Jul 31, 2012

July recap

I can honestly admit that I have no idea what I did this month- I literally just lost 31 days doing almost nothing, I don't know where it went! Did you ever have that feeling? If I could kick myself in the ass, I would- stupid Diana! Anyway, here's the breakdown:

Atonement [2007]
American Psycho [2000]
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus [2009]
Magic Mike [2012]
Spirited away [2001]
Almost Famous [2001]
Gentlemen prefer blondes [1953]
That thing you do! [1996]
The Dark Knight Rises [2012]
Earrings [2012] :)
The Full Monty [1997]

Books 1 (The five people you meet in heaven- lovely book that I recommend)

Concerts- Charlotte Gainsbourg

August is going to be a crucial month for me for two reasons:
- I have to successfully finish my dissertation
- I have to find a paid job [if I don't get one, it's bye bye London for me and hello Bucharest, and it's not something I want]

Let's hope everything will be OK and by the beginning of September most of things would have been resolved!

I really hope you had a better July than me! anything interesting happen to you?

Jul 30, 2012

Earrings [2012]

You have no idea how surreal it is to write a post about a movie one of my (digital) friends, if I can call him that, made! I am very proud of Alex, not only because of the great film he made, but most of all because he had the passion, the ambition and the talent to do it and go all the way with it, and not be held back by fear of reviews or negativity or something else! I really hope his work will be successful and that it will catch someone's attention (by someone I mean producer, director or whoever has enough power to help him grow and achieve more on a bigger scale)

First of all, let me direct you to his page- there you will find the movie- Earrings- that you need to see before continuing! You can actually just see the movie, the rest of this post is only my opinion of it, and if I had to choose between the two, well, I'd choose the first!

Second, let's talk a little about it! As you might expect, I loved it! You can easily observe, through this film, that his passion for movies has helped him create a great piece, inspired by many amazing filmmakers, and supported by his imagination and creativity.

I could write a full review, examining everything and being extra picky, but I won't. I just want to point out some of the things I really liked about it and one thing that I think he can improve:

I loved:
- the in&out focus and the often blurry frames of Chlo
- the powerful and loud sounds when there was no music: the birds singing, the water and so on.
- the fact that he almost always shot her from different angles and almost never from a clear, frontal point. That gave it more mystery, darkness and hidden meaning and messages that we, unintentionally, longed to discover
- the cinematography and his direction
- the dialogue (it seemed very real and the interpretation of the actors was very good, I was pleasantly surprised)
- the breaking down and the Radiohead song used- probably one of the best scenes in it and I loved how he built it around the song, making it ten times more powerful
- my favorite shot was of her legs and the blood running down in the shower, shot from up
- Catherine was fantastic, please tell her that again :) also, she is a very beautiful girl
- until the end, I kept asking myself, why is she always going to park? what's the meaning? Alex answered that for me in a very nice way; I like filmmakers who answer obvious questions and tie up loose ends.
- the fact that he had a special thank you for his digital family :) thank you Alex!

I only have one suggestion- take it or leave it, it's fine by me, it's just a thought. The first 7-8 minutes of the film were good, they built up to the actual story, but I feel like you (Alex) might lose a lot of viewers during these first scenes, just because there is not much dialogue, music or action. Some people might not have the patience to wait for something to happen! I hope you don't mind and maybe you can consider this for your future projects :)

So, that's all from my part! Final thoughts? See his movie and support all independent or small production you come across, especially if they come from friends, bloggers or film lovers- it's the only way to help talent grow and reach higher levels of success!

Jul 28, 2012

The Olympic Games and the Opening Ceremony

I always get excited because of the Olympic Games- I love the atmosphere, the tension, the joy and passion I have when I support my country (Romania) or the resounding triumphs of some athletes that shock the world with their strength, talent and dedication. I usually don't and can't watch all the competitions, but I do have a soft spot and always try to see on TV the Gymnastics, Swimming and Athletics events. This year will be no different, since I am cheering for Michael Phelps, Romanian Gymnastic team and Horia Tecau at tennis.

But this edition is a little bit different for me, since the Games just happened to take place in the town I currently reside in: London 2012- Summer Olympics- an important event that the city and the world has been waiting for a long time, and it's finally here!

Yesterday, the Opening Ceremony introduced people to a crazy, exciting and diverse sports world that will have people talking for months. I saw it last night, in my room, with some Doritos and a Coca Cola, and I loved almost everything about it- I was very impressed, so much that I felt the need to talk about it. Here are some of my thoughts on it and a brief recap of what happened:

Danny Boyle, the master and director of it, began with an unsatisfying montage of kids and the road of the river to London. Then, the magic started:

First, a reenactment of British History, from farms to the industrial movement (led by Kenneth Branagh) until the second world war.

What better way to move into present times than a fantastic skit of James Bond picking up and dropping off (by helicopter!!) the Queen of England (the actual queen). This was probably one of the best and most memorable moments of the night. I can't seem to embed it, so here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW5abat5NEU

Then, we move to children's literature, as giant beds, a scary Voldemort and tens or hundreds of Mary Poppins invade the stadium, with even a special appearance by JK Rowling; special mention for the glowing bed duvets, I want one, too.

