Wednesday, June 29, 2005

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds marks the second collaboration between 2 of Hollywood's most influential figures, that of director Steven Spielberg and megastar Tom Cruise. In this updated adaptation of H.G. Well's classic, we revisit alien territory already familiar with Spielberg (with evergreens like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T.), except that this time around, the aliens are not an iota friendly and wastes no time proving its point with its laser beams.

Cruise plays Ray, a middle class salaried worker whose ex-wife (Miranda Otto, in an underused role) leaves their estranged kids with for the weekend. Being the selfish carefree man that he is, it is no wonder why he doesn't get much respect, especially from his son. Before you can say move on with the melodrama, worldwide lightning phenomenon gets TV coverage, and soon enough, the horror begins, as the well known battle tripods rise from beneath the earth and annihilate everything on site.

The special effects are brilliant, and serves as an effective plot device for unspeakable, unexplainable horror. Spielberg teases you with indirect shots of the tripods, from mirrors and reflective surfaces, never letting you see from a first person's perspective for too long, keeping in pace with the initial suspense built.

Terrorist attacks were mentioned in conversation, and perhaps this movie also serves as a timely reminder of always being prepared, with emergency equipment, stashes of food, and familiarity with emergency procedures.

This film could take the easy way out and focus on the big explosions ala Independence Day, but since that was already done, we get to focus on the smaller picture, that of the survival of the family unit in crisis, and I applaud this approach. Conflicts arise and sometimes solved through unpopular decisions, and that's the way of life. Most times we do not have complete information, and need to make split second life determining decisions.

However, the pace slackens toward the end of the movie, and steers us back with reminders that this is after all a summer action blockbuster, with predictable endings, some plot loopholes and worse, rushed explanations.

Tom Cruise doesn't get to flash his pearly whites so often here, as we see a transformation from irresponsibility, and in his son's opinion, cowardice, to courageous dad whose children are his first priority. I'd dare say Cruise is in his element here, saving the day (in a not so direct manner).

Dakota Fanning shines as Ray's daughter Rachel, bringing forth a sense of vulnerability with her fear of enclosed spaces, and her love for her father and brother. Being the little damsel in distress, who wouldn't want to save her and ensure that she survives this horrible onslaught?

Serves well as a Hollywood summer blockbuster, but not the "most anticipated" for this year as claimed by some.


Immortel closes the Singapore Fantastic Film Fest, and at first glance, it gave the impression that it'll be like Stargate, then Blade Runner done Sky Captain style, all rolled into one.

I shall only offer a simplistic view of the story, as try as I may, I just couldn't find a running theme in which this film attempts to explore in more detail. There were some promising touches on cybernetic human organ replacement, mythology and cryogenics, but somehow these were just "there" and weren't really explained to give the film a smoother narrative - you have to accept that it is, otherwise you'll never get past each scene.

It is 90 years into the future, and familiar landmarks in the New York City skyline like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building are nowhere to be seen. Rather, the city looks like Star War's Coruscant, interrupted by the sudden appearance of a huge pyramid hovering above the city.

Horus (one of the Egyptian Gods, hence the pyramid) is given 7 days to roam the Earth, and he commits murders (of sorts) when finding a human body to possess without the host rejecting him. He stumbles upon a frozen body of a deposed politician, and enslaves him by fitting him with an iron leg.

But Horus' real target turns out to be a mutant of some sorts - Jill, with her blue hair and white skin, and his mission these 7 days is actually to impregnate her, so that he'll have an offspring before he gets packed away on his eternal journey to space. To put it bluntly, it seemed like a disguised soft-porn movie (artistically shot).

If that sounds simple enough, that's because you might choose to ignore the other characters that appear in this film, like the doctor experimenting on Jill, Jill's secret lover, the detective, a host of gangly creatures, and some mystery surrounding Central Park.

But the saving grace is the CGI, which takes your breath away most of the time with its surreal landscape of the future. It's one of those pioneer films which have its actors film in front of a blue/green screen most, if not all the time.

The director of this film also wrote the comic books in which this movie is based upon, and I'd feel it might help if movie-goers have read some material to have a better understanding of the backstory prior to this movie.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


By the name of its title Hellevator, you get a rough idea that the premise of the movie is set primarily in a lift. This sci-fi thriller is set in a world which is split into functions and assigned different levels, like hospitals, prison and offices.

We follow the protagonist, a schoolgirl with apparent psychic abilities, as she escapes from the police for a smoking crime (cigarettes are illegal). While in the lift (which serves at least 130 levels), we are shown a subset of the world and its occupants, like the uniformed salaried workers, and the job scope of a very robotic like lift attendant. All nice and simple so far, and interesting too.

However, things start to change when 2 criminals - a serial rapist cum cannibal, and a bomber, are escorted by a sadistic prison warden at Level 99 en route to Level 1. When the lift stalls, and the criminals break loose, the occupants, which consist of the psychic schoolgirl, the lift attendant, a businessman, a mother with a pram and an indifferent teenager, start to fear for their lives.

We start to explore the world of the occupants through the abilities of our psychic schoolgirl, and realize that things are not what they seem. The occupants start to tangent from our preconceived notions of their characters, and this is coupled by the fact that blood and gore start to fill the screen - shooting, bludgeoning, splattering, disemboweling.

Just as you think you have the whole storyline figured out, especially if you think the closure is like your usual Hollywood-like tying of loose ends, when the rug finally gets pulled from under your feet, you're back in thinking mode again, wondering about what was real, what was imagined, and what actually happened.

There's only one screening at the Fantastic Film Fest, so if you're interested in trying your hand at interpreting this film, you gotta go the DVD route.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Robot Stories

Robot Stories is an anthology of 4 distinct segments which premiered in the Singapore Fantastic Film Festival this evening, with a common theme of advanced technology or robots taking centerstage.

My Robot Baby
In the future where career minded couples have no time to conceive and turn to adoption, they will have to go through a "baby trial" period, whereby they will be tasked to take care of a baby-like Tamaguchi robot, which looks similar and beeps just like Star Wars' Artoo-Deetoo, sans legs.

The robot records how it is treated by the couple, and without proper care, feeding and cleaning, once the evaluation period is up, the couple will be deemed unsuitable to adopt a human child.

So when career gets in the way of childcare, desperate times calls for desperate measures. While a robot can be hacked and reprogrammed, the same cannot be done for a human child, and critical sacrifices has got to be made. It makes you think if what had been done to outsmart the system is ethical, and reflect upon a statement made by one of the characters early in the film on "never fall in love, never get married, and never have kids" if these sacrifices cannot be made.

The Robot Fixer
A man is lying comatose on a hospital bed, while a mother clings onto childhood memories of her time with her kid. While waiting for her child to wake up from his coma, she inevitably goes through his stuff, with most of her memories being linked with his robotic toys.

While she scours all around town to re-assemble the broken and lost pieces (in the hope that it will jog his brain waves when she speaks and presents them to him), it parallels her determination and never-say-die spirit that her son will one day be able to be with her again.

My guess is any son or mother in the audience, will be able to identify with the characters. As a son, I did, and I know that my mom will go through all lengths to wake me up from that deep sleep, with similar methods and determination. A mother's love is always strong.

Machine Love
Director Greg Pak stars as the protagonist in this segment, a (probably subtle approval to Apple) model G9 iPerson, who's able to self-deliver himself to the company he is bought for.

