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Millions (2004)
A Refreshing Story
31 May 2006
Some films might arrogantly push values on to viewers and even more might botch the well-intentioned effort completely, making the concepts unreal and uneasy to swallow. Once in a while, a film will really encourage the viewer to think, to analyze, and to reflect -- 'Millions' is one of them.

The first thing I noticed about this movie was its brilliant cinematography. It reminded me a little of 'Amélie'.

As the story progressed, I fell more and more in love with the central character -- the little boy, Damien, who found the millions of British pounds that magically fell from the sky. I think the trailer to this film really did it great injustice. (They did a terrible job promoting this beautiful story.) The story is more than just about how to spend this obscene amount of money before the UK converts to Euros. To say that this film revolves around the old 'money is the root of all evil' theme is an understatement and a slight misconception. This is a story about the endurance of human kindness and faith in others. And who better to tell it than an innocent child who is untainted by how society values money? Damien inspires us to remain true to our values and never forget that we're on this earth together. The scene where St. Peter gives his more human interpretation of Jesus feeding a thousand people with one fish and one loaf of bread really shows the overarching theme of this film. It is by far one of my favorite scenes of any movie.

While the story does explore how different people might respond to large sums of money, the more important message is about giving -- and I don't simply mean giving money. Watch the film, fall in love with this tender story and its characters, and you'll know what I mean.
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The Da Vinci Catastrophe.
22 May 2006
Films rarely fit the viewers' expectations of the books, and then there are films like The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown's novel should never have been made into a film. First of all, in the novel, the story paces itself well, keeps up the suspense for the reader, and explains its theories in detail and clearly. When converted into a film, the story dilutes itself and the pacing falls short of anything remotely exciting or suspenseful due to the interlacing explanations. Secondly, Brown's novel is plot-driven, not character-driven, so when transferred on to the big screen, Tom Hanks and Company have little to do but recount theories, stories, and throw out clues for the viewers. While the film does stick to the novel (for the most part), it cuts out quite a bit of details that may confuse someone who has never read the book before (I went with someone who hadn't). The script should have included more suspenseful and thrilling scenes, but it ends up taking itself way too seriously and kills any potential thrills. For example, even the potentially awesome scene of Sophie driving backwards through the streets of Paris was ridiculously botched by shaky camera work and lack of focus.

As for the actors' performances... The people who really walked away winning from this film were definitely Paul Bettany and Sir Ian McKellan. Bettany is absolutely brilliant in his supporting role as the albino Silas. His performance really outshines everyone else in the film, including the King of Kings in Hollywood - Tom Hanks. McKellan was blessed with the few funnier lines in the script, which is mostly why his character really shines through. However, much credit must be given to his impeccable timing in dialogue. Tom Hanks, though a brilliant actor, falls short of anything incredible in this film. He goes through the entire film (the whole whopping 2.5 hrs) with a constipated look on his face and very little creativity. However, I think that is largely due to the fact that Brown's novel lacked greatly in character development to begin with, so it's not really Hanks' fault. Audrey Tautou -- looking absolutely sexy in this film -- has her moments of high-level performances (i.e. the scene where she confronts Silas in Teabing's jet), but overall, like Hanks, has little room for character development. Fortunately, being the eye-candy of the film, she generally alleviated much of the intense and overly serious atmosphere. Tautou and Hanks did all they could with what they had, so I don't blame them for their lackluster performances. After all, both are obviously highly qualified actors. The end product of the Hanks-Tautou partnership becomes two people running around on screen recounting the legend of the Holy Grail and shooting at or being shot by people. Even more unfortunate is the fact that they have zero chemistry.

Finally, I also want to make a note that the last 10 minutes of the film was completely unnecessary and over-the-top C-O-R-N-Y. Overall, I was quite disappointed and bored with this film. The pacing was horrible, the acting was stiff, and basically, it was a poorly-presented story. However, I will admit that Ron Howard did all he could with it because frankly, I don't think this novel should have been adapted into a film in the first place.
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A Unique Constellation of Attributes
28 December 2005
Most romantic-comedies are trite, cliché, and too easily predictable. Girl meets guy, girl and guy exchange witty dialog, girl looks deeply into guy's eyes and BAM! girl and guy wake up the next morning in bed together. Their relationship starts too quickly and caters to the female audience yearning for a good, cutesy love story.

Not this film. _Must Love Dogs_ makes you work for the story, which makes it extremely worthwhile. Jake and Sarah don't fall in love after the first date. They jump through several hoops and muddle through misunderstandings throughout, making their potential relationship something to look forward to. Other elements such as family relationships and other love interests come into play, which makes this story not just about Jake and Sarah. The end result is a fascinating web of characters and insights about finding love and keeping it, reflecting every person in today's society who struggles with the same problem as Sarah.

