Monday, October 31, 2005

[TV] Ong Bak (2003)

Now this is rare, am actually reviewing a movie I watched on TV. But how can I miss Ong Bak when Tom Yum Goong is around the corner, and I'd actually missed this movie during it's run at the local theatres!

I'm not going to go through the details of the story - it's a simple plot about an ancient Buddha statue called Ong Bak, whose head is stolen by artifact hunters, and it's up to local village folk hero Ting who volunteers to retrieve it back from Bangkok. There, he meets up with some friends and embarks on a fight-laden journey to the bowels of the city in order to fulfill his mission.

What's appealing is that the main lead, played by Tony Jaa, impresses with his brand of real kung-fu. Make that Muay-Thai boxing, the real deal. He's today's Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, the latter being older and wanting to move on to drama. So Tony Jaa should claim the mantle of Asia's kung-fu king from Jackie Chan, and perhaps Jet Li too. Jaa's reflexes is lightning fast, and martial arts moves, lethal and deadly. I can never forget the strong punches, knees, elbows, and the feints with the kicks. Awesome, violent stuff there. No holds barred.

But that's not all, besides martial arts, he's quite nimble and shows off his skills with some acrobatics during a chase scene along the back streets of Bangkok. The runs, squeezes, side splits, jumping side splits, under and sliding splits. Wow. The scenes get repeated in slow motion and in different angles, but I'm not a bit disturbed by the "show-offy" sequences. It's the real - no wires, no stunt doubles, all Jaa!

And as if to emulate a typical Jackie Chan movie, there's always that bit of humour some of the acrobatic scenes, the tuk-tuk chase, and also courtesy of a sidekick. But when it comes down to the fighting arena, it's all dead serious action, which many action fans will definitely enjoy.

Tom Yum Goong, I'm already in the queue!

[DVD] Das Boot: The Director's Cut (1981)

This is touted as one of the best WWII submarine films of all time, and it's not difficult to understand why. From the story to the cast, from the cinematography to the sound, everything's top notch on this German film directed by Wolfgang Petersen (who's now helming more Hollywood flicks). I'd rate it above U-571, K19: The Widowmaker, Crimson Tide, and The Hunt for Red October.

We follow the exploits of the crew of German U-boat U-96, as it gets sent on its mission to destroy Allied convoys. We learn of the frustrations of inaction, having no targets, and living the lonely life aboard a submarine. We experience the claustrophobic environment, one which is shared amongst crew, where maintaining hygiene and tolerable living conditions is of the utmost importance of staying well. We pick up on the fear of the Captain about his inexperienced crew, most of whom were in their early twenties, and haven't seen much action in the high seas.

What's gripping in this film is when things start to pick up. Technology those days aren't as advanced, and we see that U-boats are more likely to be sitting ducks when Allied destroyers hover above them on the water's surface, dropping multiple depth charges to rattle and hopefully destroy their underwater prey. The U-boat is the hunter, but once it has hunted, it becomes the prey.

And such is the marvellous depiction of Fear in the crew's eyes, as they huddle in silence each time the enemy lurks above. The suspense literally keeps you at the edge of your seat, the silence, deafening. Many set action pieces bring out the different scenarios and challenges that the crew face in their voyage on the seas, and all these capped by the beautiful soundtrack which accompanies each scene. My favourite was the charge through Gilbratar.

Although this movie takes on an Axis power's point of view, one can discard the political aspect of this film, and understand that lives on both ends are similar - each are fathers, brothers, husbands, and are thrown into a senseless political war. It doesn't go preachy on who's right and wrong, but touches on more human and basic issues of survival. Boys become men, and it is this transformation that is most obvious throughout the story.

If you've got the chance, you must see the Director's Cut, running at about 209 minutes, just as Wolfgang Petersen envisioned it to be. Excellent stuff!

Code 1 DVD extras: The Making Of / Behind the Scenes, Director's commentary, choice of English or German dialogue in 5.1 Dolby Digital (I'd go for the latter, and read off the English subtitles)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

[DVD] King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962)

One's an American monster created in the 1930s. The other, a Japanese counterpart created in the 1950s. One an oversized ape which scaled the Empire State Building in New York, the other an oversized lizard which trampled the streets of Tokyo. What do you get when you put the two together? An animal slugfest which forgets about human characterization. I mean, who would care?

This is the first movie which combined two well known monster icons, and unleashed them against each other in Japan. And the first time that both creatures appear in colour too. While the plot is secondary, it takes you almost an hour before the two finally meet, and treated to a short fight with Kong walking away scratching his head. Not a good start to a fight, but naturally, Godzilla would win given his fire-breath. Initially that is, until Kong gets upped in strength by electricity.

Fans of both Kong and Godzilla will naturally be pleased with director Ishiro Honda for keeping in some iconic moments which defined both characters. For Kong, a television crew sets out to Faroe Island (a departure for Skull Island) in search of a mysterious beast whom the local island inhabitants worship. They ship him to Japan, until they're ordered by the government to not bring Kong to their shores. At the same time, Godzilla gets thawed from some iceberg, and instinctively makes its way to Japan, first stop being Hokkaido, before journeying southwards to Tokyo.

Kong gets a nod with its short stint scaling a building, while kidnapping a Japanese lady along the way. However, he seemed short of ideas in tackling Godzilla, only be throwing huge boulders at the lizard. I'd give Godzilla one-up in its creativity in trying to take Kong down.

It's kinda tacky watching this film now, with both monsters given the CG treatment (Godzilla by Hollywood, and the upcoming King Kong by Peter Jackson). Men in rubber suits are obvious, and the closeups are kinda funny, especially Kong's rubber face. But like most Japanese monster movies, the miniatures are a sight to marvel at. Must have been a chore building them, and having them torn down with such ease by Kong and Godzilla must have been painful.

So who wins in the end? It depends on which version you're watching. The version I'd watched from a DVD from the library@esplanade, Kong defeats Godzilla offscreen, and swam for home. In my opinion, Godzilla should've roasted Kong, but that's another story for another day.

Code 1 DVD (English Version): No bells and whistles besides scene selection, text based production notes, and the usual subtitles support.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


You are in the wrong movie if you ask for a plot in Doom. If there's any, it stays true to the game - shoot anything that breathes, which is uttered many times in the latest movie adapted from computer games, off the heels of Resident Evil and Tomb Raider.

I might try - a group of RRTS troops (read: Universal Soldier type, it even plays out that way) gets sent to Mars to uncover some weird occurences in some high tech lab dealing with genetics. Soon, the victims become mutations of various kinds and all hell breaks loose as we follow the crew into the labyrinth of an underground lab full of dark skanky corridors right off the set of Aliens.

It's nothing fancy, but it works. The filmmakers try to up both the intelligence and babe factor by introducing Bond Girl Rosamund Pike (she's a distraction alright) to the plot, but her *ahem* assets fail to maximise the thin plot. With mercenary soldiers, we see the typical sterotyped characters like the rookie, the maverick, the questionable orders, and the hero with a buried past.

One major gripe I had with this movie, is the language. If the scripts says to swear, then please swear using as much colourful and vulgar words. Don't have it filmed, then decide during post production to tone it down, which means to re-record the audio and dub it over. So The Rock might mouth an "F-word", doesn't take a genius to realize that the word finally heard - "idiot" is two-syllable, and makes the movie like one of the old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. Plenty of moments like this. Worse, while Rosamund Pike was uttering a slew of scientific mumbo-jumbo, her mouth doesn't even move!!! The editors need to be shot up the rear by the BFG.

Speaking of BFG, it's disappointing. For fans, this is THE weapon to use as you blast away anything that moves. In the film, the buildup, fanfare and respect given to the Big Fat Gun (as The Rock calls it. I know you fans have a more impolite name for it) doesn't justify its short life-span on screen. Worse, there's only ONE BFG used in the entire movie, for a total of like, 2 shots?

The much touted first-person shooter (FPS) view, adapted straight from the game, turned out to be no longer than 5 minutes. So for all you viewers who are worrying that the FPS view will get you all nauseous, you might want to reconsider. I thought it could be longer, and earlier, but it wasn't. Pity.

However, the special effects, for what it's worth, is pretty nifty. Well, this area isn't much of a challenge, having source material come from a computer game, you couldn't and shouldn't do much wrong here.

Strictly for fans of the game to see how it's played out on screen, and for those who like a dose of some mindless action, led by The Rock. Hmm... did I just see him raise his eyebrow?

Saving Face

The first thing that hits you in this movie, is the realization of how accurate its portrayal of traditional Chinese values are, and the spot on capture of the various stereotypes amongst the Chinese people. Hence the title about Face (literally translated from the chinese language for respectability). Face is something that can be lost if you've done something shameful and not the norm, and to the traditionalist, Face must be preserved at all cost.

