Sunday, February 27, 2005

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Littlest Elf opens this movie, before being shut off Lemony Snicket's narration (voiceover Jude Law, hey, he's everywhere in 2004!), reminding everyone that this is a movie with a sad beginning and end, and with a series of unfortunate events.

We are introduced to the Baudelaire children - Violet, who has a knack of invention using things readily available (and whose pouty lips are comparable to that of Angelina Jolie's), Klaus, who reads loads of books, and remembers everything, and the toddler Sunny, who...err... just bites.

The first unfortunate event is the burning of their house / parents inside (not shown). Suddenly they are left ophans, and are bounced from guardian to guardian, comprising of distant and weird relatives, like one who keeps strange reptiles, and another who has a fear of practically everything, but with a nuance for proper grammar.

Jim Carrey is Count Olaf, their first guardian, who craves nothing but the childrens' inheritance, and schemes to get custody / kill / anything that does the trick to get the children and/or the money. Here, Carrey is on familiar playground, with multiple disguises giving him the opportunity to flex his facial muscles.

But the toddler Sunny actually steals the show from Carrey, with her inability to speak, except gagas and googoos, hilarious subtitling thrown in as interpretation, and oh-so-cute actions. Awww.....

The storyline and narrative feel is somewhat similar in style to the Harry Potter movies - most times dark, gothic, sinister, as the kids try and solve who did and why their parents got killed, yet at the same time showcasing and utilizing their unique abilities to get them out of sticky situations. The CGI works perfectly here, and brings to life the excitement of many set action pieces.

This film has peaked my interest in the books - let's hope their not written in too childish a manner for me!

By the way, I do not know why, but all the audience left when the end credits are shown - they are drawn beautifully with caricatures and silhouettes, and the haunting score just captivates. Stay and appreciate, yeah?

A Nutshell Prediction: 77th Annual Academy Awards

OK, guess I'll have to stick my neck out and come out with my predictions for the biggie categories of the 77th Annual Academy Awards. Here goes...

Best Supporting Actor
My heart says Jamie Foxx, but with his expected(?) win for Best Actor, my head says he won't get both. Chances are, Morgan Freeman should be given one, as a tribute to his solid performances in most of his shows.

Best Supporting Actress
My heart goes for Natalie Portman for her mature performance in Closer, but my head says Cate Blanchett - she brought Katherine Hepburn back to life in The Aviator. But I'm gonna cop out, one of those 2 will win :P

Best Actor
Without a doubt, Jamie Foxx. He played Ray Charles to a T, and he's Tinseltown's IT guy for the moment. Don Cheadle shone in Hotel Rwanda, so did Johnny Depp for Finding Neverland, but there's nothing like bringing a legend back to life on the silver screen.

Best Actress
Hillary Swank, for her credible performance in Million Dollar Baby. She'll knock out the competition, without a doubt, though I still have a weak spot for Kate Winslet's portrayal in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Best Director
Martin Scorsese should win, if not for The Aviator, then at least for his past works for which he had been snubbed.

Best Picture
This is tough. Truth is, I have enjoyed all of this year's nominees, and to pick one out of five, might seem to do the others injustice. But if Scorsese should win for Best Director, then Clint Eastwood will most probably be compensated by Million Dollar Baby snagging this one.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Assault on Precinct 13

The opening scene reminded me of Narc, with the way the scene was shot, on a handheld, with NYPD Blues-like motion, shootout and chase. However, this film lacked the sophistication nor intriguing storyline that Narc offered.

Ethan Hawke plays a cop suffering from the guilt of a failed undercover mission which saw 2 of his colleagues die. Lawrence Fishburne, on the other hand, plays a cop-killer mafiaso type, who initially I thought was playing Morpheus all over again, with his pseudo-philosophy sounding character.

The premise of the movie is simple enough, nothing more than your usual actioner. A cop-killer is caught and while being transported with other baddies to a secure jailhouse, the severe new year's eve blizzard brings them to Detriot's Precinct 13 for a temporal lockup. Corrupt cops who want the cop-killer dead for their own selfish reasons, plan and try to storm Precinct 13, kill everyone, and put the blame on thugs.

Since Precinct 13 is on the verge of a closure for good, the limited manpower (count: 3 cops and 1 psychologist) have to cooperate with the jailbirds (count: 4), and vice versa, to make it out alive against a group of corrupt cops (count: 33 or so) with high tech weaponry (night vision goggle, sniper rifles, assault rifles etc). Sort of like Panic Room, where you're held up in a confined space, while the villains try and infiltrate.

