Je t'aime (2006), Fred Claus (2007), and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010).

(5) Jim Broadbent has acted in films like Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Gangs Of New York (2002), Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Around The World In 80 Days (2004), Vanity Fair (2004), Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason (2004), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Inkheart (2008), Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009), Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), The Iron Lady (2011), and Cloud Atlas (2012).

(6) Mark Strong has acted in films like Emma (1996), Fever Pitch (1997), Sunshine (1999), Oliver Twist (2005), Syriana (2005), Tristan & Isolde (2006), Sunshine (2007), Stardust (2007), Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (2008), RocknRolla (2008), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Kick-Ass (2009), Robin Hood (2010), Green Lantern (2011), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), John Carter (2012), and Welcome To The Punch (2012).

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks… The Young Victoria is beautifully shot, wonderfully cast, and invites you to get a glimpse of the fascinating woman who is also the longest reigning British Sovereign to date. It reminds me that royalty or not, they can make mistakes and they can fall in love. They are human, just like you and me. (4.9 of 5)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The New Normal (2012)

Created by: Ryan Murphy (1) and Ali Adler

Cast: Justin Bartha (2), Andrew Rannells, Georgia King (3), Bebe Wood, Ellen Barkin, NeNe Leakes, Jayson Bair

I love the month of September because that is when all my favourite American television series come back! Also, it is the time when a horde of new television series becomes available for my viewing pleasure. I usually pick up a new television series to watch only when my friends have tried and tested it and swears that it's awesome. So by the time I get to it, the season is either nearly finished or already over. This time, as I was scouring EZTV for my favourite television shows, I decided to take a leap of faith on a couple of new series and that is when I found this gem. 

Currently The New Normal is only three episodes in and I usually give a television series about five episodes of chances before I dump 'em or keep 'em. And I got hooked in episode three! And luckily too because there's only been three episodes to watch.

I recently watched the film The Kids Are Alright which is about a lesbian couple who each gave birth to a child using the sperm of the same man so that they can have a family. I'll elaborate more about that film another time, but the reason why I bring that film up is because this television series' theme is similar. 

The New Normal is about a gay couple who decide to have a baby and do so through a surrogate. The series' main cast include the two daddies-to-be David Murray (played by Justin Bartha) and Bryan Collins (played by Andrew Rannells), their surrogate Goldie Clemmons (played by Georgia King), her daughter Shania Clemmons (played by Bebe Wood), and Goldie's grandmother Jane Forrest (played by Ellen Barkins). Nene Leakes plays Rocky who seems to be working for or with Bryan and Jayson Blair plays Clay Clemmons, Goldie's husband. 

While I still don't know if this television series will stick for me, but it's off to a good start. The characters are rather lovable but grandma Jane gets on my nerves A LOT! Throughout the first two episodes, and even through most of episode three, I've been asking myself if I could stand any more of Jane Forrest enough to continue watching The New Normal. And in the last seven minutes of episode three I fell a little in love with nana Jane Forrest. I don't want to spoil anything for you so I'll let you find out why yourself. 

Now let's talk about the casting in The New Normal. Justin Bartha first caught my eye in the film National Treasure and I have been keeping a lookout for him ever since. He sorta reminds me a little of Topher Grace, but thats beside the point. I think he's done a really great job in the role of David and I am looking forward to seeing more from him in the role. The only other person I recognised in the series is Georgia King. I remember her as the obnoxious head girl in the film Wild Child. And in all honesty I was wondering if she could pull off an American accent considering she's Scottish. That and the fact that I really didn't like her character in Wild Child and cannot shake her persona in that film from my mind. After three episodes of The New Normal, while I still think of Georgia King as Harriet, the pompous head girl in Wild Child, she is fast becoming to me, Goldie Clemmons, the young and sweet woman determined to make a better life for her daughter and herself. I've never seen the work of the other cast members but I must say that I am intrigued by all the characters in this new series and the actors who play them do a good job in the roles. 

There really isn't much to go on for now considering I've only watched three episodes, but check back from time to time to see my updates and thoughts as the series progresses. 


Episode 1: Having a child is a big thing. It is a decision you shouldn't take lightly. It is something that will change your whole life. That is the overall theme of this first episode. It is a pilot after all and while it does a number of expositions regarding some history of the characters, I guess it is unavoidable. In this first episode, some of the characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience like side excerpts in the film He's Just Not That Into You. Initially I found it a little jarring, but I got used to it after a while. 

My favourite lines - "Face it honey, abnormal is the new normal", "Family is a family, and love is love""You know I've delivered a thousand babies in my life and I don't think I've ever held one that's over 4 minutes old. What if I'm not ready to be a dad?"& "The baby I want to carry for David and Bryan will have two loving parents who desperately want a child, who's to say that's not normal?"

(1) Ryan Murphy has created or co-created the television series Popular (1999-2001), Nip/Tuck (2003-2007), Glee (2009-present), and American Horror Story (2011-present). He has also directed the films Running With Scissors (2006), and Eat Pray Love (2010).