John Cusack is delightful as always on screen, and Diane Lane shines once again. But don't overlook the supporting cast as they contribute a great deal to the success of this film. Without them, this film would not be half as good. The plot is neither dull nor trite, and the dialog (perhaps with John Cusack's witty edits of the script) is clever and original. This film is a sophisticated and refreshing romantic comedy that should not be overlooked. It's nice to see a film that doesn't drench itself in fairy-tale juice to satisfy its romantically-inclined audience and instead offers a more "realistic" approach to a blossoming romance.
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Prime (2005)
More Cliché Than Sophisticated
24 November 2005
This film definitely had a great premise to work with, but it tried too hard to please the curious minds of its intended audience. Younger's idea of exploring a relationship of an older woman with a younger man was definitely refreshing (well, aside from _Harold and Maude_) and his choice of having the story unfold in New York only made it more interesting. With the artsy profession of Rafi and the perpetual conflicts surrounding Dave's Jewish background, these topics could only be properly explored with a diverse and cosmopolitan setting like New York. The film definitely allows the audience to explore different parts of city life and integrates the city mindset into its storyline, which being a city mouse, I definitely appreciated. My favorite example would be when Rafi points out that when one lives in Manhattan, a few hundred square feet of one's apartment is all one has.

Although this film is promoted for its sophisticated storyline, Meryl Streep adds the only charisma and sophistication to the entire film. Streep definitely outshines Uma Thurman and Bryan Greenberg in this film. In fact, she is the only person carrying it. Her acting is superb as always, and she delivers her lines with impeccable timing and emotion. Thurman and Greenberg, on the other hand, appear like two awkward teenagers throughout the film. They had zero chemistry, and Greenberg's acting fed nothing to Thurman for her to work off of. Greenburg, despite his dashing, cute puppy looks, could not carry the leading man role because he seemed afraid to take the reigns. His lines would be delivered the way high school theater rehearsal lines were delivered -- nearly emotionless and confused in intonation. But Thurman wasn't better off anyway; it seemed like she was trying to take hold of her role throughout the entire film but she just couldn't get it right for some reason. Maybe the concept of the film was just too hard for her to work with, or maybe the script itself just gave her very little to begin with. Nonetheless, Rafi and Dave's dialog is trite, cliché, and very middle school at times. Everything they said to each other seemed expected of them and didn't add any new insights to their intellect, emotional maturity, or the maturity of the relationship. You could never really understand why the two were together besides the excitement from the age difference and the sexual exploration. Their romance unfolds in the most obvious and least charming fashion. (i.e. From awkward glances at each other while waiting in line for movie tickets with their respective dates to a "nervewrecking" scene of Dave struggling to call Rafi after looking her up in the phone book.) The dates they go on seem unrealistic for a 37-year-old divorcée. (i.e. Underground rap clubs.) All of the romance that is supposed to touch you and bring you closer to the characters really just pushes you away because the scenes presented are so hard to swallow.

And you can't help but notice that their relationship is based on a large part on sex, which doesn't add any dimension to the characters or the story. Perhaps this is why it is so hard to swallow anything when either Rafi and Dave claim that they love each other. Because you can't help but think that they're merely infatuated with each other and this new experience and that it's not really love at all. Despite the fact that Rafi insists to her therapist/Dave's mom that she is serious about this relationship, it is hard to believe because you see nothing that Rafi and Dave have in common besides art and even that link is iffy and seems tacked on just to draw some connection between them. Younger never gives the characters real dimension or qualities that would make the audience draw towards them, so when the film ends, you don't feel the connection with the characters that is needed for the ending to be felt the way Younger wants it to be felt. In other words, as you walk out of the theatre, you don't really care about Rafi and Dave just like the way you don't really care about two card-board cut outs.

