Tag Archives: reviews

Don’t you forget about him


Sara Veal

If you watch a Robert Pattinson film at the cinema, you have to be willing to tolerate the helpless gasping that is guaranteed to afflict at least a handful of audience members.

So I was fully prepared  as I settled down to watch Remember Me, a romantic drama that the Twilight hottie seemed to have made just for his swooning fans, a conclusion I came to based on posters and movie stills. Dishevelled hair? Check. Angsty glances? Check. A sullen co-star? Check.

What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the respectful silence that followed the film’s conclusion, the hushed murmuring as people filed out, and my own profound melancholy for hours afterwards.

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Sparkling songbird lights up the stage


Sara Veal

It may have been five years in the making, but Imogen Heap, who dazzled the crowds at the Jakarta’s Kartika Expo Center, Balai Kartini, on Wednesday, March 31, proved she was worth waiting for.

The British multiple Grammy nominee took to the stage for two hours, with seemingly limitless energy, wit and stage presence, and an 18-song set that spanned her three solo albums.

“Until about two months ago, I didn’t know you were all into my music,” said Heap, who included Jakarta as the penultimate stop on the world tour for her latest album, Ellipse, following floods of Twitter messages from Indonesian fans.

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The dragon and his boy


Sara Veal

The ongoing battle between 3D animation studios has two main contenders: Pixar and Dreamworks. Both can astound with cutting edge graphics and triumph at the box office, but so far, Pixar is ahead, emotionally and artistically.

You can rely on Pixar to turn ideas that are generous on whimsy and thin on plot into entertaining treatises on the human condition. Dreamworks tends to go the plot- and joke-heavy route, adding up to raucous laughs, without matching the former’s timeless magic or insight.

But with How to Train Your Dragon, loosely based on Cressida Cowell’s children’s series, Dreamworks has stepped up its game and delivered a winning family fantasy that, despite its many clichés, has that certain something. That something that elevates it above disposable entertainment and means you’ll be able to watch it again and again.

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Sweet, stinging look at a swarm of issues


Sara Veal

In this information age, we are all aware of the world’s horrors. Villages razed to the ground, in the name of oil. Starving, swollen-bellied children too frail to brush away the flies that feast on them.

We’ve read these stories in newspapers, watched these images on television. Maybe even seen or experienced them firsthand. Unfortunately this deluge of poignant sights and sounds tends to have a desensitizing effect. It’s hard to think of the sea of sadness as consisting of individuals.

Chris Cleaves’ Little Bee, the follow-up to his best-selling debut Incendiary, turns up the volume of one of the voices among these masses – that of a Nigerian 16-year-old girl who seeks asylum in the UK. He pairs her with her superficially polar opposite – an upper-middle-class Englishwoman – and builds around the two women an affecting, often humorous tale that never sinks under the weight of the heavy matters it addresses.

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The little war movie that could


Sara Veal

Reviewing a film that has just received the highest cinematic accolade is challenging. Then again, those good folks at the Oscars don’t always get it right, and often reward dreary, self-important “Oscar-bait” that we mere popcorn-munching mortals would secretly consider to be like boiled carrots at dinner-time. Good for you but no fun at all.

But, in this case, The Hurt Locker simultaneously defies expectation and earns its sky-high hype – if you’ve been living under a rock, Kathryn Bigelow’s “little movie” seemingly came out of nowhere to sweep the Oscars, claiming six little gold men and triumphing over the showier Avatar, a David vs. Goliath story made even more memorable as James Cameron is Bigelow’s ex-husband.

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Can you Kindle it?


Sara Veal

In the run-up to last Christmas, messages from Amazon suggesting I buy a Kindle began polluting my inbox.

I deleted every one with gritted teeth, mentally screaming “Don’t want!”, as if the Devil was trying to pester me into exchanging my print-loving soul for a literary iPod.

But, as I began to investigate electronic publishing in Indonesia, I decided it would be good to actually test one of the evil things.

Don’t knock it before you’ve tried it, and all that.

Gramedia were generous enough to lend me one for a week.

Seeing the Kindle in the “flesh” melted away quite a number of my reservations. It did look like a literary iPod… in a good way. White and sleek, with an “electronic ink” screen that was incredibly close to paper. I ran my fingertips over its smooth service, intrigued as Rio Eka Putra, head of Gramedia’s IT & Research department, gave me a demonstration.

At home, I logged onto my Amazon UK account and downloaded Charlaine Harris’ Gone and Dead, which I had been waiting to be released in paperback form in Indonesia – that would have been May this year or even later. The process was effortless, speedy and exciting.

Reading on the Kindle was initially odd, but I soon got used to it, and found “turning” the pages and finding my place intuitive, although I missed knowing what page I was on – instead the percentage read so far was displayed at the bottom of the screen. I especially liked being able to read with one hand. The battery power was impressive. I only had to charge it once in the week I had it.

However, there was definitely room for improvement. As an electronic device, it should be backlit so you can read without an external light, and have a better way of categorizing purchases.

