Sunday, July 03, 2011

More Updates

This entry's Kevin Spacey picture features a shot taken from The Bridge Project's Richard III production, directed by Sam Mendes, currently on an 8-week run at London's Old Vic Theatre.

Reviews so far have been positive, though one critic couldn't get over the thought of it being "a calculated performance".

I don't know what the hell that means, but IMHO, every performance is calculated, so get off your high horse already!

My tickets for 2 of its Singapore shows have been confirmed, though exact seats are still unknown. Paid a small fortune for them, and begged for good locations, so please don't disappoint me!

Will definitely read the play a few times before its run here. Must memorize the best parts so I can savour them better when Mr. Spacey's reciting the lines.

Public sales began on 1st July, so please go to SISTIC before they're all gone.

Most exciting! :D

Now, on to a list of shows I watched recently. Thank you, Megavideo. :)

Game Of Thrones is based on a fantasy novel series I haven't read - yet. May not get around to it anytime soon, so catching the HBO TV adaptation is good enough.

For someone who knows nothing about the books, episode 1 left me quite disoriented. Still, the superb cast, expert direction and beautiful costumes kept me going, and by episode 2, I was completely hooked.

Empire magazine also helped, with its excellent guide on the characters and various storylines. The number of players is staggering, and the exotic names make things even more difficult for newbies like me. So make sure you do some research to maximize your enjoyment!

I'm fascinated by tales set in a different era or world, but can be fussy when it comes to TV series, which demand a viewer's patience and loyalty. How else can it draw audiences back, week after week? I was addicted to The Tudors, but gave up on Rome, Camelot, Spartacus and The Borgias.

Game Of Thrones, however, excels in all aspects - acting, direction, costume and set design, script. Each episode is expertly paced, keeping the viewer on the edge of the seat, hungry for more.

Sex, violence, and Machiavellian maneouvres are present in abundance. Where the former two are concerned, I recommend online resources, because local cable's version - IF this ever sees the light of day here - will be heavily censored. ( Same thing occurred with True Blood S3. )

Characters-wise, no doubt fans have their personal favourites. Mine include Daenerys Targaryen ( played by Emilia Clarke ), the platinum-blonde princess who is married off to the leader of a barbaric tribe ( played by Jason Momoa, who will next be seen in the big-screen remake of Conan The Barbarian ), to further her evil brother's plan to reclaim their father's throne.

There's also Jaime Lannister ( Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ), twin brother to Queen Cersei ( Lena Headey ). The diabolical siblings plot constantly, and also commit incest without guilt. Yes, graphic scene inserted.

Pint-sized Peter Dinklage plays the third Lannister, Tyrion. One of the show's best roles, full of snarky attitude and witty one-liners.

Even the children shine. In particular, Arya Stark ( Maisie Williams ) with her fire and courage, and Joffrey Baratheon ( Jack Gleeson ), a teenage prince whose cunning and cowardice make my blood boil.

Now you understand why I'm addicted. A+++! :)

Give it a go. You won't regret it!

I'm a big fan of horror shows, even when they're bad heh! I'll just sit through the whole thing to see what happens in the end. Because if there's a good jolt to be had, I want it. :)

The Ward stars Amber Heard, an actress who seems to be enjoying her status as the go-to girl for slasher flicks ( e.g. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, Zombieland, The Stepfather ). She's quite good actually, so let's hope she rises above this label quickly. There's no shame in starting out in B-grade films, as long as you climb the ladder at some point.

This movie is a little more interesting than the standard gore-fest. It's set in the '60s, a time when psychotherapy remained brutal and unethical. There isn't much blood-letting either, with director John Carpenter preferring to let the eerie mental asylum do all the work.

Creepy dark corridors - check. Frequent thunderstorms with lightning - check. Weird asylum staff - check. Strange bumps in the night - check.

The premise is that there's a ghost terrorizing the inmates, supposedly the vengeful spirit of a dead patient.

I guessed the ending somewhere around the halfway mark. Easy when you've seen Shutter Island. :)

Jolts-wise: there're a few. One of them almost gave my mum a heart attack. Do NOT sit too close to the screen. :D

Not a bad way to spend 90 minutes. B+

I watched Unstoppable because of generally strong reviews. Not a fan of Denzel Washington or Chris Pine, and while the first half dragged, the last 30 minutes were worth the time spent waiting for the tension to build up.

