Sunday, January 27, 2013

Runaway Jury (2003)

Directed by Gary Fleder (1)

Cast: John Cusack (2), Gene Hackman (3), Dustin Hoffman (4), Rachel Weisz (5), Jeremy Piven (6), Marguerite Moreau (7), Dylan McDermott (8), Bruce McGill (9), and Cliff Curtis (10)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite quote - "I didn't swing anybody. I just stopped you from stealing the thing. I let them vote with their hearts."

Did You Know? - This film is an adaptation of John Grisham's book The Runaway Jury. It is his 7th novel and the 9th book adapted into a film. Other films based on his books include The Firm (1993), The Pelican Brief (1993), The Client (1994), A Time To Kill (1996), The Chamber (1996), The Rainmaker (1997), The Gingerbread Man (1998), A Painted House (2001), Christmas With The Kranks (2004), and The Last Juror (2013). The Client and The Firm have also been adapted into television series. The film is about the gun industry while the book is about the tobacco industry.

I don't claim to know much or anything at all about American laws or the constitution. Jury duty is something that is very alien to me. I am a Singaporean, and in Singapore, we don't have jury trials anymore, not since it was abolished in 1969. So my feelings about the film Runaway Jury are based purely on what little I do know and what I understand of the jury system through films. 

Runaway Jury is an awesome film. It's thrilling, it's got an interesting concept, the entire cast did an outstanding job, but what I love about it is that it's got a lot of heart. I know the outcome of the film because I've watched it many many times. But I still love watching the film over and over again. Why? Because it's well written. 

A good film is timeless. Whether you're watching it for the first time or watching it for the nth time, a good film will keep you engaged and invested in the characters and the plot. Runaway Jury seems to be a film is about gun massacres and gun control. But it is more than that, I think it is also about jury duty, about law, and the human condition. 

First, let's talk about character set ups in the opening minutes of the film. 

Nick: You know what it is? Jury duty. Got the summons in the mail. Just trying to pray my way out of it.

Marlee: Where's your sense of civic duty.
Nick: Err... I flunk civics.

This sets up the premise of the film right off the bat. Nick comes across as a normal citizen whose problem is that he wants to get out of jury duty. And he uses humour to connect with people. But that is all we know about him. Which is quite apt because later we realise that there is more to him that you think. And well, Marlee is definitely all about mystery and intrigues. She is the character that makes you wonder if she's one of the key players or just a passing character, but that is what makes us watch on. 

Rankin: How's your mother?

Taxi Driver: Excuse me?
Rankin: She feeling better?
Taxi Driver: How you know about my mother?
Rankin: She was in the hospital, but now you're taking care of her at home. 
Taxi Driver: She had a stroke.
Rankin: Your wife wants you to put her in a home but you're feeling guilty about that. You checked out a few of them and it doesn't feel like the Christian thing to do. My advice, reconsider the home. Better an unhappy mother than an unfriendly wife. 

Rankin knows how to read people. That is well established in the exchange he has with the taxi driver. His ability to put two and two together from a person's belongings really remind me of Simon Baker's Jane Patrick in the television series The Mentalist. And later in the film, we see the way he's able to read people from the way they act and talk makes me think of Tim Roth's Dr Cal Lightman from the series Lie To Me. And from his advice, we can tell he has a very practical view of the world and the relationships people have. Right off the bat, we have this feeling that he's bad news.   

Wendall: I got 35 years experience in courtrooms and my instincts for picking juries have served me quite nicely so far... I want to thank you for your time. 

Lawrence: Mr Rohr, I flew down here on my own dime.
Wendall: Why?
Lawrence: Because I, I... Because I believe in this case.
Wendall: Why?
Lawrence: I believe in a world without guns.
Wendall: That's very sweet but a little naive. (Lawrence walks away) 30%
Lawrence: Sorry. Excuse me?
Wendall: 30% of your usual fee. You're hired. Strictly probationary status. 
Lawrence: You didn't want to check out my resume? 
Wendall: Already did. It's impressive.

Now this not the very first thing Wendall says but I can't quote every single line. They're all good! And writing it all down here for you would just take the fun out of watching these fantastic actors breathe life into Runaway Jury's awesome script. So what can we tell about Wendall from the dialogue above as well as the first few minutes of the film? He's an organised mess. He comes off as messy and unpredictable, but his heart is in the right place. He goes with his gut feeling and he's not afraid to be stand up for what he believes in. He is a good mix of practicality and idealism. 

