Saturday, November 27, 2010

Formulaic But Charming

Why is every other movie releasing these days based on a book? Are screenwriters in Hollywood running out of original ideas?

The latest flick based on a non-fiction novel, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman written by Jamie Reidy, is Love and Other Drugs directed by Edward Zwick, who also directed Legends of the Fall and The Last Samurai. The plot revolves around Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway). Jamie is a pharmaceutical salesman, who works for the pharmaceutical compnay, Pfizer. His professional life takes a boost when Pfizer develops Viagra and his love life takes a boost when he meets Maggie at a doctor's office. However, how will any romantic comedy be complete without conflict between the two main characters?

Every rom-com has the same formulaic plot whereby boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, a conflict between boy and girl causes drama, boy and girl resolve conflict and live happily ever after. So what conflict will cause drama in Jamie and Maggie's love life? Will they be able to resolve this conflict and live happily ever after? Watch and find out.

Gyllenhaal is extremely sexy and adorable in the movie and shares great onscreen chemistry with Hathaway, who gives a remarkable performance. Josh Gad, who plays the role of Jamie's brother, Josh Randall, is extremely funny.

Apart for the nudity, which was a little too much for my taste, I enjoyed the film because it was charming, funny, and romantic as every rom-com should rightfully be. I recommend it for all rom-com lovers. So don't wait for the DVD to come out, go spend $9 or $12 and watch it.

Different Yet Uninteresting

Based on Aron Ralston's autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Danny Boyle's latest directorial venture, 127 hours depicts the real-life incident in 2003 in which Ralston, while on a hiking trip, got trapped in Blue John Canyon in Utah for five days because his right arm was pinned against the canyon wall by a rock. As those of you familiar with the incident may know, he eventually had to cut his arm off in order to survive and get out of the canyon.

The only reason to watch this movie is James Franco's remarkable performance as Ralston. Other than that, I don't think the film has much to offer. It is no doubt different than usual cliche and formulaic plots but that's only because it's based on an unusual real life incident and just because it's "different" doesn't mean it's interesting. Watching a guy struggle to free his arm that is pinned by a rock is not exactly my idea of a "fun" movie night. Some may find this film inspirational as it is about survival in the toughest of times; others may be discouraged to ever go hiking or mountain climbing again. The moral of the story is: don't go on a dangerous adventure without telling someone close your whereabouts.

If you don't watch this film, I don't think you will be missing much. However, since professional critics seemed to be raving about it as it is "different", I think it might get nominated for Oscars. So if you wish to watch a potential Oscar nominated film, watch it on DVD or spend $9 on a matinee show. It's definitely not worth spending $12 on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strong Lead Performance Fails to Overcome Stale Plot

Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks star in The Next Three Days, a thriller directed by Paul Haggis and a remake of the 2007 French film, Pour Elle (Anything for Her). Professor John Brennan's (Crowe) life is turned upside down when his wife, Lara Brennan (Banks) is convicted of murder. All his appeals are denied and the chances of his wife being set free seem bleak. So he takes matters into his own hands and devises a plan to help his wife escape prison. Will John be successful in reuniting his family or will he and his wife get caught during their escape? Watch and find out.

I was intrigued when I saw the trailer. However, I feel like most of the movie was shown in the trailer and there was not much new in the film except the ending. I am not a huge fan of Russell Crowe but he is no doubt a brilliant actor as he once again proves in this film.

Overall, the movie was not as good as I had expected it to be because it didn't seem fresh and had nothing new or exciting to offer. But it does make one think: what kind of message is this film trying to convey? That it is ok to break the law? Or that our legal system is flawed because innocent people are convicted of crimes, which forces people like John Brennan to take matters into their own hands?

Just wait for the DVD to come out; this film is not worth spending $12 on.

You better check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Todd Phillips, the director of the brilliant 2009 comedy The Hangover that won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, is back with his latest directorial venture, Due Date, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. The story revolves around Peter Highman (Downey) who has to reach LA so he can be present at the birth of his first child with his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan). However, due to an argument with Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), they are both kicked off the plane and end up taking a road trip together to LA. The plot progresses with the various mishaps the duo experiences during the trip caused by Ethan's unusual and annoying behavior. Will Peter be able to reach LA in time for the childbirth? Watch and find out.

This film has its funny moments but it's no Hangover. I expected a much funnier film from Phillips after the comedic genius he brought to us in 2009. The main highlight of the film is the pairing of Downey and Galifiankis, who have perfect comedic timing. Downey is quite believable as the headstrong and short-tempered architect and so is Galifiankis as the weird struggling actor. I think the first half of the film is strong but the second half especially the ending is disappointing due to a weak script.

I recommend that you wait for this movie to come out on DVD. But if you are really eager to see it, go watch a matinee show and don't spend $12.

One Word: Sexy!

