Review by Gokhra
Books converted to movies usually don't pan out so well yet we have another offering. But then again books offer the best plots as opposed to a quick one jotted down on a napkin during a meeting between two Hollywood executives.
"The Devil Wears Prada" surprisingly turns out to be a surprisingly sharp adaptation of the book despite the fact that quite a lot of it has been trashed out.
Anne Hathaway stars as Andrea Sachs who starts off in the fashion world being less than perfect. That is if you consider glossy skinned stick figures as being perfect.
Having graduated recently, Andy Sachs wants a job in Manhattan's literary world and settles for becoming quite the slave as the junior assistant to icy Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Now Miranda is a monstrously self-centred editor of a fashion magazine. She is legendary and formidable in a cannibalistic way. She will eat up lowly minions with one scathing look. She tells Andy on a regular basis that a million girls would kill for this job but Miranda's malicious attitude could lead to herself being killed by aforementioned lowly minions.
However, if Andy can manage to suffer for one year it will provide her with the desired experience that other magazines look for. It will guarantee her a job at just about any publication she chooses.
So she decides involuntarily to stay no matter what. In the process she starts changing her image, wardrobe and priorities to suit her heinous new job with rather offsetting results. And that's the basic premise of the whole movie.
The movie is carried on by the two main female protagonists. Streep as Miranda shows off her acting skills by delivering clichéd lines and carrying off a clichéd character with aplomb. Miranda is a savage boss. She has perfected those narrowed slitty eyed looks into a perfect if-looks-could-kill expression. She says "That's all" to someone with such authority that you and everyone in the movie knows that she is no longer interested in having that particular someone anywhere within five feet of her. While everyone tries to work at the office in as comfortable outfits as possible, Miranda prefers her employees to be like the magazine models. Office-wide pandemonium takes over when she is on the premises, as flats are tossed for stiletto heels and panicked cries of "She's coming!" rings out across the hallways. And she considers Andy top be a 'fat girl'. Hitler could learn something.
Adding to this potpourri is gay-clichéd Nigel (Stanley Tucci) who is the magazines fashion guru. He takes poor and 'ugly' Andy under his expensively tailored wing to turn her into a beauty. Hey, it's another makeover movie for Anne Hathaway.
The casting makes this a great movie. Leaving out too much details about Andy's family, boyfriend, etc and essentially sticking to the crazy scary offices of the fashion magazine make it even better.
Hathaway makes an excellent choice offsetting her underdog status in an environment full of eating-disordered skin conscious women. Hathaway readily gets the audience on her side being extremely likable and funny.
Streep on the other hand underplays her parts but pulls it off with more menace than you can imagine. She has a talent for saying so much with no dialogue through her facial expression. And of course there is a love angle or rather a love triangle to the story but somehow that is secondary to the rest of the fast paced plot.
It's got a great cast, great but unusual clothes and laugh-a-minute lines. It's office politics at its most hilarious. It's an underdog story applicable to just about any situation albeit with a lot of humour.
Everyone loves a Cinderella story. In 2006, the glass slipper belongs to Cassie, thanks to her smash debut single, "Me&U." Its infectious, seductive sound has taken radio, clubs, and iTunes by storm. Cassie's also the first artist to break on such a large scale after being discovered from her MySpace page. With the summer release of her debut Bad Boy/NextSelection album, Cassie is ready to prove that she's much more than a pretty face or a one hit wonder.
She might be the new girl on the scene but 19-year-old Cassie has some serious supporters in her corner: namely industry legends Tommy Mottola (who counts among his discoveries Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez) and Sean "Diddy" Combs who signed Cassie to his Bad Boy roster.
Asked about her exploding career, the soft-spoken singer/model says, "Everything has been beyond my wildest expectations. I feel very lucky. I'm really happy my music is affecting so many people."
Working with Ryan Leslie (Britney Spears, Beyonce) and his NextSelection crew, Cassie is about to unleash a CD that showcases her depth. Among the CD's highlights are the gently sexy "Just One Night" and the hushed and romantic "Can't Do Without It." "The whole album really just goes back to love songs," Cassie explains.
Born and raised in New London, Connecticut, Cassie and her brother grew up with music. Her father plays the trumpet, mom is a pianist, and with their encouragement Cassie started singing (her first idol? Mariah Carey) and taking dance classes. "My parents' philosophy is do what makes you happy, pursue what you love," says Cassie. At 14 she added to an impressive resume when she began modeling. Although shorter than the average model, Cassie's striking looks attracted attention and soon she was represented by the famed Wilhelmina Agency.
All of this activity, combined with high school, could have been daunting, but Cassie rose to the challenge. As always, her parents were firmly in her corner. "They never pushed me, but my mom would always ask me, is this what you want to do? Are you happy? Does this work satisfy you?" The answer was yes. Cassie's modeling career picked up steam and she appeared in campaigns for Delia's, Adidas, and A&F, among others.
