Category Archives: At the movies…

So, what’s all the hype about Paranormal Activity?


Have you seen the movie Paranormal Activity? … It only made it to the M’sian cinema circuit, ¬†starting Jan 7, 2010 … talk about late….. ūüė¶

Well, it’s a horror movie. My favorite kind. The story centres around a young couple who has just moved in together ¬†to a new home in San Diego. Given certain ‘activities’, of the paranormal kind, happening in the house, they believe that it is being haunted by a ‘demon’ that was apparently following Katie, the girl, when she was 8 years old. Micah, the boyfriend is determined on documenting the phenomena, hence the appearance of a handheld camera which records a series of events which leads up to the ‘surprise’ ending.

Amazing how a movie featuring just¬†… ¬†1 house (which incidentally is the director’s own house ~ Oren Peli), 1 handheld camera,¬†1 demon… (not ghost) and ¬†4 actors (2 guys & 2 girls) …. could be such a blockbuster success! The production budget of the movie …… only USD11,000. The film grossed an impressive USD36.9m in its first month of showing in the US, & we haven’t even taken into account the box office earnings internationally … Not too shabby I say.

So what’s the hype all about? ¬†Well to understand it, here are some interesting facts surrounding the movie……¬†

1. If you were a fan of the Blair Witch Project (BWP), in 1999 … you would definitely want to watch Paranormal Activity (PA). They share the same low budget features …. with minimal scripting, minimal acting & employ the use of hand held cameras to simulate a ‘real’ incident… OK, maybe BWP wasn’t so low budget (USD60K) compared to PA (USD11K) but BWP made USD140m at the box office. PA is on its way to making as much.

The Blair Witch Project was hyped up to be a true story. The film was done in a documentary format. It had a lot of people fooled….. & more importantly, freaked! ¬†PA too started out similarly by creating the illusion that it was a home video footage, edited for public viewing. ……. If you notice, the screen couple take on the ¬†first names of the actor and actresses i.e. Micah (real name Micah Sloat) & Katie (Katie Featherston). There are also no credits rolling at the end of the movie, creating an illusion as if there was no directing, casting or even scripting involved. ¬†In fact, when the movie first screened during film festivals ….. there was even a note thanking the families of the couple for allowing the video to be shown publicly. ¬†The actor and actress, playing the screen couple, were visibly absent during the limited premiere of the movie. They were apparently spying on fans queuing up for the movie from across the street, hidden behind a tree …..¬†

But there’s a difference …. Paramount does not pretend that this movie is anything other than fiction, unlike BWP which tried to carry the hype to the end. The people behind the marketing of PA knew better than to insult audience’s intelligence in this day ¬†and age dominated by social media….. ¬†

2. …. which brings us to fact no. 2…. Using social media as a marketing tool. It demonstrates the power of the ‘word of mouth’ through the WEB. ¬†How was it done? ¬† There was a two prong approach ….. ¬†It all started in Sept 2009.¬†

  • Part 1. ‘Piecemeal’ release. The film was not released nationwide as would happen conventionally, but instead, on a ¬†‘piecemeal’ basis. Paramount first released it in Sept to limited midnight showings, in just 13 college towns. The first ‘scary’ seeds were thus sown. From then on, the WEB did the rest of the work. The initial batch of audience who was scared into sleepless nights started spreading the word around ……. it was tweeted, facebooked & viewer comments flooded the movie’s website …. Perfect. Now to execute part 2 of the viral marketing plan.¬†
  • Part 2. Empowering the fans! Now, with all the hype created, the rest of the potential audience market wanted to watch it…. and they could ‘demand it’ at the official website of PA. They had to click on a yellow box at the top right corner of the page to ‘demand’ for the movie to be shown in their town … and the producers promised if they reached certain targeted numbers… it would go to the town that demanded for it. At the same time, there was another number counter which monitored the absolute total number of ‘demands’. If it were to reach 1 million, it would go nationwide. A case in point ¬†~ ¬†One of the viewers, a student, desperately wanted to catch the movie after hearing about it. ….He went to the website & clicked to ‘demand it’ to come to his town … everyday. At the same time he was spreading the word to his friends to do the same. Imagine this action repeated over and over again by countless fans & you have a winning formula.¬†

One month¬†& a million demands later, PA not only opened in the towns which demanded for it, but also¬†nationwide in the US. Talk about an ingenious way of marketing the movie. No expensive ads involved. No roadshows. No big Hollywood names. Just hype. …. and the power of the ‘word of mouth’.

