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Movie Review: LOVE & MERCY (PG13)

I am not sure how factually accurate this biopic about Brian Wilson, the visionary composer of The Beach Boys, is.

But I am intrigued by how mentally tortured the genius was, from his early hallucinations to being emotionally manipulated by his psychiatrist-turned-legal guardian Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

Paul Dano and John Cusack play Wilson at different times in his career - the former as the younger musician in the mid-60s while Cusack takes over in the 80s.

Both are terrific, with Dano skilfully showing Wilson's rise and fall into mental illness, while Cusack deftly portrays a semi-zombified Wilson struggling with reality before being rejuvenated by protective girlfriend-turned-wife Melinda (Elizabeth Banks).

Dano totally owns the show, particularly the moments in the studio where he orchestrates the recording of Pet Sounds, now considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

 

​Rating: 4/5

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ACTION HEROINE: Alexandra Daddario (left) in San Andreas.
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Fast five With Emmanuelle Chriqui

She's one of the few ladies who stand out in the male-dominated Entourage

FACT FILE

Name: Emmanuelle Sophie Anne Chriqui

Born: Dec 10, 1977, Montreal, Canada

Filmography: Entourage TV series (2005-2011), You Don't Mess With The Zohan (2008), Cadillac Records (2008), Entourage (2015)


1 ROSE AMONG THE THORNS

Chriqui has the privilege of being one of the few female characters to stand out in the male-dominated Entourage movie.

Together with the boys, her character Sloan - Eric's (Kevin Connolly) ex-girlfriend and baby mama - returns to the big screen after the series ended in 2011.

Now showing in cinemas, Entourage reunites Chriqui with Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara and Jeremy Piven and follows the gang's latest Hollywood endeavour - movie star Vince (Grenier) wants to become a director.

Sloan has a big part in the movie, and fans of Sloan and Eric will finally get the answer to the "will they or won't they" question.

2 PADDING IT UP

Playing a heavily-pregnant Sloan was quite an experience for the pretty, petite brunette.

She told talk show host Jimmy Kimmel recently that it was fun playing an expectant mum and that she was "just constantly rubbing the belly".

But what she enjoyed more was having to add "chicken cutlets" to boost her bosom, said the 37-year-old.

"We were doing our wardrobe fitting and looking in the mirror and going, this looks really disproportionate. And I can't believe it but I was like, 'We need to make my boobs bigger!'

"So chicken cutlets - that's an industry term for the fake things that we would put underneath to give giant, pregnant boobs."

3 ONE OF THE GUYS

Chriqui, who calls herself a tomboy, always felt like she was one of the guys.

In an interview with Esquire, the Los Angeles-based actress said they kept in touch after the series ended, particularly with Grenier as they do a lot of philanthropic and environmental work together.

"It's really not an on-screen thing. Months can go by because we're all busy and doing stuff, but we're connected."

4 TV QUEEN

Chriqui has found her comfort zone on the small screen. After Entourage, she appeared in TV series like The Mentalist and Cleaners, and is starring in the acclaimed crime drama Murder In The First.

5 STAYING YOUNG

Chriqui looks younger than her age.

The Canadian revealed to Allure that on top of her regular gym workouts, she adopts a realistic attitude towards ageing. "It's just trying to have a healthier outlook on me. I'm not 25 and a size 0 anymore, and it's okay."

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More Banks for your buck

Following success of Pitch Perfect 2, Elizabeth Banks plays major role in Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy

VERSATILE: Elizabeth Banks at the premiere of Love & Mercy.
VERSATILE: Banks in Love & Mercy.
VERSATILE: Banks in Pitch Perfect 2.

"I am pretty proud of myself and I haven't felt this good about myself maybe ever before."

That's what Elizabeth Banks told M at the Four Seasons Los Angeles and she has every reason to be on top of the world.