But lo and behold, the two main protagonists, Wil (Michelle Krusiec) and her mother (played by Joan Chen), are anything but traditionalists. While on the surface, the mother might seem like your typical neighbourhood auntie, she became the family outcast when she's pregnant with a child whose father's identity she refused to reveal, and is driven out of the home by Grandpa, Chinese values personified.

She starts to intrude into the life of her daughter Wil, a doctor, who's more westernized. And Wil too develops a lesbian relationship with her boss' daughter Vivian, a dancer. Wil has her hands full as she struggles with the demands and expectations of her new found relationship, trying hard to keep her relationship under wraps as she doesn't know how her loved ones would react, and taking care of her mom. For the conservative folks out there, don't mind the lesbian love; it's the themes behind this movie that are universal, and appealing.

Little nuances were very much welcomed in the movie, like filial piety (yes you may not like what your mom is doing to your life, but you respect her anyhow), the congregation of Chinese people in western lands for their weekly dinner-and-dance matchmaking sessions, the malicious gossips and the spreading of rumours like wildfire amongst a close-knit community. Many of these led to natural humour at seeing cultural values, misconceptions (like the Soy Sauce joke) and prejudices played out on screen.

It's also a story about coming out of the dark with controversial relationships (single parenthood, lesbian love), having the courage to stand up for who you are and love, and the acceptance of the only constant in life - change. We see the dominating fatherly figure in the movie come to realize this fact as he resigns to the fate about his lost of face.

I have two favourite scenes in this movie (no, it's not the lesbian sex in case you're wondering, and even that has been edited too, despite its R21 rating). The first scene is something that plays like a small homage to The Graduate, with the interrupting of a wedding scene and running away only to end up in a bus. They sit in silence, before wondering what the next step should be. Just as the Graduate dealt with an unconventional relationship, so does this movie, and I found it somehow apt to have adopted it in this film.

The other is the statement it made about relationships. It's personal, between two persons, and it doesn't matter what others think. Conditioning and culture might have made us conservative in the declaration of our true feelings, but the message in the movie is to let these inhibitions go.

Some might not like the movie's use of both Mandarin and English in the same conversation, especially when trying to figure out why Wil speaks English to her mom, while she replies in Mandarin (yes, she knows a little English, but doesn't seem to suffice her understanding of Wil's more complete sentences). But hey, put that aside, and you'll enjoy other conversational pieces where the characters break into, and uses the other language's words as substitutes, kinda like how we bilinguals speak sometimes.

It's a clash of western's open and asian's conservative cultural values in an earnest tale of traditional and modern relationships and love, packaged with an excellent soundtrack selection. This is going into my books as one of the contenders for my movie of this year. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that the female leads are attractive eye candy too? Highly recommended!

Friday, October 28, 2005

[DVD] Batman (1966)

*BAM* *POW* *ZAP* Who can forget the letters splashed across the screen each time Batman and Robin sucker-punch villains in the 60s Batman television serial?

Forget Christian Bale's accurate portrayal of the Dark Knight. This is Adam West's camp version of the character in the 1960s, and together with "holy-spewing" Robin, they ham it up with their classic chemistry on screen as the dynamic duo. Taking on a total of four villains, The Joker (Cesar Romero), Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Catwoman (Lee Meriwether taking the place of Julie Newmar) and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), the dynamic duo battles their evil plans, on world domination by capturing the Security Council of the UN. But getting there and having their diabolical plot materialize is a test of patience, as the plot seemed to beat about the bush.

With a bigger budget to work with, we actually get to see various inane gadgets (which are dated nonetheless), and vehicles like the well-known Batmobile, Batboat, Batcopter, and Batcycle. Certain aspects of the series are migrated to the movie as well, like the weird camera angles, and the walk-up-the-side-of-the-building-with-a-batrope sequence.

Corny dialogue delivered with straight laced faces, perhaps this movie is strictly for bat-fans (to watch for the sake of completion), and fans of the 60s serial.

The true gems in the DVD are the documentaries and the audio commentary by Adam West and Burt Ward. It's amazing how they've aged gracefully, with Ward putting on visible pounds in his cheeks. They share various anecdotes on the casting and shooting of the film, which any bat-trivia enthusiast will lap up with glee.

Code 1 DVD extras: Audio commentary, trailer, and various documentaries like the Tour of the Batmobile, and Batman Featurette.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Legend of Zorro

Finally, after 7 years since the last Hollywood Zorro movie hit the big screen, director Martin Campbell is back with his original cast of Antonio Banderas in the title role, and Catherine Zeta Jones as his wife Elena de la Vega. Set 10 years after the last movie, The Legend of Zorro wastes no time in plunging the audience thick into trademarked action pieces that many associate with the Spanish Fox - the acrobatic lunges, flips, swordfights, whip action and horseback riding.

It's all familiar territory with the romanticized Old California, now at a crossroads where the state is in decision to join the rest of America. Things have changed for the de la Vega family too, as they have a new addition to the family, a son named Joaquin, who takes on traits of his father, but not knowing his father's secret identity.

Naturally, family takes the central theme in this movie. Why do vigilantes wear masks - simply to protect their loved ones as they enroll in the crusade for justice. This film explores the dilemma of the avenger as he struggles to be there for the general public in their hour of need, and the balance of spending enough quality time with his own family.

Relationships aren't rosy with husband and wife, and it's no surprise, they bicker again on screen. And when this concealment and protection of identity is compromised, what could be exploited from it?

Plenty of action in this movie to keep Zorro fans happy, and it's a marked improvement from the predecessor too. Zorro moves with guile and swift agility that will raise your eyebrow at the style of his acrobats, befitting his name "the fox". The use of the whip has increased, and so is the intensity of the swordfights.

However, the plot might be a bit of a letdown. It's the usual James Bondish storyline of some Euro-knight baddie in some highly secret underground organization trying to achieve the total destruction of America. One forgot to remind him that he'll need a lot more smarter accomplices in order to fulfill his desire for world domination. With 4 writers credited for the story, it does seem convoluted somewhat to include too many scenes which clocked the movie slightly longer than 2 hours. Some comedy was injected, but those with Tornado seemed a bit contrived (a horse that smokes and drinks? Come on...)

The pacing too is somewhat erratic, dragging some scenes unnecessarily and introducing subplots that in my opinion, went against the motivation of characters. There's a stab at the high-handed tactics of a certain government agency, and it's like watching a precursor of spy-versus-spy games. The soundtrack seemed to rehash the love them from the earlier movie too, playing it each time Elenor comes on screen, and the camera still soft-focuses her a lot too.

But what could have been given longer screen time is the on-screen banter between Banderas and Zeta Jones. That was what made the first film likeable and popular, and while this movie had flashes and moments of it, we could have had more. One could have also expected the effects to be seemless given today's technology, and nothing new presented on screen, but while the end result was impressive, there are certain frames that were obviously blue-screened and superimposed.

Despite its drawbacks, this is still a worthy Zorro movie, and with the signature shot of Zorro on Tornado hoisting its legs high in the sky in an all-ready posture ready to strike, with sword drawn, all can be forgiven.


Heads you live. Tails you die. Her name is Domino Harvey. She is a bounty hunter. This unconventional film is based very loosely on the true unconventional life of the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey. Losing her father at an early age, Domino grew up with her mother and lived the good life as a rich girl, becoming a Ford model at one point. But she has always been the aloof social outcast, and tend to loathe the high life (Beverly Hills brat-packers) she has been brought up in. She doesn't mince her words, and packs a wallop of a punch too.

Chancing upon a Bounty Hunter job, she signs up with one of the best in the business, Ed Mosbey (Mickey Rourke) and his partner Choco (Edgar Ramirez). It's a totally different life from one in which she grew up in, but as she explained to Ed, she's in it for the fun and thrills. She's skilled with various weapons like automatic weapons, knives and the Nun-chaks, and fast transforms into an asset to her team, with "bra and panties on". Soon, the trio become famous in the bounty hunting arena (who wouldn't with 2 hunks and a gorgeous babe), as we follow them through their various exploits. They even have their own reality TV show Bounty Squad, which plays an integral part of the story.

The film starts off very intensely and jumps right into the action, before the audience is brought back to the beginning, and chronicles her life from the start. At times, this movie is deliberately filmed in 70-ish television series style, especially the classic opening credits with theme song, character titles, and plenty of images with scenes from the movie. Some in the audience, however, will not appreciate the characteristic MTV styled quick cuts used by director Tony Scott, and I do see him making more films using this style, with his previous films Man on Fire and Spy Game. The soundtrack for this film is vulgarly kinky too.