Now we know our main characters, let's think about something Rankin says early in the film, "Trials are too important to be left up to juries." Rankin doesn't have a positive view of the jury system and for jurors. "You think your average juror is King Solomon? No, he's a roofer with a mortgage. He wants to go home and sit in his Barcalounger and let the cable TV wash over him. And this man doesn't give a single, solitary droplet of shit about truth, justice or your American way." Do you agree with him? Do you think that's true?

We know what Rankin thinks about juries, let's take a look at what the judge says. "The jury system was originated, Mr Easter, because for thousands of years before that, an individual judge had the power to hang, for example, anyone young man he simply did not like." Hmm, since he put it that way, I think I'm leaning towards the idea of having a jury system. 

Now this conflict of ideals pretty much sums up the problem addressed in the film. Does the average American care that their vote has a direct impact on another person's life? Let's talk specifically about America because Runaway Jury is set in America. I am not living in America so I don't have an answer to that question. But if you're an American citizen, do share your thoughts with us and pardon my ignorance of your judicial system. 

The concept that a jury can be bought and that one man can influence the outcome of a verdict is explored in the film. And it's a very interesting idea. A very scary thought of course, but still very compelling idea. Is the film realistic? I'm not so sure if it is. But still the idea and exploration of that idea makes an exciting film.

This is my favourite scene in the film. Although Runaway Jury is about the law and there are plenty of courtroom scenes, I think the following scene was the most exciting and powerful "courtroom" argument of the film. And this scene sums up the gist of the film very nicely. 

Frank: She doesn't deserve that money.
Nick: Well maybe she does, maybe she doesn't. But she deserves a few hours of our time.
Frank: Can we vote please?
Everyone: Yes. Yeah.
Millie: Ya, I'd like to vote.
Nick: Tell me why! Tell me why!
Frank: I want to vote anyone, anybody else what to vote? Come on I want to vote. 
Nick: Tell me why! Tell me why!
Frank: Well I want to vote, does anybody else want to vote?
Nick: Tell me why!
Lonnie: Let's vote.
Nick: How does it work Frank?
Lonnie: Pipe down Easter.
Nick: Tell me why!
Frank: We all got problems here don't we? All of us. But we don't get paid for it.
Nick: She suffered.
Frank: Hell I suffered. I worked my ass off 12 years of crummy jobs for shit pay, I have never asked anybody for a handout. 
Nick: She's not asking for a handout.
Frank: That is bullshit and you know it. 
Mrs. Brandt: She was with Jeff, it's Gabby's boyfriend. He kept telling me that my girl, she froze, she just stood there. It took seconds. Jeff just kept saying 'I couldn't reach her. I couldn't pull her down'. He always thought there was something that he could have done.
Nick: So what are we going to tell Celeste Wood? 
Frank: I don't know. I don't know what we're going to tell her. It's just that I'm not going to sit around...
Nick: Life isn't fair, we write that on a postcard, is that the best we've got?
Frank: I tell you what else, that lawyer can show me all the home movies he wants, I deserve a hell of a lot more for what I've been through than that woman out there. I mean forget her.
Nick: What about the law?
Frank: F**k the law. I don't care if the gun company gave that guy an M16 with his morning donut. I'm not giving her a cent.
Jerry: That's bullshit Frank. Bullshit.
Nick: Who's with Frank? (Marlee reports a robbery to the police) Maybe some of you are afraid or intimidated. Maybe some of you are just out for yourselves. Frank is right about me. I'm the worst offender here. I made up my mind about this case before I stepped through that door. But this trial is not about me, it's not about you. Hell, we owe it to Celeste Wood to sit in this room and deliberate the facts of the case, for as long as it takes. Now if you don't mind there's some testimony I'd like to review.

We must remember that in a trial, the most important thing to do is to listen and follow your heart. Look at all the facts, then ask yourself, what does your conscience say?

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Walk To Remember (2002)

Directed by Adam Shankman (1)

Cast: Mandy Moore (2), Shane West (3), Daryl Hannah (4), and Lauren German (5)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite dialogue - 

Landon: I'm sorry she never got her miracle.
Reverend Sullivan: She did. It was you.


Landon: Jamie saved my life. She taught me everything about life, hope, and the long journey ahead. I'll always miss her. But her love is like the wind, I can't see it. But I can feel it.

My favourite quotes - "Find out who you are and do it on purpose.", "Her love is like the wind, I can't see it. But I can feel it.", & "
Love is always patient and kind. It is never jealous. Love is never boastful nor conceited. It is never rude or selfish. It does not take offense and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins, but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes."