This segment perhaps dreams of what the future may hold for Artificial Intelligence - that of never-tiring workers who can work at their desks all day without the need for breaks, always responding eagerly to "you got work" calls and striving to accomplish all assigned tasks in the fastest possible speed.

And with AI, this segment inevitably explores the "what ifs" that these lifeforms could have or developed in terms of emotions, and love, as they learn through interactions with humans.

Being the perfect worker, it also brings forth fear into humans on things that we don't understand, and the usual name calling / chiding happens. Abuse also follows with female versions of the iPerson, with lecherous males openly fondling and commenting on why the racks ain't being bigger.

I shan't finish this segment for you, except to comment that these robots sure know the right buttons to push!

This is, in my opinion, the weakest of the four stories, but the one which has the most potential, and features the most human of emotions, that of love, longing and the anticipation of death.

It is an era where the human brain can be mapped onto a computer, so that man can finally beat death, and while the physical person wastes away, the consciousness will forever be alive in an electronic form. The protagonist, however, refuses to use this technology, being a clay-artist, he loathes the thought of designing his craft without feeling or emotions.

However, he uses technology to interact with his dead(?) wife, and with the proper plug in, could also get intimate with her. There is nothing new with this technology feature as it was also shown on screen in Tom Cruise's Minority Report. But interwoven into the narrative is a strong sense of his wanting to be back in the arms of his wife again.

Do stay for the end credits. There is a slide at the end which states that production started on September 10th 2001, and the crew lost one of their own in the WTC attacks. Also after the end credits, one of the dancing robots (featured in the opening credits) will appear with a message on New York.

For those who wish to catch this film, you can do so on Monday where the evening show will be screened at GV Marina.

Return to the 36th Chamber

Return to the 36th Chamber is one of those classic Kung-Fu movies which Shaw produces back in the 70s and 80s, whose genre is equivalent to the spaghetti westerns of Hollywood, and the protagonist Gordon Liu, the counterpart to the western's Clint Eastwood. Digitally remastered and a new print made for the Fantastic Film Fest, this is "Presented in Shaw Scope", just like the good old days.

This film is a simple story of good versus evil, told in 3 acts, which more or less sums up the narrative of martial arts films in that era.

Act One sets up the premise. Workers in a dye-mill of a small village are unhappy with their lot, having their wages cut by 20% by incoming manchu gangsters. They can't do much about their exploitation because none of them are martial arts skilled to take on the gangsters, and their boss. At first they had a minor success in getting Liu to impersonate a highly skilled Shaolin monk (one of the best comedy sequences), but their rouse got exposed when they pushed the limit of credibility by impersonating one too many times.

Act Two shows the protagonist wanting to get back at the mob. However, without real martial arts, he embarks on a journey to Shaolin Temple, to try and infiltrate and learn martial arts on the sly. After some slapstick moments, he finally gets accepted by the abbot (whom he impersonated!) but is disappointed at the teaching methods - kinda like Mr Miyagi's style in Karate Kid, but instead of painting fences, he gets to erect scaffoldings all around the temple. Nothing can keep a good man down, and he unwittingly builds strength, endurance and learns kung-fu the unorthodox way.

Act Three is where the fight fest begins. With cheesy sound effects, each obvious non-contact on film is given the maximum impact treatment. But it is rather refreshing watching the fight scenes here, with its wide angled shots to highlight clarity and detail between the sparring partners, and the use of slow-motion only to showcase stunts in different angles. You may find the speed of fights a tad too slow, with some pause in between moves, but with Yuen Wo Ping and his style being used ad-nausem in Hollywood flicks, they sure don't make fight scenes like they used to!

Return to the 36th chamber gets a repeat screening on Monday, so, if you're game for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, what are you waiting for?


Kontroll opened the Singapore Fantastic Film Festival last Thursday, and it is no surprise why. Its intriguing setting in an underground metro system is familiar everyday territory that probably everyone can relate to if you're commuting by train. Having been on some of Europe's metro systems (London, Paris, Munich, Rome), this film offered me the chance to see and experience yet another country's train system.

The film centers on Bulcsu, a Budapest Metro train ticket inspector, who, with his squad of 4 men, travel in its system to inspect "tickets or passes". Its showcase of stereotypical passengers who refuse to pay is hilarious, as we encounter photo-happy Japanese tourists, the "sleeper", the pimps, even dogs on board (now we know why the MRT has a no-pets policy). What makes it all the more fun is that his squad consists of affable characters, ranging from a clueless newbie, to one who is prone to subconsciously go into comatose. Between squads, there also exists rivalry, and we're introduced to a dare called "railing".

While going about their thankless jobs, it makes you wonder the kind of abuse (verbal or otherwise) that these folks face as they go about their daily scope of work. Definitely not fun, nor one in which I would like to be in. We're also shown an extreme example of a "what-if" scenario - if the abuse being the last straw on the camel's back, exactly what could probably happen (though I must say there could be some artistic license taken on weapons being brought along).

However, added to its narrative layer is a small bit romance between Bulscu and a lady (of course, she isn't a paying commuter) who, for some reason, rides the metro in a bear suit. And we're also introduced from the very start, a mystery which runs through the entire show - that of commuters who apparently commit suicide by jumping onto the tracks. Or were they actually pushed?

I suppose this sub plot touches a bit closer to home, as our own mass rapid transit has of late experienced similar phenomenons. Similarly, CCTV cameras don't show anything peculiar, or the incident happened out of the scope of these cameras. However, the conclusion to this phenomenon is a discussion point, as it is very open to interpretation.

The scene which I thoroughly enjoyed, I called it the "Bootsie Chase". While the usual Hollywood fare features the all too common car chases, it's about time you can to enjoy the good old foot chase, and in this scene, set to pulsating electronica beats, is a joy to behold, as the characters involved weave through passengers, the station and its pillars.

This is an enjoyable film with an excellent soundtrack (in English), but I've watched it on its second and final run on the festival. You might want to check out the DVD release, as it certainly deserves to be labelled and be part of a Fantastic selection!

Good Karma, Or Not

Yesterday night marked my first foray into the screenings of Singapore's inaugural Fantastic Film Fest organized by the Singapore Film Society.

I was nearly late for the screening of "9 Souls" as I was meeting up with the folks from, and had an enjoyable time with them talking about, what else, movies!

Got my tickets at the GV Marina box office, but not without the usual encountering of clueless queue folks who can never decide what to watch, even when it's their turn at the counter. I mean, just take a pick from the offerings (it's easy you know, just state film name, time, how many tickets and seating preference), not as if you've watched everything there is to offer already.

SFS set up a small booth and the organizers were promoting the fest through pretty brochures (very nice, full coloured, and FREE, what else is there to demand?). Hung around and was told that there is a lucky draw for the "9 Souls" screening (actually knew that fact already from a mailing list, but I wanted to recce the poster quality). Hmm... need to drop the ticket stub into the draw box, but I need the ticket to get into the theatre though... and if later some big burly ah beng say I am sitting on his seat, how to dispute?

So I was rather surprised when 2 ladies went into the theatre prior to the start of the film, with the draw box and announed that 4 "9 Souls" posters were up for grabs. They also announced that someone sitting at the middle of the theatre was quite cute, but when I looked around, can't see very well due to the dimmed lights.

Anyway, I offered my pen to them, so that those in the audience who wished to take part in the draw can do so. Partly to gain some karma points for the draw.

But till now, no news. Perhaps some other in the audience who used my pen to fill up his/her details got the poster.