Character building is practical zero - we have one dimensional characters, and whatever limited characters we know of, just adds to the body count. Faceless, dialogue-less characters also add to death in creative ways. But hey, it's a no-brainer action movie, so keep your expectations down (sorry, it's Oscar season)

The only theme being explored here, if at all, is the theme of responsibility. Ethan Hawke has and understands his responsibility as Precinct team leader to keep his teammates, and those under his custody, alive, even if it means sleeping with the enemy, figuratively. While on the flip side, we have a corrupt cop (led by Gabriel Byrne) wanting to keep his end of the bargain in maintaining and protecting his corrupt team from prosecution, if Fishburne makes it to the courthouse alive.

Standard action flick with a minor twist at the end to facilitate the plot.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Team America World Police

This movie is crude, rude, politically incorrect, but hell yeah, a whole lot of fun! Well, what do you expect from the makers of South Park?

The setting of the movie is Today - in the wake of 9/11 and of transnational terrorism. Team America's the world police, equipped with "Thunderbirds"-like firepower and fancy transportation, whose mission is to strike at terrorists around the world. And what more, the main baddie's North Korea's Kim Jong Il and his band of middle eastern terrorist posse with WMD... hmm... a little too close to reality for comfort?

This film is so full of itself/America that it gets most of its laughs from there. From location settings that takes reference point from America, to the current inane insensitivity of American forces on foreign soil, to pointing fingers at bad Intelligence, it is all insane fun from the beginning when pandemonium strikes, that you start to wonder who actually does more damage - Team America, or the terrorists themselves.

Another highlight of this movie is the songs! When you first hear the Team America Theme, with it's "America! F* YEAH!", you know you'd had better pay attention to the lyrics of songs to come, some of which pokes fun at Pearl Harbour, pokes fun at film-making (the use of montages), and you even have Kim Jong Il doing a solo number!

As with most slapstick comedies, sometimes you just gotta spoof some classics, which includes Star Wars, Matrix and Top Gun. Also, if you enjoy MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch, then you'll also enjoy the numerous fight sequences in Team America, which is just as creative in its decapitations, and as bloody.

Another infamous scene that got a lot of attention, was the sex scene between 2 lead puppets. It's no holds barred, puppetry porn. Whatever positions you can think of, it's mimicked on screen. Moreover, the conversational dialogue that led them to making love, is totally inane.

Look out for appearances by familiar hollywood faces, and political figures like Hans Blix, Tony Blair, etc, used without their kind permission more like, as they're put in really bad, but hiliarious, light.

America, F* YEAH!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


(With this movie, I've completed my essential viewing of all the Best Picture Nominees for the 77th Annual Academy Awards, and this review is one the most personal I've written)

Wine lovers unite! There isn't, in my recent memory, a show that celebrates wine, vineyards and grapes, like this one does. Scattered throughout as part of the narrative are so many wine terms, vintage bottles, and wine tasting, that the amateur me can find hard to grasp. Fear not though, as this show can still grow on you.

We follow the road trip of 2 best buddies Miles and Jack, for a week, down to the Californian vineyards, before Jack's marriage when he gets back. Kinda like an extended bachelor's party, Miles' idea of fun - that being long sessions of male bonding over wine tasting sessions, rounds of golf, and more drinks over night time chill out hours. However, Jack has a different idea of fun - that of having final flings and sowing his wild oats before committing himself to marriage.

So while we see clash of ideas and mindsets, their strong friendship enables them to compromise and help each other during the various scenarios they encounter in their road trip. Essentially, this movie is also about relationships - that between the 2 buddies, that between Jack and his "fling" Stephanie, who of course he didn't tell that he's getting married once the week is over, and that between Miles and Maya.

Which led me to identify with the 2 main male leads. Jack, the once famous soap opera actor, lives his life by his instinct. He goes with his gut and impulse, and enjoys a good time. My friends can probably identify this part of me, the go-getter, the thrill-seeker. However, this can sometimes lead you to sticky situations, and you'll require your best buddies to bail you out of the rut. Many hilarious moments arise from Jack's desperation in getting laid, in getting Miles laid as well, and his deception towards both his wife-to-be, and Stephanie. Unless he's decapitated, he'll never learn his lesson, and would still want to go for the final "kill" - the final scene of trouble that he gets into, is one of the best in the movie.