Did You Know? - A Walk To Remember is the second Nicholas Sparks book to be adapted into a film. The first of his books to be adapted was Message In A Bottle in 1999. After A Walk To Remember, the following films were made - The Notebook (2004), Nights In Rodanthe (2008), Dear John (2010), The Last Song (2010), The Lucky One (2012), and Safe Haven (2013). Although Message In A Bottle was the first film adaptation, the book The Notebook was published first. 

A Walk To Remember was singer Mandy Moore's first feature film in a lead role. But it wasn't her film debut, her first foray into acting was in The Princess Diaries. And it was Anne Hathaway's film debut too. I already noticed Mandy Moore after her wonderful performance in The Princess Diaries, but that was just a minor role. So I wanted to see if she would impress me in A Walk To Remember and prove that she can act as well as she can sing. And that she did.

Yes. A Walk To Remember is a romantic drama, which is right up my alley. But I love it because it's about it's not just about two people falling in love. It's also about self discovery and faith. 

Jamie: Please don't pretend like you know me.

Landon: But I do. I do. We have all the same classes and same schools since kindergarten. Why you're Jamie Sullivan. You sit at lunch table 7, which isn't exactly the reject table but its definitely in the self exile territory. You have exactly one sweater. You like to look at your feet when you walk. Oh wait and yeah, and for fun you like to tutor on the weekends and hang out with the cool kids from the Stars and Planets. Now how does that sound?
Jamie: Fairly predictable. Nothing I haven't heard before. 
Landon: You don't care what people think about you?
Jamie: No.

I remember in Secondary School, I was part of a group of 5 girls. We were really close and we went everywhere together and did everything together. I wasn't the "leader" of the group and we weren't wild or bullies of the school or anything, but we didn't let anyone else in the group as well. But that didn't last very long. It's a little fuzzy to me now, but I think this is what went down. One time I got into a disagreement with one of the group members just before lunch break, and to make life easier on the other 3 in the group, I decided to eat lunch on my own without them. Instead of eating alone, I befriended a girl from my class who always alone and had lunch with her. We started chatting and I got to know her a little better. But after lunch, when I approached my friends, all 4 of them declared that I was no longer part of the group because I had betrayed them. Apparently I had made friends with someone the "leader" didn't like and while the others didn't agree with her verdict, they went along with it because of peer pressure. Well, suffice to say we stopped being friends after that. Looking back at it now, it's all pretty silly and childish, but quite hilarious. 

Do you care what people think about you? I do. Sometimes I feel that I care about what others think too much. I love the fact that Jamie doesn't care how others view her. She has her beliefs and sticks by them. That takes a lot of guts, especially in high school. I like that it didn't matter to her to be in the "in" crowd. 

Maybe the character of Jamie Sullivan is too perfect. And maybe some people will have a problem with that. But to me, it was because she was so good and perfect that her death hits you the hardest. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (2012)

Directed by Andrew Adamson (1)

Cast: Erica Linz and Igor Zaripov

(Watch the trailer)

Featured Cirque du Soleil Shows - O, Mystère, Kà, Love, Zumanity, Viva Elvis, Criss Angel: Believe

My favourite quote - "Every day life can sometimes seem ordinary, so it's natural to crave something more. To hunger for something that you can't describe. As it turns out, all you have to do is step inside."

Have you ever had the urge to run away with the circus when you were younger? I never did. In fact, I remember being scared of the circus when I was younger. The clowns and the strangeness of it all terrified me. That is why till today, my love for Cirque du Soleil still surprises me. I love it so much that one day, hopefully some day soon, I would love to travel the world according to Cirque du Soleil. 'What does that mean?' you ask. Well, I plan to travel around the world and watch all the Cirque du Soleil shows, even the traveling shows. And while I'm on my grand Cirque du Soleil journey, I will also explore the cities where the shows are residing at or touring.

Now let me explain how I got the Cirque du Soleil fever.

My first Cirque du Soleil experience occurred on 13th November 2009 at the MGM Grand. I was on my first solo trip and I was traveling around USA, covering 6 cities in 3 weeks. I was never fascinated by the circus, and even when the Cirque du Soleil shows Saltimbanco and Alegría came to Singapore, I wasn't the least bit interested in watching it. But when I was doing my research and planning for my great US adventure I came across the Cirque du Soleil website and watched the trailers for the shows that were showing there then. I was fascinated by what I had seen from the trailers, especially the shows O and Kà. The tickets weren't cheap but I decided to splurge and bought tickets to go see 3 Cirque du Soleil shows - O, Kà, and Mystère. And the rest is history.