3. The person responsible for the actual production of the film is Oren Peli, an unknown film director who is actually a video game designer from California. ¬†PA was first shown at a film festival in 2007. Paramount bought the movie & only showed it in 2009. Why? Well maybe because Paramount wasn’t sure if the lack of glitz in the movie gave it the formula for success. There was talk that Paramount wanted to remake the movie & plump it up with big names … Thank God they left it alone. Goodness knows how much the budget would have been inflated by …. The original, non glitzed version by Oren was filmed for just USD11,000 and completed in 7 days. The screen couple were paid USD500 each for 7 days work, for God’s sake! ¬†Now, tell me, if Paramount is able to top that, & still make ¬†a similar rate of box office returns?!¬†

4. Did you know that there are¬†THREE different endings¬†to the film? The ending shown at film festivals was different from the Paramount version… Some say the original ending is more realistic, adding 10 more minutes to the film. So, in other words, ¬†the current version has been edited with an ending that has more ‘commercial’ appeal. If you’re curious to find out what the other two endings are like, click here.¬†¬†Note of warning: SPOILER present. Don’t click on the link if you haven’t watched the movie. ¬†

It’d be interesting to see which ending plays out as the favorite amongst the audience. Wish we could view all & vote on it… (hmmm… viral marketing idea for a sequel? I.E. Audience participation required…Play a role in determing how the story for the sequel goes… ). The buzz word ¬†is, once the Blu-Ray DVD of PA is released, it will feature all three endings.

5. Steven Spielberg was said to have taken a DVD of the movie home to watch it again after seeing it at a film festival. Later that night, halfway through the movie, his bathroom door slammed shut for no reason & was locked from the inside (apparently a locksmith had to be called in the day after to get it open). He stopped the movie, took the DVD out & bundled it into a trash bag …. ¬†He returned it the next day. True or False? I say, it was all part of the viral marketing strategy to create the scary hype further……¬†

Well, one must admit, this is a true Hollywood success story. But let’s get down to the conclusion, PA ~ Hype or ¬†over hyped …¬†

SCARY factor ~ OVERHYPED. It was hardly scary, only 3 out of 10 for me (1 being the least scary to 10 being the scariest). But, it was entertaining, nonetheless. Believable factor ~ Fair score of  7 out of 10, especially if you have gone to the link to read about the original (first version) ending to the story. 

MARKETING factor ~ ¬†Now that’s where the TRUE HYPE of the movie lies….. I give it a perfect score of 10. The strategy employed in promoting the movie is a work of genius. True to the spirit of the movie, it was cheap, creative but most importantly effective…. and relevant to the times, exploiting the social media tool to the max. Paramount spent USD1m on web marketing and has garnered an estimated USD29m in profits, to date. Audience participation in ‘demanding it’ was the greatest ‘blockbuster hit’ of a marketing strategy in itself. ¬†And, credible. It made no false claims about the movie being real. Instead, it used real life fan comments to fuel the hype about how ¬†scary the movie was & let the WEB and social media do the rest of the work. ¬†And by ensuring a slow release of the film, it created a hunger and a ¬†frenzy to ‘demand it’ be shown in their towns, nationwide. ¬†The marketers empowered the audience, letting them feel as if they played a part in the movie distribution process. ¬†I congratulate the film based on this. Too bad we, the international audience, did not have a chance to be apart of this experience. It would’ve been fun!

 

 

 

 


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Jacob’s all grown up ………….

Don’t worry, this is not a movie review about TWILIGHT SAGA : NEW MOON. ¬†There’s a lot of love out there for the movie & the characters, but mind you… a lot of hate too. But none of that here, it’s all about li’l ol’ ME drooling ……….. over Jacob’s impressive six pack, of course.

YUP …. Jacob’s all grown up, he no longer looks like an innocent undernourished love sick teenager. In fact, he now sports an impressively toned body which is accompanied by a somewhat edgy matured look, …. WOW & DOUBLE WOW!!!!

Move over Edward! ¬†My vote is for Jacob ~ He’s officially the HUNK in my books (pun intended) … ¬†

The actor who plays the role of Jacob Black is none other than Taylor Lautner. Can you imagine … the producers actually contemplated replacing the actor for the role of Jacob Black, the alternative ‘love interest’ of Bella, in the sequel to Twilight ~ Twilight Saga : New Moon? Both movies were adapted from the book series by¬†Stephanie Meyer.¬†¬†He was apparently too small sized & boyish looking to repeat¬†the Jacob role as the character is depicted to be approaching manhood & turning into a brawny werewolf ¬†in the sequel. ¬†But, that was a year ago.¬†

Fast forward to present time, 17 year old Taylor is sizzling the movie screens with his bulk. Determined to prove the directors wrong, Taylor started working out & eating his way up to this present body weight straight after the filming of Twilight ended in 2008. Weighing 30 lbs heavier ¬†during the filming of New Moon … he BUFFED up as required by the directors of the movie ….

