Monthly Archives: January 2008

Movie Review: Juno

Mood: Cheering for Juno

I received an unexpected invitation last week to take advantage of Tight-Arse Tuesday at the movies. The movie of choice was the recently opened Juno.

Below is the synopsis from the official website:

Meet Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) – a confidently frank teenage girl who calls the shots with a nonchalant cool and an effortless attitude as she journeys through an emotional nine-month adventure into adulthood. Quick witted and distinctively unique, Juno walks Dancing Elk High’s halls to her own tune – preferably anything by The Stooges, but underneath her tough no nonsense exterior is just a teenage girl trying to figure it all out.

While most girls at Dancing Elk are updating their MySpace page or shopping at the mall, Juno is a whip-smart Minnesota teen living by her own rules. A typically boring afternoon became anything but when Juno decides to have sex with the charmingly unassuming Bleeker (Michael Cera). Face with an unplanned pregnancy, she and best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) hatch a plan to find Juno’s unborn baby the perfect set of parents courtesy of the local Penny Saver. They set their sights on Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), an affluent suburban couple who are longing to adopt their first child. Luckily, Juno has the support of her dad and stepmother (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney). After the initial shock that their daughter has been sexually active with the unlikely "virile" Bleeker, the family bands together to help Juno. Dad Mac accompanies Juno to size up the prospective adoptive parents to make sure they are not a couple of "wing nuts" while stepmother Bren provides emotional support as Juno fights the prejudices of underage pregnancy. While fall becomes winter and winter turns to spring, Juno’s physical changes mirrors her personal growth while the veneer of Mark and Vanessa’s idyllic life starts to show signs of cracking. With a fearless intellect far removed from the usual teen angst, Juno conquers her problems head-on, displaying a youthful exuberance both smart and unexpected.

The ensemble cast was perfect in every way. The taboo subject of unprotected sex resulting in an unplanned teenage pregnancy could so easily have been translated to "small town white trash", but the well written script made me want to hug all the characters for the high level of maturity in dealing with the problems their own way, resulting in a win-win outcome. Each cast member gave the same understated treatment to their parts which made the movie all the more poignant.

Ellen Page was stunningly superb as Juno. Although Juno seemed flippant at times towards her pregnancy and her image at school, Page was able to show the vulnerable side of Juno – the scared teenager who wasn’t always sure who she was or where she stood in life. Page’s portrayal of a young woman taking the delicate steps towards adulthood was achingly tender. Her relationships with the other characters were unpretentious and precocious, be it with her father, her stepmother, the adoptive parents, her best friend, or her soul mate. Page is definitely well deserving of all the accolades she has been receiving since the movie’s release.

Michael Cera was charming as the young father of the baby who wasn’t really as clueless as Juno made him out to be. Bleeker understood and never questioned Juno’s decision about the baby – his unwavering support of her decision seemed to mask the fear of the unknown should Juno had made other decisions. Cera maintained an aura of innocence about him throughout the movie, from the teenager being told he had fathered a baby, to navigating the awkward journey in defining his relationship with Juno, to his wordless actions chocked with emotions at the hospital. Everything combined just made him so adorable.

Jennifer Garner was heartbreakingly honest as the woman desperate to adopt a baby, both for herself and in a last bid attempt to salvage her marriage. You could almost smell her desperation as she tried to impress Juno at every turn, and I cried for her in the mall scene, when she accidentally bumped into Juno at the mall and was asked to speak to the unborn child. The pain etched on her face was so real, it really tugged at my heartstrings.

Allison Janney was in fine form as Juno’s stepmother, who gave us a glimpse of some of the real sacrifices and compromises a mother was willing to go through for her kids, whether she gave birth to them or not. Watch out for the ultrasound scene, where Janney gives the ultrasound tech a piece of her mind for stepping out of line.

J.K. Simmons and Jason Bateman were also terrific as the "fathers" in the movie – Juno’s father and Juno’s baby’s adoptive father respectively. Here, we were shown the different ends of the spectrum as far as a man dealing with fatherhood is concerned – one who was completely accepting of all the consequences and responsibilities of being a father, and the other who was desperately trying to come to terms with the realities of fatherhood before time ran out in more ways than one.