Next comes, quite possibly, the funniest and adorable part of the night- Rowan Atkinson portraying the loveable Mister Bean- again, here's the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBDTCuJF7g8It's genius and funny and showcases the great British culture and talent.

Things get moving when the music starts, and Danny Boyle transports the audience in an energetic world of dance, music and texting, which gets things moving and makes you sing the lyrics of some of the best acts that the country has ever given: Rolling Stones, Beatles, David Bowie, Queen, Prodigy.....oh, and Dizzie Rascal (?).

They slowed it down for the only part I dreaded, or better say, got bored at, the boy and the mystical dance. But it was ok, because after that, the real ceremony started: THE ATHLETES

Some observations about the walk in the stadium of the delegations:
- 204 nations
- learned about new countries I had no idea existed: Djibouti, Kiribati, Nauru and my favorite team, The Independent Athletes (they seemed to have the most fun)
- happy and proud of the Romanian delegation- the flag bearer was Horia Tecau, a famous tennis player who is competing for doubles (he was actually in the Wimbledon final this year, but lost); oh, and he is pretty hot, too :)
- Best Costumes award goes to Mexico, with New Zeeland close second for their very cool tshirts

After the Great Britain delegation marches in with a smug look on their faces (as they should, I guess, it's their party), we have a great Arctic Monkeys performance of I bet you look good on the dance floor and a cover of Come together (I always thought Alex Turner is kind of a douche bag, so I try not to like them, but that was a great show, got to admit it).

Boring speeches, then an absolutely hilarious official opening moment of the Olympics provided by the Queen (you know when you do something wrong and your mom makes you say you are sorry, and you do it, but with an obvious displeasure? that is exactly what she looked like). In the end, it was worth the wait, because we move on to the most anticipated moment of the night, the arrival of the Olympic flame (hello mister Beckham), and the beautiful process, as 6 legends literally passed the torch to 6 promising talents, who then lit the actual torch, offering us a breathtaking and symbolic moment to officially open the Summer Olympic Games.

The night ended with some fireworks and Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude.

What can I say? Danny Boyle, you genius, I loved the Opening Ceremony. You did a wonderful job in transforming it into a cinematic event, showcasing not only the British history and culture, but also inspiring people to accept and embrace diversity, equality and passion. The production was fantastic, from the sets and costumes, to the powerful score and direction. I would literally buy a DVD of it right now!

There's no other place I'd rather be than London right now...I have to get out on the streets and into the Olympic Stadium so I can feel the vibe of the Games.

I want to hear from you and I have a lot of questions: did you see the Ceremony last night? how was it? do you usually watch the Olympic Games? what's your favorite sport? which team are you rooting for? Let me know in the comments!

Jul 27, 2012

That thing you do! [1996]

I saw this 1996 comedy, written and directed by Tom Hanks, a long time, on TV, and loved it, for its characters and story, but most of all, for its song, which I still like. Actually, that was the reason I decided to watch it again- I came across 'That Thing You Do' and I said to myself I have to see it again. The film tells the story of a young 1964 band who suddenly comes into the spotlight, as their song becomes a hit all around the country.

The script is simple, sweet and catchy. It doesn't aim to be an award-winning one, but it does want its viewer to be entertained and happy. There are a lot of great scenes, full of energy and youthfulness, like the one when their song is put on radio for the first time, or the screaming girls at the back door exit. It makes you smile, dance and love the characters, but it does also feature moving scenes and back-to-reality moments, as the band falls apart and realise they fell into the trap of the one hit wonder curse.

Speaking of casting, I loved it- you had everyone from Steve Zahn as the wacky guitar man, to the sweet Ethan Embry as the bass player and Tom Everett Scott as Guy Patterson, who is an obvious Tom Hanks wannabe in the making- that being said, he was very charming and played his part very well; I wonder what he's doing now, I haven't seen him in a long time. I have a small crush on Liv Tyler, so of course I liked her character, and I have to mention two fantastic cameos: Chris Isaak, as Uncle Bob, who helps them record their first song, and Brian Cranston..aaa, yes Brian Cranston- it's a very brief moment, you might have missed him, I did, the first time I saw the film, but a couple of nights ago, I literally screamed his name when he appeared on screen.

Just to remind you what the fuss is about, here is the song you can't get out of your head, the one that was nominated for several awards, including Golden Globes and Oscars:

You may not like That Thing You Do like I do but you should  give it a try next time you need to see something light- It's always an easy distraction and a very enjoyable one. 

Jul 23, 2012

Gentlemen prefer blondes [1953]

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to attend a Timeout special free screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a classic 1953 film starring the beautiful Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, held to celebrate the release of a special 4 Monroe films in a BluRay box set (GPB, Seven Year itch, Some like it hot and How to marry a millionaire). Special guest: Suzie Kennedy, the famous starlet impersonator, but more about that later.

The film itself was very entertaining and light, and, as you would expect from a Monroe picture, it was sultry, flirtatious, quirky, funny and sweet. Howard Hawks directed, from a script by Charles Lederer, a film about two friends, Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Russell) who travel to France, pursued by many admirers, including a private detective who was hired by Lorelei's fiancé's disapproving father to keep an eye on her, an Olympic team and a rich, sweet old man. The storyline was interesting, the quick developments helped move the film forward and give new sides to the character, and although the end might have been a little predictable, it was still very enjoyable. I loved the musical moments, especially Jane Russell's Olympic number by the pool and of course, the famous Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend scene near the end.