…but, most importantly, he looks HOT (108 degrees to be exact, in keeping with his werewolf temperature) & ‘BEAUTIFUL’ (in Bella’s words) ….. *Swoon*…..

How did he do it? He stuffed himself with beef patties, nuts & “ice cream every two hours” to get a minimum of 3,200 calories of body fuel a day. ¬†Whoa, foodie heaven I guess …. or hell, whichever works for you.¬†This was combined with 5 day workouts at the gym with a personal trainer. That is the way to do it, but apparently you can’t over work it at the gym, according to Taylor ~ if not you’ll lose the bulk. Bring on the pounds anytime Taylor … it looks good and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Taylor was voted one of People Magazines 100 most beautiful people in 2009. ¬†

One of the most ‘memorable’ scenes featuring Jacob’s new bod was when Bella crashed her motorcycle & started bleeding from her head …… Jacob then proceeds to take his shirt off to wipe the blood from Bella’s forehead ~ When I was watching this at the cinema the other day, I honestly think, no one in the audience (I emphasize, no one)…. cared if Bella bled to death …….. coz all seemed mesmerised by the naked top half of the man-wolf’s anatomy! ¬†An appreciative & synchronized ¬†“WAHHHHHHH” reverberated through the room, an obvious show of approval for the abs & biceps bared for display! ¬†

From then on I knew, the salvaging point for the movie had presented itself ….given that the first 20 minutes seemed to draggggggggggg on ….. Yawwwwnnnnn!¬†

….. JACOB SAVED THE DAY for me (where the movie is concerned… oh, sorry, I promised not to talk about the movie right?) …… so please excuse me … I’ll just concentrate on drooling…. ūüėČ

Of feather pillows & gossip ……

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Well, I think it’s fair to say, gossip is a favorite pastime with a lot of people. Gossip, unfortunately, has always and will always be an integral part of the social structure. Needless to say, we have all been victims or worse still carriers of gossip at least once in our lives…. I don’t believe that anyone can say NO to this. If you do, then I guess you’re a SAINT!

So, back to the question, what does GOSSIP & A FEATHER PILLOW have in common?

Story time.

A parishioner went up to the priest to unload his guilt about the act of gossiping ~ so what harm was done exactly, he asks … So the priest asked the parishioner to go back home … take a feather pillow & a knife with him up onto the roof of a high building.. Give it a slash and see what happens…

So, the parishioner did as he was told … he took a pillow & a knife … went up onto the roof & slashed it with all his might… Lo & behold… there were feathers & more feathers flying all over …. The parishioner then returned to the priest to report the act done. The priest proceeded to ask the parishioner to go back up & the roof … to RETRIEVE each and every feather that escaped from the pillow …

Well, that sums it up beautifully doesn’t it… Each and every word, no matter how juicy¬†(whether with malicious intent, or not) that escapes from our mouths … can never be retrieved fully …¬† So, the harm & the hurt is done. There no turning back. Food for thought.

Believe it or not, I got this story from the movie DOUBT featuring Meryl Streep & Philip Seymour Hoffman ….. Philip plays Father Brendan Flynn who is a victim of Meryl’s character Sister Aloysius Beauvier prejudice. She goes on a personal vendetta to flush out his so called sins..purely based on her suspicions and nothing else… In an act to voice out his displeasure, Father Brendan gave a sermon on GOSSIP by telling the above story …. Stellar movie…stellar performances. I loved it…

 

And what did the girl mean by “Miluju Tebe” in ONCE???

What a beautiful movie, “Once” is!

I know we Malaysians are catching it late but at least GSC’s international cinema circuit is showing it. Thanks for that!

“Once” is an Irish film¬†that is essentially¬†a love story told through music. A street vendor¬†is attracted to a busker cum vacuum cleaner repairman’s musical efforts and a friendship strikes between them.¬†Things are complicated by¬†external factors i.e.¬†the girl is married with a daughter &¬†her estranged husband is away in the Czech Republic.¬†The boy on the other hand yearns to be reconciled with his ex. In the middle of all this, they both share a passion for music and eventually develop feelings for each other. On the musical front, the¬†both of them joined up¬†with 3 other musicians to make a recording of the boy’s compositions in a bid for him to get some recording deals in London.

The movie stars real life musicians Glen Hansard (songwriter, vocalist & guitarist for Irish rock band The Frames), & Marketa Irglova¬†(songwriter, musician, singer).¬† All but one were original songs written by them in the movie.¬†It was¬†refreshing to be able to explore¬† the on-screen character’s emotions and thoughts through songs in the movie.¬†Feel the pain of¬†unrequited love in Marketa’s life as it is depicted to be¬†an uphill climb in the song “The Hill”. Feel the intensity of the guy’s frustrations as he goes through the motions of¬†lost love¬†with his ex – girlfriend. Join him in the emotional roller coaster as¬†he grows red singing songs like¬†“Say It To Me”, “Lies”, & last but not least “Falling Slowly”.¬† And yet …… it all came together so romantically, in the movie.

