Monday, 28 March 2011

Heapsong1: Lifeline

I'm a hu-uage fan of Imogen Heap and insanely excited about (and a little bit in awe) of her latest project: Heapsong.

Immi has always embraced social networking and interactivity in her music, and this new venture pushes that to the limit. She has given herself three years to make her new album, and plans to create and record each song in two week bursts, using samples of music that her audiences send in, photographs for her artwork and poetry and prose for her text. Each song will be released/available to download on the 14th day, and at the end of the whole process, a physical album will have emerged that she can hold and truly call a community record (or "global poetry").

I probably should have blogged about this a couple of weeks ago as today is the 14th day of heapsong1 but I got to the game a little late myself. So far I think it's been a roaring success, and just seeing how much she sticks to her promise to include her fans in her work is so inspiring it makes me want to join in over the next 11 songs she creates! Plus it's nice settling down to an Imogen Heap vblog at the end of an evening and listen to her banter away about this and that - you feel like she's a good friend and you're sharing a fuzzy moment.

So here's the first heapsong for the new album - it's called "Lifeline" and it's very good - esp. for 13 days work! The poor girl didn't get much sleep!

Keep an ear out for news of heapsong2 - I'll be more on the ball next time.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

FILM REVIEW: Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood is one of those books that upon closing the last page you're diving to the Internet to see if there's been any word about someone making a film version of it. When I read the book back in 2009 I fell so much in love with it that I wanted a more physical encapsulation of it: I wanted to see the characters living and breathing, twisting and setting themselves into heartbreak. I was delighted to see that a film was in development, and even more overjoyed when it very quietly snuck into the 2010 Venice Film Festival line-up, all complete and ready for viewing. It's only now as it gets a limited release in the UK that I have realised that Norwegian Wood isn't really a book you can translate well onto film. That hasn't stopped director Tran Anh Hung from trying though, and at least making an honest and elegant job of it.

Toru Watanabe is left stunned and devastated by the suicide of his childhood best friend Kizuki. He escapes to the Japanese capital Tokyo to study, and spends all of his time walking and reading ("I don't make the effort to have friends as it just leads to disappointment."). One day he runs into Naoko, Kizuki's girlfriend for the whole of his short life, and the two of them tentatively strike up a friendship which then blossoms into love. But Naoko is suffering much deeper than Watanabe, and one day flees Tokyo and he later discovers she has gone to stay in a respite/mental facility. As he visits her, Watanabe's attachment and "responsibility" for Naoko grows ever stronger, and he dreams of the day she will recover and the two of them can live together. But Naoko is distant and troubled, and back in Tokyo Watanabe is becoming ever friendlier with free-spirited and uninhibited Midori, who longs for Watanabe but is sidelined by his love for Naoko. It's not so much a question of who will he choose, but how he must live when the decisions are made for him.

It's a beautiful book - please read it before you go and see the film (hopefully it will also make you fall in love with Haruki Murakami who is quite frankly, a lyrical genius: see Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka On The Shore, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle amongst others). The film, whilst staying very faithful to Murakami's words, does tend to mess around with the chronology somewhat and has a very naturalistic but sometimes abrupt way of introducing characters - reading the book beforehand gives you the background and stability to watch the film and understand the context.

The film is also beautiful. Japan has never looked so alluring, so inviting to the UK-bound viewer (I'm going to Japan on my honeymoon in a couple of years, and this made me want to skip the months to get there even faster. For reference, the film was shot in Kamikawa, Hyogo). The change of seasons from lush Spring to powdery Winter was just stunning: Hung has a visual eye to detail that matches Murakami's way with words. It's not just the cinematography and the idyllic landscape that enchants, the whole film is treated in such a sensual evocative way that whilst stirring the soul can also slip occasionally into melodrama. Murakami's book never seems heightened in any way - the story is told through the eyes of Watanabe (an elder Watanabe in-fact, a retrospective the film choose not to use) who is a very detached and monosyllabic protagonist, and so when events happen and are re-told to the reader by him, they are subdued and almost passive. Here, in big cinematic form, they come across as inordinate and well... a bit emo according to the Guardian - and I have to agree.