Rating:

I loved this movie. I can’t say enough nice things about this movie. I just wish there were more movies like this one – refreshing, precocious and unpretentious. This really is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

And now, continuing on my Six Degrees game, from Enchanted to Juno, there are 2 direct links:

1. Amy Adams was in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) with Allison Janney; and
2. James Marsden was in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) with Ellen Page.

And Bacon numbers:

Ellen Page has a Bacon number of 2.
* Ellen Page was in Wilby Wonderful (2004) with Maury Chaykin.
* Maury Chaykin was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Michael Cera has a Bacon number of 2.
* Michael Cera was in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) with Anna Silk.
* Anna Silk was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Jason Bateman has a Bacon number of 2.
* Jason Bateman was in Sol Goode (2001) with Octavia Spencer.
* Octavia Spencer was in Beauty Shop (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Jennifer Garner has a Bacon number of 2.
* Jennifer Garner (I) was in Catch and Release (2006/II) with Gabrielle Rose.
* Gabrielle Rose was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Today’s Tuesday, and there has been another offer to accompany someone to the flicks. The tentative plan is to see Charlie Wilson’s War, so stay tuned for the review.

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Six Degrees of G’s 2008 Movie Mania!

Mood: Nerdy

After telling some friends and colleagues about the number of movies I wish to see this year, someone came up with a suggestion that I should play a game and somehow link the movies all together – something along the lines of the Six Degrees of Separation theory.

Background for the uninitiated: Six Degrees of Separation refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person he or she knows and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows, then everyone is an average of six "steps" away from each person on Earth. Several studies have been conducted to empirically measure this connectedness. While the exact number of links between people differs depending on the population measured, it is generally found to be relatively small. Hence, six degrees of separation is somewhat synonymous with the idea of the "small world" phenomenon.

Playing on the "small world" concept, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon was invented by some American college guys, who saw Kevin Bacon on a TV interview claiming he had worked with just about everyone in Hollywood. The goal is to link any actor to Kevin Bacon through no more than six connections, where two actors are connected if they have appeared in a movie together. The connections (or the degrees of separation) is called a Bacon number. The higher the Bacon number, the farther away from Kevin Bacon the actor is. For example, Elvis Presley has a Bacon number of 2 because:

* Elvis Presley was in Change of Habit (1969) with Edward Asner.
* Edward Asner was in JFK (1991) with Kevin Bacon.

A bit of research later, I discovered that the good folk at the University of Virginia (Department of Computer Science) developed a program called The Oracle of Bacon. The Oracle can link any actor to each other (and any actor to Kevin Bacon), using information from The Internet Movie Database.

Anyway, back to my original story. Having thought about my friend’s suggestion, I decided to play the linking game for the movies I hope to see this year. I’ve only seen 2 so far – 27 Dresses and Enchanted, so obviously, I’m using these as my starting point. I will then link the next movie I see to the one immediately preceding the last, i.e. I will link the next movie to Enchanted. And as an added bit of fun, I am going to provide selected actors and actresses with their Bacon numbers.

From 27 Dresses to Enchanted, there is a commonality and a direct link:

1. James Marsden was in both films; and
2. Katherine Heigl and Patrick Dempsey starred in Grey’s Anatomy (2005-).

As for Bacon numbers:

Katherine Heigl has a Bacon number of 3.
* Katherine Heigl was in Grey’s Anatomy (2005-) with Patrick Dempsey.
* Patrick Dempsey (I) was in Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986) with Maury Chaykin.
* Maury Chaykin was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

James Marsden has a Bacon number of 2.
* James Marsden (I) was in Sugar & Spice (2001) with Rachel Blanchard.
* Rachel Blanchard was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Amy Adams has a Bacon number of 2.
* Amy Adams (III) was in Catch Me If You Can (2002) with Nancy Lenehan.
* Nancy Lenehan was in Beauty Shop (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Patrick Dempsey has a Bacon number of 2.
* Patrick Dempsey (I) was in Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986) with Maury Chaykin.
* Maury Chaykin was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Susan Sarandon has a Bacon number of 2.
* Susan Sarandon was in Noel (2004) with Erika Rosenbaum.
* Erika Rosenbaum was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

More Six Degrees when I’ve seen another movie!

Movie Review: Enchanted

Mood: Spellbound

I took myself to see Enchanted on the weekend, and loved every minute of it.

