Friday, March 27, 2009

Movie Review: Taken

Movie Title: Taken
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace.
Directed By: Pierre Morel
Genre: Action/Thriller
My Rating: 7/10

If you're in the mood for a brilliantly acted, yet cliched action movie - Taken is just the flick for you. Everything about the movie seemed just... French? I swear it looked like a French movie with its pace and dialogue.

And I like French movies. But I anticipate the Frenchness before I watch it.

Underrated and under-appreciated N-Irish actor Liam Neeson plays a former CIA operative/spy/field agent (pick one) who retires to be as close to his estranged daughter. Being a workaholic on international assignments for several years lead his wife to divorce him, and he had a guilt trip about the same. The ex-wife (Janssen, in her weakest role) re-marries a tycoon and the daughter gets everything she wants, including a horse!

Ok, enough of the premise, no spoilers there. The daughter (Grace) travels to Paris, France with a friend upon turning 17, and they both get kidnapped. And the real movie starts with Liam Neeson executing the rescue operation solo using his spy expertise.

Great action. Bourne-esque and doesn't look ripped off (QoS, anybody?). Neeson pulls an American accent well, even when he's impersonating a French services officer. A lot of cheesiness in the movie, but Neeson single-handedly makes up for it all. And the actress who played the kidnapped daughter - Maggie Grace (formerly on TV's Lost as Shannon) looked anything but 17. Come on, Hollywood and TV seriously need to start casting actors of the right age, especially teenagers. I thought they would have learnt that lesson from Beverly Hills 90210 in the last century.

It might be rated PG-13, but it is definitely not a family film. But I enjoyed it. 93 minutes just flew by. 7/10, with the fairness doctrine.

Friday, March 20, 2009

E-mail Regrets? You have 5 seconds to "Undo-Send"

You may be perplexed next morning. You're confused, and prudence would suggest you ought to take some time to think it over. But out of confusion, you may rush to conclusions.

Ok, this is not a self-help blog.Moreover, it is a save-yourself-from screwing up blog. I read something cool on Google's Twitter feed a few days ago.

You might send an e-mail to someone hastily and regret it the moment you click "Send" and the Escape button ignores your belated second thought of not sending the e-mail. It's ok, especially if you're using Google's GMAIL! Now you have 5 seconds to undo sending the e-mail after you click the "Send" button. Sweet, eh?

Also, Google has devised a way to help you make sure you know what you're sending. Sometimes people are so inebriated late in the night, they may send an e-mail which they'll regret later. A feature under "Google Labs" called "Mail Goggles," when configured, makes you solve a simple math problem when you click "Send" for any e-mail within a certain period of the day or the week. If you solve the problem correctly at that time, your mail will send. Else it'll stay in draft.

While I respect the purpose of Mail Goggles, it's terribly annoying. I would recommend it for those of you who live life by the edge. Cheers!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Post Oscar Watch: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Movie Title: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Jared Harris, Tilda Swinton and Jason Flemyng.
Directed By: David Fincher
Genre: Drama/Fantasy
My Rating: 8.5/10

Turns out that Slumdog Millionaire wasn't the only Oscar contender this year that was shot in India. A few scenes of Benjamin Button were shot there too, but nothing too significant. Just a cool surprise.

And about the movie. Brilliant, just brilliant. A little long (2:40 hours) and comparable to Forrest Gump - extraordinary outcast and his life from beginning to end. This time the protagonist was played by Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt, a very versatile and much more talented actor than he gets credit for in Hollywood. Scandals don't always help a career, but they may not make it worse either.

Set in New Orleans in the late 1930's, Benjamin Button was born under unusual circumstances and adopted by a caretaker at a seniors nursing home (played passionately by Taraji P. Henson who truly deserves her Oscar nomination). The baby was just born old, and slowly ages backward. He can't walk until he's 7, where he is faith healed into making his first steps. Then he starts un-balding, un-hunchbacking, and basically keeps getting younger. After a serious of sailing expeditions through the second world war with his cockney tugboat captain (Jared Harris), Benjamin returns home and re-connects with his redheaded childhood sweetheart, Daisy, played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett. She's an Oscar winner, very good at picking her movies, and seldom stars in a flop movie these days. In many ways, her presence overshadowed Pitt's performance. A younger, better looking, lesser known and less illustrious actress could have been a better fit to throw more light on the protagonist on the movie. Also, I am surprised that Blanchett won an Oscar for Aviator but got overlooked for Button? Well, I guess there can only be five nominees for each award each year. Pitt did deserve his nomination, mind you.

The locales and cinematography was just superb. More than that, the special effects/CGI and makeup to make a 40+ Pitt look different ages throughout the movie was better done than ever before in movie history. Nothing in the art department was one bit overdone, and I respect that. The direction and acting was good too. Jason Flemyng made brief appearances as Benjamin's biological father running a guilt trip for abandoning his son and being all alone in his old age.

So my rating formula has changed quite a bit. Previously, I would give 8/10 for a movie I spent ten bucks to watch at the theater, enjoyed it, but wouldn't bother watching it on HBO months later. Benjamin Button is much better than that, but I assessed it to the best of my abilities. 8.5/10. Good watch, just be aware that it's 2 hours and 40 minutes long.