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Movies & Oscar Predictions!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Michael chats to star of Confessions of a Shopaholic Isla Fisher, and the author of the book that the film was based on, Sophie Kinsella.

We also catch up with the screen director and producer of 'New Boy', the Academy Award nominated short film based on the short story by Roddy Doyle.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Director: PJ Hogan
Starring: Isla Fisher, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joan Cusack
Running Time: 103 mins
Rating: **
Classification: PG
Courtesy: Disney

Michael's verdict:
Hollywood has been on the lookout for a credible young rom-com actress since Julia Roberts put away the crown. Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore, Anne Hathaway, Reese Witherspoon and Kate Hudson have all attempted, with varying degrees of success, to take on the mantle. The latest contender is former Home and Away alumnus Isla Fisher.
Previously seen as the second banana in films such as Wedding Crashers and Definitely, Maybe, Fisher has been handed the plum role as Sophie Kinsella's shopaholic heroine, Rebecca Bloomwood, and boy, does she grab it with both hands.
The story of a young woman physically incapable of passing any shop window is tailor-made for the audiences who flocked to see Sex and the City and Mamma Mia!, but it would be churlish to label it just a girlie movie. Thanks to Hogan's deft direction and Fisher's undeniable charm (not to mention energy), Shopaholic is a hugely entertaining comedy that lifts the lid on the credit card habits of a certain section of the population. You know who you are.

Gran Torino

Directors: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley
Running Time: TBC
Rating: ****
Classification: 15A
Courtesy: Warner Brothers

Michael's verdict: If this is truly to be the last time that Clint Eastwood appears in front of the cameras (as the man himself has fiercely asserted), Gran Torino is a remarkable swan song. 44 years after emerging from the dust with a fistful of dollars, a mouthful of cheroot and a handful of lines, Eastwood has justly achieved the status of Hollywood icon. Indeed, if there was ever to be a Mount Rushmore for cinema types, Clint's craggy face would be right up there.
And that craggy face is put to great effect is this slow-burning drama in which Clint plays a misanthropic war veteran forced to interact with his Asian neighbours when his beloved motor is threatened. Initially, that interaction consists of a series of grunts and growls from Clint before he is oh-so-reluctantly drawn out of his shell. It's hard to imagine anybody else being as effective as Clint in this role (wot, no Oscar nom?). The man is one long streak of gristle and leather who only becomes human by gradually getting to know his Asian neighbours as people and not just racist stereotypes (and boy, does Clint hurl every racial stereotype at them!).
Gran Torino has been described as the first real movie of the Obama era and the last real acting challenge of the 78-year-old Eastwood. As such, it's a fitting denouément to a memorable acting career

Cadillac Records

Director: Darnell Martin
Starring: Beyoncé Knowles, Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union
Running Time: 108 mins
Rating: ***
Classification: 15A
Courtesy: Sony

Michael's verdict: The blues is ripe with tales of love, heartache, tragedy and death. So are the movies and this biopic of Chess Records leaps from the screen with all the dramatic ingredients already fully formed. Chess was the Chicago label founded by Polish émigré Leonard Chess which spawned blues legends Muddy Water and Howlin' Wolf and later, crossover superstars Chuck Berry and Etta James.
This is a fine portrait of a pioneering label lovingly told. While the script may be occasionally creaky and episodic (blame the potted, interwoven biogs of each performer), the powerhouse performances more than compensate. Eamonn Walker is great as a glowering Howlin' Wolf, part proud farm boy, part swamp creature, Jeffrey Wright endows Muddy Waters with dignity and Beyoncé surprises with a gritty turn as hard-drinking junkie Etta James.
However, it's Mos Def as Berry who really shines. From his pompadour to his devil may care cool and duck walk strut he burns up the screen every time he's on it. Shame that he appears so infrequently but you can blame Chuck's familiarity with the inside of a jail cell for that.
The musical set pieces, including Bouncy's scalp-tingling version of I'd Rather go Blind and Wright stomping it out as Waters, are very impressive. It may look clean and sanitised - this is the blues with a kind of nice aqua marine sheen - but Cadillac Records has got plenty of power in its pedal.

New Boy

We have Steph Green (Director and Writer) and Tamara Anghie (Producer) on the phone to talk about how they are feeling about their chances for Oscar glory.

Written and directed by Steph Green and produced by Tamara Anghie, the film is based on a short story by Roddy Doyle and captures the experience of being the new kid in school through the eyes of Joseph, a nine year-old African boy.
The nomination for an ACADEMY AWARD® follows wins in over 20 international film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival, the Manhattan Shorts International Film Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival, the Irish Film & Television Awards and a Special Mention at the Berlinale.
Zanzibar Films CEO, Edwina Forkin said, 'I'm very proud of Steph & Tamara on getting a nomination for an OSCAR® for Best Live Action Short film. It is well deserved and I hope they get to bring a gong home!!!"
Producer, Tamara Anghie said, "Steph and I are incredibly grateful to the cast and crew and to the many other people who have contributed to New Boy's success. This is an exciting time for us all and we're looking forward to being in LA to enjoy this experience".

Michael's Predictions:

Best motion picture of the year

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,"

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Sean Penn in "Milk"

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Kate Winslet in "The Reader"

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in "Doubt"

Michael Doherty