(2) Justin Bartha has acted in films like  National Treasure (2004), Failure To Launch (2006), National Treasure: Book Of Secrets (2007), The Rebound (2009), The Hangover (2009), New York, I Love You (2009), and The Hangover Part II (2011).

(3) Georgia King has acted in films like Wild Child (2008), The Duchess (2008), St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold (2009), Chalet Girl (2011), and One Day (2011).   

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks… The New Normal has great potential to be a big hit. The aptly titled series feels to me like its a step in the right direction in the hopes that same-sex marriages, families with same-sex parents, and homosexuality becomes the norm on television. While the subject matter might not fly with some, I think that if you watch this with an open mind, you will realise that "family is a family, and love is love". Like any other family themed comedy series, it focuses on a parent's love for his or her child, the desire or lack of to have children, and growing up. So give it a chance and make up your own mind about it. 

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

Director: Gary Ross (1)

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (2), Josh Hutcherson (3), Liam Hemsworth (4), Woody Harrelson (5), Elizabeth Banks (6), Stanley Tucci (7), and Donald Sutherland (8)

My favourite quotes – Okay, listen to me, you're stronger than they are. You are. They just want a good show, that's all they want. You know how to hunt. Show them how good you are. and Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it's contained.”

Did you know? - The film is an adaptation of the book of the same name written by Suzanne Collins. The author has stated that the inspiration for The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two "began to blur in this very unsettling way" and the idea for the book was formed. The Greek myth of Theseus served as a major basis for the story, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus, and Roman glasiatorial games provided the framework.

When I first watched this film, I felt so angry and sad for the tributes of The Hunger Games. Considering that the Paralympics is coming up soon in London and the Olympic Games just passed, watching this film creates a strange juxtaposition in my mind. During the times of the ancient Olympic Games, athletes would be allowed to safely travel to and from the games under the Olympic Truce. And people competed in games to prove their country's prowess instead of killing each other in war. And yet, in The Hunger Games, children are sent to a fight to the death to remind each district of the suffering and loss of war!??!! What a load of BS! The world of Panem is definitely a dystopian one thats for sure! The Hunger Games is a punishment and a show of dominance over the districts, plain and simple. 

Reality TV. I work in the entertainment industry, so this television format is something I am accustomed to. Then why is it that I feel disgusted by the audience that enjoy such sport in the Capitol? Granted I don't work in an industry that encourages children killing other children in a gladiator-like arena, but still, aren't we all a society that enjoys watching others embarrass themselves on television?

Gale Hawthorne: What if they did? Just one year. What if everyone just stopped watching?
Katniss Everdeen: They won't, Gale.
Gale Hawthorne: What if they did? What if we did?
Katniss Everdeen: Won't happen.
Gale Hawthorne: Root for your favorite, cry when they get killed. It's sick.
Katniss Everdeen: Gale.
Gale Hawthorne: No one watches and they don't have a game. It's as simple as that... what?
Katniss Everdeen: Nothing.
Gale Hawthorne: Fine. Laugh at me.
Katniss Everdeen: I'm not laughing at you!

When I was studying in Australia, Big Brother is a hugely popular reality television show where the last one standing in the Big Brother house would win cash prize and other prizes like a car. In Big Brother, the audience vote people out and keep people in. In The Hunger Games, the audience sponsor individuals when they feel the inclinations to based on how they fare in the games itself. And when the game master speaks to the tributes through the intercom in a God-like manner, it reminds me of big brother's voice in the reality television program Big Brother. The most embarrassing thing is, I actually loved watching Big Brother. I loved watching it because I enjoyed trying to understand or predict the social behaviours of the public in relation to the actions and words of the contestants on the show. I also enjoyed watching the backstabbing, the bitching, the romances, and the games on the show. 

Think about Survivor, short of killing each other, the setting of the Hunger Games is eerily close to those of the hugely popular reality television show Survivor. In Survivor, the participants vote to eliminate another, sometimes the decision is based on strategy, sometimes based on personal preference. Sometimes even within a group, alliances are made and broken. Besides a matter of life and death, is there a difference between Survivor and The Hunger Games? Not much difference once again. 

Kill or be killed. It's really easy to say that. We also often hear the phrase, "Hey, its a dog eat dog world" being used. But when push comes to shove and if the time ever came when you have to seriously consider the possibility of killing someone else to survive would you be able to do it? War is that isn't it? War forces an otherwise normal person to kill another human being in order to survive. I hope I never had to witness a society where killing another human being becomes a sport or a necessity. 

The Hunger Games is a film that affects me greatly because it is portrayed as a reality television show. I can imagine myself in the shoes of the game makers, messing with the fates of those inside the arena. And it upsets me. But, it is because I can get behind the minds of the game makers that I can understand the film on a different level. The need to give the audience a good show. That is why the quote "Okay, listen to me, you're stronger than they are. You are. They just want a good show, that's all they want. You know how to hunt. Show them how good you are. and the dialogue above affects me the most in the entire film. 

