Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wanted: A Review

As aliendoc would say: AWESOME!!! :)

I don't think I can do justice to how much I truly enjoyed this film, but I'm going to ramble for the next few paragraphs in an effort to flesh it out for those of you who're actually interested.





Do you like this photo I posted? It's the first time I've seen it, and thought it looked a lot cooler than most of the conventional publicity campaign pics. Who would've expected a tiny, scrawny Scot who looks 5 years younger than his true age to make a convincing ( and very sexy ) action hero?

If you haven't done any homework on the movie, let me just mention a few tidbits:

1) it's loosely based on a comic mini-series by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones

2) I say "loosely based" because while the film depicts lead character Wesley Gibson as a good guy, the real Wesley on paper is pretty much an evil a**hole. The Fraternity is a villanous organization, and Wesley unleashes his inner demons in full force upon initiation into this diabolical society.

For example, he uses stray pedestrians for shooting practice; he has racist and misogynistic tendencies; he kills everyone he's ever had a grudge against; he looks like Eminem.

3) James McAvoy was cast as Wesley before the commercial release of The Last King Of Scotland. He did 3 auditions, didn't get a call for 6 months, then finally received the news that he'd snagged the role. Co-star Angelina Jolie admits in an Entertainment Weekly interview that her interest was indeed piqued upon learning about McAvoy's connection to the project, but I can't be sure whether she agreed to come on board because of him.

4) An interview with Wanted creators Millar and Jones on YouTube mentions how faithful the movie is - cinematography-wise at least. Apparently, the motion picture's more exciting scenes are almost exact replicas of the comic version, and many parts of the dialogue are reproduced verbatim.

Yes, that's how obsessed I've been these past few weeks. :)

As for the film itself, all hail Timur Bekmambetov, the brash director of this crazy flick. He easily transfers his skills at flipping large moving objects from the Night / Day Watch franchise, this time experimenting with hot little sports cars and giant locomotives.

He's got quite the eye for inventive camera angles and eye-popping action sequences. Just a few bits worth mentioning include:

1) The utterly insane early scene, which begins with Fox ( Jolie ) making first contact with Wesley in a supermarket, then escalates into a full-blown shootout / car chase, culminating in a spectacular somersault of the chilli-red sports car Jolie has commandeered, hurling it over several police patrol cars before crashing sideways into a commuter bus.

2) The exhilarating training sessions on top of Chicago's L trains, as Fox gracefully slides into the tight space between the trains' roofs and the tunnel ceilings overhead. Later, Wesley's new-found skills enable him to leap off the trains onto bridges, before sprinting across the latter to land back on the trains again. Yow.

3) The derailing scene, which features a giant locomotive careening off a viaduct into a gorge which looks more like an abyss. Never mind the thousands of innocent lives lost - the assassins have a more important agenda at hand, dammit!

I admit the overall premise contains its share of hokey-ness, but it fails to irritate the way The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions did. At most, you have to contend with a textiles factory, The Loom Of Fate and some binary code messages, and a rather weird / dumb idea about strapping little bombs to rats.

That aside, we move on to the actors' performances - in particular, those of Jolie and McAvoy.

Special mention goes to Morgan Freeman, who is always a welcome addition to any cast, but who's sorely underutilized here.

Jolie has never looked more beautiful, and the role of Fox fits her like a glove. I can imagine all the pools of drool that must've been left by male moviegoers after each screening. She slithers like a cat, wields her guns like a veteran hitman, is the epitome of feminine wiles, able to convey volumes with the slightest twitch of her mouth and the smallest arch of her perfect eyebrows.

All these effusive compliments coming from me - a straight woman. I can only hazard a guess as to what's going through the minds of millions of men all over the world as they watch her strut her stuff.

McAvoy, on the other hand, blows me away yet again. For the record, he has toppled Shia LaBeouf from the #3 position on my all-time favourite actors list ( the 3rd spot is usually up for grabs, while #1's Kevin Spacey and #2's John Cusack are tough to beat ). This is a guy who has done children's fantasy fare ( The Chronicles Of Narnia ), English romances ( Becoming Jane, Atonement ) and gritty drama ( The Last King Of Scotland ). It's beginning to look like he can do just about anything, now that he's conquered the last frontier in the movie business: the summer action blockbuster.