All sets and costumes were stunning- the ladies wardrobe was so beautiful, classic,but daring and very flattering- the red dresses in the beginning, the black jumpsuit at the pool, or the orange dress come in mind. The music, mostly orchestral, was upbeat and provided a perfect score for the lively action.

Casting wise, they did a great job for the two supporting male roles. Tommy Noonan as Gus Esmond Jr makes you smile as he is the loveable guy who is head over heels for Lorelai, and Elliott Reid as the Humphrey Bogart type for Ernie Malone provides a strong, masculine and worthy image as a man who changes his ways because of love. As for the two ladies, both were just perfect. Jane Russell kept us on our toes, giving a sharp, sarcastic, but kind performance of Dorothy, trying to be a good friend to Monroe's character, who, as usual, shined every time she was on screen. Talent, grace, sultriness, mixed with a touch of sweetness, naivety and a few facial expression to highlight them, and you have your Marilyn, in beautiful colours- you can't really stay away or hate her, even if you tried.

Gentlemen prefer blondes was a perfectly enjoyable movie for a lovely Sunday morning and I'm glad I got the chance to see it on the big screen.  

The screening was held at the Curzon Mayfair cinema, and although there was some problems with the bluray, overall I had a wonderful time and I'm also glad I got to see Suzie Kennedy, as well. Her job is, basically, to impersonate Marilyn Monroe at any kind of events she is invited to, be it a private party for Eva Longoria were she has to sing, or a TV commercial. We had a little Q&A and she talked to us about her life, how she got to do this and what she likes and dislikes about Marilyn; I must say I was a little bit impressed by her- she is a smart, beautiful girl (yes, she does look like Monroe).

Jul 21, 2012

Charlotte Gainsbourg concert- 19th July/London

On the 19th of July, I had the pleasure to see Charlotte Gainsbourg in concert at the Somerset house in London- a wonderful location in the heart of London, with the stage placed inside the building walls, in the courtyard.

The opening band, which started around 8 15, was interesting enough, although it wasn't received that well. The 2 sisters and brother, playing guitars and drums, had an erratic set ranging from angry death threats to lullaby songs. The vocalist, one of the sisters, was a rather dark and angry soul, but the other girl, the drummer, was amazing- my eyes would always go to her.

Charlotte came on at 9 30, accompanied by Connan Mockasin and 4 band members, all wearing white. The atmosphere was pretty relaxed- most people chose to just watch and enjoy the music, although there were some crazy fans who kept screaming her name, making weird sounds, entertaining the audience, indirectly. By the way, the audience was very interesting, a little different from the people you usually meet at a concert. It was mostly formed by people over 25: some French, a lot of mature couples, with the occasional 20year old hipsters with a cigarette attached to their lips; I think most of them were there out of curiosity, just like me.

The concert itself was very good, as Gainsbourg proved to everyone that she's not just an actress wanting to sing, but a woman who loves music and who just happens to be good at it. You could also see her father, the famous Serge Gainsbourg, helped and influenced her more than she would realise, especially from a musical point of view- some songs were his, others were covers, but most were influenced by him and that era. I admit I wasn't very familiar with her songs beforehand, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the 1 hour and half. Most of the songs were extremely well performed, vocally and instrumentally, with the help of her fantastically funny and spontaneous band, who would basically do whatever they wanted, including singing laying down on the floor or dancing with a beer in hand during the performance. Highlights were 'Heaven can wait', the 'Ashes to ashes' Bowie cover and Jamais; check them out on Youtube or Spotify.

All in all, I wasn't impressed or blown away with the concert, but I did have a good time and I will certainly come back to visit Somerset House, which is a fantastic building.
P.s. Did I tell you I saw Jim Sturges at the concert? Yup, celebrity sighting. Nice looking guy, down to earth and friendly. I didn't talk to him, I am not the type, but I saw him being greeted by some fans and he was very nice to them.

NOW, I want to know about your concert experiences. Which was the best one you've ever been to? Who are looking forward to see? Please let me know in the comments

Jul 18, 2012

Almost Famous [2000]

“They don’t even know what it is to be a fan, ya know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.” 


Almost Famous is a 2000 film, written and direction by Cameron Crowe, who based the story on real events and people. It's about a smart, precocious 15 year old who is contracted by Rolling Stone to write an article about Stillwater, an upcoming band, and goes on tour with them, taking part in an adventure that he will never forget.

Now, before I start, I must admit I am in a rather artistic stage in my life right now- I listen to a lot of music, am discovering new and classic artists and obsessing over some bands, so you may think I am biased here, but I'l try to be as objective as I can. That being said, I loved the movie- let's start with the small details: the written intro credits and use of chipmunks song; Michael Angarano as young William; Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the rock critic/mentor; amazing soundtrack featuring songs like Tiny Dancer; a handful of quotes that I wrote down and probably will remember for a while (my favourites: "I didn't invent the rainy day man, I just own the best umbrella" and "Your mom kinda freaked me out").

