Monday, February 26, 2007

Ghost Rider

Posted by lea at 4:54 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Despite its M rating, the demographic in the cinema was pretty much exactly the age group of the 5 kids I was chaperoning to this movie – mostly pre-teen boys aged between 9-12.

Ghost Rider is based on a Marvel Comic character about the legends of certain guys who make deals with the devil for something they really want. In exchange they transform into strange immortal characters by night and are bounty hunters for the devil. The loose plot in this movie is that the son of Mephistopholes (the fancy Faustian name they give the devil) is getting too big for his britches and wants to overtake his dad. So the devil gives Nicolas Cage, the Ghost Rider of his generation, the arduous task of taking him and his cronies down.

The greatest flaw in this movie would be the fact that it just didn’t make much sense. No, let me re-phrase that. The plot makes sense, but it’s just stupid. I won’t go into any great lengths to explain it because frankly it just doesn’t deserve it. At least that’s what it felt like the movie-makers thought: Forget about plot, just use loads of CG, a skeleton hero whose skull bursts into flame, a cool looking bike and a walking cleavage for a heroine. Cool!

The best thing about it is that because it’s not a realistic movie, Nicolas Cage’s acting really suits the part. He goes from mild-mannered to manic in 3 seconds flat: arms-stretched heavenward-gazing evil laugh and all. Overall, the characters didn’t really sit well with me: he seems a little old to be a dare-devil (his character’s chosen profession), and the exceedingly well-defined 6 pack he displays in the mirror (which literally caused the boys in the row in front of me to go, ‘woah!’) looked over-tanned, over-oiled and over-Photoshopped... or maybe over-steroided. And in every scene, his female counterpart (Eva Something) wore clothes one size too small with one button too many left undone.

However, the move-makers judged their audience quite well. The action and cleavage suits their pre-teen audience and the dialogue was corny but simple to follow (Nicolas Cage’s scariest line to terrify his victims is ‘Look into my eyes…’). Let's just say, not a movie for the grown-ups.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

When villains are not really villains

Posted by lea at 4:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
i had a conversation yesterday with a friend that really shook my world. without going into detail, let's just say that there was a certain situation that led to a lot of confusion within a group of girlfriends - and yes, it involved a guy. there were lots of misunderstandings and communication breakdowns and basically, my own experience was that i THOUGHT i knew exactly what was going on. not being personally involved in the situation myself, i even prided myself on being fairly objective about it.

but the conclusion of our conversation was that those whom i assumed to be villains were not completely villainous, and those whom i thought were innocent parties were not entirely innocent. the victims were not the ones i thought they were, and in the end i felt rather enlightened, and these realisations (not new but fresh again) came to mind:

1. people will always self-protect. they will tell you (and themselves) only what they want to believe. often they will actually convince themselves in such a way that is less painful to deal with their own flaws. and so the rest of us will only hear half the story, and will be convinced because when they tell us the story, they will themselves be convinced that they're telling us the truth, even though it's only a portion of it.

2. i need to give my friends more benefit of the doubt - even beyond what seems reasonable. i have to say that all the conclusions i am came to from this situation were very reasonable and just - i was an eye-witness to a lot of these events, so i thought i had the whole thing right. however, there were missing bits and pieces that i hadn't considered, which when discovered, changed the WHOLE STORY. so even when i think i know everything, i should still believe the best in my friends and realise that there's a reason for almost everything.

3. sometimes things don't just go away. i think after the whole stinking episode happened, we all thought 'just give it time and it'll disappear' but it didn't and still hasn't. and i really don't think that the adage 'time heals all wounds' is necessarily true. i think truth begins the healing process and time continues it. until truth is brough to light in all of this, i think we'll continue to feel the ramifications of this issue in our slowly waning friendships.

hmmm, i'm sure there's more to it than this, but i'll stop here for now. lots of food for thought.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Music and Lyrics

Posted by lea at 10:06 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Despite its title, not all was in harmony in this movie. In particular, there was no sense of romantic chemistry between the characters played by Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, so the crossover from feuding-sibling-type friends to lovers would’ve been really hard to believe if it wasn’t coming from a mile away.

Even just the idea of Hugh Grant as an ageing pop star is quite funny, but to see him in the whole 80's get-up singing and dancing is quite hilarious. His character is not quite as comical, hedonistic, old and unique as Bill Nighy in Love Actually, but still very good. However, Drew Barrymore’s eccentric hypochondriacal character with hidden depth just didn’t work for me. She may as well have been on auto-pilot with a character derived from a dozen previous movies.

Towards the end they try to tear away from the shallow simple plotline and bring some depth to the movie, which only turned it from mildly amusing to clichéd and contrived. The whole grand-gesture-stadium-declaration thing was a ho-hum expected climax, with Drew Barrymore wearing the exact same expression as in Never Been Kissed (now that's a painful movie).

There’s a light poke at the music industry and the rising young divas whose main talents are gyrating and panting into the microphone, but it clearly was not meant to offend the industry or make any real statement.

To expect anything more than close to two brainless hours of standard romantic comedy would be like trying to extract meaning from A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ – you know it’ll never be a meaningful ballad so you have to just enjoy it for what it is. Oh, and it's definitely a DVD movie - forget paying more than ten bucks for it!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Just Do It

Posted by lea at 11:14 AM 2 comments Links to this post
I feel incredibly good right now because I’ve instigated a few changes that have taken AGES to implement.