That aside, there might be many not comfortable with the narrative style used, with constant flashbacks, and even "reversing" what had been shown on screen, making it a tad confusing at times. For those who somehow not manage to stay attentive to the plot, you may get lost halfway through, as it involves many characters with various personal motivations, which culminates in an explosive ending. Satisfying at the end, but only if you're patient with the build up, just like one of Tony Scott's earlier movies (which I shall not mention, as it is similar in narrative structure).

A number of actors make their appearance in this movie, like Christopher Walken as a reality show producer, Mena Suvari as his mousy secretary, Lucy Liu as an FBI interrogator, even singer Macy Gray and veteran Jacqueline Bisset as Domino's mother. Take note however, that major comedic moments are provided in Jerry Springer's Show, and the early 90s TV series Beverly Hills 90210 contributing 2 actors Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green to be has-been parodies of themselves.

Keira Knightley swears a lot in this film. A whole lot, different from when she first burst into the scene with Bend It Like Beckham. What's amazing is her ability to handle a tough-as-nails character, and the expressing of her emotions in totally different scenes, some sentimental, some sarcastic, some totally kicking rear. It's an eye opener too to watch her handle various deadly weapons with ease. She could well be on her way to marquee a film, though I felt in this one, she had the assistance of Mickey Rourke, and a good supporting cast, to carry this film through.

This film is dedicated in memory of the real Domino Harvey, who passed away earlier this year before the movie is released. The real her is seen at the end credits, where they feature the cast, and she makes an appearance as the last character, simply titled "Domino".

Such is the fictional story of an extraordinary life of an unconventional lady.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The History of Zorro

The Legend of Zorro, sequel to the fondly remembered The Mask of Zorro, hits the local theatres this Thursday. Who can forget the cheeky scene between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones, and the latter having the movie catapult her into the A-list.

For those who want to know a bit more of the history behind the legendary character, you can click on an article I contributed to movieXclusive by clicking on the logo below


Sunday, October 23, 2005

[DVD] The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Alexandre Dumas is probably more famous for his The Three Muskateers, and in the last decade, that movie has been remade in its latest incantation starring Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt and Kiefer Sutherland in the title roles, with Chris O'Donnell as D'artagnan. Hollywood followed that up with The Man in the Iron Mask, with strong character actors like Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu flanking Leonardo DiCaprio as King Louis XIV/Philippe.

Adapting from yet another Dumas story, The Count of Monte Cristo continues the tradition of a strong cast in the likes of Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce in lead roles, with Michael Wincott and Richard Harris in bit roles.

Set in the era of Napoleon's exile from France, this movie tells the story of good friends Edmond Dantes (Caviezel) and Fernand Mondego (Pearce). The former is an ordinary lad with no status and of simple mind, but has incredible luck shining upon him, while the latter is the son of a Count, and harbours a great envy for his friend.

And the worst enemy would always be your best friend, so the saying goes, as Mondego plots with fellow collaborators and frames Dantes for treason, and gets him imprisoned on an island, and makes Dantes' fiance his wife.

For 13 years, Dantes becomes disillusion while whipped on the anniversary of his imprisonment (yes, even before his Passion of the Christ role), but chance would have that he befriends a fellow prisoner, a priest who teaches him how to read, write, fight, fence, and various subjects of the world, for the return favour of helping him dig a tunnel to escape. A miraculous escape opportunity presented itself, and the priest reveals to Dante the map of secret treasure on the island of Monte Cristo.

Naturally, everything has changed since the last he stepped foot on Marseille, and Dantes plots revenge, to take away everything from his enemies, like what they did to him. Hence, the Count of Monte Cristo is born, and so begins the meticulous execution of his plan. Weaved into the plot is the love story between Dantes and Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk), with a now familiar revelation that countless other movies and books have adapted from.

If you've read Dumas' classic, you would already know the details of the plot. But what delivers here is the excellent acting, and beautiful sets. Definitely a must watch. My only regret was not being able to watch it in the local theatres when it was released, because of its short run. A real pity.

Code 1 DVD Extras: Audio commentary by the director, 4 deleted scenes, and plenty of making-of featurettes.

[DVD] Bangkok Dangerous (1999)

I picked up this DVD because I've been to Bangkok couple of times, and wanted to see how the filmmakers Oxide and Danny Pang manage to capture the more sleazy side of the city, and combine it with gangster noir to come up with Bangkok Dangerous. I've heard about the movie, and was surprised that our National Library actually had this DVD in its collection.

Bangkok Dangerous tells the story of a deaf mute assassin Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit). His is a life of mission after mission, a cold and professional, though small time, killer. Growing up being bullied because of his disability, he finds work at a gun range as a cleaner, until he chances upon Joe (Pisek Intrakanchit) and his girlfriend Aom (Patharawarin Timkul). Kong learns his skills from Joe (in an excellent montage), and together, form a tag-team partnership.

During the course of work, Kong chances upon the beautiful Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha) who works at a drugstore, and in between missions, he romances Fon, who doesn't shun him in spite of being a deaf mute. The killer has finally known what it is to develop feelings and to love.

However, if you live by the gun, chances are there will be those who are after you. Things change for the worse when Aom offends one of the gang's ranked member, and gets raped. Joe goes for revenge, but ultimately gets literally betrayed by the hand that feeds. Kong has to decide - to finish what had started and avenge his friends, or to try and begin life anew with the woman he loves, even after she has started to avoid him, knowing what he does for a living.

In a cosmopolitan city like Bangkok, this film manages to capture a kaleidoscope of colours, mood, and use various camera angles to its advantage. It contrasts the shady underworld and strip bars, and its pulsating music, with the silent, kind world of love that Kong for the first time experiences when he's with Fon.

It's a story of finding one's own morality when living in the midst of violence and sleaze, and the seeking of redemption from a life of sin.

Code 3 DVD extras: Filmography of filmmakers and inspiration for the film.

[DVD] Roger & Me (1989)

Before Farenheit 9/11 and the award winning Bowling For Columbine, this is the movie that filmmaker (director, writer, producer) Michael Moore started off with. Filmed in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, we follow the chronicles of (what he wants you to believe) the town's love-hate relationship with General Motors.

General Motors started off in that town, before it became the automotive giant that it is today. Michael Moore's from that town too, and start off the documentary fusing together his family's career (most were GM staff) together with the rise of GM. That is, until massive layoffs were made.

At some points in the movie, you can't help but feel that that is the way corporations go about, worrying about their bottom line, and outsourcing jobs to the cheaper alternative. But from Moore's point of view in the movie, he's taking it from an everyday working class person's, who naturally, will not be happy with being laid off.

We follow him, in his now familiar guerilla styled interviews, to various families in Flint, to see the conditions they live in, and following the deputy sheriff to evict those who are too poor to pay their rent. His main motive in this movie, besides showing us the working class America, is actually to interview the General Motors chairman Roger Smith, and get him to go down to Flint to take a look at the situation himself.

Naturally, being a new independent filmmaker with no credentials, he's being turned away each time he's at the GM head office attempting to make his way to the 14th floor. Staking out the chairman's regular haunts did not rake in any results, but it's kinda hilarious in the canned response that he gets each time he engages with a spokesperson.

State officials and their seemingly enthusiastic attempts in lifting Flint out of its depression, like getting evangelists to bless the town out of its current mood, and trying to build its tourism industry, while in good faith, somehow became ineffective, and of course, subtly laughed at.

It's seriously not a bad first attempt, sprinkled with the style, humour and satire that you'd come to expect from a Michael Moore movie.

Code 3 DVD extras: Commentary by Moore (not to be missed), and trailer.

High Tension (Haute Tension)

This film has finally made its way to our shores, uncut. For a slasher flick, it's bloody good, pun intended. If you've read me enough, you know that I'm a sucker for revenge films and zombie flicks. The occasional slasher flick appeals to me too, and this one doesn't disappoint, in the delivery of the material that is.

Two friends Marie (a very buff Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) spend the weekend in the latter's farm home, to keep away from distractions to study for their exams. We are briefly introduced to the family members of Alex - the parents, the toddler brother and the family St Bernard, before the horror starts to set in the very same night.

As with slasher flicks, there would always be the lumbering and unstoppable psycho killer. In this film, it's a huge unkempt man in baseball cap and dirty overalls, armed with only a switchblade, bulldozing his way into the family home and slaughtering everyone in sight. We share in Marie's fear and attempts to conceal herself, which makes you wonder, in desperate moments like these life and death situations, what will you really do? The confusion and fear makes it all easy for Marie to think selfishly, but I suppose it's only human nature, and what more can you do, really?

In playing cat-and-mouse with the killer, we see the decapitations of various forms, stabs, creative use of improvised weapons, all soaked in tons of blood. If the film was edited, then a lot would have been lost, especially the impact of such senseless violence on defenseless persons. If one should compare with the recent release Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, the latter would be a leisurely stroll in the park in the violence and gore department. Perhaps it's closest cousin might be The Devil's Rejects.