At least the two purchases I made remain mine even after I surrendered the device to Gramedia, and I can send them to any future Kindle-compatible devices I may have in the future.

I also discovered that it wasn’t the presentation of books that mattered so much – at least in the case of image-free texts – it was the words and stories.

I had chosen Dead and Gone because it was “light reading”, but when my friend in the UK recommended via MSN messenger Daphne du Maurier’s The Breaking Point, a collection of short stories, I immediately took her advice. Within moments I had the electronic version on the Kindle, a heady dose of previously unimaginable instant gratification. Du Maurier – a more literary author than Harris – was just as magic on screen as she was on paper.

I imagine owning a Kindle would mean I’d buy less of certain kinds of books (light reading, series) and maybe invest more in limited editions I wanted to have on the shelf.

A Kindle extends the reading experience, allowing for experimentation and less waiting time. And it was great having so much choice at my fingertips. Definitely a winning travel companion.

Even though the pros arguably outweigh the cons, the price is rather steep, at US$259-489, especially with hefty import and shipping costs if you’re having it delivered outside of the US. But for avid bookworms with cash to spare, it might just be worth it.

Note: Kindles aren’t yet compatible in Indonesia, so you will only be able to download books if you have a credit card and Amazon account linked to a Kindle-compatible country. See Amazon.com for further details.


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Screen legends keep it simple


Sara Veal

Meryl Streep can do no wrong. She’s cheated death (Death Becomes Her), reduced Anne Hathaway to a nervous wreck (The Devil Wears Prada) and chosen between her children (Sophie’s Choice) – whatever she does, she always pulls it off, repeatedly proving herself to be one of Hollywood’s finest leading ladies.

Despite hitting 60, Streep’s been enjoying a run of rom-coms, kicked off by her winning turn in smash Mamma Mia and continuing with gastronomic pleasure Julie & Julia. Nancy Meyer’s laugh-out-loud It’s Complicated completes a love trifecta, placing her in the middle of a triangle with fellow Hollywood stalwarts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

Jane (Streep) is a loving mother-of-three and successful bakery owner, who after 10 years of separation, is finally “happily divorced” from attorney Jake (Baldwin), who left her for shinier, newer model Agness (Lake Bell).

In fact Jane and Jake are now on such good terms that they end up rediscovering their old magic, leading to Jane becoming her ex-husband’s “other woman”, a confusing situation the pair need to hide from their kids. And if things weren’t complicated enough, architect Adam (Steve Martin) has also fallen under Jane’s spell…

As the central object of affection, Streep is immensely likeable, and steers clear of the grating, screeching territory fellow romantic leading-lady-of-a-certain-age Diane Keaton often veered into. Jane is warm, self-effacing and oozes modest charisma, and it’s easy to see why Jake and Adam would fall for her.

Baldwin is his patented charming self as Jake, and he and Streep generate a comfortable chemistry that believably reflects a long-standing love. He provides most of the comedy, with his offbeat seduction techniques (stalking, accidental webcam striptease). There’s an element of sadness too as he’s seemingly trapped with a domineering wife and exhausting, disrespectful stepson. Meyers seems to making a point about men who “trade up” only to find it’s not what they wanted at all.

The biggest surprise is Martin, who is downright nuanced, a huge change from the broad comedy of recent outings like the Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther sequels. Adam, also recovering from divorce, is vulnerable, mature and sincere, offering Jane a taste of something new. It isn’t all straight-man for Martin though, a winning scene in the move in which Adam and Jane decide to cut loose allows the funny-man to come out – and the small dose makes it even more effective.

Adam also has palpable sparks with Jane, which makes the ménage-a-trois compelling. You’ll find it hard to decide who you want Jane to end up with – both men make convincing and charming cases for her attention.

Most of the supporting cast fade into scenery next to the three heavyweights, but of particular note is John Krasinski as Harley, Jane and Jake’s eldest daughter’s fiancé who accidentally gets swept up in the couple’s subterfuge. Harley adds a thread of laidback, good-hearted humor and feels like a real person whereas the other youngsters are rather cardboard.

Another element that prevents the film from coming down-to-earth is the hoity-toity backdrop, which seems to be the only world Meyers is familiar with – upper-middle-class, perfectly decorated homes, high-flying careers and premium education – and completely isolated from the global financial crisis.

However, the setting does provide an alluring escapism, best epitomized when Jane uses her luxurious bakery to make delicious treats for a lucky man.

It’s Complicated is actually rather simple – and all the better for it. It’s about second chances and sexiness at any age, and will have you clutching your sides as the trio of talented thespians play off one another perfectly.

Verdict: Three of Hollywood’s finest make this straightforward rom-com a delight for all ages.

It’s Complicated (Universal Pictures, 120 minutes)
Directed by Nancy Meyers
Produced by Nancy Meyers & Scott Rudin
Written by Nancy Meyers
Starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Lake Bell, John Krasinsk

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