An artistic opportunity came when Cassie hit 16. Through an industry friend she was introduced to prolific producer Rockwilder (Method Man, Redman, Pink). With her folks in tow, Cassie went to the producer's studio. "We had a great talk. It was my first taste of the music industry and although nothing came of, it gave me inspiration. Soon after that I started taking voice lessons because I knew that singing was something that was important to me."
After graduating from high school, Cassie moved to NYC in 2004 and through mutual friends met up-and-coming producer Ryan Leslie. Cassie thought that Ryan seemed like a "cool guy" and the two exchanged numbers. The two became fast friends, and with Ryan's encouragement Cassie started really thinking about making music her main focus.
In January 2005, things took an interesting turn when Cassie's mother asked if her daughter would record a song as a birthday gift. Cassie and Ryan came up with "Kiss Me," which turned out to be more than just a nice present from a child to her mom. Soon after finishing the song, Cassie went to the Casablanca Records office to meet Ryan. He, in turn was sitting down with the label's executives, including Tommy Mottola. The star maker spied Cassie in the waiting area and asked who she was. Unbeknownst to Cassie, Ryan had just played Mottola several tracks. Impressed, Mottola urged the team to get back into the studio. Thanks to a relationship that both Ryan and Mottola had with Diddy, Cassie signed with Bad Boy in March 2006.
Working exclusively with Ryan, who brings a fresh, unique approach to the music, Cassie describes her sound as "mellow, chill, and easy to relate to." Says this down to earth beauty, "This album represents what I've always wanted to do. I can't wait for everyone to hear it.”
By Le Chupacabra
Kingdom Hearts started as a chance collaboration between the Japanese offices of SquareSoft (now Square-Enix) and Disney. Flitting between various ideas, Square finally handed the reins to a concept artist named Tetsuya Nomura. It was an unusual choice for a game director and it was certainly an unusual premise: the cutesy, iconic world of Disney colliding with the sombre realms of the Final Fantasy series. However, the game went beyond expectation: it was an imaginative, epic adventure that was a whole lot more than the sum of its parts.
We have a far more original narrative that happens to be more immersive than the first; it's a little darker, a little more mature and it's all very good stuff. One key flaw of the plot is that after the first bit you're essentially revisiting Disney worlds to play out their tales and their tales only. As a result, questions regarding the fierce Nobodies and enigmatic Organisation XIII are put on hold for a very long (read: around 10-12 hours!) time. However, once you plough through the plot-drought you are rewarded with a tale that's quite brilliant.
The music is equally an aural treat with memorable tunes and an epic score that lives up to the grandeur of the game's premise. If you've played the first game, you'll recognize many of the remixed Disney tracks.
Visually, Kingdom Hearts II is quite pleasing. Some locations come off as rather unimaginative while others are truly awe-inspiring. Fortunately the latter holds true more often. There are plenty of little touches that add to the immersion wonderfully. In the Pride Lands, you take the guise of a lion and have to hold the KeyBlade between your jaws! At the Timeless River, all the characters move with exaggerated motions reminiscent of the black-and-white Mickey Mouse 'toons of old. The Pirates of the Caribbean themed world (Port Royal) looks stunning with realistic characters and animation that captures the drunken swagger and mannerisms of the Captain Jack Sparrow perfectly. And the world of Tron? Just jaw-dropping.
The gameplay is in many ways hugely improved over its predecessor while some previously great parts have been unnecessarily tinkered with; “ten steps forward and two steps backward” to quote my friend. The fighting is fast and frenetic and the combination of the fantastic graphics leads to some visually mesmerising sequences. New additions include Drive forms that let you merge with various characters, thus imbuing you with enhanced fighting prowess or magical dexterity. Think of God of War's killing mini-games minus the brutality. Another addition is the Limit Break, with which Final Fantasy fans should be familiar.
However, much of the exploration that gave the first game an adventure-esque feel has been undermined to criminally disappointing proportions. The levels are more linear than Kingdom Hearts (which was also linear, but had some neat bits that rewarded curious players) and the worlds are somewhat smaller. The gameplay is also much easier mainly due to the use of the Reaction commands and Drive forms. Playing on the 'hard' (called Proud) difficulty setting makes up (although not too greatly) with the increased challenge. While Drive forms are optional, the way in which the One thing that really deserves special mention is the Gummi Ship mode. From being a slow, headache-inducing chore (in the first game), it's become a fast-paced, frantic shooter mini-game that's actually fun to play. The last Gummi Ship level has a great Star Wars-esque feel and many portions of that segment recall the famous Death Star trench run from the films.
While no longer as novel as the first, Kingdom Hearts II remains a wonderfully charming experience that not only tells a beautiful story but is also chockfull of luscious graphics, evocative music and entertaining gameplay. If you have a PS2, you have no excuse to pass up such an adventure! So go get your copy and make sure you pick up the original Kingdom Hearts if you haven't already!