Then we move on to bigger things. First, a good script, full of funny, but approachable characters, entertaining dialogue and good character development. It may seem predictable and cliche, but maybe it isn't, maybe that's how things really were back then- the guy did actually go on tour with a band. I liked the delay of Russell's interview, the back and forth between him and Penny, and especially the near plane tragedy. I think that the movie accomplished in showing the audience that not everything is nice and cozy and fun on tour; people still lie, cheat, dream, hurt and use each other, just like in the real world- this one is just more fun to be in.

Second, how can you not love the cast? Patrick Fugit as William is adorable and perfect for the part. Kate Hudson, in probably her best role ever, gives the right amount of sweetness, sexiness and mystique to Penny Lane, and the interaction between her and Patrick's character was very sweet. He sees her as a goddess, and you may think it's a sexual or love attraction, but I think it's more than that- she is the free spirit he longs for...or maybe it's just a crush. Who knows? Moving on to my absolute favourite person and character- Frances McDormand as the overly protecting mother who freaks everyone out; that woman has so much charisma and talent, I am always intrigued and attracted to her, she steals the show every time she is on screen. Billy Crudup was also very good as the mysterious lead guitarist who often outshines Jason Lee's character, a funny, wacky frontman who entertained me most of the times ("you know what I do? I connect"). Props for Jimmy Fallon and his hilarious part, who's look I just couldn't stop laughing at.

Third, and last, with the risk of repeating myself, here are some quotes I just loved:
"Hey man, don't stop there, I am incendiary, too"
"What's your real name?"
"It's ok, I am easy to forget, I am only the lead singer"
"But here I am, telling secrets to the one you are not supposed to tell secrets to"
"Your mom kinda freaked me out"
"I'm always home, I'm uncool"

Overall, the film was very entertaining- fun and sweet, with an exciting pace that didn't bore. The sets&costumes were good and as I said, the soundtrack was memorable. Almost Famous is a wonderfully written, beautifully directed, well acted film, that you definitely have to see.

Jul 15, 2012

Spirited away [2001]

Spirited away is a 2001 Japanese animated fantasy-adventure film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by the famous Studio Ghibli.

It tells the story of a young girl who moves to another city with her parents, but on her way to her new house, gets trapped into an alternative reality, full of spirits and monsters. She quickly meets a boy who protects and guides her through the new world, which is basically a bath house for the spirits. She gets a job, by signing a contract with evil Yubaba who changes her name to Sen. Things get complicated when she lets into the house a monster called No Face, who causes trouble, and when Haku comes home wounded and followed by Zeniba, the twin sister of Yubaba. Sen must fight to save the bath house employees and the boy, and soon embarks in a journey that forms friendships and helps loved ones.

I must say I was mesmerised by Spirited Away- it is my first Japanese animated film seen, and I loved it, not only for the beautiful graphics or the enchanting storyline, but also for its heart and courage. Sure, in comparison to present day visual effects, the film is not perfect, but the animation has something that most visually-concentrated movies don't, and that is magic, because it breathes emotion and it captures your attention and heart with little effort. The direction is on point, and I very much liked the score, which flooded almost every scene, using a lot of orchestral pieces that give a natural flow to the animation. Two favourite moments I have to mention, for their majestic visual, directorial and editorial efforts: the chase and the fall of dragon Haku whilst being followed by Zeniba, and a following one, with Sen, as she takes a ride to the woman's house with her new found friends.

The alternative world, full of spirits, monsters and mystical creatures, was beautifully created and I loved it, although some scenes, especially towards the end, weren't actually children-friendly. My favourite characters were Lin, the boiler room man, his little spider helpers and Zeniba. (quirky, overly analytical observation: rather sudden change of the twin sister between her time at the bath house and the way she is in her home, wouldn't you say?)

To continue the overly critical behaviour with every film I watch, I have noticed something I didn't quite like- you're probably going to be surprised, but I was a little underwhelmed and bored of the cliche and overused storyline of coming of age, with a weak young woman, who transforms herself into a powerful, fearless lady who is willing to risk her life for her friends. Plus a knight in shining armour type of characters, villains and new friendships.Does this sound familiar? Fairytales, comic books, young adult novels and so on. Yes, I am the first to admit I still fall for these kind of stories, but I don't know why, here it bugged me, maybe I have seen too much of them lately or maybe I just needed a reason to not score it 100%, because otherwise, the film was mostly perfect. I especially liked the ending, which although some might say it was predictable, for me it was incredibly sweet and emotional (I am talking about the flying scene, but also the one where he leads her back to her parents).

Spirited away will definitely be regarded as a classic and a film that everyone should see. It is one of the most successful movies in Japanese history- it overtook Titanic in the national box office and ended up winning an Oscar for Best Animated feature and the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival.

I hope, actually urge you to see Spirited Away, if you haven't already, for its peculiar style, the world and the characters Miyazaki created, and for its simple, yet appealing beauty and emotion.

Which other animation/Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki productions do you recommend?

Jul 13, 2012

Magic Mike [2012]

Magic mike, or as most people know it, "the male stripper movie", is a 2012 production, directed by Steven Soderberg and written by Rein Carolin, loosely based on Channing Tatum's early adventures as an exotic dancer. It tells the story of Michael, a wannabe entrepreneur/experienced stripper, who meets Adam, a young and confused guy, and decides to teach him how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.