In any case, the F3 Triple Whammy (my term for it) is in akan datang mode, gonna watch Kontroll, Return to the 36th Chamber and Robot Stories today.

9 Souls

This 2002 Japanese film is the third feature film showcased in the inaugural Singapore Fantastic Film Festival (The first two being Kontroll and Immortel, which I should be able to watch by the end of the fest).

9 Souls is at times a complex movie, and at times one which has a simple tale to tell. It blurs and crosses the line so often, it makes it difficult to try and classify its genre - part gore, part comedy, part social commentary.

The title refers to 9 prisoners, who are introduced in more detail during their escape from prison (in a very creative introduction by the way), ranging from murderers to a porn king, from a juvenile delinquent to a vertically challenged escape artist. It turns into part comedy once they escape, and have to find the means and substinence to help keep themselves alive in a strange new world.

Prior to their escape, their world is their prison cell, rudely interrupted by a tenth crazed prisoner, a counterfeit king who leaks out the secret to the whereabouts of his stash. With this bit of information, they embark on a quest to recover this lost promise of treasure before going their separate ways.

Which forms the second half of the movie. Throughout the first half, we are exposed to the dreams and hopes of these escape convicts. Being locked up for some time, they each have a secret desire to either reunite with their loved one, or have plans to live a better life. At some point, you will ponder if it was wise of them to each seek their dream, knowing its dire consequences, or would rather choose to stick together in their new found family.

Thoughts on second chances in life also crosses your mind, if these serious crime offenders deserve another break in life, or are forever condemned in the eyes of society for their one moment of folly which has kept them locked up.

The pacing of the film is at times choppy, and you'd have scenes that come out of the blue (like cross-dressing as a disguise). I heard quite a number of people around me give the "hmm... where did that come from" comment.

The soundtrack is kept simple, to a constantly played guitar tune, which in scenes of peace are kept soft, and in scenes of angst, being played to a crescendo. I find this effective in conveying emotions in the film, without the need of a bloated soundtrack.

Rated R21 here for its subject content and scenes of gore which is not really shown on screen, this film is recommended for those who seek a different film offering, which is what this film fest is striving to achieve.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Full House, Or Not?

Nearly missed the Initial D premiere today.

Popped by one theatre chain, 10 minutes before showtime, and they announced over the PA system that the 715pm show was sold out. The queue was long too, and many start dropping out.

Unfazed, I popped by another theatre chain next door, with 5 mins to spare. However, looking at the "Ticket Availability" screen, again it showed "Full House", and a long queue aheard of me. Well, since I'm already in the queue, might as well go all the way to the box office.

Me: One Ticket for Initial D 715pm....
Box Office Auntie: Initial D ah? Sold out sold out!!
Me: ... for one...
Box Office Auntie: Ah? For one ah? Have! One ticket velli difficult to sell, 2nd row from behind, you want?
Me: Sure
Box Office Auntie: You know hor, so many single seats everywhere, very diffifcult to sell leh...
Me: Guess I must be lucky

Center-aisle seat somemore, good for leg stretching.

Which makes you wonder, if there are spare seats available, even though it's single and scattered around, what's with the "Full House" indicator? And I wonder if the situation was similar for the first theatre chain.

Hmm... moral of the story, watch "hot" movies alone on opening evenings?

Initial D

Just to set the expectations from this review, I have not read the Initial D manga, nor watched any of the anime. Therefore this review's point of view will be from the cinematic experience, and there will be no comparison on how true it stays to the manga/anime.

Despite all the star power in the film, from teeny boppers Edison Chen and Shawn Yue, to veterans Kenny Bee and Anthony Wong, this still remains a Jay Chou vehicle (pardon the pun). Jay stars as a petrol pump attendant who by day works at a petrol kiosk, and in the wee hours of the night, helps his tofu selling dad deliver tofu in an old Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno using a route that traverses along a winding Mount Akina.

Naturally, with his 5 years experience, he intimately knows the terrain, and gets faster each time, until a group of street racers set their sights to conquer the route.

There will definitely be comparisons with Hollywood's The Fast and The Furious series, starring Vin Diesel/Paul Walker. The similarities are there - the fast cars, the beautiful racer babes, the rivalry between arrogant drivers. You even get the same cinematography technique used that starts from the driver's POV, pulling back to the dashboard, the rear seat, the boot, and the car from a "helicopter" view.

But what sets this film apart is the way it is delivered. Being based on a comic book offers some depth to the storyline, and it helped by staying true to the setting, being based in Japan and not HK. The races in itself might seem repetitive, as the highlight seemed to be focused on its title - the "drift" technique, being used ad-nausem, but having different drivers challenge each other on the one and only route breaks the monotony as you root for your favourite to come out tops.

Given this is Jay Chou's debut movie role, it is difficult to critique if his acting skills are up to mark, as his lead character Takumi Fujiwara is a nonchalant man of few words. Which is very much like his persona. His co-stars Edison Chen and Shawn Yue could very well be their own persons as well. Chapman To, as usual, brings across the rather light hearted moments, and Anthony Wong as Chou's dad, a veteran race ace who finds solace in the bottle and having a penchant for dozing off.

Perhaps the only flaw about the movie was the sappy romance between Jay and his Japanese co-star. Not that she isn't gorgeous (which is a saving grace), but their scenes together doesn't further the plot much, and slows down the pace somewhat of this movie about the need for speed.

This is an enjoyable flick, one in which I waited for the theme song / tune to be featured (only at the end credits!). But no, I don't think I will be converted to a Jay Chou fan boy anytime soon.

I suspect that in the upcoming weeks, we probably might see parallel imports / makes of the Trueno on our shores to satisfy the racer boy wannabes (heard Singapore only has 2?), although it probably can't run as fast as in the movies (movie magic lah). And yeah, the driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on the face, with the contemplating look.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Singapore Fantastic Film Festival, Anyone?

Anyone game to attend this film fest?
The details are available here

If my schedule permits, I'll probably be attending the

Fri 24 June
9.15 pm 9 Souls

Sat 25 June
1:30 pm Kontroll
4:00 pm Return to the 36th Chamber
7:00 pm Robot Stories

Tue 28 June
9.15 pm Immortel

I'll probably give the ones shown at the Singapore History Museum on Sunday a miss, otherwise I'll be spending the entire weekend solely on movies.

And also, it's all horror films. Nay, I ain't chicken, but I prefer the no-brainers-horror-slasher flicks.

Hmm. :P

Shaw Preview Theatre

I did not know that this Preview Theatre at Shaw Center existed. It's not one of the Lido theatres at the next building, but this one's on the 13th Level of the office tower, tucked away in a corner opposite what looked like the admin office (been there once to claim some prize)

For those who are curious, here's how to get there:

The Shaw Preview Theatre is accessible by any of the six lifts beside MacDonald's (Near Isetan) at Shaw Center, Scotts Road.

What caught my eye when I first entered wasn't the screen, which was curved like the Prince 1 theatre, or the ambience that looked like a mini theatre of your own that can seat about 50. It's the red leather seats. Comfy, but upon closer inspection, looks like most have been vandalized by age - you can see tears and holes. Makes you wonder.

Alas, there is no free flow popcorn or softdrinks :-)
And my peeve was the projectionist decided to pull off the film reel when the end credits were still running halfway (gee, I know it's late, but I thought it's the norm to let the film run to its entirety, including the credits?)

*Shrug* But if given a chance, I would like to be invited back again for subsequent previews.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Upside of Anger

I wasn't about to watch The Upside of Anger if not for the free preview ticket courtesy of
Starring Joan Allen (whom action fans will recognize as Sean Archer's wife) and Kevin Costner (I think I last saw him in Thirteen Days), this film tells the tale of relationships between an alcoholic mum and her 4 girls, when the man of the household apparently walked out on them to be in Sweden with his secretary.

And my, with 4 girls, it's eye candy galore - Keri Russell (Felicity anyone?), Erika Christensen (Swimfan), Evan Rachel Wood and Alicia Witt. This film takes its time to tell its tale of the bitterness felt by Allen when her husband left her. To manage this, she turns to the bottle, and naturally, things take their toil on inter-personal relationships.

With Russell, Allen compares the love she thought Russell had for her dad didn't measure up to the one Russell had for her. Allen imposes her will and desires on Russell, which bred contempt, and Russell thinks she isn't getting all the support she needs from her mom to pursue her dream of being a ballerina.

With Erika, Allen frowns upon her relationship with her manager "Shep", who is at least twice her age. It is hilarious watching Allen confronting "Shep", with the hard-hitting slaps, and her chancing upon her daughter having sex with him. Of mention is that "Shep" is also played by writer/director (of this film) Mike Binder (hmm... no prizes here)

With her eldest child Witt, Allen gets frustrated when she's the last to know, during Witt's graduation, that she is pregnant and intends to get married. The scene with the in-laws is laced with so much tension, you'll just be hanging onto your seat for the outburst.

The youngest child, and the narrator of the story, had to grapple with falling in love with a gay teenager, who happens to also come from a broken home. The scene in which she tests his "gayness" and challenges / questions his sexual orientation is classic.

Where does Costner come into all this? As a has-been baseball player who now deejays at a local station, who introduced Erika to "Shep", who becomes a drink buddy with Allen, who develops a likeable relationship with all the siblings - a surrogate father of sorts, and somehow seems to be able to take all the bitchiness that Allen exudes, and to almost always, diffuse tense situations.

There is a key theme running through all relationships, and that is to think before you shoot your mouth off. Sometimes sticks and stones may not hurt you, but words and misrepresented intentions often will.

It all comes to an end with a depressing revelation that makes you think, what if, and one in which makes all characters think through their current state of being, and to question, the upside of anger.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Second Viewing of Batman Begins

To summarize some of my thoughts after the second viewing of Batman Begins, and yes, this post contains spoilers.

1. I can't get enough of the banter between Alfred and Bruce. Liked the conversation on board the private jet where he bought a Rolls using Bruce's money, and his quite serious request for Bruce to adopt an alter-ego to protect himself from repercussions. The film highlights the many roles Alfred plays, besides Bruce's butler and alibi / conjurer of ideas for his playboy persona, Alfred also had a hand in the Cave and the costume, as well as bailing Batman out of grave situations.

2. Fight scenes. The first viewing, I was sitting smack in the middle of the theatre. Today, I deliberately selected a seat about 1/3 from the back. The view's better though, you can see much of the Batman's throws and punches. However, for the fights between Batman and the League of Shadows, I feel that the cinematography was done on purpose that you cannot see much, as the action happens quick. Just like Carmine Falcone's view of the fights at the dock - very swift, very confusing, very in-character.

3. The excellent handling of Lucius Fox's character. Just like in the comics, which I felt he suspects Bruce to being Batman, but doesn't act like he knows, or wants to know. In this film, he acts upon Bruce's instructions (to save Gotham) and Alfred's plea for help - again the suspicion is highlighted, but like his conversation to Bruce, to not to treat him like an idiot and as long as he isn't told what those equipment is for, he doesn't have to lie. And I liked the bit he reminded Bruce on - that all the stuff belonged to him anyway.

4. Just to say it out loud, Liam Neeson is Henri Ducard is Ra's Al Ghul. A pity that Ken Watanabe is like a cameo here playing Ra's decoy. Clues to Neeson being Ra's include his conversation with Bruce in the beginning reminiscing about the death of his wife, and conversations at Wayne Manor with regards to being involved in many of the League's terrorist activities, like the Great Fire of London. I like this bit, because although the Lazarus Pit is not shown, it can be indirectly inferred to in order for Ra's to partake in those activities - he has lived a long time, and can only do so with the power of the Pit. Now, if only Talia shows up...

5. The development of the relationship and trust between Gordon and Batman. At first, it was one of mistrust - as Batman (sans constume) seeks out Gordon in his office, only to have Gordon in pursuit, with service revolver drawn. Batman seeked Gordon out at his apartment later to assess if Gordon can be trusted. When Commissioner Loeb orders the SWAT Team into Arkham, Gordon went in on his own to try and warn his "friend", and to assist him in helping Rachel Dawes. And in the finale battle, Bats entrusted him with the Batmobile, as well as the all important task of derailing the train. The final scene is right out of Year One, and that in itself, makes every fanboy happy.

Not sure if I'll go for a third screening as it doesn't make economical sense in a way - the money spent could buy me the DVD when it's out! But we'll see... :-)

In My Father's Den

Once in a while, Cathay@Orchard screens their exclusive showcase selection of films which are not part of your mainstream Hollywood offering. In My Father's Den is one such film, and it is not often that I dive head on into a film without knowing at least a bit of the background or production details.

This film is an NZ-UK production, and it sure is set in NZ alright when I saw the "Pump" brand of bottled water in one of the scenes. Can't get anymore authentic than that! However, I'm in two minds as to how to rate this film. The narrative is painfully slow (butt-numbing 2hrs 10 mins), but necessary to allow you time to think through what is going on, and the revelation of the ending, shocking yet somewhat expected.

Paul Prior is a renowned war photo-journalist who's back in NZ to attend his father's funeral. Although he missed it, being back home gave him the opportunity to touch base with his estranged brother and his wife (Lord of the Rings fan will recognize Miranda Otto here), his nephew, and hook back up with his ex-flame who's now married to somebody else.

During this time, he hooks up with one of his students, 16 year old Celia, whose outlook in life, and passion for writing, brought back memories of himself, as well as memories of his ex-flame Jackie. However, an old photograph triggers suspicion that Celia might be the child Jackie bore him, before he literally walked out on his family, and Jackie. Meanwhile, you get a feeling that Celia is beginning to develop feelings for Paul, which all the more should sound alarm bells.

But things turn for the worse when Celia goes missing, and Paul becomes the prime suspect for her disappearance. It is during the portion of the film that time is juxtaposed, which might make it a little confusing or irate the viewer. There are many characters in this film, and your mind will race as to sieve out the red herrings, and decide who's involved, and who's not.

The "den" in the title refers to a shed that Paul's father has, which is stashed with good books, and good vinyl music discs. Quite a number of good songs are played throughout, which makes the soundtrack appealing. Many pivotal events take place in this shed, being a place of refuge for Paul, to being a key element of suspense and shock to the audience when the twist is revealed.

The multi-faceted relationships between the characters form the theme of this film, and the cast put up excellent performances in bringing their roles to life. The ending, when revealed and when you think through it in its proper chronological order, is fulfilling, yet laced with a heavy dose of sadness.