Cécile De France shines in her role, as many in the audience could feel her fear, desperation, and new found courage. The film easily relied on her to pull the movie through its highly disturbing material.

The filmmakers could have left this as it was - brutal, senseless killings (hey, slasher flick, remember?), but in trying to have a one-up in making this a more psychological film with the slight twist at the end, somehow exposed a lot of gaping loopholes in the narrative storyline in retrospect.

So be forewarned, this film is not for the squemish and faint at heart. It's bloody brutal, the way slasher films are made out to be, and make no apologies for.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Dreamship Surprise (Raumschiff Surprise - Periode 1)

This movie is so insanely gay! And I mean it in both sense of the word. No wonder this comedy broke the German box office with its madcap, low-brow, at times, crass humour. But it's all in good fun.

If you're looking for a plot, be reminded that a spoof-fest only has an outline of what resembles a story. The story's not award winning material to begin with, and it was never the intention of doing so.

In the future, Earth has colonized Mars, and some aliens aren't happy with it, so war is declared on the Earthlings. Somehow, Earth's last hope lies in the hands of Dreamship Surprise and its crew of merry men, led by the gayish Captain Kork, and equally feminine-like officers Mr Spuck and Schrotty. Needless to say, the crew of Dreamship Surprise is a complete spoof of Star Trek's Starship Enterprise crew, right down to the uniform, the multi-racial crew, and the technology available on board. Serious Trekkies might not take this too kindly though, to see their beloved franchise taken to "new" heights.

To save Earth from the aliens, the team has to travel back in time to prevent the discovery of alien lifeforms in Area 51. But it's made more difficult when Kork and crew are more interested in their rehearsals for an upcoming Miss Waikiki competition (don't ask). Which is crazy I tell you. If you think that the Chicken Little ad now showing in theatres is cute, you haven't seen nothing yet!

Spoofing obvious movies like Star Wars - pod-racing, battleships hovering in orbit, the Jedi Council, Coruscant, Queen Amidala, Han Solo, Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, the list goes on, and Star Trek - the main leads, there are also numerous references to movies like Austin Powers (the phallic-shaped starship), Back to the Future (time travel), Minority Report and even A Knight's Tale. Spoofing and combining key characters from Star Wars and Star Trek have been attempted before in Hollywood comedies, but definitely not in the manner that Dreamship Enterprise had.

Stay tuned during the credits, where some blooper scenes are shown, and if you stay until the end of the credits, you'll be rewarded with yet another short hilarious scene.

Definitely recommended for an evening after a hard day's work.

All About Love

I haven't been watching a lot of Andy Lau's recent releases, and was surprised to have been able to review this for movieXclusive earlier this week.

It turned out to be a romance with 2 pretty co-stars Charlene Choi and Charlie Young, and who would have known that this movie turned out to be beautifully done.

You can click on the logo below to read my review, and take my word for it, it's good.

[DVD] Twilight Samurai (2004)

This film chronicles the life of Seibei Iguchi, as told through the eyes of one his daughters. The film starts off with the unfortunate death of his wife, and he's left alone to bring up 2 young daughters, and a senile mother, much to the neglect of his own welfare.

Despite being a lowly-ranked samurai, life is adequately comfortable, in an era of change and the coming of the end of the Meiji era. His life takes a turn when childhood sweetheart, and recent divorcee Tomoe Iinuma, re-enters his life. Protecting her from her violent ex-husband, love is rekindled between the two again, but Seibei, conscious of his low ranking status, is reluctant to declare his true feelings for Tomoe.

It's a love story weaved into a Yoki Yamada samurai movie, and somehow I can't help but to compare and noticed some similarities between this movie, and The Hidden Blade. Politics also feature strongly in both movies, as do typical samurai themes of honour, and clan hierarchy and orders.

If you're expecting to see many swordplay from the Twilight Samurai, you might be a tad disappointed. There are only 2 fight scenes in this film, one with Seibei using a wooden sword to teach Tomoe's ex-husband a lesson, and the other, a fight to the death with a clan rebel in the confines of an old house. But violence has never been Seibei's character, and fights are only seen as either a last resort (using a non-lethal weapon), or only when loathing and reluctantly carrying out orders from his clan.

This is a simple story of a man struggling with providing for his family, and the coming to terms within himself to be honest with his feelings. Only when faced with his own mortality, does he find the courage to do so. It is beautifully filmed, and is no wonder that it was garnered many awards in Japan's Academy Awards in 2004, and nominated to be in competition at the Oscars as Japan's entry.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

I won't be surprised to see hordes of housewives watching Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, given the Korean drama penetration into Asian households, especially the wildly popular Jewel In The Palace starring the same lead actress Lee Young-ae. Then again, given the theme on revenge, filled with its fair share of blood and gore, this new movie by Park Chan-wook might appeal to just a select few.

It's easy to draw comparisons with Hollywood's recent revenge movie, Quetin Tarantino's Kill Bill. Both stars hot actresses, both movies focus on the same theme, both have children playing an integral part of the protagonist's motivation, and both were essentially screwed (both sense of the word) by a male baddie. However, Sympathy plays up the stylistic factor, as well as little arthouse nuances in delivering sweet revenge.

Lee Young-ae plays Lee Geum-ja, whom we see leaving prison after serving a sentence of 13 years for kidnap and murder. Or is it? Framed and blackmailed by her collaborators, she bears the brunt of the responsiblity and blame, which sent her packing to jail. Naturally she swears vengeance upon the mastermind of the dastardly deeds, as hell as knoweth no fury like a woman who's really pissed.

Playing up biblical moments in the movie by symbolizing Geum-ja as a devil in angel's clothing (or vice versa, depending on how you want to look at it), the movie intersperses narrative moments with essential flashbacks to her life in prison. On one hand, she's the angel to newcomers who protects them from the bad prison cell mama-san, while on the other, she's the devil who's plotting murder on the sly. She gains respect from these inmates, who play important roles when Geum-ja is released, to exact her 13 year revenge plan. One of the best scenes in demonstrating this was the making of her twin-trigger handgun, translating poetic justice straight from the pages of a sutra.

The final showdown is different from Kill Bill's, without the monotonous monologue, and the imaginary Five Point Exploding Heart Palm technique. Here, it's brutal, it's violent, and somehow, satisfactory. Revenge is a dish best served cold, but only enjoyable when share with a group of like-minded diners, to classical Vivaldi music. The final 20 minutes of the show makes an interesting conversation and analytical piece, so I would not spoil anything here.

While at times the movie does plod along, it depended heavily on Young-ae to shoulder this film through its slower moments. I'm not sure why, but somehow through the many close-ups, I find she has aged quite a lot from her JSA days.

Make no mistake, this film might not be for all to bear. Those who are expecting numerous gunfights and explosions will be disappointed, as Geum-ja does not roar and rampage like what Beatrix did. But when she finally does, in artistic style, all can be forgiven.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Transporter 2

Jason Statham is back as Frank Martin, a man who lives by his own rules, a man with a military past who now works as a transporter, a man of few words, a man of action. Little has changed since the end of the first movie, he still drives a cool car, though the BMW has been traded for an Audi A8L W12, and ploughing the streets of Miami, girls still find him irresistable (who can forget Shu Qi appearing at his doorstep and throwing herself at him? Here, Amber Valletta does the same. Lucky dude), and the men can't wait to sock his face.

Many were surprised that the Transporter managed to gear up a sequel, but as far as I'm concerned, they can do a movie series with various cool cars waiting in line to be driven by Statham. Mercedes next?

But the plot for Transporter 2 had showed some shades of Denzel Washington's Man on Fire, especially in the beginning, only that the kidnap victim is a boy whose relationship with his protector isn't as drawn out or touching as that between Washington and Dakota Fanning. Thrown into what seems like a plot (in an action flick, who cares anyway?) is bioterrorism, as a group of baddies orchestrate an elaborate plan to kill loads with a carefully manufactured virus.

Flimsy plot aside, Statham delivers his punches well in action choreographed by Corey Yuen. Probably following the "Jackie Chan" style of using almost everything in a particular setting to wrestle with his opponents, Statham proved more menacing without the deliberate comedic acts that Jackie fuses into his brand of action. He might look a bit awkward with the metal pole, but the action sequence with the hosereel was fun, though short.

As with Hollywood action flicks, don't expect the hero to be busted up too much, and he's always blessed with incredible luck and faced with enemies who are never marksmen. There are some obvious action flaws that might border on the line of absurdity, but heck, one's not gonna analyze beyond the belief that Lady Luck is smiling on Statham's Frank. The actions were left unscathed by the censors, only a lingering shot of the baddie's girl (the one on the poster) was snipped when the camera reached the upper torso.