The plot is simple: careless train operator results in a runaway 39-car locomotive; toxic chemicals on board; risk to thousands if train derails and explodes; multiple attempts to stop the train fail, so it's up to these 2 heroes to save the day. And they do. Naturally.

It's entertaining enough, but credit goes to Washington and Pine for maintaining their dignity despite the formulaic script. And director Tony Scott needs to understand that jerky camera shots make some people nauseous ( i.e. me! ).

Rating: B

On to Source Code, which Empire kept raving about.

Jake Gyllenhaal is an interesting choice for this blockbuster, because he always seems to be lurking just under the A-list radar, even after acclaimed turns in Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac.

One of my favourites, though, is Jarhead. Such an under-rated classic. More people should see it!

With Source Code, JG is once again in leading man mode, this time a military pilot recruited into what looks like a time-travel programme, a la Groundhog Day, in an attempt to sniff out the person responsible for a massive train explosion.

I enjoyed this movie immensely. It's well-directed so the repetitive scenes ( each 8 minutes long ) don't grate on your nerves. Each new clue gets your pulse racing just a little more, and there are memorable performances from JG, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga.

Heck, even the villain does a great job.

The last 15-20 minutes are especially poignant. Won't reveal spoilers here, but get your hankies out!

Rating: A

I've left The Adjustment Bureau for last because it totally blew me away, and I am once again very VERY impressed with Matt Damon. Can't believe he wasn't on my Top 10 Favourite Actors list before!

Screenwriter George Nolfi directs for the first time here, adapting a Philip K. Dick short story titled "Adjustment Team".

Viewers can interprete this any way they like, depending on their religious or personal beliefs. Even the script offers alternative explanations to the baffled David Norris ( Damon ).

There's much to appreciate - suspense, action, romance, even humour. The cast includes Emily Blunt, Mad Men's John Slattery, and The Hurt Locker's Anthony Mackie.

But what I think will stay with the viewer long after the credits stop rolling, is the undeniable chemistry between Damon and Blunt.

Their characters' first meeting in, of all places, a public restroom ( the scene, for obvious reasons, isn't available on YouTube ), lasts maybe 5 minutes, but ends with an unexpected kiss that sent shivers up my spine. I could literally feel the heat between the two actors. It was sensational!

This is probably why the rest of the film works so well. When you become invested in the protagonist's struggle, you start rooting for him to defy the odds, no matter how much they're stacked against him. And the Adjustment Bureau is practically ruthless when it comes to "sticking to The Plan", complete with a nifty little black book which looks suspiciously like Harry Potter's Marauder's Map. :)

Blunt is a revelation as Elise. She's an actress I love to watch - The Devil Wears Prada, Sunshine Cleaning, The Young Victoria, Wolfman, The Jane Austen Book Club - but this is the first time I actually saw her abilities as a newly trained dancer. In fact, her on-screen performance looks so authentic I'm shocked to learn that she picked up the skills during a boot camp!

Again, the various elements come together seamlessly - the bathroom meeting, Elise's dances, the Bureau's incessant interfering. Layers are unveiled as each scene unfolds, and every new piece of information propels the story forward. There are, IMHO, no redundant bits in this film.

The heart of the tale is, undoubtedly, the love David and Elise have for one another. You may not fully grasp the reason/s behind the strong bond they share, but rest assured, that too will be explained in due course.

Ultimately, it is Damon's powerful portrayal which drives the film all the way to the finish line. I have seen him in everything from Good Will Hunting to The Talented Mr. Ripley, from The Bourne series to Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, from The Rainmaker to The Departed to Invictus, even comedies like Stuck On You and The Informant!

I took his versatility for granted for so many years, mainly because I saw a Ben Affleck interview once ( Inside The Actors Studio with James Lipton ), and he ribbed Damon for his "method acting". Perhaps that's why I never took him that seriously, even when he won the Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting. I always thought he tried too hard to impress, and that cheapened the performance in some way.

Not anymore. Damon has finally awed me enough to earn a place on my Top 10 list, and I apologize for not recognizing his talent much earlier. With The Adjustment Bureau, he embodies all the qualities of a full-fledged movie star - looks good on-screen, is 100% believable in a challenging role, generates sparks with fellow cast members, and leaves audiences yearning for more, more, more!

Make sure you see this movie! Rating: A++++! :D

I will leave you with an Oprah interview montage from YouTube. It contains only a short clip from the best one - for All The Pretty Horses, in 2000 - but guess it'll have to do. Damn that I lost the video tape recording when I moved house!

Till next time...

No comments: