Juno scene

Rising star Ellen Page stars as a smart-talking 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, who gets pregnant the first time she has sex with fellow virgin Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Unable to face the prospect of abortion, Juno decides to give up the baby up for adoption, so she finds a loving but childless couple Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) through the want ads in a local paper.

However, as she spends more time with the couple, she discovers that their marriage isn’t quite picture-perfect as it first appeared. Meanwhile, Juno’s father (J.K. Simmons), stepmother (Allison Janney) and best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) offer as much help as they can.

Nominated by four Academy Awards in the run up to this year’s Oscars, including Best Picture, Juno is an engaging and witty teen comedy written by a former stripper now blogger Diablo Cody. The script provides plenty of laughs with some razor-sharp dialogue throughout the running time of 96 minutes.

Ellen Page is fabulous in the leading role, with her enthusiastic personality and dry-wit. Some people may remember Ellen from her shining performance in Hard Candy back in 2005, in which many critics praised her for “one of the most complex, disturbing and haunting performances of the year”. With a nomination for the Best Actress award in the 2008 Academy Awards, Ellen is on route to becoming a future star of Hollywood.

As for the supporting cast, it is great to see several star names I recognised from past television and movie roles appearing in Juno. Michael Cera and Jason Bateman from Arrested Development, Jennifer Garner (Alias) and Allison Janney (The West Wing). Each of them playing their roles superbly alongside Ellen.

Even though the subject matter may seem controversial on the whole pregnancy/childbirth/adoption issue, director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) sets an up-beat tone with a great soundtrack, colourful production design and a delightful animated opening credits sequence. Despite the ‘feel good’ attitude, Juno manages to address the abortion versus adoption issue in a surprisingly mature way – with the final scenes in particular emotionally moving.

Probably the best independent film since Little Miss Sunshine, Juno is a hilariously teen comedy with delightful characters working with a fantastic script. Highly recommended.

Jack Bauer will be back… in 2009

Kiefer Sutherland jacket

Due to the 14-week Writers’ Strike in Hollywood – which has now been resolved – the latest season of Jack Bauer’s new nightmare day has been postponed until the following year.

American television network Fox has decided that the show’s seventh season will be delayed until January 2009 to ensure that Day 7 of 24 can air uninterrupted, in it’s entirety.

The show’s latest season was set to begin last January and run without a break, but in November, strike complications forced Fox to delay the season premiere to an unspecified time. Now, Fox has called 2008 a loss for the show and will run season seven in January 2009. Which is bad news for fans and Kiefer…

The crew has already shot eight episodes of this season, which sees the action move to Washington, DC, instead of Los Angeles. If Fox had opted to continue production of the show this year, there would have been a lengthy break before the newly produced episodes would air. Because 24 are heavily serialized, Fox wanted to ensure the seventh season was aired uninterrupted.

I bet Kiefer Sutherland is kicking himself, as the actor opted to serve a portion of his jail sentence for a DUI charge over the holidays in order to avoid slowing down the production of the show… Now it seems he has do something else to fill in the time before playing the role as the hard-charge CTU agent.

In addition, 24’s seventh season will be the first without co-creator Joel Surnow. He will leave his duties to pursue other projects.


Cloverfield movie

Thanks to its clever viral marketing on MySpace and countless other websites devoting to the movie, J.J. Abrams’ ambitions homage to monster flicks takes a new step further by providing an unique viewpoint on a giant creature destroying Manhattan.

The film begins as if someone is watching a videotape that has been found after a mysterious incident in New York City, codenamed ‘Cloverfield’. We briefly see images of a young good-looking couple, Robert Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) and Elizabeth “Beth” McIntyre (Odette Yustman) before we realise that someone has taped over their day at Coney Island with footage of Rob’s leaving party, before he heads off to Japan.

However, during the party there’s an attack on New York by an initially unseen monster and everyone runs for the streets, just in time to witness the head of the Statue of Liberty come crashing to the ground. With one of his friends still filming – Hudson “Hud” Platt (T. J. Miller) – in the same style of the Blair Witch Project, Rob and his friends risk their lives to rescue Beth before attempting to flee the city.

The action sequences in Cloverfield are pretty intense with echoes to the chaotic moments that followed 9/11, with buildings crumbling to rubble and panic in the city streets. The use of a video camera shot from the victim perspective is a distinctive step of documentary events as it unfolds. Sure, the camerawork might cause some viewers to become ill with the constant shaking and movement but in the age of Web 2.0 and YouTube, the director – Matt Reeves – handles the central concept extremely well, perfectly capturing the sense of fear and mayhem, while maintaining exactly the sort of breathless pace that you’d expect if you were fleeing a giant monster.

Cloverfield is certainly frightening that you left thinking that this attack could happen… The only criticism is all that running and screaming doesn’t provide enough characterisation or dialogue. In addition, we don’t get any back-story on why this monster is here in New York City stomping, eating and causing as much damage as possible.

Despite that, the film is superbly directed with some skilful use of editing – from the happier times of Rob and Beth to the horror of his close friends dying one by one… Cloverfield is an enjoyable thriller that adds a modern twist to the Godzilla-style monster movie, though it’s slightly let down by its characters and plot.