So if you're in for some classic story-telling, from a plot that really takes its time to unravel, then this is recommended for you. If you'd prefer to get on with action, then you should stick to the blockbuster summer offerings.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

An Evening with Lucie Silvas

Lucie Silvas is touted as the next big thing in the UK music scene, and it was little wonder why, given the opportunity to attend an exclusive private showcase at the DXO yesterday evening, courtesy of a British Council contest.

I had actually bought her album CD "Breathe In" and listened to it for some time now, thought that it would otherwise be weird to listen to someone sing without knowing any of her songs. And she sounds like Jewel, so it ain't that bad actually.

Arrived early at the Esplanade, but since the doors aren't opened (late as usual), I settled for a bowl of fishball mee, while keeping my eye on the queue to make sure it ain't getting too long. As with queues, even those who are not invited / clueless tend to ask you: "eh, you queue for what ah?"

The wait was long, and as with all concerts, the wait was actually longer than the actual performance. I had plans to have my CD autographed, and spent the waiting time formulating how and where to get it, given her expected appearance to perform at the piano set up on stage.

When she finally did appear and perform, wow. She was petite, but gorgeous. Radio hits like Breath In was done the acoustic way, and she performed the interesting rendition of Metallica's Nothing Else Matters, which is also on the album. When I entered the club, I had 2 choices - take a seat right in front of the stage, or stand around near enough to move to the groove, and of course, being mobile, getting an autograph should be easy-peasy. Of course I decided on the latter, can't be a stiff during concerts yeah?

The audience was surprised (hear the gasps) when she announced that her sixth song will be the final for the night. And so I set myself up for my plan once she walked off the stage

Damn! Someone actually beat me to it by asking her to sign not one, but two autographs on the cardboard invite. Hmm.. at least have the decency to sign on something that's not free lah. I was a bit perturbed as with all signings, time is of the essence. One or two, and they're off to safe haven.

So once Mr Interrupt left, I presented my CD (her album) for an autograph, and I could tell she was pleased (hey, I paid for it leh, of which some amount of moolah must go to her pocket no?)

Lucie ready to autograph: "What's your name?"
So I gave her my name. But slight hesitation as she wasn't sure of the spelling, and so I spelt it out for her in the noisy club. Couple of hand movements later, I got back the CD, beaming, before some other lass asked for an autograph (again on the cheap cardboard invite) and a photograph (I didn't have my camera with me).

So now, I'm a proud owner of a personalized autographed Lucie Silvas CD which reads "To my-name, Love, Lucie Silvas"

I'll be following her career from now - a fan boy is made! :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Batman Begins

No disrespect to Tim Burton, but Batman Begins blows away ALL the previous films, even Burton's. This is THE Batman film to date, and though Christopher Nolan did take some creative liberties on certain issues (i.e. deviate from canon), he managed to distill the essence of the character (make that all the characters) and put it into one 140min film. Excellent!

Unfortunately, as a fanboy, this review will be filled with spoilers, but I'll indicate those portions as I go along.

[Spoiler Paragraphs]
Some liberties stem from the flashback scenes of the Wayne murders. The Wayne family didn't actually watch an opera, it was a trip to the movies - "The Mask of Zorro", and Joe Chill, while accurately portrayed as the killer, and was after the pearl necklace (I shuddered when Thomas Wayne showed Bruce that item), Chill was never caught, and neither was he killed when leaving the courtroom. I suppose this was the major liberty taken, but I was felt ok with it.

There has been talk that Gordon was one of the cops who picked up Bruce, as shown in the film, but if given a choice, I would prefer a cameo by Dr Leslie Thomkins!

But what Nolan did to hit the head on the nail was to explore to some depth the history of the Wayne Family's involvement in Gotham City, from the railway track beneath the Cave, to the philantrophy of the family to their city. Good research done!
[End Spoiler]

The film runs in three acts, with the first being his training with the League of Shadows and flashbacks of his childhood days. It is during this training that sets Bruce/Batman's principle of never taking a life. And he doesn't. Therefore kudos to Chris Nolan. The Batman just doesn't kill, and neither does he use guns.

The next act is where the fun begins, as Bruce sets out his journey to rid Gotham of its criminal underworld. Classic scenes include the lone bat appearing in Bruce's room (thus his decision to dress as one), and the "exploration" of Wayne Enterprises with Lucius Fox to obtain his gear (hence the advance technology). Nolan teases the audience for an hour with all the preparation, before the Batman appears. It is dark, mysterious, and the action is fast. Some may complain that you "cannot see anything", but I would like to point out that's how Batman operates - swiftly and stealthily. He doesn't stand around! The anticipation of the baddies for his appearance all the more bumps up expectations, and it succeeds, to the pulsating score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. In particular, I liked the way Batman interrogated his victims - exactly like the comic books! You never saw this in any of the earlier films! I was like, hell yeah, that's exactly how it's done!

And the last act is where everything comes together - the action and the finale battle. Again, classic scenes were featured, like Gordon's collaboration with Batman, and Bat's trust in him, the very Year One scene of Bats against the SWAT team, and activating a signal to bring his backup of bats to assist in escape (though the scene in the film has changed to Arkham Asylum), and a Year One ending, which sets up a teaser for the sequel (I hope it happens!)

Fear is the running theme throughout - Bruce Wayne's fear of bats after accidentally discovering the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor, Gothamites' fear of the criminal underworld, Dr Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow's use of Fear as a weapon. The effects of the latter is fascinating to watch because of the effective use of CGI, as we see the victim's fear come alive [spoiler: I was especially pleased with Crane's vision of Batman when affected by his own gas]

Fans of the comics will get kicks from seeing serial killer Victor Zsas, and though it was somewhat a cameo appearance, he was given respect, unlike Bane's treatment under the hands of Joel Schumacher. We also got a glimpse of Gordon's wife Barbara and kid James Jr, and [spoiler: a mention of Ra's wife, and his reminiscence of her]. Although the Lazarus Pit was never mentioned, we'd probably know it could have been, given what progressed in the movie.

Many "bat-toys" in this film are born out of necessity rather than to sell more merchandise, which I though was excellent story telling. From his harness to his suit to the utility belt (finally, a working model!), to the cape (which doubles up as a glider) and of course to The Tumbler which would be the Batmobile.

And judge not a book by its cover. While the first appearance of this vehicle caused many fans to shake their heads in disbelief, watch this film and you see it being used in full glory - it ROCKS! There's also a running joke on how the vehicle was described - from "it's a... a... tank!" to "it's black... you'll know it when you see it"

Incidentally or otherwise, I felt this film also paid homage to Burton's films, [spoiler: with the rescue-the-girl-in-batmobile-race-to-cave-give-her-cure-send-her-home scene, and the discovery of Bat's identity though re-using dialogue that only the lovers know]

Singapore was also mentioned (twice) in the film, although it was sort of in negative light (as if we're a major smuggler's paradise) but what the heck! It was a hoot to hear how Bruce and Alfred plan to smuggle their bat-wares using the Wayne Enterprises cargo transhipping though our ports!

I give the thumbs up to casting Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He brought out the reluctance of living the double life (as the playboy, though he really hammed it up!), his need to getting used to late nights and morning alibis, and the tenacity and menace as the Dark Knight. Michael Caine IS Alfred Pennyworth - the never failing butler and surrogate father who never gave up hope on Bruce while delivery witty sarcasms, and his belief in the Wayne Family, Gary Oldman brought James Gordon into life and gave him the depth we are accustomed to in the comics (unlike earlier Pat Hingle versions). In summary, the casting was excellent, and everyone (except for Ken Watanabe) were given ample screen time to flesh their characters.