My take on the movie….I think its original, it deals with real life people with real life ups and downs, its totally unpretentious & authentic.

Some quick facts on the movie:

1. The Movie was done on a shoe string budget.

The movie was shot for only ‚ā¨130,000 ($160,000),¬†¬†75% was funded by Bord Scann√°n na h√Čireann (The Irish Film Board), plus some of director John Carney’s own money. How did they do it for so cheap?

  • The director sacrified his own salary to give to the two actors.
  • Expensive lighting was dispensed of, so natural lighting was used.
  • No sets were built, some scenes were even shot in friends homes¬†for eg. the musical party scene in the film was shot in Glen Hansards very own flat.
  • The skeleton crew shot the movie in only 17 days. The speed of the movie probably explains why the¬†Dublin street scenes were done without permits.

2. Did you realize the GUY and the GIRL are unnamed in the movie.

Interesting. Although their names are not revealed to us, we the audience, still managed to feel a closeness to the characters. We sensed their pain, their frustrations, their hopes. Maybe it is this very anonymity that drives through the point that it could be you or me or anyone in the audience experiencing all these emotions in the movie. Brilliant.

3. Other Glen Hansard / Marketa Irglova collaborations besides acting together in the movie.

  • Hansard collaborated with Irglova in composing and performing¬†all but one of the songs in the movie. The soundtrack album was released on May 22, 2007 in the U.S. and on May 26 in Ireland.
  • Hansard’s first solo album, released Apr 21, 06, The Swell Season, on Overcoat Recordings was in collaboration with¬†Irglov√°, and¬†2 other musicians.
  • They are a also a “collaboration”¬†in real life. They got together while doing a promotional tour in the U.S. although Glen acknowledges that he knew all along he was falling in love with Marketa but had reservations because she was too young. Marketa was 17 when she made the movie and Glen 36. Well, their passion for music seems binding enough. They now live together in Hansard’s flat in Dublin.

3. Glen Hansard was not the first choice to play the lead role

Director John Carney wanted Cillian Murphy, an actor, to play the lead role. Cillian was to be one of the producers & investment partners too. However he pulled out when he heard that his co star was going to be a 17 year old. He did not think the film would work out.

As for Hansard, he¬†was originally called to¬† provide songs and anecdotes of life as a busker given that he’s¬†busking since the age of 13. After Cillian turned the role down, it went to¬†Hansard. Well, there’s no denying, the film worked out fine, winning the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. As for¬†the¬†17 year old issue, that¬†worked out fine too since Glen’s song collaboration with Marketa¬† won them the Best Original Song for the Academy Awards 2008. The song “Falling Slowly” even peaked at #2 for the Irish Song Charts.

4.¬† Great acceptance speeches at the Awards ceremony, if only there was time for 2 speeches ….

When Glen Hansard & Marketa went up on stage to give their thank you speeches … poor Marketa was cut off as soon as she started to speak by the orchestra music (which was a cue to indicate that their time was up). The organisers insisted that it was an accident but the host Jon Stewart was gracious enough to invite Marketa up again to give her thanks.

Check out the blooper and both their acceptance speeches here  in this link.

5. Some production secrets. 

The movie was filmed using two handycams and through a long lens. This meant that the actors did not have to mind the cameras too much. This way, they could be act more naturally and this was important given that most of the actors in the film were relatively inexperienced or not experienced at all. A bonus that came out of it was that this gave rise to some script improvisations which added to the authenticity of the movie. In fact, some of  the street scenes were truly authentic as passersby did not even realize that a film was being made.

6. And so what did she mean by “Miluju Tebe” …?

This was one of the most memorable moments in the movie. On a romantic motorbike jaunt, the ‘GIRL’ reveals, much to the ‘GUY’s’ consternation, that she is married, though¬†her estranged husband is back in the Czech Republic. When the guy asks her if she still loves her husband, she replies in Czech, “Miluju tebe” but coyly declines to translate what it meant.¬†¬†

The answer was unsubtitled.¬†So the audience is left wondering, “Did she say YES or NO?” …..¬† but actually, she was telling him¬†“I LOVE YOU”.…. if only he knew what she had just said.

I shan’t spoil it for you by telling you if the love between the two of them¬†is requited or unrequited¬†– so go watch the movie¬†if you can…

7. Well, the movie title ONCE is more ominous for both Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova than you think.

Both Hansard and Irglova give the impression in interviews that they are unlikely to pursue further acting, so this could be a one off thing for them. Irglova has spoken about being nervous in front of a crew, saying “I don’t think I would be a good actress, overall”, and Hansard generally refers to the movie as a one-off, talking of “moving on… living a different life”.

