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What a pleasant surprise
This is the movie in which I knew so little when I was seated in the cinema except for the fact that Angelina Jolie is in it and it is action packed.
Then came the first 10 minutes (no rolling credits) with James McAvoy as miserable as he can be. I started wondering if this was the right movie with Angelina Jolie! This is a very clever movie because the life of James McAvoy begged sympathy and provided an excellent balance with the actions. The action sequences was excellently choreographed and sent the hearts pulsing. The images as seen by the assassin, his leap across the building, the supermarket encounter, the car chasing scene were just the beginning of a series of breathtaking actions.
Angelina Jolie is so charming (even more than in her role as Mrs. Smith against Bradd Pitt), her eyes are all smiling when she trains James McAvoy and her tutoring sessions on the top of the train fully demonstrated her fluid actions.
I never peeped at the watch and there were twists and laughs from time to time. All the actors/actresses are excellent. The only minor disappointment is Morgan Freeman - he is excellent as always but he doesn't look a villain and he has played such paternal roles for so long. It would be nice to see a new face for a change.
James McAvoy did exactly that. He looked so suppressed in the beginning, then his special talent surfaced and the running and fighting all added up. He also knows how to act! Such a delight that in the second part he caught my attention even more than Angelina Jolie. But the truth is I cannot imagine anyone playing the role any one better than Angelina Jolie.
Will there be a sequel?
Hilarious and wonderful choreography
Its success owe much to its excellent balance of great dance numbers and ample character development for nearly everyone. To start with, the singing and dancing Tracey is so beautiful and so plus size! Then it is her classmates' turn, the vibrant black youths in the detention class, singing even more beautifully and leap so high in the air. When Mrs. Turnblad (John Travolta) showed up with her feminine features, not to mention her adorable and modest demeanor, that's worth zillions of laughs. The scene Mr. and Mrs. Turnblad (Christopher Walken) singing in the backyard can be so romantic. But I love the finale best - the way John Trovolta moves and bends, Queen Lativah sings and the group dancers twirl round and round unbelievably fast.
And one big surprise, the 2 dance lessons in the bonus features given by the choreographers are eye-opening. I won't be able to perform the "camel pull" and "chicken" sequence. However, I can admire those dancers even more than the main characters. All right, maybe Mrs. Turnblad's final dance is still more hilarious!
Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
Pieces fall into places only near the end
The movie starts off with loose leads, leaving the audience guessing what's actually going on. Bruce Willis is the mysterious factor and the impostor Nick Fisher seems helplessly involved with two rivals Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley. Lucy Liu, as the neighbor, looks beautiful. The movie intrigues with its twists and turns. It is successful because the intricate plot has everything perfectly explained in the end, which builds up to a climax in the last 15 minutes. In addition, it has a star-studded performance. With Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley facing off one another, not knowing they both fall in the same trap. For people who like Ocean Eleven, Inferno Affairs(Hong Kong), this is a film they will thoroughly enjoy.
Failure to Launch (2006)
A light romantic comedy
A light and watchable romantic comedy as it should be. What's new is the parents' desire for the 35-year old son to leave home and be independent. And when he does, the parents can enjoy or dread their new found freedom. What impresses me are the cameo appearances of a squirrel, a dolphin and a lizard. The fact that little sweet things can give one the shock of one's life are given such a hilarious visualization here. Zooey Deschanel as Kit is also a delightful choice as a cool, slightly eccentric. A happy ending with Tripp (Mathhew McConaughey) and Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) sailing on a wooden boat is much to be envied.
The Family Stone (2005)
A good, warm film about relationships
Mrs. Stone (Diane Keaton) was the well-loved mother of four. It was a few days before Christmas. Her daughters Amy (Rachel McAdams) and Susannah (Elizabeth Reader) were already at home awaiting the arrival of their brothers Thad (Tyrone Giodarno), Ben (Luke Wilson) and Everett (Delmot Mulroney). The siblings were close, well brought-up, liberal, open-minded and all adored their parents.