What I love about Cirque du Soleil shows is its ingenuity and its high entertainment value. Every time I watch a Cirque du Soleil show, I feel like Alice did when she fell down the rabbit hole and into a strange yet fascinating new world. Every aspect of a show is well thought out and the details are unbelievable. The sets, make up, the costumes, the acts, and especially the music all work together to give the audience an out-of-this-world experience.  I think the opening voice over best describes Cirque du Soleil - "Every day life can sometimes seem ordinary, so it's natural to crave something more. To hunger for something that you can't describe. As it turns out, all you have to do is step inside."

When you step inside to watch a Cirque du Soleil show, you get swept away by its grandeur. And after watching Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, you will be floored by the details and realise the real danger these performers go through every time they perform. Of course you will realise the danger of their stunts straight away when you watch the live performance. But Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away takes a magnifying glass, in 3D no less, and magnifies the beauty and the difficulty of each beautiful and breathtaking act. When you see, close up, how trapeze artistes catch each other in mid air, you unwittingly find yourself gasping, not realising that you were holding your breath in the first place. 

I watched 3 of the 7 shows featured in the film and it was like watching old friends play and have fun again after a long time. Because I have prior knowledge of O, Mystère, Kà, I actually can differentiate which acts and segments Andrew Adamson chose to highlight in the film. And I must say he chose wisely. I also enjoyed how he cleverly linked all 7 shows together and how he incorporated the two "outside" characters Mia and The Aerialist into world of Cirque du Soleil. And he did all this with little dialogue, which is quite characteristic of the Cirque du Soleil brand. 

The film is ultimately a love story. A tale of two souls connecting and then desperately trying to keep that connection. Because of the simplicity of the tale, there really is no need for much words. The subtle but excellent performances by the two leads, Erica Linz and Igor Zaripov, captivated me and helped me stay connected to whatever is happening on screen for the entire 90 odd minutes. I am a big fan of Cirque du Soleil and this film has renewed and fuelled my interest in watching as many of their shows as possible. But even if you're not a fan, go watch this film. It's an audio-visual experience you will not regret. 

Oh if you're a Singaporean, I suggest you sign up as a GV member before buying the tickets to watch Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away. Members get a $4 discount which is great because the non-member price of the ticket is $22. Ouch! But it was worth every penny! Well, for me at least. 

(1) Andrew Adamson has directed films like Shrek (2001), Shrek 2 (2004), Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (2005), Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), and Master Pip (2013).

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks.... 
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away will take you on a wonderful journey. It will help you escape from the mundane and delve into a world full of colour and beauty. The film gives you an insight to the world of Cirque du Soleil you will never get even if you go on the backstage tour of O. Because the 3D cameras take you so close to performers, you get the feeling like you are one of the performers on stage. This is a film where the use of 3D really helps pack a punch instead of just because its an 'in' thing. This film is a love letter to the genius of the Cirque du Soleil brand. And yes, this is absolutely the biased view of a Cirque du Soleil fan! (5 of 5)

* Movie Poster from Wikipedia

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Les Misérables (2012)

Directed by Tom Hooper (1)

Cast: Hugh Jackman (2), Russell Crowe (3), Anne Hathaway (4), Helena Bonham Carter (5),   Sacha Baron Cohen (6), Amanda Seyfried (7), Eddie Redmayne (8) Samantha Barks (9), and Aaron Tveit (10)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite songs - Little People, Do You Hear The People Sing?, One Day More, and On My Own.

My favourite scene - Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed A Dream

1994, Kallang Theatre, that was where I had my first musical experience. The musical that I watched was Les Misérables, and I was 12 years old then. Les Misérables has always been my favourite musical. That is why when Les Misérables came back in 1996 again, I jumped at the chance to go watch it again. And if I get the chance to, I'd love to watch it again. 

Why do I love watching musicals so much? Well, that's because I feel that music accompanied by a powerful and emotive singing voice can convey so much more than spoken words can. In real life, people don't break out in song like they do in musicals, that is why I feel that when I watch a musical, I am transported into another world and I am fully immersed in the story. So instead of just watching on the sidelines or from the outside, I feel like I am part of their story. 