Christina Aguilera seems to have faded in the background with the rise of musical stars like Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Rihanna, and Katy Perry. But ladies and gentleman, Aguilera is surely back with a bang! In her first feature film Burlesque, Aguilera plays the role of Ali Rose, a small town girl who moves to LA to fulfill her dreams of becoming a musical performer. Due to her persistence and determination, she lands a waitress job at a club called Burlesque, owned by Tess (Cher), which is in financial trouble. Keen to become a stage performer at the club, Ali convinces Tess to give her a chance and soon becomes the lead performer due to her amazing voice. Will Ali as the new voice of Burlesque be able to save the club from its financial doom? Watch and find out.

The storyline may not be fresh but this musical is still very captivating mainly because of the sexy musical performances and amazing choreography. Cher and Aguilera's strong lead performances are well complemented by the supporting cast including Stanley Tucci as Sean, Tess's confidante and stage manager, Eric Dane as Marcus, a charming businessman who wants to buy the club, Kristen Bell as Nikki, the lead performer at Burlesque before her jealousy causes her downfall, and Cam Gigandet as Jack, a handsome waiter at the club and Ali's love interest. Hats off to Steve Antin for writing and directing such a sexy film!

I usually don't like English musicals but I was intrigued by the trailer and it was $9 surely well-spent. I highly recommend that you watch this charming musical and make your holiday weekend even more fun!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Visual Treat

The much awaited Part I in the seventh and final saga of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is finally here. Unlike the last movie based on the sixth installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which was very disappointing, this movie will be quite a treat for all the HP series fans. Directed by David Yates, who also directed the fifth (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and sixth film, this film is visually excellent with impeccable special effects.

I have not read the books (only seen the movies) but I hear from those who have read the series that this film is very close the book, which I am sure will make the fans very happy. The movie was really captivating and therefore, I didn't even notice that it was two and half hours long and wanted to see more. For a moment I forgot that it was only Part I and was quite sad when the closing credits rolled because now I have to wait seven and half months to watch how the series ends.

The only disappointing part for me in the film was that Hermoine and Ron have yet to profess their so-obvious love for each other and kiss. I hope I will not be disappointed yet again in Part II, which releases on July 15, 2011.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Facebook Obsession

After seeing the movie, The Social Network, I was inspired to read the book behind the movie, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal written by Ben Mezrich. Then a friend recommended The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World written by David Kirkpatrick as it is claimed to be a truer account of how Facebook was founded.

After having read The Accidental Billionaires, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I was intrigued to read The Facebook Effect, just to see how the two books and accounts of the founding of this social phenomenon were different. I think the main difference between the two accounts is that The Accidental Billionaires is mainly from the point of view of Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook, because Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, declined to speak to Mezrich for his book. However, The Facebook Effect is from the point of view of Zuckerberg and other co-founders, employees, and individuals involved with Facebook as Kirkpatrick was able to interview these people for his book. There are some similarities but also some differences in Saverin vs. Zuckerberg's points of view. For example, The Accidental Billionaires implies that Zuckerberg did not invest any of his own money into the founding of Facebook, whereas The Facebook Effect implies that he did invest his own and his parents' money into this startup.

At first, I thought I wouldn't enjoy reading Kirkpatrick's book because it was written in an expository style, whereas I prefer the narrative style which Mezrich used. However, I got more and more fascinated as I read The Facebook Effect because it not only informs the readers how Facebook was founded but also goes into more detail, unlike The Accidental Billionaires, about how all the features of this social networking site came about and how this small internet startup became a huge private company. Kirkpatrick also talks about how this site created by a few students at Harvard has impacted the ways of communication and how it continues to have a profound global impact.

I was fascinated immensely by both books because I live and breathe Facebook every day. As I am sure most of you are too, I am obsessed with Facebook and check it multiple times a day, especially now that it is so easy to get connected with my smart phone. Why are we so obsessed with Facebook? Why is there such a need to stay connected at all times? It is kind of sad but people hardly talk on the phone anymore; the main forms of communication today are either texting or using Facebook. Today, hardly anyone individually informs you if they have something important to share such as finding a new boyfriend, getting married, becoming pregnant, buying a house, or getting a new job. They just "update" their Facebook status or "update" their relationship status on Facebook to announce the news to their friends instantaneously. It has become quite a trend to "stalk" your friends on Facebook to keep up with what's happening in their lives. I actually get most of my news such as which celebrity passed away or which celebrity couple got married through Facebook rather than actually reading it on a website or a newspaper.

Since Facebook has become such an important of our daily lives, I highly recommend both books for all users. I hope you enjoy both of them as much as I did. Happy reading!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Funny and Refreshing

Morning Glory is the story of Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), an executive producer, who gets a job at the television network, ibs, and is given the formidable task to increase the ratings of their failing morning show, Daybreak. Will she be able to save the show? Watch and find out.

Directed by Roger Michell, the movie was fresh and captivating. McAdams looked beautiful as always and was quite convincing as Fuller, whose life revolves around her job. Harrison Ford was also quite convincing as the stubborn and arrogant anchor, Mike Pomeroy. Diane Keaton as Pomeroy's co-anchor, Colleen Peck, and Patrick Wilson, as Fuller's love interest, Adam Bennett, were also quite charming.

I really enjoyed the movie because it was funny, different, and refreshing because of the well-written script by Aline Brosh McKenna. It's worth spending $12 bucks on, so don't wait for the DVD and go watch it in the theaters.