I'll be ready for a sequel, and I hope that the box office numbers will bring it on soon enough! My wishlist will be (apart from the obvious villain) to feature Harvey Dent, as they will definitely need a new District Attorney. If the sequel features this "trinity" of Gordon-Bats-Dent (and the prospect of Dent becoming Two-Face), I'll be in Bat Cloud Number Nine!

Highly recommended for fans and non-fans (you'll be converted) alike.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Batman Begins: Music from the Motion Picture

Yeah, occassionally I do movie soundtracks as well, though not as detailed. Music touches the heart, and it's tough to describe mine.

Bought the Batman Begins soundtrack from HMV today, set me back by S$18.95.

At first glance, I can't understand the tracks, which are titled

  1. Vespertilio
  2. Eptesicus
  3. Myotis
  4. Barbastella
  5. Artibeus
  6. Tadarida
  7. Macrotus
  8. Antrozous
  9. Nycteris
  10. Molossus
  11. Corynorhinus
  12. Lasiurus

Definitely no spoilers there, unlike those in the Star Wars Prequel (eg. Episode I's soundtrack explicitly stated Qui-Gon Jinn's demise)

Anyway, no fret, as I got help from, which deciphered the above tracks as

  1. \Ves`per*til"i*o\, n. [L., a bat.] (Zo["o]l.) A genus of bats including some of the common small insectivorous species of North America and Europe.
  2. n : a genus of Vespertilionidae
  3. n : largest and most widely distributed genus of bats
  4. err... no such word leh
  5. also no such word
  6. n : freetail bats
  7. n : large-eared grayish bat of southern California and northwestern Mexico
  8. n : a genus of Vespertilionidae
  9. no such word too
  10. \Mo*los"sus\, n. [L., fr. Gr. ?, prop., Molossian, belonging to the Molossians, a people in the eastern part of Epirus.] (Gr. & Lat. Pros.) A foot of three long syllables.
  11. no such word
  12. n : a genus of Vespertilionidae

Hmm... doesn't help much, except to suggest that it's all batty! Listening to it the first time, well, it ain't as friendly to the ear as Danny Elfman's track. Then again, they needed 2 composers (Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard) to top what he had done.

You can identify certain pieces that were used in the trailers, but I guess it's best to pick up the sounds when put into its right context when you see the film.

Can't wait! I'll probably have something to say again once I've watched the film. Will include it in my review then!

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Dark Knight and I: Thoughts on the Batman Movie Franchise

Be warned that this is a long read, but it caters to fans and non fans of the Dark Knight. So please bear with me, and I hope you can discuss your thoughts with mine.

The Batman was created by Bob Kane in 1939, as Detective Comic's answer to Action Comic's Superman. A darker, grittier hero compared to the Last Boy Scout of Krypton. He doesn't have any superhuman powers,instead relying on his detective skills to solve crime and dresses up as a human bat to strike fear into the heart of the criminal underworld. The appeal is that he's believable, and with the right amount of training and circumstance, he could be you or me.

Batman has evolved from the Bob Kane and Bill Finger days, taking on, in the process, a slew of highly original villains like the Joker, Catwoman and The Penguin, just to name a few. The appeal of Batman is in his rich rogue's gallery. In the hands of different storytellers, tales can range from camp (the 60s space aged stories of fighting aliens), to the more psychological, edgy tales of today.

I've grown up with the campy days of the Adam West television series, the introduction and withdrawal of the yellow circle around the bat symbol in the costume, the art of Neal Adams, Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle to Jim Lee's beautiful rendition in the recent Hush storyline. Cartoons I watched which featured Batman ranged from kiddy-ish Superfriends, to the Batman Animated Series by Warner Bros.

Batman turns 66 this year. It's a long time, but its pop cultural icon status is still going strong. My intention of this article is to share with you my thoughts of the movies (the last four, and the upcoming one), from a fan boy point of view.

Have You Ever Danced With the Devil By the Pale Moonlight?

Batman turned 50 in the year 1989, and I was a schoolboy just starting secondary school. Bat-mania dawned upon us with countless of merchandising, second only to Star Wars. I still remember watching this film at the old Changi theatre, and when the lights dimmed, everyone was going "shhhhh" as we're introduced to Danny Elfman's wonderful Bat theme and opening credits scene which revealed the Bat logo.

In this movie, we're introduced to the origins of both Batman and the Joker. Which works because this is the first movie of its kind and draws the audience into the Bat world. This introducing of origins also sets the structure in which the rest of the Bat films will follow - You have to show how (especially the villains) are created, what plans they have on Gotham/World domination, and how they get fall under the shadow of the bat, all within 2 hours.

Tim Burton was a relative unknown, given his success at that time was Pee Wee and Beetlejuice, which also starred Michael Keaton. However, he stuck to a vision that everyone expected - that of Frank Miller's Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. Fans were skeptical if Michael Keaton can deliver as the dark knight, but his performance brought on a decent Bruce Wayne, and a manacing Batman. The first lines?

[The Batman hoists the thug over the side of a building]
Defeated Thug pleading for his life: "Don't kill me man! Don't kill me!"
Batman: "I'm not going to kill you. I want you to tell all your friends about me"
Defeated Thug peeing in his pants: "Who are you?"
Batman: "I'm Batman"
[The Batman throws the thug back to the ground, before leaping over the edge. The thug peeps over, and is in disbelief as he sees no one, and no blood]

Spot on! Michael Keaton developed 2 voices for Batman/Bruce Wayne, with the former being lower in tone. He set the benchmark in which the other Batmans/Bruce Waynes will be compared. Nice touches in the script also demonstrates the Bat's penchant for appearing and disappearing, which adds to his mystery as an urban legend, and his crashing through the skylight of the museum with cape spread? Priceless. The "putting on the batsuit" scene also set a precedence, and the rest of the films will have something similar.

And who could forget Jack Nicholson's Joker, who really stole the show as he danced along to Prince's soundtrack for the movie (which rocks by the way. Prince still holds the honour of single handedly performing all musical tracks for a Batman movie. The others had flavours of the day. More later). I remembered the first time I saw the Joker's face (heavily guarded secret at that time), and saw the permanent maniacal smile that sent the chills. Nicholson, though a bit pudgy for the role (check the comics - the definitive look by Adams, Aparo, Borland, is always slim), owned the trademarked laughter.

The movie introduced a myriad of support characters, some of whom are staples in the comics - Alfred the Butler (played by Michael Gough, one of the constant in this franchise), Commissioner Gordon (played by Pat Hingle, also another constant), Harvey Dent (yes, he's in the movie as District Attorney, played by Billy Dee Williams) and Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger!), and some of whom are created for this movie, like mob boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance), reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and Jerry Hall as Alicia.

But one "character" stood out amongst all. The Batmobile. Always a feature in the comic books, and always the one which attracts all the attention. To many fans and movie goers, this is the definitive Batmobile for the movies - menacing looking, yet slick and beautiful, with a big bad afterburner to deliver that extra turbo boost. The audience gasped in awe the first time it was on screen, parked outside the museum when Vicki Vale was saved. I always drool at the poster - the one with Batman, arms folded, standing beside the Batmobile.

While the film's narrative was dark, twisted yet fun, and Gotham being brought to life by sets designed by the late Anton Furst, fanboys did have some qualms about the movie, which I will discuss here.