What I love about Tom Hooper's Les Misérables? I feel like I am watching the musical for the first time. When I watch a musical, if I can afford it I will try to get seats as close to the stage as possible. This is because I like to be able to see the expression on the performers' faces as they sing. However, it doesn't happen often because front row seats are very expensive. And when you sit right in front, you see the expression, but have problems taking a step back to see the big picture and everything that's happening on stage. This film gives us both. And that is what I love about it. 

Some might find the many close ups disconcerting. But I think that IS the whole point. Les Misérables is a musical that makes you feel anger, love, sadness, disgust, hate, frustration, and helplessness. And often times when you see a musical, you can only hear the emotions through the actors' singing voices. But with his close ups in Les Misérables, Tom Hooper is giving you the very exclusive and special opportunity to see and hear the emotions the actors are trying to convey. The actresses that nailed it perfectly in Les Misérables is Anne Hathaway with her song I Dreamed A Dream. And for the men, I'd say that Eddie Redmayne's performance during the song Empty Chairs At Empty Tables was really touching.

Because Tom Hooper filmed the actors singing live, we are able to enjoy a brand new version of Les Misérables. The actors give us a fresh interpretation of their character's emotions and a new understanding of what they are trying to say through song. 

Now Tom Hooper's Les Misérables is not the first feature film to be adapted from the Victor Hugo's novel of the same name. In 1998, Les Misérables was made into a film starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean, Geoffrey Rush as Javert, Uma Thurman as Fantine, and Claire Danes as Cosette. So you can only guess how excited I was when I first heard they were going to make another Les Misérables film with Anne Hathaway one of my favourite actresses of all time. 

From the moment I saw Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean on screen with the other prisoners I started to get emotional. I loved every minute of the film. The set, the costumes, the make-up were all excellent! The actors all did a great job in their roles. 

In terms of the singing, I think Anne Hathaway was able to sing and act and did a fantastic job as Fantine. But while Hugh Jackman managed to hit the nail on the head in terms of the emotions with the acting, he was not as great with the singing. And with Russell Crowe, he was able to sing the words and carry a decent tune, but I felt less conviction and emotion in his singing and acting. In fact, I sense he is concentrating on getting the words out rather than focusing on the emotions of the song. Amanda Seyfried once again astounds me with her ability to hit all the really high notes as Cosette. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that I throughly enjoyed Eddie Redmayne's Marius both in the singing and acting department. Samantha Banks' Éponine really made my heart break as well especially when she was singing On My Own. And of course how can I not mention Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers. These two really did a fantastic job in their respective roles. I especially loved the part when Sacha Baron Cohen's character could not remember Cosette's name properly. It made me laugh out loud despite the fact that Les Misérables is really quite a tragic tale. But singing aside, I think every actor in the film did a tremendous job in the film.

I also have to comment on the excellent performances by Isabelle Allen and Daniel Huttlestone who play young Cosette and young Gavroche respectively. Both have performed in the actual musical in England. 

In terms of the story, well, I love it because its about the human condition. It's something everyone can relate to. We have Jean Valjean a man who is a victim of his circumstances who makes me think about all the people who turn to a life of crime in desperation. It also makes me ask myself what would I do in their shoes? Would I keep to the moral code and die or steal to survive? 

There's Javert who is the opposite of Jean Valjean, he sacrifices everything to live by his strict moral code. He see black and white and leaves no room for grey areas. But life isn't black and white isn't it? My heart goes out to Jean Valjean for the circumstances that lead him to steal a loaf of bread, and while I do not blame Javert for his unbending because he is true to himself, I am disappointed with his inability to empathise. 

Les Misérables also shines a spotlight on the plight and circumstance of women in those times especially as we follow the storyline of Fantine and her daughter Cosette. It always makes me sad that women are subjected to such hardship in those days, but it makes me thankful for all the brave women who fought for the equality of women. (Also reminds me of the film Hysteria and Maggie Gyllenhaal's character who stood up to men and fought to be heard) 

It isn't just about the women of those times. Les Misérables is also a commentary about the political situation of the time, the plight of the poor, and the ignorance of the rich or upper class people. It's about having dreams and hopes of liberation and revolution. It's a story about brotherhood and youthful aspiration. It's about young love and familial love. And it's all about the blurred the lines of right and wrong. 

I feel that Les Misérables is such a compelling tale and such a success because it takes you on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, action and reflection. And all this is done by the wonderful and intricate weaving of various story lines, sewn together by beautiful and meaningful lyrics and emotive tunes. What a wonderful musical film Tom Hooper and his great cast has given us!

On a side note: If you want to find out what's different between the film and the musical check out this article on The Artifice

(1) Tom Hooper has directed films like The Damned United (2009), The King's Speech (2010), and Les Misérables (2012). 