Not in terms of the music (which was all done by Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead - and strikingly melancholic) but just the outpourings of emotion - some scenes were very exorbitant and overkill, but didn't quite reduce me to rolling my eyes and telling the characters to pull themselves together. It has a definite style to it: sensuous, dreamy, wanton - and if you don't like this kind of thing then you ain't gonna like Norwegian Wood. For me there's pathos in the characters that you've read and loved, and a powerful resonance behind each look and movement, so it works.

What let the film down for me was the skirting over subjects and events, and only choosing to explore a few key moments. There's so much to Murakami's book that here things feel rushed or disjointed. The other major issue translating it to film is how much of the book is dominated by Watanabe's voice. In movie form this is constant voice-over, and the problem with voice-over is that you're told about the characters without ever properly getting to know them. I don't think as viewers we get a sense of the bond between Kizuki, Naoko and Watanabe and without reading the book it's hard to grasp onto that sense of responsibility and loneliness Watanabe has. There's also very little of his oddball roommate who provides many of the laughs in the book, and the presence of Nagasawa seems pointless here. And they didn't include the 'hugging in the rain on top of a department store' scene which is a minor point, yes, but personally a bit sad! It's one of my favourite parts in the book.

There's a lot to ruminate about sex and love as well, and some of the dialogue - which is so wistful and poignant in Murakami's voice - does not translate very well to the screen at all, and will no doubt raise some sniggers from the audience (Naoko's pre-occupation with "becoming wet" does get a bit much even for this Murakamian). Many conversations seem stilted as well, like the actors are literally just reading the lines off a page.

Read the book. Enjoy it, enjoy the response it creates. Then go and see the film. Not to scrutinise but to consider and appreciate for what it is. Certainly you won't unless you know what's coming. Sex and suicide, all the women are crazy; but it's a pleasure to look at. Norwegian Wood: cinema's pretty emo.

Friday, 25 March 2011

BFF FILM REVIEW: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (plus Werner Herzog Q&A)

This is the first time I've done a film review where I've felt like a fool. Let me just make clear now that I am big fan of Werner Herzog's documentaries: if you haven't seen Grizzly Man yet then I don't know what's wrong with you, and similarly (but I suppose, not as infamous) Encounters at the End of the World is also definitely worth a watch - for the Antarctic landscape alone. So I've really been looking forward to Cave of Forgotten Dreams - so much so when I saw it was premiering at the Bradford Film Festival I snapped up tickets immediately. The Q&A afterwards with the man himself (a satellite link up I may add, he wasn't actually in Bradford) was a bonus treat.

So what do I go and do? ZZZZZZZZ through most of it.

Yes yes, the shame is there. Heap on some more.

I could go on about the long day, how warm and comfortable it was in the cinema, blah blah blah but I won't, and only because I enjoyed the Q&A so much and was fully alert throughout. The problem then: *whispers* I found Cave of Forgotten Dreams achingly boring.

It's my own problem, no-one else's. Werner Herzog is the first filmmaker ever to be allowed (unprecedented) access inside the Chauvet Cave: discovered in 1994 accidentally by explorers in the Ard├Ęche area of South West France and containing what is thought to be cave drawings and paintings that are 35,000 years old and due to a freak miracle of geography remain in a fresh, pristine condition. Herzog is allowed to take a very small crew in with him, and the film captures what they see and experience inside the cave, helped by knowledgeable archaeologists, geologists and paleontologists who can offer background and scientific findings to what the audience is seeing. To flesh out the documentary Herzog also interviews others who have studied the cave, finding out astonishing calculations such as when a drawing was started and finished, the pattern and movement of the painters, and even how tall they probably were. His, now famous, 'postscript' where he ponders on all that has gone before also introduces albino crocodiles and how they offer insight into the power of perception.