Have been a fan of Statham ever since his Snatch days, and it's a pretty decent action movie. Sit back, buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Election is the latest film on the Hong Kong Triads, starring veteran actors like Simon Yam and Tony "The Lover' Leung, with younger actors like Louis Koo thrown into the fray.

Is it good? Check out my movieXclusive review by clicking on the logo below

Sunday, October 16, 2005

[DVD] Runaway Jury (2003)

This was the last John Grisham book I've read in chronological order, starting from The Firm, and all of them thus far have been made into relatively successful movies with big names attached to the projects. While most of them have stuck fairly accurately to the source material (The Chamber by far was the most accurate, but therefore least interesting in my opinion), this one took a lot of liberty by swinging the main "baddies" from tobacco companies, to gun companies.

Not that it would have mattered a lot, given that both have the propensity to kill people. This film lends itself to some serious pondering on the jury system over the powers of the judge to determine the fate of the case. But with the jury system open to possible manipulation and tampering, like what was shown, perhaps there could never be a 100% foolproof way of ensuring that crime pays accurately. Justice is blind?

It's the third outing for Gene Hackman in a movie adapted from Grisham. He started off opposite Tom Cruise in The Firm, then opposite Chris O'Donnell in The Chamber, and now, stars as jury consultant cum manipulator Rankin Fitch, who has a team of upbeat high tech investigators in the game of ensuring that the jury is handpicked by them, for a particular case. It's highly interesting to see the way they apply assumptions, surveillance and various digging of skeletons of potential jurors, for the defence lawyer played by Bruce Davison, best known as Senator Kelly in the X-Men series.

Up against the defence is another powerhouse actor, Dustin Hoffman, as lawyer Wendell Rohr. Having Hoffman and Hackman pair up, for the very first time, is cinematic history in the making. Watch out for the washroom scene where these 2 share some very intense, argumentative moment together.

John Cusack and Rachel Weisz stars as Nicholas Easter and Marlee respectively, a team whose motive doesn't get revealed initially, other than to blackmail Rohr and Fitch into guaranteeing the jury's verdict in the favour of the one who can pay their 10 million dollars. To Fitch, they're small time players in this cat-and-mouse game, but he realizes that having an inside guy, in this case, Easter, who's on the jury, may prove to be just that guarantee he needs. Rohr, on the other hand, being more morally upright, struggles to come to terms with probably losing his case to a pair of hustlers.

While you may have read Grisham's novel, Runaway Jury will still keep you guessing, at least the motives of Easter and Marlee, up until the very last scene.

My favourite adaptation until now has always been A Time To Kill, starring Matthew McConaughey in his first lead role, with Samuel L Jackson. But Runaway Jury has air-dropped itself into joint number one spot, as I eagerly anticipate the next John Grisham adaptation. Any news, anyone?

[DVD] The Majestic (2001)

It's a pity that this film did not make it to the local cinemas for public screening. I recall watching the trailer in a theatre, and was eagerly anticipating it, but it never came. The major reason was that after being convinced that Jim Carrey could do drama (The Truman Show preceded this), I couldn't wait for The Majestic to open its doors. Good thing I managed to get hold of the DVD at library@Esplanade.

And I wasn't disappointed! Carrey plays Peter Appleton, a Hollywood screenwriter in the 50s who works for HHS Studios. His story has been filmed and is screening at the theatres, the love of the life is an actress casted in the movie, he has one more work in the pipeline, so everthing seemed to be going for him. Until he was accused of being a Communist by Congress, and his entire love and work life turns upside down.

While on a drunken stupor, Peter meets with an accident, loses his memory and ends up in the small town of Lawson, California. While he can't remember who he was, the entire town seemed to know him, as Luke Trimble, a teen who had served and died for his country in WWII. And many of the young lads of Lawson did. Harry Trimble (Martin Landau) couldn't believe his eyes when he sees Peter, thinking of him as his son, and so did everyone else in Lawson.

They throw a hero's welcome for Peter/Luke, and celebrate his bringing of new hope to the sleepy town. Skeptical at first was Luke's childhood sweetheart Adele Stanton (Laurie Holden), but it's not before long she casts her doubts aside and falls for Peter/Luke all over again.

The charm of a small town is heavily contrasted with that of Hollwood's, with everyone knowing everyone else in the former, to the coldness and business like manner of the latter. Everyone in Lawson experiences positive energy given Peter/Luke's presence, and Harry decides to refurbish and reopen The Majestic, the town's cinema, where he and Luke lives in the apartment above. Perhaps it is this sequence of restoration running in parallel with the rekindling romance between Peter/Luke and Adele that is my favourite in this movie.

But like a fairy tale, all good things must come to an end, and Peter/Luke eventually rediscovered who he was when he chanced upon his own movie being screened at The Majestic. Soon enough, his old life catches up to him, and he's left to choose to fight the fight and stand up for what he believes in, or throw in the towel and his integrity along with it.

It's kinda interesting to have real events, like WWII and the anti-communist movement in Hollywood frame the background of what essentially is a love story, and a story of discovering oneself. And to that, Carrey did no wrong. While Truman Show had shades of some comedy (probably as a cushion to the transition), The Majestic is all serious drama and romance, and credit to Carrey for successfully pulling it off. While Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had been my movie of the year 2004, I seriously think that The Majestic could have been a contender of mine for 2001. The number of cameo voices in this movie is astounding too, from Matt Damon to Garry Marshall, Sydney Pollack and Rob Reiner too.

So do yourself a favour, especially if you're not a Carrey fan. Your impression of him might change after you've seen him in this movie. It's filled with many touching moments in this 2 1/2hr movie, and brings back the splendour of a time where movies were a grand escape from the mundaneness of life.

[DVD] Singles (1992)

Love. Sex. Friendship. Companionship. These are the themes obviously explored in Cameron Crowe's early movie Singles, which revolve around the love lives of singles (naturally) living in a common apartment. We follow each of the protagonist Steve (Campbell Scott), Janet (Bridget Fonda), Cliff (Matt Dillon) and Linda (Kyra Sedgwick) through their ups and downs in dealing with the weird little emotion called Love.

Well, not quite. As we know early in the film, each have problems and their own peculiar viewpoints on the dating scene. We see Linda meeting and breaking up with a Spanish student she was so into, after seeing through his lies and sweet talk. It hurts, and she doesn't want to be hurt again. Steve too have had a bad experience, and (I can identify with this) swears off relationships for the next few years, deciding instead to focus on career. As Fate would have had it, these two will meet at the unlikeliest places and get into a relationship.

Cliff, an aspiring rocker, seemed to have taken his girlfriend Janet, for granted. And I think this is something that most people can identify with. When efforts go unappreciated, or when things go mundane, the question is, do you want to bail out? And when you do, what next? Would you give the ex another chance? If you do, how would you approach it?

It's fun watching a movie that was made 13 years ago, and you wonder about how the initiating and sustaining of a relationship back then happened without technology which we are so used to these days. Back then, a mobile phone was a cordless one, and there is no such thing as an instant message, but an answering machine. Where Speed Dating was unheard of, but Video Dating was the rage (check out the funny Tim Burton cameo).

You wonder too about the career of the leads. Campbell Scott was noticed by many after his pairing with Julia Roberts in the movie Dying Young, but after this, seemed to have vanished into obscurity. And so has Kyra Sedgwick. Only Matt Dillon and Bridget Fonda are still around, somewhere.

Oh, the music. Peppered throughout the movie is the wonderful musical tracks that always seem to punctuate a particular moment succinctly. I like Tarantino and Crowe movies because music plays an integral part of the entire experience, and Singles too had excellent ballads blended with grunge rock, say, Pearl Jam (before they made it huge), which also made an appearance.

It's a beautiful, quirky little movie with excellent identifiable dialogue, music, humour, and a younger cast of stars whom we know today, thrown into situations that everyone in love would have experienced.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


It's Panic Room in the skies! This is the second inflight entertainment (pardon the jab) movie from Hollywood this year, the other being Wes Craven's recent Red Eye. Jodie Foster again plays a vulnerable yet tough as nails mum, who is on a flight with her six year old daughter from Berlin to New York, taking with them the body of their recently deceased husband/father in a coffin (in the cargo hold of course).

However, before you can taste the airline food, her daughter is missing, and Mommy goes frantic in trying to look for her. But it seems that nobody on the airplane has seen the little girl, and it's all up to Mom to discover just what the heck is happening 30000 feet in the air, Of course things are made more difficult in a post 911 world of aviation, with bulletproof vault like cockpit doors, US Marshalls, and edgy passengers.

The first 5 minutes of the film is kinda confusing, as time is juxtaposed and not really explained much, besides trying to show the relationship between husband and wife, and suggesting that the tragedy might have led to Foster's deteriorated mindset.