He's a tiny, boyishly handsome chap, but carries the role of Wesley very competently thanks to his superior acting skills. Like Tobey Maguire's turn as Spider-man, McAvoy's gradual transformation from downtrodden geek to confident killer is convincing and compelling. There're touches of comedy - Wesley's penchant for apologizing evolves hilariously from mousey intonations to mocking farewells; his attempt at getting Fox to move aside by pointing a gun at her deteriorates into groveling as she stands her ground and looks amused; and.. one of my favourite scenes has Wesley shooting the wings off the flies, but not before desperately pleading his case before Sloan ( Freeman ).

While the supporting cast and director are strong, it is ultimately McAvoy's charm which carries the film and makes an otherwise cheesy storyline that much easier to swallow. His American accent is flawless, his chemistry with fellow actors electric, his agility a wonderful sight to behold.

My only complaint is that he looks very scrappy here. If you want to know just how gorgeous he can be, Atonement and Becoming Jane are must-sees.

I just hope Wanted will be available as an in-flight movie come September when I go on holiday ( I may just put it on repeat spins for 10 hours, heh ).

In any case, I WANT THE DVD.

Starter For 10

I ordered this from Amazon together with Becoming Jane ( which, by the way, doesn't seem to be available for sale locally, but why bother when Amazon offers a better version with much more bonus material? ), and absolutely love it!

This British gem of a comedy has Sam Mendes and Tom Hanks among the list of producers, and though it doesn't exactly beat American coming-of-age classics like Say Anything ( John Cusack's most memorable role to date ), Ferris Bueller's Day Off ( an adorable Matthew Broderick ) or The Breakfast Club ( Brat Packers rule! ), it is a decent, heartwarming effort, with a few little twists to keep things interesting.

As always, McAvoy is endearing as hapless and naive Brian Jackson, a Bristol University newbie whose affections are lavished on the wrong girl, leading to the usual complications. While the script and supporting cast are run-of-the-mill stuff, McAvoy shines like a lighthouse beacon on a foggy night, infusing an otherwise straightforward character with layers of emotional complexity, the same way John Cusack made Lloyd Dobler one of the most beloved slackers in movie history.

Memorable scenes from Starter For 10:

1) his first attempt at smoking pot, followed by a foiled attempt to seduce Alice

2) his late-night encounter with Alice's parents in the kitchen while he's indulging an attack of the "munchies"

3) a little jig he does in a courtyard while Rebecca observes from a window

I can't wait for his next project, The Last Station. He stars alongside a very accomplished cast of veterans ( Plummer, Mirren, Giamatti ), not to mention his wife, Anne-Marie Duff ( who is, interestingly, 8 years his senior ). I'm sure he'll do extremely well in this.

Angels And Demons

Some of you may remember my trip to Italy in 2005, during which I joined the official A&D tour run by the Dark Rome company. The tour has been getting a lot of press recently, in large part because of the film shoot which has experienced some glitches ( the Vatican is NOT happy with Dan Brown ). The fact that the Catholic Church has imposed bans on the cast and crew shooting in at least 2 key locations has made me treasure my trip even more, since my mom and I went to all the churches mentioned in the novel, and even met the tour company's director, Simone Gozzi, who's mentioned in many of the articles. I wasn't 100% certain at first, but a quick check with my journal showed that we had indeed met him - a very lucky coincidence as he happened to be waiting for another group that same morning to bring them on a premium tour ( in a cushy Mercedes limo ). I remember him as a tall, lanky young man with brown hair and a very warm, friendly disposition. He walked right up to us and shook our hands even though we told him we were with a different group ( we took a mini-van, but it was loads of fun 'cos the 7-8 of us got along so well ). It's a little surreal to read about him in connection with such a huge movie. :)

Right then, that's enough from me for now. Have a good week ahead.

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