A synopsis of the movie as follows:

A classic Disney animated fairy tale meets with the modern, live-action romantic comedy in Walt Disney Pictures’ ENCHANTED. Featuring an all-star cast, the film follows the beautiful princess Giselle (Amy Adams) as she is banished by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon) from her magical, musical animated land and finds herself in the gritty reality of the streets of modern-day Manhattan. Shocked by this strange new environment that doesn’t operate on a "happily ever after" basis, Giselle is now adrift in a chaotic world badly in need of enchantment. But when Giselle begins to fall in love with a charmingly flawed divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) who has come to her aid – even though she is already promised to a perfect fairy tale prince (James Marsden) back home – she has to wonder: can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?

Amy Adams was, for want of a better word, enchanting. Amy played Princess Giselle with such earnest innocence that for the duration of the movie, I believed she was that fairy tale princess who had never been exposed to the harsh realities of today’s cynical and often ego-centric society. Her naïveté towards love and romance was endearing, and her effervescence and light-hearted treatment of the song-and-dance scenes made me bounce in my seat.

Patrick Dempsey was, well, dreamy. Patrick’s Robert was a single father trying to keep a level-head about him for the sake of his young daughter whilst balancing his job as a hard-nosed divorce lawyer. You could tell he was desperately trying to keep a straight face as Giselle sang and danced through Central Park, and his features soften considerably as Robert slowly began to believe Giselle’s story and fell in love with the fairy tale princess.

James Marsden was hilarious as he hammed it up at every opportunity. James’ Prince Edward was a loveable buffoon who for the most part appeared to love Giselle almost as much as he loved himself. Prince Edward made me laugh and laugh and laugh on his often clueless search for his true love Giselle, and laugh some more during their "first date" in New York.

I liked Susan Sarandon’s evil Queen Narissa, although I felt she was underused in the live action part of the movie. Queen Narissa was deliciously evil without scaring the younger audience into nightmares and therapy sessions.

The minor characters were terrific as well. Robert’s daughter Morgan (played by Rachel Covey) was simply gorgeous – her rapport with Giselle was palpable and made the audience warm to the relationship, even if Robert was very guarded at first. Robert’s girlfriend Nancy (played by Idina Menzel) was straight-laced enough to balance what could have been a saccharine overdose. And Queen Narissa’s infatuated servant Nathaniel and Giselle’s chipmunk friend were good little side-kicks who saved the day.

Rating:

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. And being a Disney movie, it was a no-brainer as to how the movie would end – happily ever after, of course! I had a smile on my face from start to finish. It was perfect escapism.

Not sure what I’ll be seeing over the Australia Day long weekend. Stay tuned for another review!

Movie Review: 27 Dresses

Mood: Relaxed

After identifying at least 47 films I want to see before the end of the year, I can happily report that I’ve made a good start with a trip to the cinema on the weekend with Danie to see 27 Dresses.

Unashamedly aimed at the chicks, this romantic comedy is light and fluffy, with the most predictable outcomes that requires no thought process to work out how the storyline pans out. The plot is simple: Jane (Katherine Heigl) is idealistic, romantic and completely selfless; a perennial bridesmaid whose own happy ending is nowhere in sight. Having made a career out of being a bridesmaid but never a bride, Jane faces her worst nightmare when the man she is in love with becomes the man who her sister Tess (Malin Åkerman) is engaged to marry. Luckily, the wedding brings around the man, Kevin (James Marsden), who makes her re-evaluate her "always a bridesmaid" lifestyle and change her bridesmaid status for good.

It was a rather enjoyable little chick flick. It was sweet and light, and funny in most parts. I expected a few more laughs than were proffered, but overall, it was a good little film. The script was well written but the dialogue could have been a bit tighter as some of the scenes felt clumpy. Kudos to the cast on the delivery – the cast looked like they were having a good time.

Katherine Heigl was luminous on the screen. She is such a beautiful woman – nothing could make her look awful or ugly, not even that awful non-descript colour they used to dye her hair, nor any of the hideous bridesmaid dresses she threw on in her impromptu fashion parade. Matter of fact, she even made some of those dresses pretty – now that’s saying a lot!