(2) Hugh Jackman has acted in films like X-Men (2000), Kate & Leopold (2001), Someone Like You (2001), Swordfish (2001), X2 (2003), Van Helsing (2004), The Prestige (2006), The Fountain (2006), Scoop (2006), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Australia (2008), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Snow Flower And The Secret Fan (2011), Real Steel (2011), Butter (2012), Les Misérables (2012), and The Wolverine (2013). He also voice the character of Memphis in the animation Happy Feet (2006) and Roddy in the animation Flushed Away (2006). He has also performed in musicals like Carousel and The Boy From Oz.

(3) Russell Crowe has acted in films like L.A. Confidential (1997), Gladiator (2000), Proof Of Life (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003), Cinderella Man (2005), A Good Year (2006), 3:10 To Yuma (2007), American Gangset (2007), State Of Play (2009), Robin Hood (2010), Man Of Steel (2013), and Noah (2014). 

(4) Anne Hathaway has acted in films like The Princess Diaries (2001), The Other Side Of Heaven (2001), Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Ella Enchanted (2004), The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), Havoc (2005), Brokeback Mountain (2005), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Becoming Jane (2007), Get Smart (2008), Passengers (2008), Rachel Getting Married (2008), Bride Wars (2009), Valentine's Day (2010), Alice In Wonderland (2010), Love And Other Drugs (2010), One Day (2011), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). She also voiced the character of Red Puckett in the animation Hoodwinked! (2005) and Jewel in the animation Rio (2011) 

(5) Helena Bonham Carter has acted in films like Merlin (1998), Fight Club (1999), Planet Of The Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events (2004), Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005), Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (2007), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007), Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009), Terminator Salvation (2009), Alice In Wonderland (2010), Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010), The King's Speech (2010), Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (2011), Dark Shadows (2012), and The Lone Stranger (2013). She has also voiced the character of Lady Tottington in the animation Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (2005), and the character of Emily The Corpse Bride in the animation The Corpse Bride (2005).

(6) Sacha Baron Cohen has acted in films like Ali G Indahouse (2002), Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (2006), Borat (2006), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007), Brüno (2009), Hugo (2011), and The Dictator (2012). He also voiced the character of King Julien XIII in the animations Madagascar (2005), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008), and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012).

(7) Amanda Seyfried has acted in films like Mean Girls (2004), Alpha Dog (2006), Mamma Mia! (2008), Chloe (2009), Dear John (2010), Letters To Juliet (2010), Red Riding Hood (2011), In Time (2011), Gone (2012), The Big Wedding (2013), and Lovelace (2013). She also played the role of Sarah Henrickson in the television series Big Love (2006-2011) and guest starred in television series like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Veronica Mars, House, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. 

(8) Eddie Redmayne has acted in films like Like Minds (2006), The Good Shepherd (2006),  Savage Grace (2007), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), The Yellow Handkerchief (2008), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), and My Week With Marilyn (2011).

(9) Samantha Banks came in 3rd in the BBC talent show I'd Do Anything in 2008. Les Misérables (2012) is her film debut. She has also performed in musicals like Cabaret, Aladdin, and Oliver!. She also played Éponine in the 2010-2011 West End production of Les Misérables at the Queen's Theatre and at the Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary Concert in 2010.

(10) Aaron Tveit has acted in films like Ghost Town (2007), Howl (2010), and Premium Rush (2012). He also played the recurring role of William "Tripp" Vanderbilt III in the television series Gossip Girl (2009-2012), and guest starred in television series like Ugly Betty, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Good Wife. He has also performed in musicals like Hairspray, Wicked, Catch Me If You Can and Rent. 

The Eclectic Review thinks... Les Misérables breathes new life into the musical but doesn't replace or take away the value of the original musical. The way that this film pieces the tale together for those who have never watched the musical before is very excellent. Those who have never watched the musical will be taken on an emotional journey. And those who have watched the musical will find this film a wonderful addition that will help them better understand and appreciate the story and its messages. It's additional lines and new song Suddenly don't emote as well as the original songs do but they get the job done to explain the narrative. And the powerful performances by the cast especially Anne Hathaway, Samantha Banks, and Eddie Redmayne really makes the film worth watching over and over again. (4.9 of 5) 

* Movie Poster from Wikipedia

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Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 (2009)

Directed by Roland Emmerich (1) 

Cast: John Cusack (2), Chiwetel Ejiofor (3), Amanda Peet (4), Morgan Lily (5), Thandie Newton (6), Oliver Platt (7), Woody Harrelson (8), Jimi Mistry (9), and Beatrice Rosen (10)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite quote - "The moment we stop fighting for each other, that's the moment we lose our humanity"

It's 3rd of January 2013 and I'm still alive! Were you afraid that doomsday would occur on the 21st of December 2012? What were you doing on the 21st and where were you? On the day the world was supposed to end, I was on a holiday in Thessaloniki, Greece with an old friend of mine. 