I admit I had high expectations for this movie. Besides the obvious eye candy, the recent very positive reviews and the fact that Soderbergh was directing it, both made me think I was in for a great, surprising movie. Was it? Not exactly. I liked it overall, but left the cinema with a "Meh, it was OK" attitude. Let's dissect, shall we?

Starting with the good- the direction. His reputation says it all- Steven Soderbergh is a very good director and this movie didn't stray from his usual work. I loved the way he shot some of the scenes, especially when it had to do with close-ups or revealing character development. My absolute favourite has to be the one in which we see Mike getting bored, crashing on the couch and calling Joanna- the camera, the lighting, the setting, every thing was cool and I remember that I had to tell myself numerous time during the screening not to forget to mention it.

The story is entertaining, sometimes funny, awkwardly hilarious in some parts(stripping shows), and it is quite refreshing, especially if you compare it to the usual comedies. A lot of dancing, sexy scenes, drugs and witty dialogue, but I felt the ending was a little underwhelming, story-wise I mean. OK, he figures out he doesn't want to move to another city and goes back to...to...god, I forgot her name (a first sign that the female part was utterly boring and useless). The last lines between the two were actually cool and flirtatious, but the overall ending was just...unsatisfying. The same could be said about the romance in the movie- Cody Horn, although pretty, didn't actually bring anything new or interesting to the table. I was actually more pleasantly surprised by Olivia Munn- short performance, but more believable and appealing than the main girl character.

Speaking of acting, for me it was 80% bad, or let's just say, average- the two exceptions were Matthew McConaughey (as Dallas, the owner of the business) and Olivia Munn. Cody Horn, as the main girl, like I said, gave a stiff performance (or as my friend said: "she had the same pissed-off face the whole movie"). The guys were good to look at, especially Adam Rodriguez, but their dance skills were quite hilariously bad. Channing Tatum was the only with fantastic moves and you could easily see the man has experience. I didn't really care for Alex Pettyfer.

Another interesting thing about the film- I hope I can explain it right. I thought the soundtrack was great, it fitted the stripper scenes, but I did have a problem with the sound or the sound editing- I am not very sure- I noticed in a lot of scenes, especially at the beginning, that the scene was recorded badly, like it didn't have a clear and nice sound to it. I'm obviously not an expert and maybe it was just me, but it bugged me for half of the movie.

To wrap things up, I'll just say that Magic Mike is a good movie and you will be entertained, but don't expect too much from it.

Jul 10, 2012

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus [2009]

The 2009 movie, directed by Terry Gilliam and written by him and Charles McKeown, more famous for being Heath Ledger's last project than for its own credits, is a wild, magical and complex story, as you would normally expect from Terry Gilliam, the guy behind Fear&Loathing in Las Vegas and others. It tells the story of Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), an immortal man who, a long time ago, made a pact with the devil in exchange of never-ending time. Their relationship and their numerous deals stretch across centuries, even millenniums, and the devil is now back to collect his latest prize, the young daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), because one of their bets.

In present time, the doctor is trying to sell his show, his magic power, to a mostly uninterested crowd in London, with the help of Percy (Verne Troyer), his also immortal friend and Anton (Andrew Garfield), a young man who is in love with the third and most important person to the doctor, Valentina. Two days before collecting hour, a strange, mysterious man comes into their lives and changes everything, as he brings fortune, but also problems. I find it a little hard to properly explain the plot without giving too much away, so I'll just say it features a lot of weird twist and turns and characters, but with a rather expected and sweet ending.

One thing that I liked and appreciated about The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is the creativity, imagination or whatever you want to call the thing that made Terry and Charles to write such a story, with a particular world, that resembles Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the chocolate factory, in some ways. I loved the way it was brought to life on screen, because visually, it was beautiful. The cinematography and art direction were very good and highlighted the sets and costumes even more. Terry Gillam certainly has a curious mind and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do next.

I'm not saying that everything is perfect- as much as I like the fact that he dares to do and show more than most, I think sometimes it was too much, especially story-wise. The level of craziness and the complexity of the script when it comes to Tony's intentions or the deal between Parnassus and the devil, are both taken over the top and so messy that they don't even make you want to understand. I do think some parts were overacted, although maybe that was the intention (Fear&Loathing in Las Vegas had the same slight problems, so I guess it's just a Gilliam trait).

Speaking of acting, the cast was good and I love the selection of actors, even Lily Cole, who I thought did a decent job, considering her previous experience. The veterans, Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, were exceptional, and I have to give credit to Andrew Garfield, who certainly has charm and some comedic chops, although he wasn't perfect all the time. The three stars, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, who were added after Heath's tragic death, fitted well into the story and I liked the fact that each one tried to portray the part the way Heath would have- they all had or used some of the actor's regular gestures, mimic or posture. As for mister Ledger himself, what can I say? He was a fantastic actor who will be missed- his charisma and talent lighted the screen every time he was on it and he made the story come to life in a much more interesting, lively way.

Just like F&L in LV, I still don't know what to think about it- I don't hate it, I don't love it, but I do find it intriguing and the world they created and they way it was visually portrayed is appealing. If you liked the film mentioned before, then yeah, you can give this one a try, too.

Did you see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus? What did you think of it?