James Marsden was a great piece of eye candy on screen, although at various points of the movie, the expression on his face made me wonder if he was asking himself "why am I appearing in this chick flick and not some muscle movie?" He and Katherine certainly made a very striking couple on screen, but the chemistry between the two was questionable at times – whilst I was never quite convinced that Jane and Kevin were in love with each other, they did seem to like each other a lot and had a lot of fun being in each other’s company. The bar scene was an excellent example of that.

Malin Åkerman was terrific as the selfish and self-centred little sister Tess. And Judy Greer was fantastic as Jane’s best friend Casey, with her acerbic wit and sharp tongue. These two provided the perfect balance to Jane’s saccharine nature.

I am critical of Edward Burns as George. I didn’t warm to him at all, but I suppose that was done deliberately as the director wanted the audience to pull for Kevin as Jane’s match.

Rating:

I certainly would have enjoyed the movie more if two rather large elderly ladies had not pushed past Danie and I to take up the two seats next to me. The cinema was only half full, so there were plenty of other seats available. After pushing past us without so much as an "Excuse Me", they squeezed themselves into the smallish seats. It was a warm afternoon and I would have preferred to have an empty seat next to me to stretch out, but that was not to be. Then, as the movie began, a mobile phone was heard making loud beeps to signify the battery nearing its end stages and desperately needing a charger. The beeping grew very annoying throughout the movie, and as I didn’t have concrete evidence as to whom the phone belonged, I had to put up with the noise. No prizes for guessing who the phone belonged to – yes, that’s right – the beeping noise came from a phone nested inside the little old lady’s bag. Grrr …

Next week, I’m taking myself to see Enchanted at Chatswood Hoyts on Sunday afternoon before it disappears from the cinemas. Mmm … James Marsden 2 weeks in a row … now that’s a treat and a half! Stay tuned for the review!

F-B-(No)-Idea

Mood: Highly Amused

This is so funny! Now I don’t feel so bad about being late in paying the occasional bill!

FBI WIRETAP CUT OFF FOR UNPAID BILL
Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:32pm EST
By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A telephone company cut off an FBI international wiretap after the agency failed to pay its bill on time, according to a U.S. government audit released on Thursday.

The Justice Department’s inspector general faulted the FBI for poor handling of money used in undercover investigations, which it said made the agency vulnerable to theft and mishandled invoices.

It cited the case in which a wiretap under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs electronic spying in terrorism and intelligence cases, was disrupted due to an overdue bill.

"Late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence, including an instance where delivery of intercept information required by a … FISA order was halted due to untimely payment," the audit said.

Inspector general spokeswoman Cynthia Schnedar said she could provide no additional details on the disrupted wiretap. Much of the report contained sensitive law-enforcement information and was not released, she said.

The FISA program, denounced by critics as overly intrusive and unconstitutional, is up for renewal in Congress. But lawmakers are bogged down over the scope of the program and liability protections for telephone companies that took part in a domestic eavesdropping program launched by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks.

The audit followed a 2006 case in which an FBI employee pleaded guilty to stealing more than $25,000 in confidential case funds intended for undercover telecoms services.

The FBI acknowledged "widespread agreement" that its 1980s era accounting system was inadequate and said it was working to improve it.

"The FBI will not tolerate financial mismanagement," it said.

(Editing by David Alexander and Chris Wilson)

Movies Movies Movies!

Mood: Movie Groovy

I like going to the movies. Experiencing a film on the big screen with surround sound and filling my belly with a mega-sized frozen Coke and a bucket of popcorn is always a treat. Sadly, it is also an experience that rarely made its way into my life in 2007. Last year, I saw 3 films:

* 300 (with Clayton, which I loved but did think there was way too much blood);
* Transformers (again with Clayton along with Penny and Dario – also loved the movie because who doesn’t love Transformers???); and
* Hairspray (with Danie; such a fun movie to see with someone who did not think it weird that I wanted to sing along to the songs nor that I spent most of the movie drooling over Zac Efron).

In light of last year’s dismal effort, this year I intend to visit the cinema more often and take full advantage of Tight-Arse Tuesday, when the tickets are cheap enough so I can still enjoy my frozen Coke and popcorn without taking out a bank loan.

Below is the list of movies I want to see in 2008. The release dates are gleaned from the official Hoyts website.

