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By Clarence Yu IT was a cool Saturday evening as people of all ages and all walks of life wand ered together, almost telepathically, to see Pixar Studios' latest offering, Up . What is so great about this movie that drew a full crowd--something I haven't seen in quite a while? For one, the film is a Pixar movie, which is always an event in itself. Pixar h as always been known to create high quality animated pictures, from Toy Story t o their most recent entry WALL-E, which was released last year. Up is the tenth full-length film from the studio since--a run that began with Toy Story in 199 5--and all the films in between have been critical and commercial successes. Up doesn't feature any robots or talking cars, no Buzz Lightyear or a rat who w ants to be a cook, but it does have a grumpy old man who has just lost his wife and an over-eager young Asian-American wilderness explorer. That brings us to the movie's main strengths: the simple yet resounding plot that connects emotio nally with adults and the great animation work to which children can easily res pond. Up tells the tale of aging Carl Fredericksen (voiced by Ed Asner, known for his role in the '70s TV sitcom, Mary Tyler Moore), a widower who is relegated to l iving out his years in his simple home. Times are changing around him, but his memories are firmly fixed on the life he led with his beloved wife Ellie, and t heir one unfulfilled dream:to travel to Paradise Falls in South America. His self-imposed hibernation is disturbed in the form of young Russell (voiced by newcomer Jordan Nagai), a "wilderness explorer" (think Boy Scout) who needs a badge for "assisting the elderly" to complete his training. Carl and Russell then embark on the adventure of their lives--for Carl, to fulfill his promise t o his beloved, and for Russell, to fulfill his training. Carl is the father tha t Russell rarely sees, while Russell is the son that Carl never had. Without giving away too many plot details, the movie sends out a basic message: it's never too late to follow your dreams. While this may seem corny, Pixar's animation is so evocative that it is able to deliver this timeless message with out live action. One of the great moments in the movie is a silent montage that tells the love story of Carl and Ellie, which will bring tears to your eyes. In these complicated times filled with complicated films, Up is a straightforwa rd, uncomplicated, and heartfelt movie that will refresh and uplift, as evidenc ed by the ovation it received from the audience I watched it with as the credit s rolled. See this with the love of your life, your family, or even by yourself .
By Clarence Yu BEN Stiller returns with the usual suspects in this enjoyable second installmen t of the Night at the Museum series. The film's basic strength is its appeal to both adults and children and the ensemble cast of terrific character actors. The plot is quite simple--the museum characters face extinction, and Stiller's mission is to save them. Stiller's strength has always been to play the regular guy caught up in an irregular situation, and he demonstrates this again in the movie. The film's main surprise is Amy Adams, who plays Amelia Earhart. She lights up the screen with a confidence evocative of the "can do" woman, and plays the mai n foil to Stiller's everyday man. However, this film just does not stand up as well as the first one. While the f irst had a more balanced blend of appeal to both children and adults and had mo re time for character development, Battle of the Smithsonian seems to focus more on toilet comedy and quick laughs. It also suffers from trying to squeeze in the talents of Robin Williams, Hank A zaria, Owen Wilson, and Christopher Guest, among others, in less than two hours . Focusing on one specific character is quite hard to do without diluting the o thers, and this happens when most of the attention is focused on the talented A zaria. Also, much missed are the talents of Carla Gugino, whose character disappears w ithout any notice. Sorely underused are the funny Ricky Gervais and the always dependable Owen Wilson. One thing can be said about the Night at the Museum series thus far: While it m ay be a poor attempt to educate viewers about history, it can serve as a good s tarting point for kids to arouse their interest in it. History buffs and purists may disagree, but in this day and age of Nintendo and Playstation holding the attention of children of all ages the world over, this movie is a boon. Hopefully, the kids who watch this film will get interested in, say, the real Amelia Earhart, by the great on-screen portrayal of Amy Adams , or try to find out more about the real Napoleon Bonaparte or what Ivan the Te rrible really did. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian stands up better compar ed to the overly pretentious "re-boots" currently in release. Kids of all ages will still get laughs and kicks out of this one. Take your family with you whe n you can.