Closer friends will probably see me in Miles, the struggling writer, who still harbours feelings for his ex (wife that is). He goes into a frenzy when Jack tells him his ex-wife has already re-married. He is chronically depressed, that he screwed up his own marriage. To make things worse, Jack has invited Miles' ex-wife and new husband to his wedding ceremony, which led to Jack wanting to back out of attending, well, almost, to avoid meeting the couple. Jack's advice to Miles is to move on, and he will help him do so. However, Miles just refuses to accept the fact, and allows depression to slowly creep into all other aspects of his life, severely affecting his confidence and attitude. Until of course, he meets Maya, and starts to seriously think about starting afresh.

Despite the slow introduction of about 10 minutes, the show picks up pace once Miles and Jack hit the road. The down-to-earthness characters and dialogue will draw you into the movie, though some in the audience might think that the ending has left them hanging. A word of caution - in my opinion, it's deliberately done so, for YOU to decide what kinda ending YOU would prefer, and that will depend on whether you're a Jack, or a Miles kinda person.

Don't let this underdog movie (amongst the other heavyweight Oscar nominees) slip by, go catch it in a theatre near you!

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Hello Stranger.

Fate allowed us to meet, first as strangers. Then we become friends. We share a relationship, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife. You tell me you love me. I tell you I love you too. But, do we really mean it? How sure are we about it? Will we stray from each other? Will we lie to each other? Or will we be honest about everything, and I mean, everything?

Mike Nichols opens The Graduate with Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence. Here, Closer opens with Damien Rice's The Blower's Daughter, whose lyrics contain the lines

"I can't take my mind off of you,
can't take my mind...
my mind...
'Til I find somebody new"

which forms the basis of the movie. "If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking." says the movie's tagline, and while watching, I was thinking about the loads of questions the movie subtly throws at the audience, about modern relationships, as seen through the eyes of and experienced by its 4 main characters, whose lives and relations become intertwined.

Fate allows the accidental (pardon the pun) meeting of strangers Jude Law and Natalie Portman, one a struggling writer, the latter a stripper. They become fast friends, and soon, a relationship develops.

But what happens when Law starts to also fall for photographer Julia Roberts? You'll start to ask - does he really love Portman? What's the deal with his feelings for Roberts? Love at first sight? Lust perhaps? Does he even care about Portman's feelings, or is he just selfish, wanting things his way? Is he tired of Portman? And Roberts, at first rejecting Law's moves as she knows he's attached, still finds herself drawn to Law's charms (ok, he's good looking), and giving in. Portman appears in that same scene too, and she can tell that something's not quite right. This was an intriguing 10 minute scene, and the conversations amongst the characters tense.

Law and Clive Owen "meet" in an interesting way, perhaps one of the more light hearted moments in the movie. Fate again intervenes - Owen and Roberts meet, and a relationship which led to marriage forms. Happy marriage? Think again - Roberts has an offscreen affair with Law, and when confronted with it, Owens start to go livid, and wants to know every detail (even where they slept) to justify his betrayal and hurt. Law confronts Portman with the same, and we see the heartwrenching acceptance that Portman emotes. Again, questions are raised - do we sometimes become clingy, that you suffocate a relationship? How do you reveal the truth to the other party, while at the same time trying to cushion the blow? How do you walk away from rejection with your dignity intact? Or could you?

Owen and Portman met during Robert's photography exhibition, and again when Owen has separated from Roberts. They meet in a strip club, where Portman has taken up refuge in, entertaining men. This is a poignant scene, where more questions are raised, though in my opinion, it highlights Owen's lust on Portman.

What happens then, to the adulterous couple Roberts and Law? Are they happy together? Will someone in such a relation be open to the other party meeting up with an ex? If you're still in touch with an ex, will you tell your current squeeze? Why? Why not? Honesty? Will/Can your current squeeze accept the truth? What more if you slept with your ex?

We go full circle at the ending, where you might think that all questions are resolved, all questions answered. There's a twist at the end which leaves you wondering, who's playing who, who's trusting who, who's being honest with who. Is honesty always the best policy? But isn't honesty and trust the basis of any relationship?

I commend all four leads in the movie - Law, Portman, Roberts, Owen - they were excellent in bringing forth the various emotions required, and multi-faceted ones in fact. The characters are multi-dimensional, which makes them all the more plausible in real life. Nothing is cast in stone, everyone changes.