* Atonement (now showing)
* Enchanted (now showing)
* P.S. I Love You (now showing)
* American Gangster (Release Date: 10/01/2008)
* 27 Dresses (Release Date: 10/01/2008)
* Juno (Release Date: 17/01/2008)
* Charlie Wilson’s War (Release Date: 24/01/2008)
* Jane Austen Book Club (Release Date: 31/01/2008)
* Rendition (Release Date: 14/02/2008)
* Definitely, Maybe (Release Date: 14/02/2008)
* I Could Never Be Your Woman (Release Date: 14/02/2008)
* We Own The Night (Release Date: 21/02/2008)
* Feast Of Love (Release Date: 28/02/2008)
* Meet The Spartans (Release Date: 28/02/2008)
* Mr Woodcock (Release Date: 13/03/2008)
* Vantage Point (Release Date: 13/03/2008)
* The Eye (Release Date: 13/03/2008)
* The Other Boleyn Girl (Release Date: 13/03/2008)
* The Dinner Guests (Release Date: 13/03/2008)
* Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger (Release Date: 20/03/2008)
* Inkheart (Release Date: 20/03/2008)
* Hannah Montana (3D) (Release Date: 20/03/2008)
* Gone Baby Gone (Release Date: 27/03/2008)
* Playing Dirty (Release Date: 24/04/2008)
* Pride and Glory (Release Date: 24/04/2008)
* Smart People (Release Date: 24/04/2008)
* 21 (Release Date: 24/04/2008)
* Made of Honour (Release Date: 08/05/2008)
* Stop-Loss (Release Date: 08/05/2008)
* Baby Mama (Release Date: 15/05/2008)
* What Happens In Vegas (Release Date: 15/05/2008)
* Children of Huang Shi (Release Date: 26/05/2008)
* Sex And The City (Release Date: 05/06/2008)
* Get Smart (Release Date: 19/06/2008)
* Tonight He Comes (Release Date: 03/07/2008)
* The Love Guru (Release Date: 10/07/2008)
* Mamma Mia (Release Date: 10/07/2008)
* X-Files Movie (Release Date: 24/07/2008)
* He’s Just Not That Into You (Release Date: 28/08/2008)
* Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Release Date: 28/08/2008)
* Mummy 3: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (Release Date: 11/09/2008)
* Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants 2 (Release Date: 18/09/2008)
* How To Lose Friends And Alienate People (Release Date: 02/10/2008)
* Bond 22 (Release Date: 13/11/2008)
* Four Christmases (Release Date: 20/11/2008)
* The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Release Date: 26/12/2008)
* Revolutionary Road (Release Date: 26/12/2008)

47 films in the next 50 weeks. Who wants to join me?

2008 New Year’s Resolutions

Mood: Quietly Excited

2007 sped by without the fanfare I had hoped. Twelve months ago, I was starry eyed and full of hope that 2007 would be the breakthrough year for me. Whilst I did achieve some of my goals, there are still more to attain, and I finished the year feeling a little deflated and playing the part of "that girl" at the company Christmas party – you know, that one girl at every party that spends a great deal of time either in tears and/or on the "woe is me" soap box.

There is a lot of work to be done in 2008 to make it 2000-and-Great. To help maintain the course, I’ve made some resolutions in relation to work:

1. Be On Time. Appearances do matter, and I must make more of an effort to show I care.
2. Talk Less. I must ensure that I steer away from gossips and gossiping at work.
3. Listen & Learn. I must listen more and show more willingness to learn.
4. Focus On Me. AKA Mind My Own Business. Enough said.

In order to stick to the above resolutions, I am limiting the social drinking with my workmates. On reflection, I found I was spending far too many nights drinking with various colleagues last year, with me speaking far too freely when inebriated. Whilst I fully intend to maintain relationships with my colleagues, the work social drinks (and excessive participation at our company Comms nights) will from this point forward be reduced from "frequently" to "very occasionally".

This year, I must amend my attitude and start being more professional in order to advance in this company. Whatever happened in 2007 is now in the past – I can’t go back in time and change anything. But I can change my behaviour now and be the polished professional I am.

At this point, I have only one resolution towards my private life, and that is to Be Positve.

I have a good feeling about this year. Here’s to 2008!