Izah Morales INQUIRER.net MANILA, PhilippinesââWhat path should I follow?â This seems to be the recurring theme in the latest episode of âStar Trek: The F uture Begins,â which tells the stories of each young crew of USS Kelvin Enterpr ise. We see a young Spock (Zachary Quinto)--who is confused about his half-human, ha lf-Vulcan roots--taking a path that would later shape his life as an adult. Spock joins James Kirk (Chris Pine), Uhura (Zo Saldana), McCoy (Karl Urban), Su lu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) in a maiden voyage to stop Romulan Ner oâs vengeful attack on the United Federation of Planets. In the process, the âb attleâ also takes place among the crew whose friendships and leaderships are te sted. Quinto, popularly known in his role as âSylarâ in the hit television series âHeroes,â plays a more scholarly and stiff character in Spock. With the signature Vulcanâs husk-like haircut, Quinto takes on an emotionless character , similar to Sylar, but minus the ruthlessness that we see in the TV series. Among trekkies, Vulcans are known as logical beings who rarely display emotion. Their life is decided by reason. Yet, it is Spockâs half-human nature that mak es him yearn for loveâagain similar to his character in Heroes. Pine, on the other hand, takes on the role of the young and happy-go-lucky Kirk . But as events unfold, the boy matures into a responsible man. Another noteworthy character Chekov, the 17-year-old genius, steals some scenes from the protagonists. The quirky Chekov, played by Russian actor Yelchin, sur prisingly provides the movie with some welcome humor. Directed by J.J. Abrams of the âMission: Impossible III,â âLost,â âAlias,â Star Trek: The Future Begins provides a good mix of action and drama. However, the love angle is somehow forced and is not given much explanation and detail, whic h might leave viewers asking for more. For trekkies, this movie is definitely stunning and sometimes visually overwhel mingâa signature of J.J. Abrams-directed films. But as far as Star Trek movies are concerned, this a big improvement from previous attemptsâconsidering the po werhouse production led by Abrams. As the familiar introduction in the TV series goes, this movie will take you to a new âfinal frontier.â Star Trek: The Future Begins is a movie by Paramount Pictures.

Review: 17 Again

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By Clarence Yu 17 Again tells the story of Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry/Zac Efron) w ho, at the age of 37, finds himself regretting the choices he made when he was in High School. He is unhappy with the way his life has turned out and is in th e middle of a divorce with his once beloved wife. Wishing that he were back in high school again, Mike soon finds himself transfo rmed back to his young self, however, it is still the present day, and he has n ot gone back in time. What follows next is a predictable storyline that sets th e stage for a series of events that makes Mike realize that he should have been happy with what he had. 17 is one of those typical body-switching comedies in the vein of Bi g, Vice Versa and Peggy Sue Got Married. The laughs come and go, and the movie is both well produced and directed (Burr Steers helmed the feature). Matthew Perry is underutilized as the elder Mike; Leslie Mann is lovely as Mike 's wife, but the real scene stealers are Mike's best friend Ned Gold, played by Thomas Lennon, and Principal Masterson played by Melora Hardin. Their interpl ay is fantastic; the scenes involving the romance between the two are absolutel y hilarious and are worth the price of the ticket if you aren't into teen comed ies. Zac Efron begins his non-singing/dancing lead career here in this movie, and fo r starters, that is something fresh. Efron displays a beautiful, almost effemin ate star quality that teens swoon over. He carries out his dialogue effectively , but you can still see that it will take a couple of more roles to push his st ar into real leading man power. One is reminded of Rob Lowe during his early ro les in the '80s. At this point in his career, Efron gives off the sense that h e is going to need a gang to elevate his star power, much like the Brat Pack be fore him, that he isn't going to be able to survive based upon his six pack alo ne. In the end, 17 Again may not be a landmark movie by any measure, but it doesn't really pretend to be one. Even if it is just milking the box office cow by ca pitalizing on Zac Efron's celebrity, it has good morals to tell, and with the a udience that it is targeting, that is something that is always good to see. Bri ng your kids to this one.