But if compared to Red Eye, certainly this film takes the honour of being in the air a lot more, and on a state-of-the-art (read: fictitious airplane and airline) jumbo plan with many nooks and crannies. Rather than settle for an obvious villain upfront, this movie opted for more subtlety, which leaves you guessing who, and definitely want to know the why, though I must warn you by the time you're told the why, you might roll your eyes at probable absurdity (i.e. why go through all that trouble?)

Big names are attached to this project, and we all know that Foster is aptly able to carry a movie on her own. Joining her are Peter Sarsgaard (last seen in Skeleton Key), and Sean "Boromir" Bean as the Captain of the flight. Erika Christensen stars as one of the flight attendants without many lines and much to do (pity), and Kate Beahan came across as a Jennifer Lopez-Sarah Jessica Parker clone as one of the leading attendants.


Watch this film and you'll know why many flight attendants were so upset with the roles - they would all be out of a job if they behaved like their screen counterparts. Also, stereotypes are abound with the Arab passengers being accused of being part of the kidnap - hands up those of you who thought they had something to do with the dirty deed. And as if to rub salt into the wound, there was one American character who was all ready to pounce onto them.


The first half of the film built up the entire premise successfully, only to be brought back to normalcy by the usual Hollywood wham-bang action in a claustrophobic airplane. But nonetheless a thriller which satisfies up until the creative closing credits.

[FAQ 2.0] A Nutshell Review

Q1: What is A Nutshell Review?
A1: The reviews contain my thoughts about movies I've watched. It's not meant to be film criticism; if you're looking for that, you're better off with the printed journals.

Q2: What is your objective in posting these reviews?
Q2: To share and help others who don't watch movies often, or have limited funds, to decide if a show is worth watching.

Q3: Your reviews do not have a rating system...
A3: I rarely do the Star Ratings thingy, which is pointless, as different genres call for a different way of appreciation. Read my thoughts, and if you feel that it's worth watching, do it.

Q4: OK, spill it, What's In It For You?
A4: To confirm my blog status as Singapore's #1 Movie Review Blog. I probably am right now, unless someone can point out to me somebody else who is consistently reviewing new movies and putting them online. I'll like to shake his/her hand.

Q5: Do you post reviews after watching VCDs, DVDs, pirated versions even?
A5: Never pirated versions. I proudly base my review on theatrical releases, and watched on a big screen with the best sound system each theatre can offer. One is not helping the film industry through watching a pirated movie.

But, there are certainly movies that I missed, and certain classics that I might want to watch. So I decided I will be reviewing movies I watched on DVDs as well, just don't expect me to go into the DVD specifications and details - check them out on other websites instead.

Q6: Do you post spoilers?
A6: If I do, there will be adequate spoiler warnings. But so far, I have steered clear of posting the endings, twists, or details of storylines not known and cannot be referenced from the movie's trailers.

Q7: How often do the reviews posted?
A7: Each time I watch a movie screened in Singapore, I aim to post my thoughts within 24hrs. That's the challenge. Sometimes I view 2-3 (5 was my record) movies in a day, and it takes time to compose thoughts and post them online. I watch movies during sneak previews, to get the reviews out on time before the general release.

Q8: Where else do the reviews get posted?
A8: My pride is with and New York Times Online Edition. Others include my Friendster and MySpace bulletin boards, various online forums and magazines, and I run my own mailing list.

Q9: Are you getting paid for this?
A9: No, but you can send a donation my way to defray my movie watching cost :P

Q10: Have you ever dozed off while watching a movie?
A10: Yes, during the Hunt For Red October. Not that it was boring, but the seat I got played a big part. If you know me by now, you'll know about my idiosyncracy of seats in cinemas.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo

It took 6 long years for our favourite he-bitch to return to the big screen, and this time, he singlehandedly takes on the entire male-whore population of Europe. Well, not quite. You see, the title's a misnomer, he's an American Gigolo, not European. Set in Europe you say? Only Amsterdam, where weed is legal. Doesn't even set foot in Pisa, where the poster suggests the Leaning Tower.

Many critics can't wait to slam this movie, but hey, what do critics know anyway? It's a crass movie, so steer clear if you can't take crass. You can experience the usual unpolitically-correct physical comedy on blind people, animals, the obvious dig on America and its war on terror, Canadians misbehaving themselves, nude weather girls, and yes, lots and lots of sexual humour on the male appendage and various discharge.

But I'm not all praise for this movie either, even though I was in crass-mode. There are some moments where it seemed a little contrived, that Deuce was being dumb for the sake of being dumb (he wasn't that bad in the first). Some jokes were bordering on the lame, and what made the first part interesting - the various weird girls that Deuce encounters, were very quickly glossed over.

Perhaps the filmmakers wanted a refreshing perspective, but yet unsure whether to take a totally different direction altogether. The girls became a peripheral plot to the main one, that of Deuce tracking down a serial man-whore killer in Amsterdam, and in doing so, would help to clear his friend, TJ, as the suspect. With a serial killer on the loose, the gigolos are so afraid of plying their wares, that their excuses make comic situations too.

Not since Pulp Fiction (in my limited experience) was Amsterdam so prominently mentioned / used in an American movie. The dialogue on coffeeshops brought back memories of my time in Amsterdam (no, I did not smoke nor inhale, in case you're wondering), and so do some of the scenery (I've been there!)

And while there are some good looking jocks in this movie for the girls to ogle at, the guys will probably have their eyes transfixed on Hanna Verboom, who plays Deuce's main squeeze Eva. The Elite Model Look of the Year 2003 is mesmerizing - some guys have all the luck.

It might not be THE comedy of the year, but it certainly has its moments. This movie certainly is crying out the need for a better pimp!

P.S. You'll never see that Chicken Little dance to the "Numanuma" song in the same light again!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

April Snow

To think that I watched 2 horror movies back to back, and 2 Korean movies back to back too. Uncanny, as I ended my previous review on handphones, as I begin this one on the same device.

The role of the mobile phone, in the making of and destruction of romantic relationships. Hands up, those of you who have used it to flirt, and keep your hands there if you have an archive of secret messages stashed away in one of the electronic folders of your phone's memory. Password protection, afraid of someone dear chancing upon them, aren't you?

Bae Yong-jun (geeks of the world, rejoice!) stars as In-su, a man whose wife met with an accident. Terribly shaken, he sees his spouse in the hospital intensive care unit, in a comatose state. Unknowingly, he meets a woman Seo-young (classic beauty Son Ye-jin) at the ward, whose husband too, was involved in the same accident. Slowly, they discover that their spouses were cheating behind their backs, thereby giving both another blow to their emotions.

I'm not really a fan of the bespectacled Bae, but in this film, he has demonstrated his acting prowess somewhat, if not already seen by most fans in his famed TV series Winter Sonata. You see the pain of a man who has dawned upon the knowledge of being betrayed by a spouse, the sadness emoting through his eyes when he reads SMS from the strayed spouse to her lover, and the intolerance viewing the video clip of their tryst in a hotel room. Here's a man who had lived in a web of adulterous deceit.

And in the same boat, Son Ye-jin, ever so vulnerable as the clueless housewife Seo-young, who suffers silently while awaiting for her husband to awaken from his coma. On one hand, she hates him for what he has done, but on the other, still dutifully cares for him. And this duality and fighting of emotions for their respective spouses ring through the state of confusion both In-su and Seo-young are in.

Sure, they want to seek revenge, which I suppose is a normal human reaction in these circumstances, but how? The other party's spouse happens to be a victim too, and hereby lies the dilemma in the inability to exact sweet justice. Or can they? As they meet up more often, by chance or otherwise, to have someone to talk to, to spend time with, to have meals together, each becomes the pillar of strength for the other, while they seek to unravel the rationale of their spouses' illicit affair.

A drunken slip of the tongue became the foreplay, and it's no rocket science that they decide to express their emotions in a physical manner, as promoted in the trailers. Note that I did not mention "love". It doesn't seem so at this point - their body language seemed more like strangers, their movements awkward. It's like for the purpose of releasing pent-up anger and frustration, of getting back and for the sake of getting even. Twisted; weird. Love? No.

But Love, probably, did creep in after a while. But you question if this is love out of convenience, of being there for the other person, just like the other is there for you, in dire straits? And in an attempt to steer this controversial romance theme (Two wrongs don't make a right - love borne out of an affair) into more mainstream acceptance, the filmmakers brought in Fate to decide - to have something identifiable between the two leads, for them to make the decision on their plausible future. Hence the title.

But the one scene which stood out for me, is the one where the confrontation is held. There isn't a need to ask point blank questions. A side remark in passing, and you'll come to understand whether it's worth burying the hatchet, or not.

And it's kinda back to full circle, as the mobile device which destructed one side of the relationship, ended up nurturing another. Such is the electronic era we live and cope in.

