Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

A Night With Bush And A Reading With Al Aswany

Earlier tonight, I was able to catch the premier of Oliver Stone‘s controversial biopic film W., which stars Josh Brolin as the current president of the United States, George W. Bush. The theater was generously packed (almost full) but what was most interesting to me was the reception I perceived from the audience, especially since I live in a predominately democratic, liberal county in the state of Colorado. Some of the attendants were waiting for the right, “comedic” opportunity to laugh at Bush, and others were deceitfully sympathetic regarding his character and actions in the film. I’m going to save the details for the review (which I’m going to postpone it for tomorrow since I’m quite tired right now) but the thing is, I really had a nice time watching the movie, and it actually made me think and reflect regarding the real George Bush.

My next surprise is when I found out Alaa Al Aswany‘s famous novel, Chicago, being both translated and published in English. I heard great things regarding the novel from many of my friends who read the Arabic version, which eventually  led me to buy the book when I went to Dubai last summer, but unfortunately never had the chance to read it. In fact, it is still probably nicely sealed and carefully placed in my bookshelf back home. If The Yacoubian Building is any indication (since my mom gave it her seal of approval), I think I’m going to enjoy reading this one. Thankfully, I just finished Charles Bukowski’s Post Office so the book wouldn’t have come at a right time than this.

Review: The Duchess

Those who loved or hated the biographical film Marie Antoinette will certainly find a compromising ground in The Duchess. Based on the life of the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (where many historians parallel her life with Princess Diana of Wales), the film remains an exquisite exhibit of women’s testament and of course, flawless sense of aristocratic fashion. With big stars such as the lovely Kira Knightley and the veteran Ralph Fiennes, the film is destined to draw a respectable group of movie enthusiasts and historians alike, but is the final picture as faultless as the sense of fashion, or intolerable as the cold marriage relationship that was portrayed?

Based on Amanda Foreman’s bestselling biography, The Duchess tracks the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire; she was ravishing, glamorous and adored by an entire country. Determined to be a player in the wider affairs of the world, she proved that she could out-gamble, out-drink and outwit most of the aristocratic men who surrounded her. But even as her power and popularity grew, she was haunted by the fact that the only man in England who didn’t seem to adore her was her very own husband, the Duke, as she couldn’t births a male heir to him. As their relationships grew troubled, a series of resulting controversies and convoluted liaisons would leave all of London talking.

The film definitely gets a high nod for its gorgeous depiction of 18th century England that was glorious with hair feathers and hats, colorful dresses with intricate designs, and tasty wines and addictive gambling. Indeed, the costumes and stage design definitely deserves the Oscar buzz it’s been greeting. Of course, such shallow depiction won’t save the film from harsh critics, and thankfully, the film managed to pull some strings and notable performances that in the end saved it from mediocrity. Kira Knightley’s presentation of 18th century English aristocrat is certainly believable but there are few moments where we couldn’t even generate some sympathy toward her character. Alas, this is not to say that her depiction was off, in fact it was excellent, but perhaps witnessing her next to Ralph Fiennes might be the problem, because he certainly commanded the whole film with a certain, few amount of scenes and sentences; his movements alone can formulates the script with ease. The story, unfortunately, is slightly predictable and uninspired; I’ll be amazed if someone named the film “original” or “extraordinary”. This might have been avoided if the newcomer director Saul Dibb focused on the political life of Georgiana a little more instead of heavily focusing on her love life. We can definitely detect this sentiment when the film comes to its finish and leaving us wanting for more. Thankfully also, the soundtrack was as engaging and moving as the high point of performances administered from the role players, and that alone can be incredibly satisfying.

Incomplete biography and sagging (although mostly great) performances might not make this film a royal treat, but witnessing the chemistry and the engagement between Knightley and Fiennes can alone make up for the price of the admission ticket. The life of The Duchess of Devonshire was modestly brought to life with an excellent showcase of costumes and décor that would certainly please most fashion enthusiasts. Fans of historical drama will cherish this movie, but probably not as long as they hoped for. Regardless, the film is delightful, rich, and thankfully not as preposterous as “The Other Boleyn Girl“, and thank God for that.

The Bottom Line

B-

The Best 50 Animated Movies Ever

According to Rotten Tomatoes, that is. Not a terrible list, though, if I were making a list on what I thought were the best animated films of all time, I’m not sure I’d put movies like Kung Fu Panda, Corpse Bride, or Antz on it (much as I like them, they’re not really “classics”). But, hey, we’re talking about Rotten Tomatoes here. No “best movies” list they make is perfect.

And also, where the hell is my Grave of Fireflies? That movie almost left me in tears when I saw it long ago, and it still resonates with me to this very day.