From the get-go I was skeptical. I opted to study History at A Level, but that doesn't mean I get relentlessly excited about it. I had faith that Herzog would make it deeply interesting to watch and was buoyed on by reviews claiming it was "utterly engrossing" and "magical". But once the initial viewing of the cave had taken place, I found myself slowly beginning to disengage and nod off. It's not that I don't realise it's amazing, buuuuut... to me they were just cave paintings. I tried to emit and soak up the awe, the wonder, the grand sense of history and the past but I just couldn't. I wasn't moved at all.

The other thing which bugged me was that in the Q&A afterwards Herzog so often referred to himself as a 'storyteller', but here there was no story. Perhaps it was down to his deliberate decision not to discuss and decipher why the drawings had been made, and instead focus on straight, closed up facts. There was a really intriguing moment during the interview when he talked about being alone in the cave, and of having a sense that the artists of the drawings were all there with him, in his presence, watching him from a corner inside the cave. He then went on to say other scientists and historians who have explored the cave have experienced a very similar feeling - of not being alone. Why on earth didn't he expand on this in the documentary? He didn't have to make it veer towards the supernatural/spiritual - Herzog doesn't strike me as the type - but it would have added a story, a human element to the film which was sadly lacking. I do wish the Q&A session had been before the film: it may have done more to whet my appetite.

The music was also very intrusive - and minutes and minutes of it droning on while we focus on the paintings just felt very stuffy to me, and verging on religious (which is never pleasant).

I have decided that I prefer when he focuses on people (or just one oddball person) as his subject, and not something like art: art I have never been able to immerse myself in, and have never found it remotely fascinating. People however, who live with bears or who live in remote extreme surroundings and watching how this has shaped them - now that interests me. His next project - focusing on People on Death Row in America - sounded just like my kind of thing.

I tried and failed with Cave of Forgotten Dreams (although an afterthought on the 3D: very well used, you feel like you are actually pushing shrubbery aside on the walk to the cave entrance) - hopefully you'll all have more positive things to say than I have.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Hey Bitches, So Who D'ya Think A Is?

It's weird to think we're still on Season 1 of Pretty Little Liars: it feels like it's been on forever! But tonight we've finally reached the season finale and the big question is, will the big question get answered? The game playing, the creepy snidey text messages, the dealer of paranoia... who is A?

A few months ago Lucy Hale (the horrific Aria) accidentally slipped up in an interview and revealed who A was (yes, she must have been on limbus grass or something). "Oh no!" She cried, "I shouldn't have said that! Well, it's who A is in the books anyway..." Which led me to believe that the television Season 1 finale is going to follow the Book Four finale where 'A' reveals herself in a Lucy Hale type slip up to the girls and then is forced to go psycho and try and kill them all - well, Spencer at least. But of course this turns out to be 'fake A' with the actual A carrying on her crazy shenanigans for another four books before the curtain is pulled back at the end of Book 8 (there's apparently going to be a Book 9 now, so don't get comfy). So whether Lucy Hale meant this is going to be the 'fake A' reveal or the actual A reveal is up for grabs, and then again, who's to say the show's producers will be giving any answers at all - they have deviated from Sara Shepard's writing an awful lot.

If it's 'fake A' then I'll be intrigued to see what audiences think, as the character really hasn't been in the show enough. Yes you'll know who it is but I feel the reasoning will come across as weak as you don't know them very well/the background. If it's actual A then they've basically used all their source material up in the first season, and in the already confirmed Season 2 they're going to have to work from a blank canvas.

There's already been a lot of talk about the finale paying homage to an Alfred Hitchcock film (Vertigo is the current favourite) and a key scene taking place in a church, but if it's going to be a 'fake A' reveal then I'm surprised they don't stick with what happens in the book, as it's an extremely cinematic climax at an abandoned quarry. But I can't think of any Hitchcock films which match that description.