¬†Well, I do hope they will change their minds coz I really like these two. They seem so natural, so genuine and a critic even described Marketa as being ‘luminous’.¬†¬†¬†Yes, I certainly hope to see more of them, so for me….

ONCE is definitely not enough.

¬†P.S. Check out Glen Hansard’s guitar in the movie (& in the pic above)…its seen better days & sports a huge hole in the middle. But I thought it showed great character and seemed to be a convenient resting place for Glen’s fingers ūüôā BTW, it¬†truly is Glen’s guitar in real life.

P.P.S. For a sampler of some of the songs in the movie check out these links:

 

 

 

Quick ‘facts’ about Iron Man…….

Wow, who can resist seeing Robert Downey Jr. enact his 1st superhero role of Iron Man in the latest Marvel comics title brought to the big screen. 

The movie sets good pace for a person who is not into the comic scene & has no idea who the superhero is.

It starts right off with action as an American convoy is attacked by terrorists in Afghanistan. Then it flashes back to a few months earlier and then skips back to the aftermath of the attack. The object of the terrorist attack is to kidnap American industrialist, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Stark is not only an arms manufacturer, but an inventor of great skill and intelligence. The terrorists want Stark to build them a working model of a very deadly short range missile armed with cluster bombs. They have all the parts.

Now, Stark was badly wounded in the attack (by his own weapons actually) and is being kept alive by an electromagnet which keeps the shrapnel from working its way into his heart. This ingenious rig was built by the Muslim doctor who operated on him, Yinsen (played by Shaun Toub of ‚ÄúThe Kite Runner‚ÄĚ).¬†

The¬†Iron Man armour was invented out of Stark’s determination to escape¬†captivity. The suit¬†not only succeeded in helping Stark escape but eventually turned out to be the ultimate¬†killing & flying machine.¬†However,¬†instead of profiteering on¬†his new invention,¬†Stark’s near death experience caused him¬†to swing 180 degress – to use the armour for¬†saving mankind instead ‘destroying’ mankind.

There is a strong cast supporting Downey’s character. Pepper Potts played by Gwyneth Paltrow is his able and sexy assistant. There is hidden romantic tension between them. Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah, Tony’s business partner in Stark Industries. Obadiah¬†plots to black¬†Iron Man out from the board of directors’ decisions as he plans to continue selling arms despite Tony’s¬†change of heart. After all plunging stock prices and peaceful enterprises did not augur well for business.¬†Obadiah is also anxious to steal Stark’s¬†invention so that he can put the armour¬†up for sale in the weaponry¬†market¬†as the ultimate killing machine.¬†He is¬†prepared¬†to snuff¬†Stark out for good¬†lest he get in the way. That sets the stage for the final standoff between good and evil in the movie, a ‘clash of Iron Men’ so to say.

Well, here are snippets of entertainment facts¬†that might interest you about Iron Man the movie…

1.¬†This is Marvel Studio’s maiden super hero production………

Yes! The film is the first self financed production from Marvel studios.¬†They spent US150m to make the movie and US75m to market it. The¬†movie is set to hit or exceed the projected US85million box office takings during¬†the opening weekend.¬†Friday alone grossed US32.5m so its well on track to meet its target.¬† To top it off, the movie cast big names like Oscar nominee Robert Downey, award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and veteran Jeff Bridges and Shaun Toub of Kite Runner fame. Reviews for the movie were over 90% favourable. Now if this¬†does not garner a winning formula, what will?¬†¬†Be prepared for more super hero movies from Marvel…

2. What inspired the creation of Iron Man’s character? ¬†

Howard Hughes.¬†Iron Man¬†was bourne out of the collaboration between¬†editor and story-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, story-artist Don Heck, and Jack Kirby. In 1963, Lee thought “what about a¬†businessman superhero”? So¬†he set out to create a¬†new character a rich, glamorous ladies’ man, but one with a secret that would plague and torment him as well. Lee based this playboy’s personality on Howard Hughes, explaining, “Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies’ man and finally a nutcase”

3. Did you know that there is a parallel¬†that can be drawn between the ¬†original comic character and Robert Downey Junior¬†…?¬†¬†

In the¬†addiction department¬†that is. The original cartoon character of Tony Stark,¬†Iron Man’s alter ego developed¬†a serious dependency on alcohol¬†when he¬†discovered that the national security agency S.H.I.E.L.D. was buying a controlling interest in his company in order to ensure Stark’s continued weapons development for them.¬†Downey too had a dependency problem. He was arrested numerous times from 1996 until 2001¬†on drug-related charges and went¬†through drug treatment programs several times unsuccessfully, explaining in 1999 to a judge: “It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger’s on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal”.¬†Wow how ironic¬†he now plays the¬†Iron Man!¬†¬†