Younger seems to focus too much on the topics that come to people easily when thinking about relationships with such a great age difference, such as one person who wants a baby while the other person wants the newest X-Box game, etc.. The most cliché topics are touched on throughout the film, like being carded when buying liquor, playing video games instead of having sex, or being old enough to be his mother. If you add these topics and a few Jewish jokes here and there, you've got yourself _Prime_ wrapped neatly in a box. Despite the film having its fair share of funny moments and tasteful humor, Younger definitely could have explored this relationship on a deeper level and gave Thurman and Greenberg a little more to work with in terms of character development and dialogue. The failure to do this ultimately spoiled a perfectly good premise for a film. Maybe better luck next time. And hopefully the next role Uma picks will have a little more spice to it as it is always pleasant to see her on-screen, and she usually has better judgment.
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Garden State (2004)
Breath-taking, beautiful mind of Zach Braff.
19 August 2004
At first when I heard about this movie, I thought to myself, "How good can a movie be if the goofy guy from Scrubs made it AND it's about New Jersey?" But after I saw it, I was completely dumbfounded. What an amazing production. First, the story is great as it's about an emotional and mental journey of a guy who knows he needs to move forward but can't. Second, Natalie Portman never makes a mistake when she's choosing a movie, except for Star Wars, but I'll overlook that. She was incredible in this movie. Third, the random scenes and dialogue in this movie was so off-beat and wonderful. Finally, the music in this film is incredible, from Coldplay to the Shins to Simon and Garfunkle. And Frou Frou's 'Let Go' is amazing.

This is by far the best movie that I've seen this summer. Forget Hollywood blockbusters. Indie films are better than anything right now. The cinematography of this movie is amazing. Zach Braff has an eye for detail and outstanding talent for drawing the audience into the movie. The script is easy to immerse yourself in and empathize with the characters. 'Garden State' keeps you laughing and contemplating at the same time. It relates to your life, if you're young, and touches the heart, if you're anyone. Natalie Portman was her sweet self and really added the zest and flavor to this movie, especially during her "original moment". It's nice to see her again in a great movie. We're all glad she's finally graduated from Harvard. Peter Saarsgard was terrific as a pothead slacker. The soundtrack really enhanced the effect of this movie. When you walk out of the theatre, you'll feel more infinite than before. Try it.

Braff really succeeded in making a movie that spoke from the heart and made people feel. Too many movies right now are just showing off and don't add value to anything, but 'Garden State' is all heart.
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Gilmore Girls (2000–2007)
Fast-paced, intelligent show.
19 August 2004
I was surprised when I saw this show because WB has a reputation for churning out mindless, sleazy shows that don't add any value to television. 'Gilmore Girls' has to be the only quality show on WB and one of the few on television in general. It's about the relationship between a mother and daughter in a small town in Connecticut. Lorelai Gilmore had Rory when she was 16 and ran away from her uptight, old money parents to start her own life independently as a maid at an inn and then working her way up to general manager. Their relationship is more like a sister relationship than a parent-child relationship. The townspeople only add charm to the show.

'Gilmore Girls' is an intelligent show with quick, witty dialogue that often refers to literature, music, movies, and pop culture. The characters talk extremely fast, which can be quite unrealistic sometimes when in a span of five seconds, two people can create comebacks for each other that contain references to Shakespeare and Madonna. But c'mon, it's just a show, and the point of the fast-paced dialogue and references is for the entertainment of audiences. We watch the show, hear the dialogue and laugh hard because we know what they're talking about. It's what makes 'The Simpsons' enjoyable, and the same can be applied to 'Gilmore Girls'. We know that such a quirky place as Stars Hollow most likely doesn't exist, but we watch it for the admiration for a dedicated single mother, hard-working daughter, and their minds that are abundant with intelligent and witty remarks about everything from Billy Bob Thornton to Bob Dylan.

Give it a try. It's just one smart joke after another. Definitely not a typical WB show.
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Sylvia (2003)
Start From the Beginning.
5 August 2004
When I rented this movie, I thought it would be about Sylvia's entire life, or at least starting from her days at Smith College. I didn't realize that her marriage with Ted Hughes would be the entire storyline. I think this movie would've been better had they shown more about Plath's life BEFORE Ted Hughes. For people who don't really know much about Plath and her poetry, understanding her life before Hughes would've made the film much more substantial. The audience has to realize that Plath led a very, very hard mental life even before she met Hughes, and her ideas for her poetry and 'The Bell Jar' mostly originated from her bachelorette days. She never recovered from her depression as a young woman and it branched out still as she married Hughes. Without understanding Plath from the beginning hinders the audience from understanding Plath at all.

I feel like the movie only told half the story. Plath's mind was beautiful, colorful, and brilliant. It wasn't just about the jealousy, depression, and paranoia. Putting her works on the back burner really took away most of this movie. I would've liked to see more narration by Plath and giving us an insight into her mind, the way her unabridged journals do. However, I really enjoyed the dialogue of this movie; the lines were poetic and beautiful.

Unfortunately, I am still waiting for a better Sylvia Plath movie. I recommend people to read 'The Bell Jar' and 'Ariel' before or after seeing this movie though.
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