Firstly, Batman doesn't kill. Sure, he'll kick the ass out of you, but he draws the line at taking a life. This is something which will resonate throughout the movie franchise, which I detest. Yes I know, it's Hollywood, and body count makes an action movie. Similarly, guns are out of the question - so why did he equip the Batmobile and Bat-wing with machine guns and bombs?

Although the budget was huge, some effects were still cheesy, like the Joker's helicopter, which was really a toy model (no attempts to make it no so obvious), and the entire crashing of the Bat-wing into the streets of Gotham looks like it took a poor man's lesson from Godzilla's model making. There are many more bloopers which I can highlight, but I don't want to bitch about it more than I should.

While touching on the origins, it pays not to screw it up big time. Sure you can update it for the movies, but some things are sacred and should stay as such. Sure, we're shown the Waynes being gunned down in Crime Alley (and that scene in which Bruce pays regular homage is noteworthy), but it's always to an unknown Joe Chill. Here, the Joker (as Jack Napier) was the killer, just to facilitate the plot. I would like to state that the Joker did not kill the Waynes. Never did, and this aspect never will change.

Also, with origins, Jim Gordon wasn't Commissioner when the Batman first appeared (ok, slightly contentious here, since Bob Kane did introduce Gordon as Commissioner, and only in recent times had this been changed. But I'm sticking to the latter). My main gripe here is the relationship - there is zero chemistry between Gordon and Batman, which I hoped would improve in the latter movies, but was utterly disappointed. Their relationship is key in the mythos, and sadly, this was always overlooked. Gordon in the movies is just a support cameo character. Sad, but true.

We don't see much of what Bruce Wayne does. Vicki Vale's question "and what do you do for a living" was conveniently interrupted by Alfred the Butler. Sure we know he has his millions, but what does he do besides walking around town? Wayne Tech / Wayne Industries are not shown in Burton's movies, which are key areas in which Batman derives his toys from.

The politics behind the scene also set the tone in which the movies are marketed, i.e. Villains as the highlight, not Batman. Which I feel is wrong. Sure, the villains make the hero interesting, and here, the villains' roles are hotly contested amongst the who's who of Hollywood. Notice the poster for Batman, the marquee says "Nicholson Keaton". Yes, I know Nicholson's the bigger star, but still...

It's not as if I disliked the film. I liked it, and so do many others back in 1989. Many fans were satisfied with the outcome, and made it the Blockbuster for that year. Naturally with its success, a sequel was definitely in the works.

The Bat, The Cat and The Penguin

Batman Returns premiered 3 years after the first Batman, bringing back the Burton-Keaton team. The villains, although the spotlight is on both The Penguin and Catwoman, included a character created just for the sequel - Max Shreck, played by Christopher Walken, a corrupt mall chain owner bent on owning all of Gotham's electrical power.

While the narrative managed to bring all 3 villains into the fold nicely, I felt that things could have been better if the focus was still kept on the main Bat villains. Since the villains again are the spotlight, I'll cover them first.

Tim Burton's prints were everywhere in the creation of this version of the Penguin - a freak of nature, condemned to living in the sewers of Gotham while planning for his grand comeback to the real world, aided by Max Shreck. Again, the costume and makeup were until heavy wraps, and it was reported that Danny DeVito kept in character most of the time, hoping to beat his friend Jack Nicholson on the impact that this character could have on audiences. The Penguin's origin is one filled with, and ended in, tragedy. I remembered when this film came out, parents were up in arms against one of the scenes showing the Penguin spewing bile.

Catwoman was changed too, as Frank Miller's Year One Selina Kyle was a hooker, which won't go down well with kids in audiences. Although some plot elements were not plausible, like Selina falling from a great height and brought to life by cats, the delivery was stylish, and Michelle Pfieffer oozed sensuality, vulnerability, yet tough as cookies, spunky attitude to Selina / Catwoman. The transformation scene with her making her own slinky costume and guzzling lots of milk was my favourite, and who could forget that kitty lick on the rooftop? Hot! (Not to mention that the costume was coming off and splitting along its seams as the movie progressed...)

Credit to Burton though, while re-creating the villains origin, he kept iconic elements for each character intact, like the Top Hat, eye-glass, cigarette (on a holder), and gimmicky umbrellas for the Penguin, and Catwoman's whip and claws, although the narrative did not provide logical explanations on how she's trained on it (since she's a mousy secretary). Who cares though.

Batman had a new costume with a proper logo. The look was sleeker, with chameleon-like abs. No qualms here though, as we know Batman has different costumes for separate occassions in the comics. Michael Keaton actually looked comfortable in the role. I liked the part where he sat injured in the Batcave, pulling out one of Catwoman's claws from his abs - sort of like a reality check. But still, the Batman killed. And that's a big no-no.

With regards to the exploration of Bruce Wayne's love life, and falling for the villainess, this is my favourite amongst the 4 movies. Batman Returns had the strongest love story compared to the rest. The affections Bruce had for Selina even made him contemplate the notion (horrors!) of revealing his identity, and thoughts about giving up the mantle of the bat, just to be with her. (Ok, I know, in Batman Forever, he contemplated that too... more on that later)

The theme of Duality took centerstage, as we saw all characters leading double lives, having to put on facades in the public, concealing their deepest darkest secrets and desires. The struggle with duality brought on a whole new meaning to the love lives of Bruce and Selina as well, and their revelation to each other on the dancefloor to the tune of Siouxee and the Banshees' Face to Face, and their reaction thereafter, was one of my favourite scenes in the movie.

We began to see a glimmer of a strong partnership between Batman and Gordon in the film's beginning, but again, this was not exploited further. Given the plot, Gotham's Finest turned on the Batman, and it was fun to see him escape from the law. Alfred the Butler took on an expanded role here, and we see him contributing to Batman's crime fighting efforts, like he does in the comics.

More toys were introduced (we still don't see where Batman gets his wonderful toys), and we saw the usage of the Bat-Glider (the stiffening of his cape), the good ol Batmobile being transformed into the Bat-missile, as well as the Bat-skiboat. The Penguin even had a mini-batmobile built, as well as a huge yellow Duck truck.

Danny Elfman continued to score the movie, and brought in dark and separate themes for both The Penguin and Catwoman. The theme for Batman remained the same, though tweaked to highlight the movie's Christmassy setting. Only "Face to Face" made it into the soundtrack. No Prince or other artistes putting in music for this one.

As a direct continuation from the first movie, we saw the use of the Bat-Signal. My gripe? Heck, Bruce Wayne is at home at night? He's the Batman, and on any night, he should be out there kicking the underworld's rear. He's proactive, obsessive, and obviously shouldn't have the Bat-Sginals mirrored in the rooftops of Wayne Manor.

Batman Returns ended on a sad note, though with a flicker of hope that the Catwoman was still somewhere, somehow. Immediately after this movie, with Michelle Pfieffer's success in her role, word was out that a Catwoman spin-off might be in the works. Alas, what materialized was the disastrous Halle Berry effort.

Many deemed this movie too dark, but in my opinion, this is one of the better Bat movies in terms of delivery, plot, and character motivation. It's unfortunate though, that this did not turn in expected returns at the box office.

It must be the car. Chicks dig the car...

Contrary to popular belief, I enjoyed Batman Forever, somewhat. Rumours were rife during pre-production, that we might see an African-American Robin, that Michael Keaton would not return, and Tim Burton no longer directing.

