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Since school has ended, I’ve been getting my money’s worth on my Netflix subscription and then some.  Here are my two cents on a few of the films I’ve seen lately.  To spice things up, I will preface each with a haiku:

Everything is Illuminated

2/5 stars

the little hobbit

quests for his family’s past

mordor was cooler

“A young American Jewish man begins an exhausting quest — aided by a naïve Ukranian translator — to find the righteous gentile woman who saved his grandfather when his small Ukranian village (along with most of the populace) was obliterated during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941. Stars Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz and Boris Leskin. Liev Schreiber directs –”

Yes, you read that correctly.

Yes, you read that correctly.

“–Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.”  (Netflix)

The first half of this movie is great, with “Royal Tenenbaums”-like quirkiness and charm, displayed wonderfully in the trailer.  Eugene Hutz, especially, is hilarious as Alex, the young Ukranian translator who makes hapless attempts at Americanisms.  But when Schrieber attempts to get all poignant about the Holocaust, he ends up overdoing the sad music and close up shots of people crying, and the movie just kind of grinds to a halt.

Across the Universe

3/5 stars

love it or hate it,

unless you’re high, you’ll agree:

bono’s no walrus

“An American girl (Evan Rachel Wood) and a British lad (Jim Sturgess) fall in love amid the upheaval of the 1960s in this musical featuring classic Beatles songs and a mix of live action and innovative animation. On an excursion to America, Liverpool dock worker Jude (Sturgess) falls for Lucy (Wood). When Lucy’s brother (Joe Anderson) is drafted, Jude and Lucy take a stand as anti-war activists. Dana Fuchs, Bono and Eddie Izzard co-star.” (Netflix)

I really enjoyed the beginning and the end, but thought the middle could have withstood some judicious cutting and come out for the better.  Bono’s cameo cover of “I am the Walrus” was one of the most painful things I have watched; the director could have recruited a tone-deaf, slightly-sloshed nobody from a random karaoke bar, and the scene would have turned out the same (if not slightly better).

He plays a douche remarkably well, though.

He plays a douche remarkably well, though.

Bono aside, the soundtrack is a real gem and what saved this movie from being a 2-star.  As long as you’re not a purist, you’ll enjoy the unique spin the film gives to classic Beatles songs.  “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “Come Together” are two examples that also have good dance sequences:

Star Trek

5/5 stars

blending old and new

this film kicks ass.  credits roll,

i applaud madly

“Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his trusted team on the starship USS Enterprise boldly go where no man has gone before in this installment of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi franchise that follows the early days of the intergalactic adventurers. The crew includes Spock (Zachary Quinto), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Sulu (John Cho). Eric Bana co-stars, and Leonard Nimoy appears as an older version of Spock.” (Netflix)

I was already a fan of the previous work of  John Cho, Anton Yelchin, and Karl Urban, so I was super delighted that they would all be in a movie together.  And how cool is it that John Cho as Sulu had a sizeable part in the script?  I am all for the correction of underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in film.

Nish described this movie on opening weekend as “Pirates of the Caribbean in space.”  I would have to say that’s not far off the mark, and would like to append “…but awesomer”.  It was well-written, well-directed, and if I had any quibble, it would be that the film felt a bit too short.  Five stars not because it was a pinnacle of cinematic achievement, but because it was the first film in a long time that I walked away from feeling completely satisfied.  You’ve got me, Star Trek franchise.  I eagerly await a sequel.


Tonight, I attended the fall showcase of a UC Berkeley student theatrical group, Theatre Rice.  TR is celebrating its ten year anniversary this year, and always puts on two great shows per semester.  The shows are usually a medley of performances, and in the past, I’ve seen improv, student films, comedy, drama, one-acts, and even a musical.  TR shows are almost always fantastic, and tonight was no exception.

I saw my first TR show as a freshman, and I was hooked, because I haven’t missed a show so far.  This year, Paul joined TR, so I usually go with a group of friends to be his personal cheering section.  The cast is a group of super talented and hilarious individuals, and I give them kudos for being capable enough (and insane enough) to put on two quality shows per semester while juggling classwork, other extracurriculars, jobs, and life as college students.

Here are a few video clips of my favorite performances from past shows.  Please be advised that most of these would be rated about PG-13 or above for language:

“Definition: Normalcy Part I”: An engaged couple, a frustrated job applicant, and a couple with marital problems all sing about pretending to be normal — but what if everyone is a little crazy in this delightful musical?

Highlight: The cleaning aisle song spoofing The Little Mermaid at 2:58.

If you liked this, be sure to see:  Parts II and III of the musical.  Totally great.

“The Girl From Yesterday (Trailer)”: Andrew has a crush on his classmate Kristin, but his bumbling attempts at flirting and her seeming indifference offer more than a few setbacks.

Highlight: Seriously jaw-droppingly gorgeous cinematography of the UC Berkeley campus by student director Huy Vu.

If you liked this, be sure to see: The entirety of “The Girl from Yesterday,” around 33:00 running time.  Huy Vu’s other films with Theatre Rice, including “Darkness, My Old Friend”,  mockumentary “Theatre Rice: Behind the Laughter,” and the trailer for tonight’s film, “Anniversary”.

One clip that I wish I could show you is Theatre Rice’s Experimental Troupe, which has been doing great things this year with percussive dance performances (think Stomp with dining ware and luggage).  Unfortunately, no clips are on Theatre Rice’s YouTube channel yet, but new videos are added periodically.  In the meantime, if you go to UC Berkeley, you simply cannot miss Theatre Rice’s shows in the Spring 2009 season.  I’ll see you there.