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Jenny Ho

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36 reviews in total 
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Closer (2004/I)
Engaging performances by a powerhouse cast make for a very interesting film, 22 January 2005

'Closer' plays as a sequence of incidents in the lives of four main characters with passage of differing lengths of time between each scene so that to a certain extent, the audience has to fill in the gaps.

The film opens with a shot on a busy street where Dan (Jude Law) and Alice (Natalie Portman) are walking towards each other to a soundtrack of Damien Rice's 'The Blower's Daughter' (I loved this track the instant I heard it and it suits the opening and end scenes so well). There is a spark as Dan and Alice catch each other's eye but before introductions are made, Alice is knocked down by a taxi and Dan accompanies her to the hospital. At this point in time, we learn that Dan is an obituary writer. Later, we find out that he has used Alice's life as the subject of his novel. He meets Anna (Julia Roberts) who photographs him and they end up kissing. As a result of a prank Dan plays when chatting to Larry (Clive Owen) on an Internet chat room, Larry meets Anna at the London Aquarium.

At times, the film protrudes the intensity of a theatre production which is little surprise as 'Closer' is an adaptation of a Patrick Marber play. All four leads play on the whole, unsympathetic characters but are no less interesting because of it. Natalie Portman even plays against type as a stripper. At times, the film is darkly funny and I would not recommend this film if explicit dialogue offends you.

This is a love story that is different from the norm and deals effectively with the issue of deception and how it impacts on the lives of the central characters.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Another feel-good offering from Curtis. I actually like ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral' and ‘Bridget Jones' Diary' more, 9 January 2004

The film is set in the five weeks leading up to Christmas and consists of a number of love stories affecting people who are related to characters in the other stories: a best man (Andrew Lincoln) is inexplicably hostile to his friend's new wife; the British Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) falls in love with his tea lady (Martine McCutcheon); his sister (Emma Thomson) is faced with her husband (Alan Rickman) having an affair at work; Alan Rickman's colleague (Laura Linney) finds her long term crush and love for another colleague requited; a widowed father (Liam Neeson) helps his son cope with falling in love for the first time; a writer (Colin Firth) escapes to France after being cheated on by his wife and finds new love; and an aging rocker (Bill Nighy) aims to make Christmas Number One in the pop charts with a cover of ‘Love Is All Around' –only the lyrics have been changed to ‘Christmas Is All Around'. (Astonishingly, this song has been released for real in the UK and made the top 40!)

If you enjoyed Richard Curtis's previous offerings ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral' and ‘Notting Hill', you will not be disappointed by ‘Love Actually' which is fun, likeable and romantic, if a little formulaic. Hugh Grant gets another starring role in a Curtis movie and gives an endearing performance as the British Prime Minister. I like him a lot but I am sure that there are some people out there who will be irritated to find him in typical bumbling mode (yet again!)

It is a joy to see the abundance of British stars on the screen and it is fun to spot the additional television stars including British television presenters of the moment Ant and Dec! My favourite moment is one I'm sure many of the British public have been faced with at some point in their lives when Bill Nighy refers to one of the presenters as ‘Ant or Dec' as he has no idea which is which! Other comic highlights include Hugh Grant dancing in the hallway at Number Ten and the language barrier between Colin Firth and his maid in France –even though they are unable to speak each other's language, the subtitles on the screen show that they are communicating even if they are not aware of it. The chemistry between these two is irresistible but is let down by the silly way that their story is resolved.

While the film is filled with likeable performances, there is one piece of casting which let Liam Neeson's story down. His son is cute but he sounds far too posh and well spoken for me to feel sympathy for his situation!

Alongside the humour, there are some unexpected serious moments which I think over tip the balance and sit uncomfortably in a mostly lighthearted comedy. One of these is the discovery that Laura Linney's new love is jeopardised by her commitment to her mentally ill brother. Emma Thomson's realisation that her husband is cheating on her is also heartbreaking. You have these serious undercurrents on the one hand and on the other you have a couple of silly stories: one featuring Kris Marshall leaving his life in London for Wisconsin in search of beautiful girls and rampant sex and another featuring Martin Freeman (Tim from ‘The Office') as a porn body double having ‘getting to know you' conversations while engaging in various sexual positions with his naked co-star.

‘Love Actually' is like a book of short stories and suffers in the same way: by the time you get into the stories and you are just starting to get to know the main character, it is time to move on to a completely new story which is sometimes less interesting. However, it makes for an enjoyable and romantic enough date movie and is Christmassy enough to warrant repeat viewings on DVD and television over festive seasons to come.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Style over substance, 6 December 2003

Uma Thurman is The Bride, an assassin whose wedding day is ambushed by her former colleagues. She is left comatose by a bullet in her skull but she wakes four years later intent on revenge. She makes a ‘death list': number five is Bill, but first there are some others including O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu) to deal with.