*shakes fist*

CHECK OUT THE LIST HERE

Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

After the recent slew of almost-disappointing movies from the acclaimed writer/director Woody Allen (i.e. Cassandra’s Dreams, Scoop), I almost lost faith in his films, and started reminiscing the great times I had with his classics such as Hannah And Her Sisters and Everyone Says I Love You. Luckily, however, there was an instant love attraction I had with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Whether it was the charming cast or the beautifully divine location, the film had me from its first scene, and from there, I was smiling all the way to the end.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona sees two young American women; Vicky and Cristina who come to Barcelona for a summer holiday. Vicky is sensible and engaged to be married; Cristina is emotionally and sexually adventurous. In Barcelona, they’re drawn into a series of unconventional romantic entanglements with Juan Antonio, a charismatic painter, who is still involved with his tempestuous ex-wife Maria Elena. Set against the luscious Mediterranean sensuality of Barcelona, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen’s funny and open-minded celebration of love in all its configurations.

Indeed, probably the movie’s pivotal aspect is that it doesn’t pursue the already worn clichés of the recent romantic comedies; instead, it opens up new possibilities and conflictions that are familiar to us but never got to see them in an intelligent direction. The threesome relationship that develops in the film wasn’t inscribed to make us laugh, but more like to open our hearts, minds, and eyes to the complexity of human relationships. The characters are extremely flushed out and totally likable and believable; looking all macho but speaking mostly in a tender, sincere way to his women, Bardem is a thoroughly convincing and affable ladies’ man, while Johansson and Hall demonstrated their polar-opposite personalities but perfect friendship in a most practical and credible matter. The cinematography although not extraordinary, it provided us the sheer enjoyment in exploring Barcelona’s laundry list of celebrated spots (i.e. Gaudi creations, the Miro Museum, the old amusement park, etc.), all of which shimmer with summer luster and a bustling Spanish soundtrack that oozes sexiness and lustful love. Harsh critic might be turned off by the semi-novella narration that accompanies the movie from start to finish, seeing how interesting it would be to see if the film could play without the commentary altogether, but I found it seemingly necessary yet enjoyable and not disrupting at the same time. The ending however is almost original as it is funny, and the open-ended aspect of it would provide an amusing discussion among your friends.

There’s no deny that Vicky Cristina Barcelona is beautiful film; the actors are attractive, the city is magnificent and the love scenes don’t get all sweaty. It certainly provides the perfect conclusion for the summer. It’s sincere, delicately funny, but a little staid, just what would you expect from a Woody Allen movie

The Bottom Line

B+

Review: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

There are numerous movies and films that speak the truth about the man’s testament and ever lasting courageousness, yet few can truly resonate those complex emotions with the viewers and deliver them perfectly. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly belongs to this mighty minority. This film illustrated the final years of a paralyzed Magazine editor so beautifully, that elegantly morphed the film from what would be considered a nightmare to an everlasting painting brushed by a gifted artist.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the remarkable true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a successful and charismatic editor-in-chief of French Elle, who believes he is living his life to its absolute fullest when a sudden stroke leaves him in a life-altered state. While the physical challenges of Bauby’s fate leave him with little hope for the future, he begins to discover how his life’s passions, his rich memories and his newfound imagination can help him achieve a life without boundaries.

First off, I feel it is very important to commemorate Mathieu Amalric’s extraordinary talent in creating a character that was so convoluted, so engaging, and so mesmerizing without moving a muscle. He commanded the screen so perfectly with his excellent captured narration of his thoughts and the events that happens around his character. He easily translated the pain of the Locked-In Syndrome without ever grossing us. He truly demonstrated his merits in capturing the spirits of Jean-Dominique Bauby and honoring his struggle. Next comes the outstanding direction and cinematography. Despite the fact that the first-person perspective isn’t new, it is still very hard to do well without turning it into a melodramatic gimmick. At precisely the right moment the film’s perspective changes, and the film adheres more closely to the demands of traditional biography. One by one, screenwriter Ronald Harwood introduces friends and family from Bauby’s life, never in ways you can predict, never in scenes that rest on cliches. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a fluid blend of flashbacks and dream sequences all merged with scores of marvelous original piano themes. The vision that the direction Julian Schnabel saw with this in unbelievable; from the first artistic shot to the tearful ending scene, his imaginatively-made motion capture is viscerally emotional and sensational, and that’s what movies should be all about.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly proves that our capacity for joy, and our ability to process it through whatever senses are available to us, are more durable than we think. While being Simultaneously uplifting and melancholy suffused, the film invites us to witness the marvelous that is the human spirit and to listen to our inner senses as Bauby noted in his autobiography: “My hearing does not improve, yet I hear them better and better. I must have butterfly hearing.” Outstanding!

The Bottom Line

A+

The iTunes Shuffle Tag

I consider blog tags as one of the best and worst inventions in the blogosphere ever created. If you are lucky, you might get a tag that shows off your coolness to the world, and if you are jinxed like me, you get a tag that can completely devastate your entire readership in one post. This tag however, can be a little bit of both (i.e. a double edge sword). But In the end, I think my list has a whole “WTF” vibe going on if you asked me.