Of course I've read the books (and the spoilers, by mistake) so I know the various outcomes. But the benefit of my lovely readers, let's discuss the A possibilities, and try and work out who's been expertly texting whilst wearing those black leather gloves all this time... (NB: It's not Paige or Caleb - they don't even exist in the books!)

Ezra Fitz
More boring than actually creepy, the English teacher has been smooching up to the horrific Aria for the whole season (this doesn't happen in the books, I despair at the writers/producers) and appears to actually - gag - love her. So surely he can't be the face behind the mask? Aria has already revealed to him 'the Jenna thing', but what if he knew that already and it's all part of his deranged plan? Although we don't know of any connections with him and Alison, could he have been the 'older lover' and not Ian? All highly unlikely. Imagine if Ezra was A though: it would get rid of him and Aria would end up devastated! Hurrah! She's so emo.

Recently absent as she's in juve, but according to IMDB she is listed in the season finale credits. She must be so mad at Emily for the drugs incident which sent her away, plus without any official separation Emily's been hooking up with swimming bud/enemy Paige... Maya's been living in Alison's old house too, in her bedroom - perhaps she found some secret diary belonging to her and thus knows all the PLL secrets? Perhaps she's bored and lonely and wanted some fun? But, she is in juve...

A prime suspect all season: the PLLs and Alison did blind her accidentally back in 8th grade, and Alison was also responsible for some pretty insufferable rumours about Jenna and her step-brother Toby. She's relentlessly creepy and the PLLs are terrified of her (save Hanna who slapped her in the face). She's played games with the foursome before, so why shouldn't she be A? Then again, it would be a little too obvious and convenient if it were her...

Already the police's main suspect he has been arrested and charged already, only to then be released after evidence against him was unsubstantiated. But he could still be A. He's always shown a soft side to the Liars, but hated Alison and the gossip she spread about him and Jenna (even though it turned out to be true) so that doesn't seem to make sense, but how do we know this isn't all an act? How do we know he's not in love with and working with Jenna in secret? It would be a big twist!

Hanna's BFF when the other three aren't around, she suffered the same fatty jibes from Alison that Hanna did, so there could be a lot of stored up hatred there. She knows plenty about Hanna, but how could she know the others secrets? And A has done some pretty unpleasant things to Hanna - including running her over - so surely it can't be her? She wouldn't be seen dead in black overalls and leather gloves, anyway.

Spencer's big sister truly hates her sibling, and that could include the other PLLs too. She also has a strong loyalty to her husband and father of her unborn baby, Ian, who is the main suspect of the gang at the moment mainly because of his alleged relationship with Alison (the 'older lover' in the video tape). Because of this, perhaps she knows something she has sworn secrecy to and will do anything to help Ian keep his cover, including standing by whilst Spencer is branded a person of interest by the police? She has an awful lot to be angry about too - Spencer is always trying to out-do in her eyes, and more than once shared her boyfriend.

The biggest person of interest as far as the Liars are concerned: he was in a secret relationship with Alison, he saw her on the night she died, he wanted to end the affair but she didn't - what was the best way to keep her quiet? It could all make sense, especially if he's roped Melissa in to help cover the tracks, but whilst he has been an uncomfortable presence and expert at steering Spencer's paranoia, why would he be A? Why would he make Hanna eat a whole box of cupcakes, for example?

Hanna's ex-boyfriend - the break up wasn't particularly harmless, and he has a lot to be angry about: Hanna was spending more time with Lucas than she was with him, and now they've broken up she doesn't see him at all! It could definitely be possible he would want to hurt Hanna, and because of his friendship with Paige and Noel maybe he knows more secrets about the others, too? But again, there's no obvious link between him and Alison and no motive for her death. Not that we know, anyway...

He's already confessed to smashing up Alison's memorial. He hated her for the false rumours she spread about him being a haemaphrodite. He hated her personality and existance in general. And Hanna has messed him around royally - although if he is A, he was making Hanna be nasty to himself... He's been out the picture of late but as with Maya he's credited on IMDB as being there in the final ep, so maybe he has more left to play. Plus, he's just the deadly and silent type, isn't he?