While I wasn't terrified about the world coming to an end on the 21st of December, I did think about it a lot before I made plans to go overseas for a holiday. You see, this recent holiday to Greece marks the first time I've ever spent the Christmas and New Year holiday without my family and close friends. The Christmas season has always been a big thing in my family because I was born and raised a Catholic. Every year, the family would all get together to have Christmas lunch together but this time, everyone was celebrating it without me and I without them. And having experienced this recently, I don't think I want to spend another Christmas away from my family. 

When I made plans for this recent holiday, I did ask myself, 'What if the world does end in 2012? Do I want to be away from my family when that happens?' Well, my answer was no. If the events of the film 2012 did occur, I wouldn't want to be away from my family. But I still went anyway because I bet on the odds that the world won't end yet. And thankfully, I was right. 

Besides being a disaster film, at the heart of it all, the film 2012 is about what kind of person you want to be when faced with such a situation as well as who and what is important in times like this. When tragedy strikes, men either turn on each other to survive, or turn to each other for support and help. The following dialogue is my favourite scene in 2012. I mean every blockbuster disaster film needs a great inspirational speech about humanity and survival. While this is not my favourite inspirational speech from a disaster film, it's some good stuff. And I feel that this scene is the crux of what the film is trying to say, that saving the human race isn't just about saving it's people and it's culture, it's about what we do and how we treat each other during times of adversity. 

Dr Adrian Helmsley: I know we've all been forced to make difficult decisions to save our human civilisation. But to be human means to care for each other, and civilisation means to work together to create a better life, if that's true, then there's nothing human and nothing civilised about what we're doing here.
Carl Anheuser: Dr Helmsley's passion is admirable, but I will remind you that we have very limited resources and extremely limited time.
Dr Adrian Helmsley: Ask yourselves, can we really stand by and watch these people die. I read a quote two days ago, the author is probably dead by now, but he said 'the moment we stop fighting for each other, that's the moment we lose our humanity.'
Carl Anheuser: And in order to save the human race we have an obligation to stick to this plan, which every nation on this floatilla has signed up for.
Dr Adrian Helmsley: We have to let these people in!
Carl Anheuser: They're in God's hand now! Officer, you turn that off! That is an order sailor, turn it off!
Professor Frederick West: Don't you dare touch that button young man!
Carl Anheuser: Have you completely lost your mind? Look at the clock! We have barely 15 minutes left! Do you want to be responsible for the extinction of the human race? Can you handle that Adrian?
Dr Adrian Helmsley: There's a young astrophysicist from India who's the reason we're all here. 
Carl Anheuser: Oh for God's sake.
Dr Adrian Helmsley: He's the one who discovered it all. He connected all the dots, we all owe him our lives. I just learned that he was killed with his family in a tsunami in Eastern India. He was my friend, and he died in vain, everybody out there has died in vain if we start our future with an act of cruelty. What will you tell your children? What will they tell theirs?

I think it's sad that a lot of people only appreciate what they have either when they've lost it or are about to lose it. I will always remember something my secondary school teacher said when we asked him cheekily what plans he had for his wife for Valentine's Day. He said that there was no plan because to him every day is Valentine's Day, why wait for a special day to show someone you love how much you love them. And I think that what he said is true. You could die any day, if you don't want to die with any regrets, you have to live each day like it's your last. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Penelope (2006)

Directed by Mark Palansky

Cast: Christina Ricci (1), James McAvoy (2), Catherine O'Hara (3), Peter Dinklage (4), Reese Witherspoon (5), Russell Brand (6), and Simon Woods (7)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite quotes - "I like myself the way I am.", "But I had my own changes to cope with. And while I miss the face that had caused so much trouble, the world had moved on. And I was determined to find my own way, and determined to always follow my own heart, and my conscience.", and "It's not the power of the curse, it's the power you give the curse."