It all started yesterday when I went to the gym (yes, the GYM! ME!!) after work. I managed to ignore the intimidating serious workout men (who ended up being very nice and polite really, despite their muscles) and did 6min on the bike and 17min on the treadmill - of which 4min was spent jogging! Not much to most exercise freaks I know, but please keep in mind that I have not exercised since 1991. Boy, was I feeling good!

Then I got home did the laundry, organised a menu and shopping list for next week (to minimise my usual ad hoc shopping which is dependent on what I feel like eating, ending up with loads of ingredients only partially eaten that get thrown away) PLUS I organised my budget, which had been ignored for ages due to the scary imbalance of expenditures to income.

Early days, I know, but already I feel like my life is changing for the better. There’s a very pleasant ache in my legs this morning (does this mean I’ll be able to wear shorts next summer??) and a sense of incredible satisfaction that things are getting sorted.

It really all started during my reading of ‘Failing Forward’ by John Maxwell:
The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that's when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.
And I realised I’ve been waiting for the motivation to do all these things – getting fit, being more mindful of what I eat and budgeting – and hoping that this mythical desire would one day grip me and empower me to do the things I know I should want to do.

Hang on, I just had a thought. I was motivated by a quote saying to forget about motivation cos it doesn’t work. Hmm, that’s pretty ironic…

Monday, February 5, 2007

Perfume

Posted by lea at 12:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post
This is a really good and very faithful adaptation of the book by Patrick Suskind. The only unfortunate thing is that while the book draws you right into the story, watching it on the big screen creates a sense of detachment, so when the story becomes more and more fable-like, on the big screen it verges on the ridiculous and unbelievable.

It’s a pretty foreboding tale of Jean Baptiste, a boy with an incredibly heightened olfactory sense that enables him to re-create the most intricate of perfumes perfectly after just one sniff. Smell becomes his beauty and his obsession, and he begins murdering beautiful young women in order to preserve their scent and create the world’s best perfume (don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away here as the movie is titled Perfume: the story of a murderer or something like that).

You quickly understand that Jean Baptiste is not quite human, so it’s impossible to feel empathy for him. Death follows him around, leaving a trail of tragedy behind him that he is not even aware of, let alone responsible for, so you begin to wonder whether murder is a choice or his destiny. The film doesn’t dramatise the content or try to exploit the story, as it could have done. Instead, the story is treated quite respectfully so it doesn’t feel like a cheap Hollywood thriller.

The fable-like quality of the story comes from the narration and the unbelievable events that unfold, like a massive town orgy (yes, of the sexual kind) and cannibalistic suicide, both induced by the perfume he created from the dead girls. There was a good deal of snickering from the people sitting next to us during the orgy scene, but for the informed (those who have read the book or can see beyond the fact that masses of people are fornicating in public, which is admittedly a little hard to see beyond), there’s a sense of wonder and sadness and beauty all mingled together in this tale.

The redheads are gorgeous and while it was a surprise to see Alan Rickman in the movie (a bit jarring to tell the truth), it was an intriguing two and a bit hours.

Stranger Than Fiction

Posted by lea at 12:53 PM 2 comments Links to this post

The premise of this movie is really interesting and a little far-out (reminded me a tad of Charlie Kaufman, only not on drugs). Harold Crick (Will Ferrell as the unlikely straight man) is a fictional character being written about by an author played by Emma Thompson (who does a really great job). He begins to hear her narration in his head and thinks he’s going crazy, but discovers that he’s actually the character of a novel. His life changes dramatically as he seeks help from Dustin Hoffman’s character, a professor in literature or something, and metamorphoses from a boring routine IRS auditor to being forced to act outside his comfort zone as he attempts to change the story, and discovers that he really wants to LIVE.

It brought to mind the idea in creative writing that characters can come alive and practically write themselves, so authors are the instruments who tell the story, rather than the driving force of the story. However, in this movie the author forces the story and the character, even against his will.

The only downfall in this movie is after the point when you discover that the author and the character live on the same plane/dimension (in fact the same city), so he can actually track her down. There’s only one direction the movie can go after that, and it becomes pretty predictable from that point.

Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a standout performance as a conscientiously objecting baker who becomes his love interest (very strange couple, but the dynamic really works well). The visual additions to the movie (computer generated effects measuring things in the scene) give an insight to the character of Harold Crick and make the movie really enjoyable and unique, and the script was really good too. I also loved seeing Buster in something outside of Arrested Development.

A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards

Posted by lea at 12:51 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I read this book because it’s written expressly to bring about healing for those who have been injured from leadership in the church context, and for me this was a timely read. It’s a sad but true fact that these sorts of injuries occur, and perhaps are felt more deeply precisely because it’s within the church, and we learn to expect more from church leaders than anyone else.

The lesson is taught in narrative form, going through the three quintessential examples of church leadership in succession: Saul, David and Absalom. Each of the leaders is very different, but the overall lesson is that God is in charge. Gene Edwards boils it all down so you recognise that it’s not about the style of leadership of the type of injury suffered – it’s really a matter of the condition of the human heart. Both yours and the leader at whose hand you may have suffered.

It’s a pretty easy read, especially because of its narrative format, but my only reservation is the very American-drama of the narration. It can feel a little corny at times, but I must admit that it builds the scene perfectly so the lessons really hit home. I learnt that I need to examine my own heart and to truly trust God because He really is in charge, despite how things may look at times.
 

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