The movie touched me in a personal way, and I'd bet for those who have / are involved in relationships, you'd feel the same way too - you can probably identify yourself in some of the characters, and how they dealt with themes of love, relationships, betrayal, jealousy, honesty, maybe even sex. The movie has a stark social commentary, which will leave you thinking and perhaps reflecting on your personal relationships.

I'd recommend it to everyone. Go watch it, and start pondering.

A Very Long Engagement

Love is a powerful emotion, and so is hope. You tend to cling onto the impossible sometimes, with hope, when all around you seems to be falling into despair.

And that's what the premise of this french movie is. It's not really a romantic movie per se (so guys, you might want to think twice about bringing your date for this). It's essentially a movie about hope, about not giving up looking for the one you love, against a backdrop of a horrific war (yes, blood, gore and limbs all included, right from the start).

Set in France just after WWI, this movie at times resemble Courage Under Fire, where the protagonist, played by Audrey Tautou, hunts for the truth behind what happened to her fiance, who was part of 5 condemned men sent to the "No Man's Land" in front of enemy trenches during WWI.

Unravelling official secrets, cover ups, seeking survivors, listening to various interpretations of what happened during those fateful days, chancing upon others with more vengeful intentions, we journey from place to place with Audrey, never giving up hope, yet when faced with irrefutable damning evidence, we ask, should we stop, or should we still continue? We're seeking closure. Do we know when to stop? Do we know it's indeed closure? Do we need to see, or are we able to face up to, the truth?

I appreciate French movies for certain reasons. The language, for one, I always admire - it's beautiful. And so is the cinematography, be it lush fields, or bombarded lands. Audrey Tautou doesn't carry the whole movie on her lithe shoulders, as the supporting cast of many brings many quirky, interesting characters to life.

Oh yes, watch out for Jodie Foster too, thought the actress looked familiar, only managed to confirm it when the credits rolled.


Somehow I was drawing narrative parallels between Ray and The Aviator. Both tell the story of an enigmatic genius, their prime 20 years, their love and relationships, their acute business sense, and their struggles with inner demons.

Ray Charles Robinson is an icon, though I've never really paid attention to his gospel/r&b/country music, I've found myself tapping my feet and grooving in my seat, thoroughly enjoying the hits that the film showcased. Brought up by a single mum, he witnessed the death of his brother, before glaucoma claimed his sight. His initial road to stardom was hampered by difficulties, always being on the road, travelling with a band.

Whilst he never allowed his blindness to be his handicap, he allowed himself to be handicapped instead by his addiction to heroin. As all addicts would say, they know when to stop, so long as it's not hurting life or music, it's ok. But he was wrong, as we see him using his addiction as a crutch to cope with his infidelity when on the road. While his fortunes get bigger, so does his addiction problem, until he decides to kick the habit the cold turket way.

I'm a Jamie Foxx fan, ever since his early days when I watched re-runs of "In Living Color" and his sitcom "The Jamie Foxx Show" on tv. After his acclaimed performance in Collateral, he has proven himself once again in Ray by mimicking the real mccoy so well, you'd think that it was Ray Charles on screen all the time. I salute character actors, and I salute Jamie Foxx.

The music brings this show to life too. My bet is even if you're not a Gospel/R&B fan, after watching this show, you'd want to give this genre a listen, starting with Ray Charles' hits.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Hide and Seek

Would Dakota Fanning be the next Natalie Portman, or Christina Ricci? It's not a longshot, given the credible performance here in Hide and Seek. I still remembered that she managed to stand on her own against the enigmatic Denzel Washington in Man on Fire, and here, she does a commendable job beside veteran Robert De Niro.

The premise of the show suggests suspense, thrills and maybe something of the supernatural perhaps? It explores the relationship between a psychologist and his daughter, after their wife/mother died in a suicide, or is it? What is the impact to a child who witnesses the death of a parent?

Whilst the blood and gore are kept to a minimum, what you can't see actually sends shivers to you. The buildup shows a lot of potential, but too many red herrings and the pacing at the end leaves much to be desired. Any alert movie goer will anticipate and guessed the twist that is offered halfway through the film, and once that is done, the narrative seems to drag itself into an ending.

Robert De Niro breezes through his role - nothing new to offer here, whilst Famke Janssen and Elizabeth Shue up the babe factor.

Watch this not expecting a tight narrative or a shocking ending, but watch this for Fanning's performance.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

This is not just a boxing movie. It's a boxing movie with a lot of heart. This is a story about hope, and giving hope when all seems lost, about dogged determination, and never giving up, about relationships and second chances.