The film starts promisingly with The Bride calling in at the house of a fellow assassin (Vivica Fox). This is the most entertaining sequence of the film with some trademark Tarantino-esque banter between the two women as they fight.

My interest in the film disintegrated soon after with a lengthy sequence that introduces O-Ren Ishi and is entirely in the form of a Manga style subtitled cartoon. I am still not sure whether the film sent me to sleep because after that, I have no recollection of a coherent storyline. A flashback to The Bride's escape from hospital is mildly amusing but in a very black way. There is also a lengthy black and white sequence for the confrontation between The Bride and O-Ren Ishi's bodyguards. Here, I felt like I was watching a very violent computer game with lots of fighting and blood spurting from dismembered bodies.

As is conventional with Tarantino films, the sequences are not chronological which makes ‘Kill Bill' quite a frustrating film to watch. Although I find Uma Thurman a very watchable actress, what this movie is lacking in is the witty banter between characters that made ‘Pulp Fiction' and ‘Jackie Brown' more enjoyable.

Volume 1 ends with an intriguing piece of information being revealed in anticipation of the story being continued in Volume 2. Perhaps I would like ‘Kill Bill' more and my opinion would be different if I were to view Volume 2 on its release. Unfortunately, at this stage, I feel that the six year wait for a new film by Tarantino has hyped up the film more than it deserves and I increasingly feel that he is an overrated director –so much so that I am inclined to wait until I can borrow the two disc DVD from someone.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Visually stunning and hugely enjoyable, 6 December 2003

Over-protective clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) witnesses his only surviving offspring Nemo being captured by a deep-sea diver soon after a moment of rebelliousness from the youngster. Frantic, Marlin endeavours to find his son with the help of an amnesiac fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). On his quest, he also meets sharks which have formed a Fish-Eaters Anonymous group, and a group of ‘surfer turtles' that speak like Bill and Ted.

Meanwhile, Nemo has been released into a fish tank in a dentist's waiting room in Sydney. There, he meets a group of fellow prisoners led by angelfish Gill (Willem Dafoe) who has devised a cunning plot for them all to escape. The challenge that Pixar faces here is to make fish as cute and as loveable as the furry leads of previous animated successes. Anthropomorphism goes far enough to over ride the fact that in the wild, fish lay eggs and then neglect their offspring and to allow Dory to read the handwritten name and address on Nemo's abductor's neglected goggles.

Having enjoyed both ‘Toy Story' and ‘Monsters Inc', I found ‘Finding Nemo' just as good. The success of Pixar features is down to the studio's story-telling skills and their ability to entertain the whole family: familiar quotes such as ‘Hop inside my mouth if you want to live' will be appreciated by adults but lost on kids. However, there is still plenty to entrance the youngsters as well although I do feel that the film is overlong for very young children.

Brilliant characterisation and glorious animation makes ‘Finding Nemo' stunning and charming to watch. This is a visual treat not to be missed. Also, the fun continues to the end of the credits so don't be too eager to leave your seat!

Exceeds what one might expect from a sequel, 2 September 2003

The story will be familiar to followers of the series so far: a cyborg killing machine is sent back in time from a future where machines rule the Earth, to eliminate John Connor, the future rebel leader and saviour of humanity. At the same time, a ‘good Terminator' in the form of a T-101 model (i.e. Schwarzenegger) is sent back with the mission to keep Connor alive for the day when the Skynet system is due to launch its first attack on humanity. This may sound mostly like a tiresome rerun of ‘Terminator 2' but apparently, Sarah and John Connor did not prevent Judgment Day in ‘Terminator 2' –they only postponed it! Also, the twist and selling point here, is that this time the ‘baddie' is T-X, a female supermodel ‘Terminator' which is far superior to the T-101 (‘an obsolete model').

Of the original main cast, only Arnie is back; Sarah Connor is dead as Linda Hamilton did not want to star in another sequel and Edward Furlong has been replaced by Nick Stahl to play John Connor. Another new face to the cast is Claire Danes who gives an appealing performance as the suitably bewildered and vulnerable girl destined to be John Connor's wife. With a delay of twelve years since ‘T2 Judgment Day' was released, Schwarzenegger's career on the decline and him revisiting the role for a third instalment, there is obviously a lot of pressure on this one to deliver the goods, and it certainly does.