Jul 8, 2012

American Psycho [2000]

(that's actually my DVD cover, not the original poster- I like it more)

To celebrate the 4th of July, I decided to finally see American Psycho, a movie based on a great book by Bret Easton Ellis, directed and written by Mary Harron, about a man who leads a seemingly perfect life, but actually has a horrifying secret that makes his day to day routine much harder. Even before it started, I knew I was in for some crazy shit, since you can't avoid the online pictures of a wild Christian Bale.

He plays Patrick Bateman, a 27 year old who works in an advertising company and recently became a VP. At a first glance, nothing stands out. He has a great job, a group of friends around him (Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas), a girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon) and he affords going out and having fun every night in clubs and restaurants. But as things move along, you observe little details about him and his personality that make you reconsider.

Here is where you start analysing him, and honestly, my review will probably be that, since the character Bale portrays shines throughout this movie. One of the first things I noticed is the obsession with details, that most likely has to do with his need for power- you see it in his overreaction to business cards, or in his daily beauty routine. I think it's just a way of controlling a part of his life that he understands and has access to, unlike his nightly adventures that are beyond his control. When it does begin, his moments of rage don't last long- two or three quick swings, shots, in the most brutal and horrible way possible, and then he is done...back to his normal, restrained self.

This leads to a confession that explains a lot to us: he has no emotions, with the exception of greed and disgust, adding that"something horrible is happening inside of me and I don't know why". It's obvious by now that he is a serial killer and that he can't and won't stop.

He carefully plans his escapades and when his infatuation with Paul Allen (played by Jared Leto, who was, apparently, huge in the 90s) goes to the highest level, he deals with him the only way he knows, but this time, things don't go as planned and for the first time, the police are on to him. I found it funny that the detective (Williem Defoe), is the one who manages to get a normal reaction out of him, since Bateman starts acting erratically and making everyone suspicious.

The end is crazy and I was left wondering what just happened, especially when his lawyer says that he met with Allen twice in London- I kept asking myself, or my imaginary friends, what did he mean? Was it all in Patrick's imagination? It's obvious the guy didn't believe the wild phone call (btw, brains?), but.....Allen, alive in London? Overall, I liked the fact that it left the audience wanting more, it makes the film even more memorable, although I do wish I'd know what really happened. One of his last quotes describes his character, the story and the possible follow up perfectly: "My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others....my punishment continues to elude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing."

American Psycho is quick, irregular, with no emotions, just like Bateman's personality and behaviour. It's nicely made and it moulds around the character, as he is the star. There are some funny tibdits in the film, maybe intentionally put to relieve some of the tension. The classic "I have to return some videotapes", or his weird, but interesting obsession with music, since he talks and interprets lyrics and songs before having sex or, actually, before the craziness begins. I also have to mention the fact that Bale looked amazing in this film- very fit, beautiful skin, nice haircut (for that era), I think that guy would have made a fantastic Christian Grey nowadays.

Yes, American Psycho is a crazy movie, with a great character- development story and a fantastic performance by Bale that you definitely have to see.

Jul 6, 2012

Atonement [2007]

Based on the best selling novel by Ian McEwan, Atonement is a 2007 drama directed by Joe Wright (Pride&prejudice, upcoming Anna Karenina) from a screenplay by Christopher Hampton. It tells the story of a young couple who separate in tragic conditions, as a misunderstanding sends him to prison, but never give up on each other, as he desperately tries to go back to her, even if it costs him his life, since he is forced to join the army.

Keira Knightley plays Cecilia, the woman who shares a complex, yet passionate connection with Robbie(James McAvoy), the housekeeper's son. Their love and sexual gestures are misinterpreted by Briony (Saoirse Ronan), Cecilia's younger sister, who childishly believes the man is a sex maniac after she reads a private letter, and that assumption leads to her accusing Robbie of a terrible thing after an incident in the house. The second part of the movie concentrates on her miserable life, as she now understands the consequences of her actions and very much so regrets what she has done. The finale is bittersweet, but realistic and shows us two different endings, both happy and sad.

My personal highlight of the movie was the filmmaking quality of it. I knew from the first frame and scene that I am in for a treat, because it was masterfully shot, from the trail of miniatures figures leading to the little girl, to the revelation of miss Briony Tallis. Seamus McGarvey was in charge of the cinematography and did an absolute fantastic job- I loved everything about it: the colors, the close-ups, the speed and motion of the camera, everything. My two favorite scenes are worlds appart from each other, but both visually and emotionally perfect: first, when Cecilia and Robbie are getting ready for dinner (their anxiety, fear, love, the way the camera moves from one to another), and second, the portrayal of the ending of the war on the beach in France, the shots following the three men while they discover what has happening. I also liked the fact that some of the most important parts, story-wise or character-wise, were showed from two points of view: Briony's, and then the lover's one; it helped give more depth to the script and show different sides of the coin. Last, but not least, let me mention the sex scene in the library, which was surprisingly sensual and intense and very sexy.
The cinematography helped make the sets and costumes seem perfect and realistic, and I think it's safe to say that we can always expect beautiful visuals and art direction from Wright. The score was also a highlight for me, especially the innovative typewriting inspired instrumental, or the piano or the beating on the car.