The multiple themes in the movie are carefully brought out throught the excellent interaction between the various major and minor characters, and whilst the focus of the story might seem to be on the boxing, it never is, and you're kept glued on the screen, exploring the narrative and backgrounds of every character introduced. This is not to say that the action sequences are mediocre - they are shot so subtly, that it feels as if you're in or around the ring and swinging with the blows.

Narrative in a nutshell - Eastwood is a boxing trainer whose star protege left him. In comes newbie white trash Swank who begs him to train her, as she believes that he could bring her to the top of the game. And so begins the father-daughter relationship that they establish, as they haul themselves from fight to fight, win to win, until the title shot where they must pay the ultimate price in this brutal sport.

It's good to see Eastwood and Freeman team up on screen again - character acting never had it so good, and it feels like old friends on screen with the advice they dispense to each other. Hillary Swank did wonders with the physical demands of this film, and her taut body put shame in mine.

A Definite Oscar worthy contender.

Bayside Shakedown 2

I've watched Bayside Shakedown 1 a few years back, and enjoyed it thoroughly, so there isn't any reason not to catch the sequel when it's in town.

For those who do not know, this show is set in a small Tokyo police precint, where cops actually perform routine community policing without arms, and the sexy investigative stuff are always handled by the Metropolitan police. This devision of course gives rise to the exploration of politics within the police force, some of which are not subtly put across in the movie - which provokes thought.

However, the movie doesn't come across as preachy or heavy, as it's always lightened by the (sometimes one dimensioned) characters, the light hearted moments, and camaraderie amongst them.

As always, the movie starts off with its regular catchy theme song interspersed with footage of current going-ons. With murder being the main anchor of investigations, other sub-investigations include the biter, the family of pickpockets and a secret lover of the commander of the precinct. Naturally, all the loose ends will be tied neatly when they all come together at one point in the show.

Amongst the politics discussed here is on women leadership, in the name of equal opportunity - could we be biased and blinded by policy to allow the inept to lead? Even though in my opinion, this is a Japanese movie, and the culture at times may be chauvanistic, it does provide some thought provoking moments during the show, or did the producers/writers cop out at the end of it all?

For those who do not understand Japanese, no worries, there are good subtitles, and it doesn't matter if you have watched the first part, or the drama serial - the good looking cast (male and female) should be able to sustain you through this enjoyable flick.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Machinist

There is a purpose in watching this movie, and that is to check out Christian Bales's acting chops before his Batman Begins opens in the summer.

The narrative is confusing at first. There doesn't seem to be any clear direction on where the plot and its subplots lead to. All we know is Bale looks thin, for some reason, isn't getting enough sleep, and develops relationships with a widow, her kid, and a hooker.

As always, most dark thrillers have a twist at the end, and if you can sit tight, you'll get it - not that it will be presented in a confusing manner, just that the pacing could be improved. Actually with shows like Fight Club and Memento around, this show might feel like a fusion between the two, and hence, you might have warranted a guess on the twist midway through the show.

Christian Bale has sacrificed quite a bit to look the role. With the lingering full body shots of his aneroxic body, which at times is painful to look at, one can imagine the kind of toil it must have took.

Definite for fans of mysteries and thrillers.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Pussycat Dolls - Sway

When marimba rhythms start to play
Dance with me, make me sway
Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore
Hold me close, sway me more

Like a flower bending in the breeze
Bend with me, sway with ease
When we dance you have a way with me
Stay with me, sway with me

Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak

I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now

Sway me, take me
Thrill me, hold me
Bend me, ease me
You have a way with me

Sway (sway)

Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak
I go weak

I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now
Sway me
Sway me
Sway me now

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


I haven't read the Hellblazer comic books by DC/Vertigo, so I do not know much about the John Constantine character, or how the show deviates from the comic books.

However, without background knowledge, this is one excellent movie, with great characterization of biblical characters like Archangel Gabriel, Balthazar and even Lucifer himself, plot and subplots, special effects and music. The movie starts literally with a bang, and it never lets up after that with its even pacing.

Keanu Reeves has proved that once again he is master. To his detractors, I'd say hold your horses, watch this show, and chances are you'll be a fan convert. Rachel Weisz, wow.

Hell has never looked as good (!) as what's shown in this movie. The effects are world class, and brings forth to glory and life, the demons and damned creatures from hell.

The Constantine Theme provides the noir, a dash of suave and attitude to the movie and when it's on, you just know something awesome's about to happen.

Stay till the end of the movie, it'll show you the aftermath of one of the characters.
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