In come Everett's girl friend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) and tension set in. With Meredith's uptight and serious manner, the Stone family had problems showing hospitality. Nothing Meredith did could improve their impression, especially Mrs. Stone's and Amy's, and things kept spiraling down the wrong path. Worse still, Everett wanted to claim the family stone, grandma's ring, to propose to her. What everyone saw wrong in Meredith, Everett ignored until Meredith's sister, Julie (Clare Danes), was called in and the truth finally dawned on him.
The movie is appealing for the closeness of the Stone family. The Stone family is one to be admired because love and respect abound. They were against Meredith's values which would surely jeopardize the unity of the family and more importantly, made Everett unhappy. They accepted Julie as readily as they rejected Meredith. Yet Meredith did one thing right. Her Christmas gifts to the Stone family made melted their hearts.
I highly recommend the movie. The casting is excellent. Rachel McAdams (Notebook, Wedding Crashers) is attractive as ever and plays the uncompromising sister well. Luke Wilson and Tyrone Giodarno are perfectly convincing as brothers with a good heart. Clarie Danes as the lovable Julie often steals the scene. The outburst scene at the dinner table is well-captured. I also like the comical and hilarious touch when Meredith is rejected (twice!) and ended up with a roar of laughter, including Meredith herself, among the women. The philosophy about love throughout the film is consistent you never know who's the right person until you meet him/her; once you do, you should go for it and let bygones be bygones. The only not so plausible plot is that having lost one's love, true love can turn up so soon. This is a Christmas love story with a fairy tale ending.
Friends with Money (2006)
a woman's angle
A slow paced movie exploring the lives of rich married couples from a woman's point of view. Franny (Joan Cusack), Catherine (Keener), Jane (Frances McDormand) are all married and well-off. Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) is the only one who is still unmarried, who make ends meet as a maid. What they all share is friendship and problems of their own. As the story goes, their lives turned worse in order to make a better turn. Jennifer Aniston is the one who wanders aimlessly for a year after abandoning her regular job. Yet she is richly rewarded for holding out to the last minute. A gamble she takes and wins eventually. A movie to ponder about.
This Land Is Mine (1943)
The movie told of the early days of a small town in France under German occupation. How the townsfolk responded and reacted to the shrewd and manipulative German leadership? For one, the mayor and the business owners were speculators and still made good money out of the situation. To the middle class, like the railway executive George (George Sanders), peace was so important that they cooperated with the Germans as much as they disliked them. For most folks, they made do with the scarcity of food and milk by paying a hefty price for petty portions in the black market. Still underground resistance came from the educators (the Jewish headmaster and the beloved school teacher Louise (Maureen O'Hara)), who ensured that the seed of freedom was uninhibited in the minds of the school children, and also the pragmatists, who printed propaganda and orchestrated sabotage.
The one who made the complete transformation was the older school teacher Albert Lory (Charles Laughton) - a mama's boy who was terrified by air raid, choked by smoking a cigarette, shook before the Germans and unable to declare his love for Louise. His unflattering face, timid personality and senior age gave him a big handicap; he was an impossible candidate for a hero. Yet impossibilities were improbable possibilities in desperate times. Imprisoned for allegedly throwing a bomb, released but then accused of being informant for the Germans, death of the actual informant, being put in a murder trial and offered his freedom by the German if he played properly his new role as the new headmaster. Mr. Lory was relieved and accepted this arrangement until he saw the end of the highly respectable formed headmaster. Hereafter, a hero was born.
Charles Laughton not only made the change plausible, he amplified and emphasized it with his superb acting. To his credit, Mr. Lory was as cowardly then as he was heroic now. The two speeches Charles Laughton made in the murder trial, before and after the German's offer, epitomized their lives under the German occupation. His last lesson, albeit a short one, to the school children was his last chance to win them over - for the future of the country lay in their hands. And he delivered the message across the classroom with conviction and contagion, as only a hero could.