As a first-time director, her musical comedy Pitch Perfect 2 beat action adventure Mad Max: Fury Road as the highest-grossing film of its opening weekend at US$70.3 million (S$95.4 million). Mad Max: Fury Road raked in US$44.4 million.

So far, Pitch Perfect 2's worldwide box office gross is over US$249 million.

As if that isn't enough, Banks is also appearing in two upcoming films: Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy which opens here tomorrow and stripper comedy Magic Mike XXL which opens on July 9.

And there's the final instalment of The Hunger Games which, slated to open on Nov 19, where she'll reprise her standout supporting role as Effie Trinket.

The 41-year-old US actress said: "Six weeks ago, I just wanted to beat Avengers: Age Of Ultron in its third weekend.

"I was not that concerned about Mad Max: Fury Road. It did close in, but we felt confident that we would win that weekend.

"But the margin by which it happened was an overwhelming surprise. It's a very surreal feeling."

When asked if she was a tough director in a male-dominated field, she said: "When you look at me, I don't think the expectation is that I am going to be very tough.

"But no movie has enough time or money. Every day, I had a long checklist that I needed to get through and I had 10 actresses on my set almost every day to wrangle. We had a lot to get done.

"I think it's just that we didn't mess around as much as I think you do on other sets. And I also know all the tricks."

Banks is looking for something else to direct, though she hasn't decided it will be Pitch Perfect 3.

"I would love to do more action and something visually really cool but I don't want to work in full CGI (computer-generated imagery)."

When asked about the lack of female directors, she paused before saying: "I think it's very complicated, deep-seated and institutionalised, a bad habit. But I feel there's a willingness now and awareness.

"I produced the first movie (Pitch Perfect in 2012), so I was standing in the right spot that I created for myself.

"When we (the producers) looked at the list, I didn't put myself on it right away but I thought I could be just as good as any of these people doing the job."

NEW ROLE

In Love & Mercy, Banks plays Melinda Ledbetter, the wife of songwriter-musician Brian Wilson from the 60s US group The Beach Boys.

Paul Dano and John Cusack play Wilson for two different periods of his life.

A car saleswoman and former model, Ledbetter is credited by Wilson for saving him from drugs and mental illness.

Growing up, Banks didn't know much about The Beach Boys but she knew the words to their songs.

She said: "I sort of knew the legend, that Wilson became a recluse. So when I read the script, I was absolutely seduced by it."

Meeting the real Ledbetter, who adopted five children with Wilson, was key to her characterisation.

"I don't think I had a way into the movie until I met her," said Banks.

"I really needed a lot of questions answered and she was very, very generous.

"You go to their home and it's children and dogs. He's the last one standing when he's supposed to be the one that died.

"I just think they created something really beautiful out of their mess."

Banks' own domestic life is much more conventional. Her husband Max Handelman is also her producing partner. They have two children.

She said: "I don't pretend that I don't have a pretty traditional marriage because I do. My husband does not cook, he does not go to the grocery store.

"All those reports about women who still do all the work, that's my household. That's how my house is run.

"But I get great help, including from my husband. I get to be with my kids a lot, so I consider myself and my kids very lucky."

Banks attributes her success to not playing the Hollywood game.

"I've been told: 'You didn't get that job because you didn't play it right.' Not everybody likes an uppity chick but this is who I am.

"It's how I approach the business - I am very optimistic and I come to set with a good attitude every day.

GAGA GOES BLING BLING FOR PRINCE HARRY

Dressing appropriately for royalty means a plunging neckline and diamante eyebrows.

That's Lady Gaga for you, and the US pop star certainly stayed true to her flamboyant style when she met Prince Harry yesterday.

The meet-up took place before the 29-year-old's performance with singing partner Tony Bennett at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

According to the Daily Mail, she was clearly excited to see the British royal and placed her arm around his waist to pull him in for a photograph.

Gaga's and Bennett's performance was for a special one-off concert in aid of WellChild, a charity for seriously ill children and their families, which Prince Harry has been patron of since 2007.

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