Hanna said he was A when she came round from the accident. They all believed he was A. He knew about Aria and Mr Fitz and was blackmailing the teacher for better grades. Also has anger issues - he was suspended from school for something he didn't do. But then again A did that, so he can't have done it to himself...can he?

A Parent
Intriguing (the books even play with this idea). But who would it be? Emily's parents are too neurotic and well, parental to be considered. But what about Hanna's mum? She's definitely got a manipulative, dangerous streak to her. But she wouldn't run down her own daughter. Could any of the parents run down a 16 year old girl, let alone kill another? Then again, Spencer's mother is ruthless. Is there a method in her madness? Aria's parents are practiced at sneaking around - perhaps they already know the relationship their daughter is having with her English teacher. But c'mon, it's all inplausible isn't it?

One of the PLL
They all know each other's secrets - what if one of the foursome is playing at being A? They all have motives for wanting to kill her, and if they're that unstable it would be easy to slip into the A persona. So could it be Emily, who dared to out herself? Aria who can freak herself out all she wants with the Mr Fitz secret safe in the knowledge it's herself that's doing it? Or Spencer - already an emerging suspect, she had a big row with Alison the night she died. Did she kill her? Is making herself look suspicious now a way to continue being A? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer... But someone locked her in the funhouse in the last episode. Maybe it's all four of them, unknowingly? (But clearly not Hanna, unless she astro projects or some shit)

Alison herself
Here's the far-fetched idea: Alison is still alive. They still haven't confirmed her death (how long do dental records take?) so technically the body could be someone else's. She could be playing with them all this time, but does she want to hurt them or is she trying to tell them something she couldn't do in person when she was 'alive'? Hanna did see her in the hospital room, but that was just an halluncination wasn't it, a drugged up dream? She couldn't really have been there in person could she? But if she was... then why has she faked her own death, where is she hiding, and what is she trying to do?

Things to deduce:
*A has got to be a girl. What boy would be so calculated and invest so much time in text revenge?
*A and Allison's killer could be two completely different people.
*A could be two or more people working together to bring down the PLLs...

The finale of Pretty Little Liars is on ABC Family tonight in America, and tomorrow for all you people everyone else. 

Who is A?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

FILM REVIEW: The Adjustment Bureau

I haven't had a good rant in ages, so special thanks to The Adjustment Bureau for at least giving me the impetus to write a review. I wish it could be for fonder reasons, but no, there's a lot to get exasperated about, so here goes.

A quick explanation: the film is based on the Philip K Dick short story 'The Adjustment Team' which by my knowledge only covers one scene of the film - where Matt Damon accidentally walks into the world of the Adjustment personnel and they track him down to explain what he saw, and swear him to secrecy or have his mind erased. The rest of the film has been put together and elaborated by George Nolfi, who also directs his first film after being a producer on the Bourne trilogy (hence the presence of Matt Damon). What he's constructed from the arresting premise is a story about two people, who for reasons never directly made religious/spiritual have been assigned specific life paths which are 'adjusted' as time passes. In this case the two people meet and want to be together, but their paths disallow this connection, so the team do all they can to subtly alter their every day lives so they will never see each other again. But the man (Matt Damon) can't forget about the girl (Emily Blunt) and after realising a strange force is at work to deliberately keep them apart, he starts fighting the system to make sure he can stay with her forever.