To be honest, this film has a lot it wants to say, and it says it well. Besides being an extreme outlook on the world of entertainment and the nature of the audience, it also talks about politics and morality. Will you kill another to save your own? Will you kill for sport? The question doesn't just ask if you can kill another, but will you kill another if it meant your own survival? In times of war, one doesn't have a choice, so you are forced to kill to stay alive. However, the innocent victims of war isn't always just confined to the soldiers. The women and children caught in the crossfire and the children of Panem are the ones who have to pay the ultimate prize. 

Needless to say, this film affected me greatly in more ways than one. Poverty, morality, politicking, values of entertainment and in the entertainment business, these are the themes in the movie that made me stop to think and question myself about my own stand. 

But let's stay on point in regards to the film. The actors did a really good job in the film. I was very very impressed by Elizabeth Banks, although the costume and make up helped transform her and made her unrecognizable to me as Elizabeth Banks, it was her performance that floored me. 

Of the three young leads in the film, while I think Jennifer Lawrence did a fantastic job in the film, it is actually Josh Hutcherson's performance that impressed me most. Perhaps it was his role that allowed him to showcase a range of emotions but regardless, I felt he did a really good job. I have been watching him grow up through his films like Zathura, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant and The Kids Are Alright and looking at his body of work at his age, I think he's doing a pretty darn amazing job. Jennifer Lawrence also did a great job as Katniss and I'm anxiously waiting to see more of her on screen. In my books, I guess she lost out to Josh Hutcherson only because I've seen his improvement over the years and have more to compare with. Or maybe it's just that I was already very impressed with her performance in X-Men: First Class that I expected more from her. Liam Hemsworth didn't have much to work with in this film, but I've got my eye on him and think he's got great potential to deliver great work. 

In all, while The Hunger Games made me upset, mostly because of its serious and depressing themes, it is a film I would watch over and over again. 

(1) Gary Ross has directed films like Pleasantville (1998), Seabiscuit (2003), and The Tale of Despereaux (2008). He was also the writer of the films Big (1988) and Lassie (1994).

(2) Jennifer Lawrence has acted in films like Winter's Bone (2010), Like Crazy (2011), and X-Men: First Class (2011).

(3) Josh Hutcherson has acted in films like Little Manhattan (2005), Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005), Bridge To Terabithia (2007), Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (2008), Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009), The Kids Are Alright (2010), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) and Red Dawn (2012). 

(4) Liam Hemsworth has acted in films like The Last Song (2010), Love And Honor (2012),  and The Expendables 2 (2012), Empire State (2013), Paranoia (2013) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

(5) Woody Harrelson has acted in films like Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme (1990), Indecent Proposal (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), The Thin Red Line (1998), Anger Management (2003), North Country (2005), No Country For Old Men (2007), Seven Pounds (2008), The Messenger (2009), Zombieland (2009), 2012 (2009), and Friends With Benefits (2011).

(6) Elizabeth Banks has acted in films like Spider-Man (2002), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Daredevil (2003), Seabiscuit (2003), Spider-Man 2 (2004), The Sisters (2005), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Spider-Man 3 (2007), Definitely, Maybe (2008), Zack And Miri Make A Porno (2008), W. (2008), Man On A Ledge (2012), What To Expect When You're Expecting (2012), People Like Us (2012), Pitch Perfect (2012), Movie 43 (2013), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), and The Lego Movie (2014). She has also acted as Dr. Kim Briggs in the television series Scrubs and as Avery Jessup in 30 Rock. She has also guest starred in television series like Sex & The City, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Without A Trace, and Modern Family.

(7) Stanley Tucci has acted in films like Beethoven (1992), The Pelican Brief (1993), A Life Less Ordinary (1997), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), America's Sweethearts (2001), Road To Perdition (2002), Maid In Manhattan (2002), The Core (2003), The Terminal (2004), Shall We Dance? (2004), Lucky Number Slevin (2006), The Devil Wears Prada (2006),  Julie & Julia (2009), The Lovely Bones (2009), Easy A (2010), Burlesque (2010), Margin Call (2010), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Gambit (2012), and Percy Jackson: Sea Monsters (2013). He has also voiced the character of Herb Copperbottom in the animation Robots (2005) and Boldo in the animation film The Tale of Despereaux (2008).

(8) Donald Sutherland has acted in films like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978), Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992), Six Degrees Of Separation (1993), Outbreak (1995),  The Italian Job (2003),  Cold Mountain (2003), Pride And Prejudice (2005), Fool's Gold (2008), The Eagle (2011), Horrible Bosses (2011), and Moby Dick (2011). 

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks… The Hunger Games hits close to home because I can relate to the "gods that be" who control the fates of the tributes. But it is a great film with much to say about society today. Look closely at the subtext in the film. How it relates to our lives today. Because we can so easily connect with its themes and the various individuals portrayed in the film, it makes the film so very real. You will find that there are so many things that we take for granted today and that makes me ashamed. And that is disconcerting. But it will remind me of what I have and to be grateful for them. (4.2 of 5)

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