Thanks to the director and the script, Mr. Lory evolved not because of his love for Louis but for his country. He needed not be handsome and young to be the leading hero, as present movies would undoubtedly preferred. Maureen O'Hara, as Louise, lent her good sense, strength of character and beauty to make the heroine complete. Una O'Connor, as Mrs. Lory who betrayed a young man for his son's freedom, was impeccable.
More to that, Mr. Lory accused those ruling class, even though from poor background, once assumed power, were reluctant to relinquish what they had at the expense of their countrymen. How true this still is from developing to developed countries all over the world. Should countrymen resort to sabotage so that foreign occupiers were engaged at all fronts and stretched thin? This is a double-edged sword which could work against the evil as well as the peacekeeping force. This is a movie who raised provoking questions rather than offering solutions.
one of a kind
The issue of racism is blended seamlessly into the story. The life of 7 couples (white policemen, black TV personnel, black car thieves, Persian shopowners, Latino locksmith, white District Attorney, black detectives and Mexican woman detective) are interwined. Not to disclose too much, the stories behind these people come alive on the screen. Here racism knows no ends - those suffering from racial discrimination on the other hand discriminate against people of another colour. Yet racism alone would not hold the movie together, relationship does and the director succeeds in bringing out love-hate relationship between husband and wife, brothers, bad cop and citizen, father/mother and son. In the movie, people are not just good or bad - grey areas abound. Trust, or rather distrust, lead to tragedy at worst or reconciliation at best.
The scene that impressed me most is when the biased Sandra Bullock hugged her domestic helper, finally realised her own vulnerability and called the helper her best friend.
This movie deserves the Oscar for Best movie. Curiously, when I watched the movie, never did I associate racism to any city in the U.S. nor ponder whether any part of the story can actually be real. Rather, I feel bias exists in human nature, in any parts of the world and to a varied extent. Very worth watching.
delightful and romantic
Rafi, a depressed 37-year old divorcée (Uma Thurman) was seeing a therapist (Meryl Streep), who encouraged Rafi to move on and see someone. The one who charmed her happened to be a 23-year old Jew (Bryan Greenberg)whose mom is none other than Merry Streep who had long counseled her son son to marry a Jew to preserve faith and culture in the family. So a dilemma lies before the vexed mom - terminate the therapy sessions with Rafi or continue with the therapy but persuade David, her son, to end the relationship? Meryl Streep, as always, is convincing in whatever role she plays. She is funny and one can't help feeling for her when she finally allowed her son to bring Rafi to a family gathering.
Yet Uma Thurman must take the credits for making the story plausible. Only a 37-year old with her youthful look, tall build, cool job in fashion and artistic taste could fascinate a young man. Greenberg as an aspiring painter is also excellent. The ending is very sweet. This is one of those refreshing romantic films that is capable of making a lasting impression and worth reflecting on.
First Daughter (2004)
A pleasant pastime
The plot itself - about the First daughter who went to College in Carlifornia, far away from the White House, in order to be normal and meet friends may be cliché. Yet the movie on the whole can still hand out nice surprises every now and then. Katie Holmes has a unique face and looks intelligent enough to want to be independent as well as not to disappoint the First family. More importantly, Marc Blucas (her love interest) is not like the stereotyped Prince Charming for a teenager. At least he also looks sophisticated and mature and gives a strong case why the first daughter would fall for him. The two make an attractive couple and are on the same wavelength when they share the views on science etc.
The twist in the movie, at least I didn't see it coming, is good. Considering how many such plots have appeared on screen, I must say this one at least is not as predictable and does give me some credibility as a story about real people. The President and First Lady are not given a significant part here. The young couple already is a good reason to watch the movie. The love songs that accompanied the ball room dances are pleasant and well-chosen. If "monster-in-law" is rated 5 out of 10 here (last time I check), then "the First Daughter" deserves at least a 6.5 or 7, for its creativity and credible performance by the leading couple.
I also hope that Marc Blucas has great roles in future movies for his refreshing looks and performance.