The premise of this tag is to simply answer the following questions by setting your MP3 player/iTunes (probably your iPod) to shuffle and then pressing next on each question. You have to jot down the name of the song for each question no matter how embarrassing or humiliating that song is. The tag also required the blogger to tag another 5 people, but I’m going to simply skip it because I’m a lazy bum.

It begins!

Q1: If someone says, “is this okay”, you say?

  • Song Title: The Battle For Everyone’s Soul
  • Album: Persona 3 Original Soundtrack
  • Artist: Shoji Meguro
  • Genre: Videogame

Q2: What Would best describes your personality?

  • Song Title: Candyman
  • Album: Back To Basics
  • Artist: Christina Aguilera
  • Genre: Pop

Q3: What do you like in a guy/girl?

  • Song Title: Legend of Zelda – Main Theme
  • Album: Super Smash Bros. Brawl Original Soundtrack
  • Artist: Super Smash Bros. Brawl Sound Team
  • Genre: Videogame

Q4: How do you feel today?

  • Song Title: Rise & Fall
  • Album: Rise & Fall, Rage & Grace
  • Artist: The Offspring
  • Genre: Rock

Q5: What is your life’s purpose?

  • Song Title: Kad Albi Ma’ah (She Took My Heart With Her)
  • Album: Lealy Nahary (My Night, My Day)
  • Artist: Amro Diab
  • Genre: Arabic

Q6: What do your friends think of you?

  • Song Title: Say Goodbye
  • Album: .hack//sign Original Sound & Song Track 2
  • Artist: Yuki Kajiura
  • Genre: Anime

Q7: What do you think of your parents?

  • Song Title: Kiss Me Goodbye
  • Album: Final Fantasy XII (Original Soundtrack)
  • Artist: Angela Aki
  • Genre: Videogame

Q8: What do you think about very often?

  • Song Title: Heavenly Star
  • Album: Heavenly Star – Single
  • Artist: Genki Rockets
  • Genre: Pop

Q9: What do you think of your best friend?

  • Song Title: Everybody’s Changing
  • Album: Hope And Fears
  • Artist: Keane
  • Genre: Alternative

Q10: What do you think of the person you like?

  • Song Title: Bosne Wa Salehni (Kiss Me & Forgive Me)
  • Album: Allah We’Allam (God Knows Better)
  • Artist: Fadl Shaker
  • Genre: Arabic

Q11: What is your life story?

  • Song Title: Free From Fear
  • Album: Biohazard 3 Last Escape Original Soundtrack
  • Artist: Masami Ueda
  • Genre: Videogame

Q12: What do you think when you see the person you like?

  • Song Title: Eyes On Me
  • Album: Final Fantasy VIII – Piano Collection
  • Artist: Nobuo Uematsu
  • Genre: Videogame

Q13: What do your parents think of you?

  • Song Title: The Tragic Prince
  • Album: Castlevania: Symphony of The Night Original Soundtrack
  • Artist: Michiru Yamane
  • Genre: Videogame

Q14: What will you dance to at your wedding?

  • Song Title: Feeling Good
  • Album: It’s Time
  • Artist: Michael Buble
  • Genre: Vocal

Q15: What will they play at your funeral?

  • Song Title: No Air
  • Album: Jordin Sparks
  • Artist: Jordin Sparks (Feat. Chris Brown)
  • Genre: Pop

Q16: What is your hobby/interest?

  • Song Title: With My Own Eyes
  • Album: Atonement (Music From The Motion Picture)
  • Artist: Dario Marianelli
  • Genre: Soundtrack

Q17: What is your biggest secret?

  • Song Title: Mareed El Mahabah (Patient of Love)
  • Album: Hind 2008
  • Artist: Hind
  • Genre: Arabic

Q18: What do you think of your friends?

  • Song Title: Distant Memories
  • Album: Eureka Seven Original Soundtrack Vol. 1
  • Artist: Naoki Sato
  • Genre: Anime

Q19: What should you post this as?

  • Song Title: Jayi (I’m Coming)
  • Album: Inta Menni (You Are From Me)
  • Artist: Yara
  • Genre: Arabic

Q20: What do you think of yourself?

  • Song Title: Give It To Me
  • Album: 3 Doors Down
  • Artist: 3 Doors Down
  • Genre: Rock

When Hollywood Leading Men Cry

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most profound. Photographer Sam Taylor-Wood‘s project “Crying Men” consists of images of celebrities, all men, simply sobbing. In one way or another, the subject of each photo is a masculine figure, making the heartbreak etched in the faces of those who were able to summon a memory painful enough to elicit a convincing reaction all the more poignant.

According to Wood:

“Some of the men cried before I even finished loading the camera, but others found it really difficult. People can decide for themselves which they think are the authentic tears and which they think are fake. It’s about the idea of taking these big, masculine men and showing a different side.”

Here are my absolute favorites:

Click HERE & HERE for more!