drcockroach1.jpgHUGH Laurie, yes of "H ouse," will be doing the voice "Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D." in DreamWorksâ latest ani mation film "Monsters vs. Aliens." Director Rob Letterman recalls why they chose Laurie to play the part: âWe want ed somebody to be very formal and erudite, because we thought that would be a g reat contrast with the whole âcockroach badâ thing. And so, we immediately thou ght of Hugh. And a lot of people donât realize, at least people in the States, that heâs a Brit. Hugh Laurie is obviously mostly known in the States for âHous e,â but he is a famous actor for many years in England. He did âThe Black Adder â [television series] with Rowan Atkinson and heâs an incredible comedic actor. We were fans of his prior to âHouse.â So it was very fortunate to have him on the movie.â Dr. Cockroach is a brilliant scientist who turned himself into a cockroach as a result of a self-experiment gone awry. With his lifeâs work confiscated, the d octor spends his time locked up, working on something diabolical. âFirst of all, I love doing animated projects. You wear your own clothes. I lov e the freedom of messing around and trying to create something in a voice. Itâs exciting and a fun challenge. But also, now these animated films have sort of really become the summit of modern entertainment,â Laurie says, referring to hi s role as Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. Director Vernon remembers the first time they met Laurie. âWhen we m et with him, he had this look on his face, like, âWhy are you guys talking to m e right now?â We toured him around the DreamWorks Animation campus, and wound u p in the editing room, showing him storyboard sequences of the film. We talked casually and really hit it off. He said, âYesâ on the spot! Once he got in the booth, he did not disappoint.â Laurie adds: âAfter a lovely tour around the place, I was presented with this m assive amount, almost like a museum, of artwork that theyâd already composedâ¦t o start to get a sense I suppose, for their benefit and for prospective actors or designers and so on of the world they were trying to create. I was immediate ly entranced by that wonderful â50s feel, which is not only wonderfully relevan t to the style of story they were trying to tell, but it also was a great perio d of American design. I was sold as soon as I walked in through the door. I did nât tell them that, of course. I hemmed and hawed and stroked my chin and I tri ed to play hard to get, but I was in for a ride from word âGoââ. Laurie currently stars in FOXâs medical drama âHouse.â He has already won two G olden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy Award playing the a nti-social and brutally honest doctor Dr. Gregory House. âMonsters Vs. Aliensâ will be shown in theaters on March 27. It is released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar E ntertainment Corp.
Are we looking at another "David Cook" in the making in Season 8's American Ido l? In his per formance of Michael Jackson's Black or White, Adam Lambert unraveled the "whole package" which indeed impressed Paula Abdul. She even predicted that this young singer--who can really hit the high n otes--would be "running all the way to the top." What do you think?
Slumdog Mil lionaire wins! Hauling a total of eight awards, this movie about a slum dweller turned millionaire dominat es this year's Academy Awards. It took home the best Directing (Danny Boyle), S ong ("Jai Ho"), Musical Score, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Adap ted Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy of "Full Monty") and of course, Best Picture. Tha t's eight out of 10 nominations (including two nominations for best Song). Directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan (co-director in India), Slumdog Mil lionaire was shot in Mumbai. Adapted from a novel written by Vikas Swarup, th e movie juxtaposes reality and fantasy, pain and suffering with joy and love. Y es, it's a love story but with a twist. Slumdog Millionaire has been hauling awards from other award-giving bodies (inc luding 7 awards from BAFTA and four from the Golden Globes), and has been antic ipated as a big winner in this year's Oscars. If you haven't watched the film, here's a brief summary of the story from Fox S earchlight Pictures:
The story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an 18 year-old orphan from th e slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a stagger ing 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how coul d a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their advent ures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latik a (Freida Pinto), the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show's questions. Each chapter of Jam al's increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the sho w's seemingly impossible quizzes. But one question remains a mystery: what is t his young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Ins pector and sixty million viewers are about to find out. At the heart of its sto rytelling lies the question of how anyone comes to know the things they know ab out life and love.
Here's another interesting liveblog from the Oscars. Check it out.

Liveblogging Oscars

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SLAMDUNK FOR SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE WINS. Steven Speilberg introduces the nominees for best picture. +++ So far, Slumdog Millionaire has hauled six awards including best in Directing +++ Sean Penn wins for his role in Milk. Penn acknowledges fellow nominee Mickey Ro urke who played an aging wrestler in The Wrestler. +++ We're now hearing all the best actor nominees being introduced by fellow best a ctor winners... +++ So far, here are the winners of the 81st Academy Awards. +++ Kate Winslet wins! +++ Quotable quote from Ben Stiller doing a Joaquin Phoenix: "Slumdog was totally s hot on a cellphone." +++ Slumdog Millionaire wins best adopted screenplay. Before that Milk get the orig inal screeplay award.