The Wig

If you'd know me by now, I take my pick of horror flicks depending on my mood. I'm game anytime for zombie films, might take a little persuasion with vampire flicks, ghosts and goblins I might like too. The Hollywood movies that is, heavily laden with effects, and most of the time compensated with gore. I haven't watched an Asian horror movie since The Ring, and now have taken my first plunge with The Wig, courtesy of a movieXclusive preview screening.

Oh ok, it's all about the chicks again. Dark Water had Jennifer Connelly, Skeleton Key yesterday had Kate Hudson. In The Wig, we have two beautiful (actually in my opinion, one only) sisters Ji-hyeon (Yu Seon) and Su-hyeon (Chae Min-seo). Su-hyeon is suffering from leukemia, and isn't given too long to live. Her sister Ji-hyeon takes it upon herself to care for her until the end, which isn't expected to be too long. We see sisterly love abound after a cheesy start to the movie, and Ji-hyeon presents a wig for her sister to cover her bald head, the side effects of chemotherapy.

Of course, the wig's possessed by a spirit (hence the obvious title), and therefore takes over the life of Su-hyeon. She seemed to rapidly recover without the aid of drugs, and has a sudden lusting towards her sister's ex-boyfriend Ki-seok. Attitudes and habits change. You can experience the occassional standard horror fare like dream sequences, hallucinations, sudden appearances, pesky cats, dark corridors, creepy attics and the likes. Familiar territory for horror buffs.

So it's left to our heroine Ji-hyeon to quickly discover the whos, wheres, and whys, before it's too late to save her beloved sister from the devil. I suppose with most formulae, this discovery always ties down to the various characters in the movie, and their back-stories. It might interest you that Ji-hyeon didn't speak throughout the movie, as she was injured in an accident, so don't expect a lot of screams from her to raise your goosebumps.

But the main back-story, once revealed, is actually quite sad, especially the scenes after the revelation. It might be brief, and it might just bring out a tear or two from some sensitive audience. A slight twist at the end too when they tie up some of the subplots, which might raise some eyebrows, but only after a few cheap scares by the filmmakers.

And yes, I'll make it a point to peek under the toilet seat for the next few days. Gee, must every spirit from horror movies start to appear from everyday objects? Handphones next, anyone?

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Skeleton Key

The funny thing was I wanted to watch this movie over the weekend, but decided against it. To my surprise, I got preview invites courtesy of, so here's the review. On with the show shall we?

Hell-oh Nurse! Kate Hudson was the draw for me actually, and it would be interesting to see if she could pull off carrying The Skeleton Key on her shoulders. I would say if you're Kate's fan, then this movie's for you, since she's in almost every scene as the protagonist, in various states of (un)dress.

She plays Caroline, a nurse (did I just mention that?) who decides to call it a day when her moral consciousness calls out to her that being in a hospital, just isn't her cup of tea. She cares for her patients, but since hospital beds are always in demand, the recently deceased gets whisked away and forgotten pretty quickly. So she opts for hospice care, and chances upon the Devereaux couple, where Ben Devereaux has suffered a stroke, and wife Violet needed help in caring for the old man.

Perhaps she sees it as a chance for redemption, in not being there to provide that same level of care when her estranged dad was sick and thereafter dead even before she knew it. She takes it upon herself to do her utmost even when the patient is fully paralyzed, and the wife isn't too happy with her presence.

And what's a horror show, without the usual antics to spice things up? You have a house with 30 rooms (which you only see less than 10?), one of them rooms being the "mysterious-oh-you-cannot-enter" room, a skeleton key which opens every door (why don't they call it the Master Key? Probably not sexy-sounding enough), a creepy old lady and an even creepier old man, doors slamming, wind howling, always raining, a house with a mysterious past in the middle of a dark, skanky swamp, and hoodoo-magic (not voodoo, like the movie explains).

But perhaps these techniques are cliched already, and no longer working with audiences who have adapted to the Japanese/Korean/Thai style of horror techniques. It does get stale after 20 minutes into the show, with its crescendos and startles, and the filmmakers seemed to be aware of that, and stopped short of them. It did, however, generate some scares amongst the chicken-hearted - you can see them jump at their seats.

There's a twist towards the end, which I thought was neatly executed, answering the whos, the wheres, the hows, but leaving the whys until the very last moment. And when you ponder back into what had transpired, it makes some sense, and even adds a tinge of sadness to the entire madness. I am tempted to draw in a comparison with another movie, but if I do so, it'll probably spoil the surprise.

It's not an outright horror film, though the trailers seem to market it as such. What this film essentially is, is a nicely done thriller with some hoodoo elements thrown in. If you don't believe, it's not gonna affect you. And it's quite right. But even as Kate Hudson's a looker, I find it hard to recommend this film on a weekend. Strictly for weekday viewing only.

P.S I'm not much of a horror movie fan, but guess what, tomorrow going to watch The Wig you know? 2 scare-movies in a row. Gee.

[DVD] Schizo

Well, I review the occassional DVD, so here's my first for It's a foreign language film called Schizo, and is Kazahkstan's entry for the Oscar 2005.

So for foreign movie buffs who are looking to evaluate possible award contenders, you might want to check out my review at

Friday, October 07, 2005

Deuce Bigelow Singaporean Gigolo Event

No, I'm not about to turn gigolo on my birthday, but I thought it was kinda insane to have partied / celebrated the eve of my birthday at Gotham Penthouse yesterday night, in the presence of 14 male gigolo wannabes.

Yes, I was there to chill while my friends massb, overider and dgital were there to cover the event. Well almost, until they exhausted their camera batteries and I had to chip mine in as well :-)

Janis using her "Pimp-Dollars" on massb?

massb contemplating if it's enough!

So while Denise Keller worked the crowd (ok, she tried in the beginning but didn't manage to get the results she expected) and hammed it up as a vixen in tight leather, it took a while for the mixed crowd (I was expecting it to be predominantly female) to warm up to the antics on stage.

Wassup on the dancefloor?

Party on folks!

And I mean antics. Gigolo wannabes of all shapes and sizes, fat ones, thin ones, muscular ones, old ones, young ones, sexy ones, boring ones, the list goes on. The fat ones were utterly hilarious, shaking their fats on purpose, pinching their own err... nipples too. Some humped the poles in pole dancing routines, some threatened to bring down the stage, some seduced the judges, one brought on a female partner, one did something with a chair, one came out as Pimp Daddy, another emerged as a Pharoah who did a wedgie on himself, and someone called Power was well, powerful.

Check out these preview pictures first...

It was a dark and smoky night...

...and then there was Light (What massb lookin at?)

...before you click on the logo below to bring you to the official event coverage by

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


G-G-GOAL!!! I'm so pleased that there's finally a decent movie about soccer, a sport which for the longest time, doesn't seem to get movie producers excited to put out on screen. Having FIFA sanction this film means getting some realism injected, and lending to the authenticity of is the English Premier League club Newcastle United, together with a host of real life soccer superstars like Beckham, Zidane and Raul.

While the settings and the game results are real, we follow the fictional story of an illegal mexican immigrant to Los Angeles, Santiago Munez, street footballer extrodinaire. He gets his lucky break when an ex-Newcastle United player turned scout, Glen Foy, chances upon his games, and invites him over to England for trials.

For a guy who's struggling to make ends meet, this presents the perfect opportunity to take a stab at his dream. But tension builds as his father disapproves and is skeptical at both the chance as well as his son's gift to make it big. So he leaves his real dad and family behind, to follow in the footsteps of Foy, his surrogate father in England.

The highlight of the movie is not the real football games that the actors get seamlessly transplanted onto, but rather the many trials and tribulations that Munez goes through to earn his rightful place in the squad. His disastrous first appearance almost made him take the first plane home, and I'd bet many in the audience thought it would be a breeze actually for him to make it to first team. Thankfully, the focus was on his sheer determination to overcome the lack of niceties towards newcomer rookies like himself, and the difficulties and temptations which fill his 30 days trial that Foy literally begged for.

What you read in the papers of the decadent lifestyle of footballers are all in here - the booze, the parties, the clubbing, the women, even video games (taking a stab at David James maybe?). Munez gets introduced to these by fellow teammate and cocky new German acquisition Gavin Harris, whose partying lifestyle takes a toll on his game, and becomes the Toon Army's boo-boy. It's fantastic how these two characters contrast each other, and help each other along the way.

For non-fans of the beautiful game, fear not, you're not gonna be alienated in this movie, as it doesn't sink into technicalities like the dreaded offside rule. You'll enjoy the movie simply because of the strong human drama weaved into the story, as well as the familiarity of easily identifiable themes of hard work, right ethics, living your dreams and fulfilling your aspirations.