Schwarzenegger is key to much of the fun of the film; his delivery of one-liners with robotic seriousness and Austrian accent is superb. As a result, I found the film hilarious in parts. At the start of the film, there is a re-run of two cyborgs being zapped back from the future nude and this makes for one of the funniest scenes in the film where a naked Arnie strides into Ladies night at a bar to be mistaken for a stripper by the raucous attendees. He then steals the stage dancer's leather biker costume before trying on his star-shaped shades –he off course soon ditches these for the by now familiar and way cooler black shades!

A lot of excitement is to be had from the film's action set-pieces and chases and this is down to the relentlessness of the T-X who like her predecessor, can shape herself into another human being and pull herself back together whatever gun you use to shoot at her. Surprisingly, the ending is affecting as it reflects the inevitability of Connor's future role as a leader despite his reluctance to believe throughout. Also, (I actually feel a bit silly for admitting it) I was unexpectedly moved by the scene where the T-101 struggles to override the corruption that the T-X has implanted in his program so that he alternates between conflicting missions of killer/protector of John Connor.

I have to admit that I didn't totally get the plot and was a bit lost with regards the references to the Skynet system. However, if you just go with the flow and don't think too much about the story, ‘Terminator 3 makes for undemanding entertainment.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Totally engaging, 1 September 2003

Yes, this is the same Ripley as the Tom Ripley of ‘The Talented Mr Ripley', only this time it is an older Ripley played by John Malkovich. This is not to say you necessarily have to have seen Matt Damon's film to make ‘Ripley's Game' worthwhile as the story stands alone in its own right. In ‘Ripley's Game', we learn what we need to know about the character –that he has a taste for the good things in life including a love of fine art, and a ruthless attitude to anyone who stands in his way which enables him to con and even murder when necessary.

Because of his past successes, Ripley is approached by Reeves (Ray Winstone), an old colleague who wants him to murder a rival. At a party, Ripley overhears the host, Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott) insulting him in front of his guests. When Ripley learns that Jonathan is terminally ill, he plans revenge for the insults by exploiting the illness to turning Jonathan into Reeves' paid assassin, thus intruding on and destroying his quiet and happy family life.

The fascinating nature of the character of Tom Ripley makes for an engaging film. It is interesting that I found myself rooting for both the bad and the good guy throughout. Malkovich excels in the role: on the surface he is charming –even funny at times, but awareness of his psychotic tendencies and his lack of conscience provides an uncomfortable and chilling edge. Dougray Scott gives a believable and sympathetic performance, while Ray Winstone is sufficiently unpleasant as the acquaintance which Ripley is keen to lose.

I found following Ripley's Game compelling and entertaining and it has been a while since I have been able to associate the word ‘compelling' with any film.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Yawnsome -should have remained as the Walt Disney World theme park ride it is inspired by, 1 September 2003

As a child, Elizabeth Swann spots Will Turner floating unconscious in the water when she is at sea with her father, the British Governor. After Will has been rescued, Elizabeth discovers and takes the coin hanging around his neck (a sign that Will is a pirate). As an adult, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) wears this coin round her own neck and because of this, she is kidnapped by the crew of pirate ship, the Black Pearl who are cursed to sail the seas in a ghostly zombie-like state. Only when the coin is returned to its treasure chest will this curse be lifted. It is then up to Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) with the help of pirate Jack Sparrow to rescue the Governor's daughter.

A good selling point of the film is its cast which includes pretty actors Bloom, Knightley and Depp (personally, I don't know what the fuss is about with Orlando Bloom –to me he is merely a younger version of Antonio Banderas). Depp gives a likeable but over-the performance as the drunk and cockney accented Jack Sparrow and other big names include Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, the captain of the Black Pearl, and Jonathan Pryce as Elizabeth's Governor father. Also, look out for Gareth of ‘The Office' fame as one of the pirates! All seem to be having fun with some acting more befitting to a pantomime than a film.

The main problem I have with this film is that the pirate concept holds little interest for me (I am however, slightly amused by the obligatory ‘Oooh Arrr's in pirate speak). The main source of excitement is the fight sequences during which we see some good special effects of the crew of the Black Pearl appearing as a combination of skeleton and rotting flesh when exposed to direct moonlight. However, the fighting soon becomes dull and repetitive. Because the villains are already dead, there does not appear to be a quick resolution and as a result, the film is painfully drawn out to well over two hours in length.

Young children and those who are intrigued and excited by the prospect of pretty actors romping about and fighting on ships and the hoisting of the Jolly Roger will probably enjoy ‘Pirates of the Caribbean'. If you arrive to the cinema in a panto frame of mind, you will have a lot of fun but unfortunately the film left this viewer cold.