As for the acting, considering the fact that it featured some of the best British actors in the industry, you can expect it to be brilliant. James McAvoy was just dreamy, with his impossible blue eyes and sweet charm, while Keira Knightley did a good job, although she was a little stiff for my own liking. Saoirse Ronan was a standout and you could see she was a star in the making, with her big eyes, remarkable face structure and composed attitude. Nice to see Theon there (Alfie Allen, an actor from Game of Thrones), and of course, the one, the only, mister Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Paul Marshall in a creepy, het convincing way. 

Atonement is very good film that deserves your attention, even if just for the visual aspect of it. If you like drama, British actors or love stories, you are in for a treat. Check it out!

Jul 4, 2012

Random recommendation post

It's the beginning of July and I thought another recommendations post would be welcomed! I'm starting to like doing this monthly type of post, and I hope you do, too! Some things are so good that I feel the need to share my love and make them more visible to other people, so this one way of doing it.

Lately I have been listening to a lot of MUSIC, especially folk/guitar music; it calms me and it's perfect background music for both studying and day dreaming :) I recently discovered Ben Howard, a British singer-songwriter with an interesting voice and smooth vocals. My absolute favorite from his album (Every Kingdom) is Only Love- sweet, catchy and a great display of talent (reminds me of Your Body is a Wonderland somehow, I don't know why); it's been on repeat for days. Check it out below, I hope you like it!

Honorable music mentions for these last couple of weeks:
Alt-J- Breezeblocks
The Maccabees- Went away
Grace Porter& the Nocturnals- Oasis
Alabama Shakes- Hold on

Since we are in the topic of music, one thing I highly recommend you do, at least once in your life, is to go to a Summer Music Festival- just imagine: summer, nice weather, great atmosphere, good music, beer and friends. If you're in the UK, definitely try Reading&Leeds, and for next year, Glastonbury, and for Europe the best are Benicassim(Spain), Rock Wechter (Belgium), Sziget (Hungary), T in the Park (Scotland). In US, I have only heard of Coachella and Lollapoloza, but I am sure there are many more. Just check out your national festival listings and you will most likely find a great line up for your musical taste!

Sample: Mumford and Sons- Little lion man in Glastonbury.

If you're looking for an informative, yet funny and simple WEBSITE, you must check out Mashable - it's a great site mainly for social media stuff, but it also has breaking news, statistics, and many more funny, interesting posts. I've been using it a lot for my work and I love it!

There are a number of amazing TV SHOWS out there, but honestly, nobody beats HBO in this category, and the newest addition, The Newsroom, is the perfect example. As I said on Twitter a couple of days ago, I am a little bit in love with it- it's a young, but strong romance, that makes me excited- I can't wait for episode 3. The script is fantastic and the cast is very talented, diverse and full of energy and passion. Emily Mortimer rocks every scene she is in and I adore the young cast: Allison Pill, Dev Patel and Jim, the senior producer, who's real name I don't know...yet, but who definitely caught my eye, both in talent and looks :) You should really, really give it a try, it's a superb TV show! Alex from And so it begins wrote a longer review of it, check out his post! Trailer here:

Finishing my post with a short recommendation in BOOKS, or better say, in an author- have you ever read John Steinbeck? I only tried East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, and both are on my favorites book list. I love the fact that he focuses on characters- in every novel, they are the stars, the reason to keep reading, the source of entertainment and emotion. Out of these two, I prefer East of Eden more, it makes me want to read it again (something I very rarely do). Also, I would love to see it transformed into a movie, actually, a miniseries, since it's that long and intricate- I think it would be interesting! I remember that while reading it, I kept trying to cast it in my mind and imagine it as a feature film- it's hard, but if done right, it could be a masterpiece!

This is it from me for July- enjoy your summer and I hope you get good weather- London is pretty gray and often changes from sun to rain and wind...I hope it would just make up its mind and settle on one season!

What have you been listening/watching/reading lately?

Jul 2, 2012

Romanian Cinema (1): Legaturi bolnavicioase aka Love Sick [2006]

In case you didn't know, yes, I am Romanian and pretty proud of it (not all the time, the country and its population definitely has its flaws, but I do take pride in a lot of things regarding the nation and some of its people), especially when it comes to films. In the last decade, our movie industry has blossomed, mostly because of the high praise of our projects from outside communities- case in point, 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days winning Palme D'or (which I haven't seen it, yet, I know, the horror). You're probably wondering why I don't support the national industry and write about it- well, you'll probably find the reason to be superficial or dumb, but here it is: I really don't like the fact that most of films choose to focus on tragic or depressing themes and especially, on Communism stories with heavy background; I know it might be interesting for outsiders, but for us, well, for me, at least, it's not appealing to see such a moment of the country's history, one that has made life miserable and hard for a long time. A movie should be a way to escape from life's burdens, not relive it over and over again. Plus, I noticed that the Romanian filmmakers have a problem with the pacing of the feature, as most of them are slow to watch and don't have a lot of action, which again, is weird, because I usually like character development-centered movies, but somehow, I don't like it in Romanian ones. But still, there are so many good things to be said about the national industry, and there are plenty of examples to support the idea that the New Wave is coming strong. Anyway, I might be wrong, so let's just get to the movie, shall we?