 4. Did you know that this is the first time Jeff Bridges shaves his head bald for a screen role?  

Yes, its the very first time and he thought it would be fun! Jeff Bridges plays the villain Obadiah in Iron Man.¬†Obadiah,¬†is depicted as a BALD man in the comic.¬†Jeff was waiting¬†to see¬†if the director Jon Favreau was going to persuade him to cut off his locks for the role but¬†the director was not particularly obsessive about that detail. Jeff himself¬†decided to show some skin in his head which is a first in his film career!¬†He figured it would be¬†in keeping with the comic villain’s appearance!¬†Actors who¬† reinvent themselves to be in character deserve my applause.¬†I must say he¬†succeeded in presenting himself as an authentic comic villain, just with the look only.¬†What a bonus it was that there was¬†great acting¬†thrown in as well.¬†

 5. There was no script when Robert Downey signed on for the role.

Yup, the role was THAT enticing to Robert Downey. He actually signed on for the role without a script. Needless to say, he had a part in developing the script together with Marvel, the screen play writers & director Jon Favreau. That’s why the movie has a contemporary theme as it truly is hot from the oven. The original comic book had an anti communist theme but Iron Man has an anti terrorism theme.

¬†6. Pepper Potts (Tony Stark’s Girl Friday) is Gwyneth’s comeback role after becoming a mother.

Gwyneth admits that she is sort of geeky & has never read comics in her life. But the offer to play the role of Tony Stark’s “Girl Friday” Pepper Potts besides Robert Downey Jr was irresistable.¬†The timing was right too. Gwyneth was enjoying mother hood but¬†the time seemed right for a comeback as¬†Gwyneth’s son Moses is now a year old. Although she had to shed about 20 lbs of motherhood related ‘flab’, she said that she enjoyed playing the role very much¬†& has confirmed enthusiastically that she has signed on for the ‘sequel’ with blood! Anything for a little extra time¬†with Robert Downey I’m sure! (Check this interview out with Gwyneth!)…..BTW, did you notice how high the heels of her shoes were in the movie, especially during the stand off scenes..Phew…talk about risk of ankle injury…

¬†7. You wanna KICK A** like Iron Man?¬†….. Thanks to SEGA you can. ¬†

Well, I don’t know how desperate you are to enact the role of Iron Man but never fear, SEGA has a video game which premiered the same date (May 2) as the movie.¬†It can be played on ¬†PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, Wii, Xbox 360, PC and Mobile Platforms¬†. Hey you can even change your armour for goodness sakes. Take your pick, you have the Classic armor, Extremis armor, Hulkbuster armor, Classic Mark I armor, Mark I armor, Mark II armor, Mark III armor, Silver centurion armor (Xbox 360 exclusive) and Ultimate Iron Man (PS3 exclusive). You¬†also get to upgrade your¬†iron man suit by doing missions and getting money to buy the upgrade. Oh, btw, it features the actual voices of Robert Downey, Terence Howard & Shaun Toub ……

Needless to say, the merchandisers will cash in on the Iron Man bandwagon next.¬†….. So start saving and get some shelf space ready for your Iron Man miniatures!

Have a great week at the movies!

 

  

Big thumbs up to Ben for Gone Baby Gone!

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I was never a big fan of Ben Affleck but I am wowed by his rookie directorial effort in Gone Baby Gone!¬†It’s been a long time since we last caught a¬†dramatic thriller that had real entertainment value &¬†driven by powerful performances, authentic scenes and an interesting plot. No¬†fancy¬†car chase scenes, no overflowing¬†blood and gore & no glamourised sets, to capture the audience.¬† Gone Baby Gone hit a home run on this.¬†

Based on the Dennis Lehane novel, the movie is ¬†about two Boston area detectives investigating a little girl’s kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally.

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The movie starts off by showing a media frenzy covering the case of a missing 4 year old girl, Amanda McCready. 

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The local police efforts, headed by Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) had already gone¬†into the third day of investigations and still,¬† no leads.¬†¬†The girl¬†was¬†kidnapped from her bedroom whilst her mum was over at her girlfriend’s home across the road watching ‘Wife Swap’. The apartment that she was kidnapped from was being shared by the mom, Helene McCready (Amy Ryan),¬†her brother Lionel (Titus Welliver) and his wife Beatrice -Bea (Amy Madigan).

Now Bea, Amanda’s¬†aunt, who distrusts Helene & her drug ridden lifestyle, takes it upon herself to hire a pair of private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) & Angie Genaro (Michelle Monaghan) to ‘augment’ the investigation process. She wanted someone who could talk to ‘people who wouldn’t open up to the police’ i.e. drug dealers, bar tenders, addicts, pedophiles etc.