Hulk (2003)
Enjoyable film with impressive special effects but low on the re-watchability factor, 23 July 2003

Yup, it's yet another comic-strip superhero adaptation and for me personally, this film takes me back to my childhood. ‘The Incredible Hulk' was a famous television series when I was a child and was one of my brother's favourite programmes. Unfortunately, he rarely got to watch the show in peace as the sound of the theme tune alone was enough to send me into floods of tears. Even now, I can still vividly remember the transformation which was the source of my trauma: the bloodshot eyes and bulging green flesh becoming visible under the ripped material of Bruce Banner's shirt …..

Director Ang Lee succeeds in capturing a comic strip feel in the film. Often the action is split-screen and the way that the camera switches between scenes mimics the way someone would scan the images when reading a comic.

On the whole, the cast is good: Jennifer Connelly as Bruce Banner's ex-girlfriend is effectively tearful when necessary and Nick Nolte is disturbingly tramp-like and manic as the elderly David Banner. The special effects are also very good; the Hulk is an impressive creation but as a result of being completely computer generated, he is not as scary as in the television version. What does come across in the film is the Hulk's awesome invincibility with his ability to smash up buildings; defeat mutant dogs and spin tanks around his head with ease (the violence is perhaps too much for young children).

Unfortunately, I feel that the story telling does not really justify the need for the film to be over two hours in length. Not much time is really spent on providing the background of the hero and as a result, you don't really get to know the main character and cannot sympathise with him. In a speedy introduction, we learn that genetic scientist Dr David Banner has passed his self-mutilated genes on to his son Bruce through using himself as a guinea-pig for his genetic modification experiments. Like his father, Bruce grows up to become a genetic scientist. Following an incident in the lab which causes Bruce to be exposed to a dose of gamma rays, he transforms into the ‘Hulk' in moments of stress or anger. Other than that, there really is not much else other than the military finding out about this monster and seeking to capture and destroy him. The film is also let down by a chaotic and silly ending and of course, like in the television series, you are still left wondering how Bruce's pants stay intact during his transformation!

Overall, I did enjoy ‘Hulk' but unlike some other comic book adaptations I've seen, this is not a film I would choose to watch again.

Disappointing horror with a very daft story, 25 May 2003

‘Dreamcatcher' is the latest cinematic adaptation of a Stephen King novel about four childhood friends with paranormal powers who go on a hunting trip together. Two of the main characters rescue a stranger wandering lost in the woods following a blizzard. It is clear that the stranger is unwell: his stomach is disturbingly swollen and he has a sinister looking rash on his cheek. The two friends suggest that he have a lie down in one of the bedrooms. Already, his stomach seems to be getting more enlarged; not only does the rash become deeper in colouration but it also appears to be spreading across a greater area of the stranger's face –one can't help but feel a sense of dread as the friends sit in the next room!

This film starts off well. The cabin in the middle of the snowy forest makes for a spooky setting and a sense of anticipation is created before the cause of the mysterious infection that is spreading round the local population is revealed.

While the lead actors give engaging performances, Morgan Freeman is in a dubious choice of role here as a bad colonel guy with ridiculously huge eyebrows.

The overall impression I have of this movie is that it can't quite make up its mind on what it wants to be –I would describe it as a messy combination of horror/ psychological drama/alien movie. I therefore am uncertain as to what the target audience for this film is –as a horror it is not really that scary but does have some gross out moments. The alien idea is also an unoriginal one and has been used more effectively in the Alien films and ‘Signs'. Unfortunately, the end result is a very daft story and an overlong film.

Ralph Fiennes is looking fine but overall, an underwhelming romantic 'comedy', 10 May 2003

Jennifer Lopez plays single mum Marisa who works as a maid at a posh hotel in Manhattan. While trying on designer clothes belonging to one of the hotel guests during one of her shifts, Marisa meets American politician Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), who mistakes her for the guest staying in the room. As a result of the mutual attraction and fear that he will no longer be interested in her if he finds out that she is only a maid, Marisa fails to correct Christopher's assumption and keeps up the pretence.

As far as romantic comedies go, the ‘poor girl and successful wealthy man fall for each other' theme in ‘Maid in Manhattan' is an unoriginal one which has been presented more effectively with more charm and humour elsewhere (eg ‘Pretty Woman' and ‘American President'). An additional flaw is that for a romantic comedy, there are too few laughs. Attempts at humour lie predominantly with the supporting cast which includes Natasha Richardson giving an over-the top performance as the wealthy guest Marisa is mistaken for.

Early scenes of Marisa with her young son serve to convey the affection within their relationship. Unfortunately, my inability to warm to Jennifer Lopez as an actress is an obstacle and the overall effect is far too cutesy to be affecting. I have to say, the selling point of this film for me was the idea of Ralph Fiennes in a romantic leading role but unfortunately, there is uneasiness in his performance here and I actually find him far more appealing in more dramatic roles where he has been presented with a high quality script.

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