Love sick aka Legături bolnăvicioase tells the story of Alexandra and Cristina, two students who fall in love and try to make their relationship work, as Cristina's brother, Sandu, always gets in the way of their happiness. His involvement and role in the girl's life is revealed from the beginning and it changes the story, now having two delicate themes to work on, as the title suggest. The romance between the two girls starts innocently, with shy looks and stollen kisses, and soon transforms into a sweet, full of love connection that only trembles at the sight of Sandu. Cristina is overly protective and weirdly secretive of him, and as much as she loves Alex, she cannot let got of her brother, and that will ultimately come between them.

Overall, the film is not perfect: there are some gaps in the script and some situations and feelings are never properly explained, but sometimes that is better for the story. It keeps a little bit of mystery over the already exposed relationships and makes you think.

BUT there are some wonderful little things that make the movie special.

First of all,the acting in it is superb: I don't know if you will think the same, but to me it looked amazing, as all of the stars perfectly portrayed their characters, displaying a sense of reality and emotion that is hard to transmit- when I say reality, I talk about how a normal Romanian person would act or talk. Their chemistry has palpable and seemed real, especially between the girls, and it was interesting to watch so many legendary Romanian actors in supporting roles: the lady who rents the room for Alex (probably one of my favourite characters- she is the incarnation of the typical over 50 lonely woman living on a pension), the parents, especially Kiki's mother and Alex's father, the taxi driver at the end (famous rapper) and the older woman who travels with Sandu (huge celebrity over here). As for the three main characters, what can I say? Maria Popistasu (you might have seen her in Tuesday, after Christmas, another well received national movie) played Cristina with a carefree, but sensitive spirit, who worries too much about the people around her instead of her own happiness; I liked this character best, although I probably identify myself more with Alex. One of my favourite scenes is when she calls a special person to leave a Happy Birthday message- her voice, the way she talks to it, her bittersweet words that almost erupt with love and longing are just wonderful, as crazy and inappropriate it seems. (you'll understand when you'll see the movie). Ioana Barbu was the perfect Alex to Popistasu's Cristina, showcasing perfectly the sweet, innocent, rather naive character (it was also her debut in acting). Sandu, played by Tudor Chirila, a famous singer in Romania, didn't have enough screen time, but that helped the movie get its much needed mystery- in the end, you still haven't figured him out, and maybe that is for the best, as the core of the story was the relationship between the girls.

Second of all, I loved the cinematography of it and most of the ways Tudor Giurgiu decided to shoot the movie. The first scene is a beautifully set and lighted image of two lovers in an intimate moment, and the score, a melancholic instrumental of a rare Coldplay song perfectly fits it. (actually that instrumental comes along in many parts of the film). I also love the way the director focuses on their hands, as if that small gesture can show us the intensity of their love or their true feelings- and you know what? It works every time.

As I said in the beginning, the pace might be problem for some, but if you like character development stories or films that focus on relationships, you will definitely like this one. I find it to be little bit similar to Weekend, the 2011 British feature, so if you enjoyed that, check out this, as well.

Love sick is not the best Romanian film you can find out there, but it has its magic points, so if you want to discover my national cinema, I wold recommend seeing 432 and this film, for starters.

Tell me: how you ever seen a Romanian film? If YES, which one and how was it? If NOT, would you be interested? Should I continue my Romanian Cinema series?

Jul 1, 2012

June recap

June was a pretty good month for me- I am pretty satisfied with what I saw, plus I got to witness two great live music events and I read more than usual, but I won't divulge the titles, as they are pretty embarrassing (let's just say that they helped me develop my English level, OK? they were bad, but useful in some way). On the academic side (I have to write a dissertation by the end of August) the situation is absolutely horrific, as I tend to be the world best procrastinator, but I hope and actually, I have to work ten times harder in July for it, so pray for me and my general laziness :) Did I tell you last month that I was looking for a job? Well, I got one :) it's an unpaid internships, but still, it's experience and I am learning things...I mean, I hope so, anyway!

Anyway, here's the list for June

Lolita [1997]
Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging [2008]
Guess who's coming to dinner [1967]
Friends with Kids [2012]
Schindler's list [1993]
Chinatown [1974]
The Hours [2002]
Frankenstein [2011] *
Rock of Ages [2012]
When Harry met Sally [1989]
Love sick aka Legaturi Bolnavicioase [2006]

*Frankenstein is a 2011 National Theater Live production, a play directed by Danny Boyle who was broadcast ed live in numerous cinemas across UK. Because of its success, this summer they decided to have some encore screenings in cinemas all around the country

Books: 5 (I will just mention "The Fault in our stars" by John Green, just because it was a good book and I love the author's style and the voice it gives to the characters)

- The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace, London- one of the best gigs of my life (and yes, I know I might be biased because I love them so much). Surrounded by teenagers in the third row, when the band came on stage I was pushed into a mosh pit at the beginning of the show (half of time I was screaming and dancing with the others, the other half I was trying to breathe and get out of there), but I escaped the death zone after a couple of songs and managed to thoroughly enjoy the rest of the show, which was amazing! Give them a listen, if you haven't already!
- BBC Hackney Weekend- I was there on Saturday and saw a lot of amazing artists, like Emeli Sande, Deadmau5, The Maccabees, The Vaccines, Kasabian, Jack White and Jay Z. Fantastic day!

That's all for June! I am hoping for a more academic-oriented July and more trips to the cinema, as there are some great films coming up this month!

What do you hope to do in July?