In the course of Kenzie and Genaro’s investigation,¬†it puts them in the¬†path of Detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton). When the P.I.’s solve¬†the case 2 months later, the tagline packs the movie’s punch beautifully “Everyone wants the truth…… Until they find it”¬†¬†

I shouldn’t add anymore to the storyline. The little girl’s predicament appears to be¬†a drug related kidnapping …..¬†¬†but then as you sit through the movie, the layers peel off and you are presented with a view that things are not as simple as you think.¬†One thing for sure, the movie is anything but¬†obvious … The good guys appears to be bad. The bad guys appear to be good …. or so you’re made to think. ¬†That’s what makes it intriguing. The¬†truth¬†really does not unfold itself until the very end. By the time it¬†hits you, I fear it will cause you to leave the cinema with a set¬†of¬†questions. Moral questions.

  • Do two wrongs make a right?
  • Where & when do we draw the line between right and wrong?
  • Does living¬†by your principles ¬†make you a winner in life?

I must say Affleck seems more adept at directing than acting. He was able to pull really strong performances from his cast.

Amy Ryan shone in her role as the missing girl’s mom Helene¬†& she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress¬†at the 80th Academy Awards, the Golden Globe & SAG awards too.¬†She carried the role of a¬†negligent drug addict¬†mom so convincingly that you would readily lable her (forgive the¬†bigoted¬†expression)¬† ‚Äėwhite trash’……. ¬†¬†

¬†Casey Affleck, Ben’s¬†brother took on the role of Patrick Kenzie, the Private Investigator. Casey too, pulled off Kenzie’s¬†role beautifully. Kenzie is¬†a seemingly¬†unassuming but streetwise P.I. who¬†turns out to be¬†a man of principle¬†intent on putting things right. He¬†goes through lengths to protect what is precious to him as evidenced¬†in his¬†threat to kill¬†drug dealer ‘Cheese’ if¬†he ever disrespected his girlfriend partner again.¬†It is through Casey’s portrayal of Kenzie’s role that forms the backbone of the moral dilemma inherent in the movie.¬†¬†

Affleck was also able to draw¬†a powerful performance from Ed Harris who prior to this, always seem to be given¬†nondescript roles¬†despite his strong acting skills. I’ve never seen him looking so good (Hmm..is that a new hair job, Ed?). Morgan Freeman was his usual stellar self but really at the end of the day, kudos still goes back to Ben Affleck.

Ben¬†not only directed the movie, he also co-wrote the screenplay.¬† The dialogue in the movie was heavily laden¬†with profanities but what the H*%%, it was¬†an authentic depiction of¬†tough neighbourhoods like¬†Dorchester which forms a big part of Boston in the movie. He filled the movie¬†with¬†characters that you would cringe to look at ¬†…..¬† complete with pot bellies & tattoos. The cinematography took us through graffitied neighbourhoods, run down townhouses,¬†lacklustre shopfronts, dark and drab eateries & seedy pubs. All so dark, but all so real. It was totally unpretentious.

I now have a renewed respect for Ben. I am really looking forward to him producing more gems like this in the future. …… as his future is certainly not Gone Baby Gone. Kudos!

 

ben-affleck.jpg¬†¬† BEN, the director……..!

P.S. If you’re planning to watch the movie in the cinema circuit, well be warned – the dialogues¬†are¬†heavily chopped up as the Malaysian censorship board seems to think that the audience is not matured enough to listen to profanities¬†uttered in all its prime and glory. ¬†This has no doubt fractured the conversations & robbed the movie of some authenticity. Catch it on the DVD if you don’t want to be cursing and swearing in the cinema in compensation for the rudely censored expletives¬†………

P.P.S. If you notice, the circumstance’s of Amanda’s¬†disappearance in the movie is similar to that of real life¬†4 year old English girl¬†¬†Madeleine McCann’s¬† on¬†May 3, 2007 while the family was on holiday in Portugal. As a gesture of deference to the family, the¬†movie’s UK release date is being pushed¬†to Apr 18, 2008, much later than the US release in Oct 2007.¬†

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A 9th perspective on ‘Vantage Point’ …

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….. and it can be summed up in just one word – CORNY!

When Fat Dragon & I watched¬†‘Vantage Point’ last Sunday, it felt very much like¬† ‘Ground Hog Day‘ – ‘The Kingdom’ ‘The Bourne’ ¬†trilogy all meshed into one. Fat Dragon aptly described¬†it as a ‘CORNY’ movie.

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First things first, the storyline:

The President of the United States (President Ashton – William Hurt)¬†is in Salamanca, Spain attending a breakthrough summit on global terrorism. Among the Secret Service detail protecting him are agents Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox) and Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid). Special attention is paid to the character Barnes – who took a bullet a year ago defending the President from an assassin and then suffered a nervous breakdown.¬†Taylor, his¬†Secret Service colleague is convinced he’s now ready for duty. There is dramatic tension as you wonder if the character is able to withstand the pressures of protecting the President during this assignment.