Newcastle fans however, will rejoice, as the hallowed grounds of St James Park gets put on the silver screen. For fans without the opportunity of visiting their beloved club, they can gawk at the dressing room, the gym, the dugout, the pitch up close, the city neighbourhood, and "mingle" with fellow fanatical Geordies. Club captain Alan Shearer makes appearances too, as do the many other first team players. But the screen version of the club manager looks uncannily modelled after Arsenal's Arsene Wenger. Fans of Fulham, Chelsea and Liverpool can also see their heroes on screen as well.

Santiago Munez is played by a relative newcomer, Mexican actor Kuno Becker, who was put on real soccer training to improve his skills and make him look credible and natural with the ball at his feet. At certain angles with his short crop, he looks like Michael Owen, who now is playing for Newcastle (he wasn't when this movie was filmed).

I so dig the soundtrack, especially the guitar piece which opened the movie, and track from the trailer which also made its way into the movie - Kasabian's Club Foot, and various pieces by Brit-band Oasis. A pity it's only out in the stores on October 16 (based on Amazon), but I'll be there to pick it up when it hit the shelves.

The ending, even though it wrapped up all the pieces nicely, is a bit abrupt, but I guess it would lead directly into the planned sequels of a trilogy, which involve Real Madrid and the World Cup. This is one movie which can spark someone's interest in soccer, and I'd recommend it to both fans and non-fans alike. Don't let this movie dribble past you!

Into The Blue

Deep sea diving has never looked so attractive! Fans of Jessica Alba rejoice, your screen goddess is back for the 3rd time this year, and decked in no less than bikinis.

Click on the logo below to read my review on Into The Blue

Oh, one more thing, if you watched carefully, one of the baddies actually groped one of Alba's boobs.

Man... talk about the perks of being an extra...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cathay Classics - It's Always Spring

Friends and fellow anonymous surfers,

If you wanna try something different for a change, instead of just a movie outing, why not experience the magic of an oldie movie - a Cathay Classics at that, with a dinner and an introductory dance lesson thrown in as well?

You can click on the movieXclusive logo below to read my take on the experience, as well as the review for "It's Always Spring"!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The 40 Year Old Virgin

With a title like that, it takes little imagination to know that this film belongs to the sex comedy genre which has gained popularity ever since American Pie started it all from 1999.

Virgin adopts a similar formula, even from the start, we are introduced to Andy (the Virgin) in his suburban home, and his stiff unused woody (Yes, it's that blatant. Expectations, remember?) Andy's the guy who somehow couldn't grow up, with his extremely cool collection of collectible toys and comic books, custom made video game chair and home decor adorned with pop culture posters. His predicament would probably be appreciated by many guys - with a life like that, interest from the opposite sex is hard to come by, and not to mention a disastrous experience which left him scarred.

Andy works in an electronic store, which is the setting taking up almost half the entire film. Not that it's bad though, interesting hilarious stuff do happen. And it is his colleagues, upon learning his "secret", vow to make things happen and present to him various opportunities and tips. Even his female manager subtly propositions to him as a f-buddy, bringing on some laughs as she delivered it multiple times in a deadpan manner.

So begins various set pieces like the first pick up in a bar with a drunken babe who drives him to her home, the speed dating segment where he meets a butch wanting to go straight, and another who had a wardrobe malfunction, the pain-inducing chest hair waxing session gone awry, and Beth, the demure bookstore chick, who's more than meets the eye. Eye candy galore though in these scenes, so all the hot blooded males out there wouldn't be complaining at all, akin to the strategy adopted by American Pie by featuring attractive actresses.

It works on another level though. With his friends providing weird and sometiems crazy ideas and advice, we are presented the flipside of their own predicament, insecurity, and troubled relationships. This movie seemed to spread the message that sex isn't everything, and while journeying with Andy to his first lay, most can identify with many of the issues and relationship problems presented.

And on that note, this film at some times feels like Will Smith's Hitch. Andy, while listening and accomodating his buddies' advice, instead goes against these well intentions to set his sights on Trish, a woman who works on the opposite side of the street, selling stuff on E-Bay. In this storyline however, it's the usual boy-meets-girl, fall in love, loses girl, gets her back cliche formula. But it's the delivery of both leads Steve Carrell and Catherine Keener that keeps it from being boring.

Despite casting relatively unknowns, just as American Pie did, the actors seem to have loads of fun despite the stereotypical roles. This film should gain regonition for Steve Carrell, just as Pie did for Jason Biggs, Some might have remembered Carrell as the funny newsachorman in Bruce Almighty, and I'll be awaiting in glee for him to star in one of my favourite TV series Get Smart, as Maxwell Smart (somewhat a dead ringer for the late Don Adams I tell ya).

Surprisingly, you'll hardly feel it's a two hour long film. The pace is quite even, despite the meshing of 2 parallel plot lines following American Pie's and Hitch's. I dare say the Virgin does swallow the Pie, with a more mature and responsible feel to it.

Dark Water

I've haven't been much of a fan of the recent wave of popular Asian horror films, and haven't really paid much attention to the Hollywood remakes either. That is until Jennifer Connelly compelled me to take a dip into Dark Water.

Connelly stars as Dahlia, who's in a custody battle with her estranged husband (Dougray Scott) for their daughter Cecilia (Ariel Gade). Mother and daughter settle for a new run-down apartment, and experience strange leaks from the unit above. However, nobody occupies that unit, and soon Dahlia is drawn into the mysterious disappearance of its occupants.

At times, this movie plays like the recent Robert DeNiro-Dakota Fanning movie Hide and Seek, with little subplots like imaginary friends, and the parent having some psychological problems. However, these subplots are never fully explored, leading to an ending which somehow leaves you with this empty feeling that more could and should have been touched on. Obviously, there are red-herrings thrown in, but there is absolutely no scary moment in which you'll jump right off your seat.

This film though, is all about Mother's Love, and the longing for it. Many scenes in the movie make you go awww, drawing into your own experience of your mummy's concern for your welfare. The things that a mother would do to protect her child and keep her safe from harm, are always admirable.

There are notable actors in this movie - John C Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Pete Postlethwaite, but they are relatively under-utilized, which is a pity. There is also a lack of a strong soundtrack to punctuate the right atmosphere in a horror movie.

Since I haven't watched the original, I couldn't compare it for you. However, as a horror film, Dark Water didn't cut it, as it seemed more like a thriller/whodunnit/mystery with some mild supernatural elements thrown in. Maybe it's just me, but perhaps Hollywood still doesn't have a knack in transplanting or capturing horrific elements from the original.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp? Sign me up for it, anytime! I've pretty much enjoyed their collaborations, from Edward Scissorhands to Sleepy Hollow. Hot off the heals from their box-office success Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, their latest collaboration sees Depp lending his voice to Burton's macabre vision in a stop motion animated movie, along the veins of Nightmare Before Christmas (NBC).

The story's a little bizarre, a little morbid, but hey, it's Burton on familiar grounds. The Von Dorts and the Everglots have agreed to an arrange marriage between their children Victor (Depp) and Victoria (Emily Watson), but Victor, fumbling the marriage rehearsals, runs away to seek solace, and accidentally unleashes the Corpse Bride Emily (Helena Bonham Carter, giving the character an impeccable Brit accent). So begins a crazy love triangle of sorts, involving characters from both the realm of the living and the dead.

Surprisingly, Burton managed to squeeze a couple of subplots into this relatively short film, and touched on themes like arranged marriages, what's in it for both families (The Von Dorts are the newly rich, wanting to add prestige to their family name, while the Everglots are bona-fide aristocrats who've gone bust, and need the dough to continue their lifestyle and save face). Different facades of love are exhibited between Victoria-Victor-Emily, one which is the more conventional (and maybe improbable?) "love-at-first-sight", while the other, growing to love a person (though it happened within 24hrs, so what?)

You might be able to guess the ending and the relations between some of the characters mid-way through the movie, though some might prefer an alternative ending. If you're acquainted with Burton's works, it's typical of him and his style, so you'll see it coming the way it was, as per his dark visions.

The art and characters are very NBC-like too, with their small heads and extremely long limbs. Stop-motion is difficult to do, and watching it in a digital format brings out the crispness of the figurines. Burton loads the film with many supporting characters, each with its own zany behaviour, and some even spoofing characters from movie classics. Somehow Christopher Lee's Pastor Galswells suffered from LOTR's shadow and always reminded me of Saruman, though I think the reference was unintentional.

And what's an animated flick without humour? Corpse Bride has tons of references, and both physical and dry humour to satisfy both camps. The music's also top-notch, but what can you less expect from another long time Burton partner Danny Elfman? Though you can hear shades of Batman in the instrumentals, the songs and lyrics are really a class of their own, bringing this musical to life, just like what Elfman managed to do for NBC.

Highly recommended, even if it means forking out S$9.50 on a weekend for a less than 80 minutes show. I can't wait for another dark stop-motion animated movie from Burton. Bring it on I'd say!
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