I ushered in the New Year in Athens with the view of the Acropolis from the comforts of my home away from home there. And throughout my holiday in Greece I did a lot of walking, especially on New Year's Eve. That gave me time to do a lot of reflection about 2012 and what I want for 2013. And for some reason, the scene from Penelope when she yells "I like myself the way I am" kept flashing in my mind. Do I like myself the way I am? 

My answer was no. 

I'm on a holiday with a friend I've known since I was 18. He and I spent Christmas and New Year together in Greece. (Yes, we are JUST FRIENDS) And he told me that I haven't changed much, and that he agreed with the assessment of 2 of our mutual friends, that I don't finish what I start, or that what I say I want to do or want to achieve, I never do or take steps to achieve them. We also talked about what perception do we want others to have of ourselves and what kind of person we want to be or work towards being. 

I think I have changed quite a bit. But hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion right. And if that is the perception people have of me, then no, I do not like myself the way I appear to be to others. And in all honesty, I don't like myself the way I am. Well, not entirely. Appearance wise, I would like to go back to being at a healthy weight and size. I want to be more presentable and when I look at the mirror, I want to be able to feel good about how I look. And I'd like people to perceive me as an intelligent, determined and sensible person, not ditzy, clumsy, and unworldly. 

So seeing as this is the first day of 2013, I am going to aim for the following...

1) I am going to live a healthier lifestyle so that I can attain a healthy weight and size.

2) I am going to read at least 1 book a month.
3) I am going to write at least 10 entries a month in this blog or write 120 entries in 2013.
4) I am going to start saving up for retirement.
5) I am going to "like myself the way I am" by 2014.

Yes, I got this all from the quote "I like myself the way I am"

Now about the film Penelope, this is a film that I really love A LOT! Firstly, I love fairytales and the fact that the film has a magical and fairytale feel to it makes it a winner in my book. The story is about a girl named Penelope, who was born with a pig's nose and the only way to break the curse is if "one of (their) own kind claims this daughter as their own till death do they part". Now obviously there's a lot to learn from such a premise already. It's a film about seeing past the outside and loving a person for who he or she is. And this is evident in one of the early scenes in the film when Edward who has just seen Penelope's face runs off to the police to report her. 

Edward: Are you going to arrest her or not?
Policeman: On what grounds? Ugly blind date? If being ugly were a crime I'd have to arrest half the people in the city. 

It's sad isn't it, that some people cannot see past what's outside. However, we shouldn't forget the importance of looking presentable and I realise that how a person dresses and carries himself or herself is important especially since everyone is trying to get me to dress better. I know that while its more important to be a beautiful person on the inside, it doesn't hurt to take care of how you look on the outside because your outside is still a reflection of what kind of person you are on the inside. 

Penelope: Are you a fan of George Rockham?
Max: Who?
Penelope: The book you've got in your jacket.
Max: Right. You caught that huh? Well, yeah. Yeah, it's a great book.
Penelope: So you've read it.
Max: Well yeah.
Penelope: Funny I thought that was the only surviving copy.
Max: Well, you know what, I meant to read it, but the library wasn't always out and er... I saw it was a first edition and I figured it might be worth something.
Penelope: So you were stealing it?
Max: Yeah. I was stealing it.
Penelope: So you're a fan of the money.
Max: I'm a big fan of the money. Although it doesn't much care for me.
Penelope: Well maybe you and the money weren't meant to be...
Max: Hey I wouldn't go that far. Jinx me.
Penelope: There are 326 first editions in that room, of those, 300 are worth over 50 thousand, a dozen or so are worth over 25 thousand and I'm afraid there's only one that's valued under a 100. 
Max: Only one huh?
Penelope: A little novel, written by a little nobody, that never amounted to anything.
Max: You don't say... under a 100...
Penelope: I'm afraid so. And I'm afraid that means that it's time for...
Max: But your favourite just the same.
Penelope: What?
Max: I said your favourite just the same.
Penelope: I heard you... I...

Franklin: Sweetheart, what's wrong?
Penelope: I thought he just knew but it says it right here.
Franklin: Still he chose it. The 2000 books that aren't your favourite, he chose the one that is...

Now this whole exchange brings to mind the fact that some things are maybe meant to be. I don't know about you, but I am a believer of 'things always happen for a reason' and 'if it's meant to be, it's meant to be'. Call me a hopeless romantic, I don't care. So what if I am. This is who I am. But I mean, out of so many books, he picks the book that is worth so little in the monetary sense but worth so much in the eyes of the girl he ends up with. If that's not a sign, what is? (Another film that talks about signs can be found in another film that I really like titled He's Just Not That Into You.)