A large crowd is gathered at the Spanish plaza waiting for speeches from the dignitaries. An American tourist, Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), is amongst the crowd. He is recording everything going on around him with his camcorder. In the media truck, American TV news producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver) is capturing the event with many different cameras trained on the crowd and the President. 

Chaos ensues when President Ashton is shot¬†just as¬†he steps in front of the podium to give a speech at the Plaza Mayor.¬†….and a¬†hunt for the assassin commences.”¬†

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The audience is required to piece 8 different perpectives together, as seen through the eyes of 8 different witnesses, on the same chain of events, before the storyline unfolds itself. When the President is felled by bullets, we think we know what has happened but the filmmakers show us that we haven’t got a clue to the real situation until many different characters reveal their part in the drama.

To do this,¬†the director took us back to a clock ticking at¬†the exact moment of 11: 55 am leading to 12pm each time over and over again¬†(6 times to be exact) to introduce the different perspectives….hence the Ground Hog-esque feel. Each scene presents a different piece to fit into the puzzle. Once¬†a serious or revealing moment is hit, the film stops & brings us back to 11:55 am….I’m sure the directors thought that this style of filming was supposed to pull a notch up¬†on the element of suspence but instead it elicited …umm….some grunts, some sighs & some laughs even, from the audience when we were watching. Not exactly the desired effect that¬†the directors had in mind I’m sure…..

The terrorism theme, the¬†decoy bombing¬†which leads¬†up to a 2nd¬†bombing &¬†the use of emergency vehicles in the execution of terrorism acts¬†were all reminiscent¬†of scenes from The Kingdom.¬† So, even though the bombing scenes had us going for a while but¬†…..‘hey, that seems familiar….’ keeps popping up at the back of our minds…..¬†¬†

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The mandatory car chase¬†(This, of course, is the Bourne-esque bit) at the end¬†gave us the adrenalin fix that we desperately needed to neutralise the corny taste in our mouths by the 3rd quarter of the movie….. It succeeded in making us sit up straight in our seats alright… with close shots of cars speeding through narrow streets ….. MAN it even makes you WANT to own one of those cute European compacts that can obviously be revved up to the max… but credibility was an issue. Apparently, there are just not that many streets in Salamanca¬†(Pop. 160,000) which is a University Town in Spain to support such a lengthy & spiced up car chase. How about that????

The plot was filled with holes. In the first place, I do not think that Secret Service would ever allow the President to appear in a public square (Plaza Mayor) which is surrounded by buildings with windows. This would be a security nightmare. Secondly,¬†I don’t know much about security protocol but common logic would call for¬†bags to¬†be scanned no matter who it belongs to when you enter an area hosting¬†events involving Heads of States? It does not make sense how a¬†female security official¬†¬†guarding the entrance would switch off the security bracket, allowing¬†for the character Enrique to slip¬†a bag containing a bomb through…..Yeah Yeah, we know¬†he claimed to be¬†Mayor’s police & that he was armed…. but he’s not supposed to be armed with a bomb, right? What a lame excuse to pave the way for a bomb scene indeed!¬†

Another point of contention for the movie is that Secret Service Agent Barnes was way too superhero to be true. He was truly invincible.

  • He survived a podium explosion where he was at ground zero position…(which puts him about¬†10 – 20 feet of the bomb).
  • He¬†survived¬†an accident¬†which involved a¬†TRUCK – (a 14 wheeler maybe- the size of which¬†I might be exaggerating but who cares, it’s all in line with the spirit of¬†the movie). Now the truck¬†rammed into the passenger side of his car at high speed, pushing his car straight into a wall, leaving his car wrecked between the wall and the truck.¬†He not only¬†came out of this crash alive, he also¬†came out of it without any broken bones ….. huh???????¬† Move aside¬†John McClane (Die Hard), make way for Super Hero Agent Barnes…..!!!!!

Unbelievable though this movie may be, copycat though it may be….the movie does have entertainment value. Given the dearth of¬†good action movies during this period, beggars cannot be choosers…(At least the movie¬†is less ‘brain dead’¬†than ‘Jumper’ starring Hayden Christensen & Samuel L. Jackson which is showing concurrently with Vantage Point at the local cinema circuit).¬†

The last 15 mins of the movie¬†is action packed¬†with a heart pumping car chase¬†and that will surely¬†thrill you to be bone…umm…CORNY though it may be.¬†That explains¬†why it scored better¬†with movie goers (B- Rating: Yahoo movies) than with¬†critics (C Rating)…..well, only slightly better.

Enjoy your week at the movies…..