One of my favourite films of all time is The Butterfly Effect (yes, hello Mr Kutcher again). It deals with a similar catastrophic dilemma: realising the destruction you're causing to other people by attempting to be with the person you love, and then having to live with the guilt or make a huge sacrifice. The Butterfly Effect sees Ashton Kutcher attempt to live out every possibility by going back to poignant moments in his past in an attempt to cause as few ripples as possible and still end up with love (Amy Smart). In the end *SPOILER ALERT!* he realises whatever he tries, however far back in time he goes, nothing will ever change fate and so he walks away from her. It's absolutely devastating, and an unforgettable film (a true gem, go and seek it out). Here, The Adjustment Bureau also toys with the main protagonist - to try and make him believe that by walking away he will be able to fulfil his dreams of being US President, and she will be able to become a world recognised dancer. If they stay together, they will just bring each other down - love fills the gap in the human soul that is meant for achieving your dreams: you can't have both. I think everybody can relate to this, and it's a powerful sentiment to make to your lead character: what will he choose to do? Can he find a way to compromise or will he have to choose one or the other? And how can he do that satisfactorily? Unfortunately Hollywood gets in the way of ever finding out the answer.

There's a lot of action, particularly in the latter half as things come to a climax, drawing on the film's need to be like poster referencing Bourne and then a lot of hijinks's to try and muster up a worthy comparison to Inception. This trying to be a 'super combo' really lets the film down, as the mood and the pacing is a frothy mess. It should either have taken itself seriously and dedicated its time to fucking up our minds, or dropped the will they-won't they headache and have more breathtaking chase sequences and fist in mouth suspense. Instead we got a bit of both and it resulted in my face becoming ever more scrunched up as the film went on.

I don't much care for action films, so say it should have gone down the route of the intelligent sci-fi thriller. It's not as if we don't need another: yes there's The Butterfly Effect, Inception, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but this is a genuinely new interesting concept on fate and free will that is squandered by the need to make it, well, fun. It's so light-hearted and ridiculous at times its hard to buy into what you're being sold: hats as keys? pages that move? Roger Sterling? I hate to say this but John Slattery is completely miscast in this. I like that the bureau's henchmen actually have personalities and quirks, but he is literally acting out his Mad Men character, and here you need people who are intimidating, creepy and hollow (which is why Terence Stamp does a much better job). What also annoyed me was the way Matt Damon's character keeps changing his mind over what he should do: it means the film dips up and down in its consistency until the couple just become an annoyance (although Damon and Emily Blunt are far too likable for that to happen).

I could have forgiven all of these problems (as I so often do) if the ending had been strong. But The Adjustment Bureau gave me one of the flatest, lamest conclusions I have seen in recent years. I'm gonna say it now so stop reading if you're actually going to pay money to watch this: they start out-running the team, they go right into the HQ of the Bureau, and when they're surrounded by security officers they kiss goodbye for the last time - and then it's revealed that they are so inspirational the head guy has re-written their plans so now they can be together. YAY! THE END. Ugh, I couldn't wait to leave the cinema and have a conversation with the nearest human over how cheated I felt. Sometimes a film needs to be affecting and harrowing to make more of an impact - I just wish I could have my mind erased after watching the end of this one.

The Adjustment Bureau is enjoyable bunkum with some solid performances from Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. The problem is George Nolfi is no Michel Gondry, no Christopher Nolan, and his plot leaves many hands up in the air. I've mentioned a lot of better films in this review - if you want your fill of sci-fi romance with a kick then watch one of those instead - this will only leave you bothered and bewildered.

Friday, 4 March 2011

FILM REVIEW: No Strings Attached

"Did you have sex with a girl and then give her a balloon?" Ahhh, No Strings Attached: my new worst guilty pleasure.

Readers and knowers of the culturemouse will know that I don't watch many romcoms, for obvious they-hate-each-other-but-love-each-other-with-no-originality-plus-crass-humour-and-Katherine-Heigl reasons. But I don't necessarily hate the genre: there are plenty of great chick flicks out there, it's just they don't come around very often. And Natalie has never done one before: she's come close a couple of times (Where The Heart Is the clearest example although Garden State can be argued) but No Strings Attached is her first fully fledged effort. And call me bias, call me deluded as getting to watch one of these films is a rare treat and I'm not demoralised by them - but I enjoyed this A LOT and kind of (secretly) want to go and see it again.