by Paula Bustamante Agence France-Presse HOLLYWOOD--Penelope Cruz created a piece of Hollywood history here on Sunday af ter becoming the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar for her performance in t he Woody Allen comedy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." The 34-year-old's victory in the supporting actress category represented a glit tering recognition of an acting talent that has seen her appear in two Oscar-wi nning foreign language movies. However it was her scene-stealing performance as Maria Elena, the neurotic wife of an artist, in Allen's steamy Barcelona-set comedy that finally saw her stri ke Oscars gold. Born in Madrid in 1974, Cruz appeared destined for a career in the entertainmen t industry almost as soon as she could walk. As a child she entertained family members by mimicking popular television commercials. Her initial creative outlet was dancing however, and she was soon en rolled at Spain's National Conservatory where she studied classical ballet for nine years. At 15 however, she was nudged towards acting after beating 300 othe r girls to win a contract. That led to a string of roles in Spanish television shows as well as music vide os, and before long she was acting in full-fledged feature films. Her breakthrough performance came in Spanish director Bigas Luna's "Jamon, Jamo n" in 1992, which received critical acclaim and was notable for its erotic scen es featuring a 16-year-old Cruz and Javier Bardem. That was followed soon afterwards by "Belle Epoque," which went on to win the O scar for best foreign film, Cruz playing the role of one of four sisters vying for the love of an army deserter. The next major milestone in Cruz's career however came in 1997, when she was ca st in her first film by Pedro Almodovar. "Live Flesh" marked the beginning of a decade-long collaboration between Almodo var and the actress which has included roles in another foreign language Oscar- winner, 1999's "All About My Mother," and "Volver." "Working for Pedro was my dream, I was obsessed with him," Cruz said. "My bigge st dream ever was receiving his telephone call." While Cruz has achieved critical success in Spanish-language films, she has fou nd it harder to establish herself in mainstream Hollywood. She achieved a rare but unwanted feat in 2001 when she received three nominatio ns in the "Golden Raspberries" Oscars spoof, which salute the film world's "wor st of the worst," in a single year. Cruz earned Razzies for "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," "Blow," and "Vanilla Sky, " a film which saw her star opposite Tom Cruise, who was to become her boyfrien d for three years. Cruz has yet to score a genuine box-office hit in English, with recent flops in cluding "Gothika" and "Sahara." However she reminded everyone of her talents -- and picked up an Oscar nominati on to boot -- with 2006's "Volver." The fiercely independent Cruz, who has been romantically linked to compatriot a nd "Jamon Jamon" co-star Bardem, is also wary of being type-cast simply for her striking physical beauty. "The most difficult thing in the world is to start a career known only for your looks, and then to try to become a serious actress," she says. "No one will ta ke you seriously once you are known as the pretty woman."
By Clarence Yu Contributor DIRECTOR Ron Howard has once again proven his mettle with his latest Academy-no minated effort, Frost/Nixon. Based on the London and Broadway plays of the same name, Michael Sheen (The Queen) and Frank Langella (Dave) reprise their roles as David Frost and Richard M. Nixon. While not as seriously dramatic as Oliver Stone's Nixon, the film is a great an d successful attempt at educating and entertaining audiences on a particular pi ece of celluloid history that has become the stuff of legend for political junk ies, the infamous Nixon interviews that took place in 1977. Michael Sheen plays David Frost as the talk show/television host who yearns for more credibility and fame, and Frank Langella gives a powerhouse performance a s the disgraced President Nixon who, well, wants his credibility and fame resto red. It is the comedy of it all that makes the film work. Witness the film's first h our or so and you will find that the film does not attempt to be serious politi cal drama but rather a behind-the-scenes look at how Frost tries to set up an i nterview with Nixon. A passionate James Reston, Jr. played by Sam Rockwell, liv ens up the comedy even more. Kevin Bacon surprisingly brings in a watered down performance as Nixon's chief of staff Jack Brennan as he doesn't really bring anything refreshing to the fil m. The film notably highlights Richard Nixon's political skill and the ethics of c heckbook journalism. Small details such as several surprised looks on Frostâs f ace and the irresistible personal charm of Frank Langella's Nixon are exploded onto the screen with such vividness that I could not help but laugh at it all. Whether this is intended or not, these help propel the film from a mere politic al film to something really worth watching. I haven't seen the play but I think that Ron Howard has been successful in this transposition from stage to screen . The youth of today are encouraged to see this film to get a glimpse of how it w as back then before reality TV and how deeply America was scarred by the only r esignation of a President in office. Hopefully one day, Bill Clinton's scandals can be rightfully made into a film in the same vein. A word of caution however--all must be taken in context. David Frost went on to become somewhat of a more serious journalist, finally earning a knighthood, an d Richard M. Nixon became a somewhat respected elder statesman in his later yea rs before finally passing away in 1994. Finally, Frank Langella's performance as Nixon rightfully deserves its Oscar no mination. He doesn't look anything like Nixon, but by the end of this highly en tertaining movie, you are convinced. Anything but boring, this movie is a must see.