The premise is different, and this has been applauded by most critics. It's a modern day 'romcom' - originally titled "Fuck Buddies" although it's a lot sweeter than that and I'm glad it was changed, regardless of little old ladies being offended. This time it's the girl (Emma - Natalie) who has the commitment issues and the guy (Adam - Ashton Kutcher) just wants to settle down with someone in a relationship and er, snuggle. So it's an intriguing dynamic which can only work if the girl is likable in her apparent callousness, and also relatable. And I think Natalie steps up to the job nicely - she's funny, and sweet, and even when she's at her most bitchy she has that stroke of vulnerability.

It's been said that not a lot of reasons are given for Emma's insecurity and relationship issues, and although I agree it could have been sketched out better it's fairly clear it's to do with her parent's divorce. It's an interesting muse on divorce actually and the way it can affect people in different ways: Adam's parents are also divorced (his father has had several marriages, and a current relationship with his ex-girlfriend - icky!) and that has left him with a craving for affection and stability. Emma seems to have gone in a polar opposite direction, forcing herself to be strong and independent. Her sister on the other hand (a sadly pointless Olivia Thirlby) has gone the same way as Adam, and needs someone to look after her. Perhaps a heart-to-heart over damaged childhoods might have done the trick (I say this so casually!) - it could have been capitalised on in the very first scene actually - Adam and Emma as teenagers at camp, but perhaps this isn't what director Ivan Reitman was going for.

The "so many years" later sequences weren't really necessary as they could have been explained away in the plot. Or to keep them at least extend them to make them relevant instead of use of them as a plot device, a quick jump of decades. It was all a bit trendy at times too - he works on a film set, she's a doctor, his dad is a famous actor, everyone lives in big posh houses - and the shallow easy lives take away from the emotion and angst at times, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't rooting for them and cried like a baby at the end.

Ashton Kutcher really reminded me of Zack Braff here. I'm not sure why - I think it might have been the hair, or just his general goofiness (maybe I just need to watch Garden State again). I don't agree that there wasn't any chemistry between the two - but it was very playful, and a lot of couples are like that (they were friends first, remember). I thought the first sex scene was genuinely refreshing - you don't normally get that much detail! And I was fond of them throughout - I loved the balloon scene. I loved when he made her a period mix tape and Natalie sang badly without giving a hoot. I loved when he gave her carrots instead of roses. I loved that he made her an itinerary for their first date... There were so many lovely moments that just completely won me over. And Natalie in turn too - I loved when she hid in a bush and I LOVE LOVE LOVE when she got peeved at not having her own milkshake so used an extra straw to sip more of it. That's my favourite film scene of the year so far!

The supporting cast were pretty lacklustre, although I enjoyed the way they were allowed to have their own little storylines, even if they felt a bit forced. Nice to see: Olivia Thirlby, Greta Gerwig, Adhir Kalyan, and to some extent Ophelia Lovibond although I hated that story the most and didn't see any need for it in the film whatsoever - it brought it down. But by far the worst scene (and section) was when Adam gets mixed in with the two girlfriends who suddenly realise they love each other and start getting off in their underwear. I thought it was all a planned ruse to help Adam by luring out Emma's jealousy so she would come over to see him. But nope - they played it for real. And drunk Natalie hid behind a sofa and attacked them like a giant cat. It was horrrrrrible. But the dip soon picked up again.

I thought the ending was lovely too - he dismissed her on the phone and didn't fall into her lap again, as you can tell she expected for being 'brave' and making the first move. Yes the 'twist' with his father going into hospital where she works was very trite, but at least she didn't end up saving his life or any balls like that. And the "what happens now?" bit at the end was like a Garden State fish smacking me in the face. "So what do we do? What do we do?" If only the soundtrack had also been amazing...

I thoroughly enjoyed No Strings Attached and I'm not afraid to admit it - I will shout it loud and proud and urge other people to go and see it, too! Plus it has an Academy Award winner in it - did you know that?