Well, we did see Robin, a new Bruce Wayne and Batman, and Joel Schumacher bringing on a whole new dimension to the franchise. Some liked it, while others hated it for some of the irrelevant stuff he added, like giving the batsuit nipples (to be anatomically correct? What gives?) and having Dick Grayson put on earrings (to be more hip?)

Val Kilmer took on the mantle of the bat, only to have the plot wanting him to give it up to live a happy life with Dr Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). Well, who wouldn't? In my opinion, I thought he tried too hard to introduce the different voices for both Bats and Bruce, thus giving the former a very unnatural rough and gruff voice. But with his youth, he brought along a more physical Batman, with spectacular stunts and sets which made him look good. My only gripe? Some of the stunts are too improbable, even for the Batman (like, leaping from a high tower and landing right into a manhole??)

The plot tried to bring Bruce back to explore his rationale about dressing up as a giant bat. However, the weak attempt failed miserably with psychologist Dr Meridian (created for the movie) giving some hokey diagnosis with a voodoo doll from Malaysia.

Dr Chase Meridian, eye candy as she was (hey, it's Nicole Kidman!), failed to improve the romance department from what we saw in Batman Returns. Catwoman was subtly referenced, and at times, Dr Meridian looked and sounded like some desperado stalker who had the hots for Batman. While the dialogue between Batman and Catwoman was pretty, the dialogue here was horrible and corny at times, coupled with some deliberate cleavage revealing scenes. The bat-signal was a significant improvement from the earlier ones, but suffered the indignity of being abused as a seduction call.

Again, the who's who "in" people of Tinseltown got the lead baddie roles. This seemed to be a bad trend, one which somehow shifts the focus on the motivations of the villains, and moulding the character to fit the actor's perceived persona.

Edward Nygma, the Riddler, was played by rubber-faced Jim Carrey. Hey, I'm a fan of Carrey, and I thought he made an excellent Riddler. However, the script and his role was a letdown. While the riddles were creative, the motivations of the Riddler was a nightmare - what with creating TV signals and beaming people's brainwaves into his own, thus making him super smart, and psychotic in the process. His hatred was towards Bruce Wayne, for being the rich dude that he was and for publicly shunning Edward's ideas in front of his Wayne Tech colleagues. Yes, finally, we see Wayne Tech in the movies, with Bruce Wayne walking the grounds of his empire. Little touches were appreciated, like the Riddler's question-marked costume, his cane and his bowl hat.

To balance the Riddler's brains, we needed some brawn. Sadly, Two-Face's role was extremely off the mark. In the comics, there is a relationship of respect between Batman-Two-Face-Harvey Dent. Billy Dee Williams was replaced as Harvey Dent by none other than Tommy Lee Jones, and while Jones is an esteemed actor, again the script and his role were disappointing. The battles between Batman and Harvey (as he calls him) always had a tinge of the psychological, and this was seriously lacking. Instead, we got a Two-Face who was a rehash of the insanity of the Joker in the first Batman film.

I applaud the efforts to bring the nuances of Two-Face onto the big screen. The costuming and makeup were excellent, and the featuring of the tossing of a scarred coin accurate. However, the usage of the coin is limited, and the fatal mistake put on screen had shown him tossing it multiple times! That is so wrong! He tosses it only once and abides by whatever the outcome of the result. Somehow, these nuances are only superficially shown, and lacked depth. I also don't get the idea of having 2 molls - Sugar and Spice (Debi Mazar and Drew Barrymore by the way) for Two-Face, be it just to highlight his duality. My bet is if this character was in the able hands of Christopher Nolan, we'd see a more credible Two-Face.

The sets this time were brighter, lit by psychedelic neon lights. I initially smiled when Bruce entered a secret lift/tunnel en route to his satellite bat-cave headquarters (a tribute to the comics of the 70s) beneath Wayne Tech. However, in this show, this lift/tunnel brought him all the way back to Wayne Manor! I cringed at the impossibility. Arkham Asylum was also introduced for the first time in the franchise, and I thought it was pretty decent (pardon the pun).

We got a different Wayne Manor (I think this is the set that always changes in the franchise), and finally a new Batmobile (well, the excuse could be that the previous was ruined when it turned into the Bat-missile?). This Batmobile was lit up with its blue neon "frills", kinda cool, but totally off character. And its ability to drive up walls just added to its improbability. The plot seemed to like to feature everything the previous films had, and so we got quick usage of the Bat-Wing (hung upside down in a cave?!), and the Bat-boat.

I enjoyed watching the Flying Graysons in action (hmm, was there an extra member of the family?), and how Dick Grayson/Robin's origin was tied to Two-Face's involvement in his family tragedy. But the producers forgot, that Dick was never as bratty and rebellious as what Chris O'Donnell put on screen, and isn't he a tad too old for the role? He's more Nightwing! A "holy-Robin" joke managed to appear, and thank goodness no more. It's good that the filmmakers decided to use the contemporary Robin costume, which made its debut in Batman issue 457, but what's questionable are the homo-erotic lingering shots of the crotch areas...

The supporting characters like Alfred and Commissioner Gordon again took back seats. However we saw a nice touch added - that of Alfred tending to Batman's wounds, just like the comic books. Also, a bond develops between Alfred and Dick Grayson, which was also key. Gordon became more and more a cameo character, which saddens me given his role in the comics as the only cop Batman trusts.

And the closing scene, what's with the running away from the Bat-signal, in silhouette? Completely inferior to the Bat and his Signal in the first film, and the glimmer of hope with the Catwoman silhouette in the second.

Despite my nitpickings on characters and plot, perhaps this film was best known for its soundtrack, which rocked big time, with U2 helming the opening track, and Seal bringing his "Kiss From A Rose" to new heights. Other gems included Massive Attack collaborating with Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn, Eddie Reader's and Brandy's sad love songs, and a track from the late Michael Hutchence. However, Elliot Goldenthal's musical theme sucked big time. His Bat-theme pales in comparison to Elfman's, and I hated it each time it blared through the speakers.

To summarize, I liked certain elements of the production values, but the script could have improved by leaps and bounds. Yes, my main gripe was with the script, and it was a roller coster ride for me - elated when I saw certain elements introduced, and disappointment when the potential was not achieved.

The nightmare continued though.

We're Gonnna Need A Bigger Cave

This was the film that was infamously credited as the one which brought down the franchise started by Tim Burton. What started out as a dark vision became lighter in tone (filled in lot of painful one-liners) and brighter (more neon colours) in setting. The formula of showcasing the origins of the villains was stale, especially so since the delivery was outright flat.

With the rumoured bust ups between Kilmer and Schumacher, it is no surprise that a new actor will occupy Wayne Manor. George Clooney became the new Batman, what with his square jaw and all, but unfortunately, he's no Bruce Wayne nor Batman - his star personality shone through the character, and he made little attempt to distinguish the difference between being the Bat and Bruce, so both sound the same. Also, the lame one liners like "And this is why Superman works alone" didn't cut it, this is the Dark Knight, not your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman! (Yeah, I'd blame it on the script). Real life joker as he is, get serious George! His "Hi Freeze, I'm Batman" with a wry smile destroyed the image Michael Keaton started, and which Val Kilmer carried forward with more angst.

Arnold Schwarzenegger got worse one-liners (seemed like the script's only filled with them), and his Mr Freeze became comical. Mr Freeze is a sad character, one in which you might pity at times, given his condition and his cause to research and save his wife's life. But the script here mildly scratches the surface of this cool (pardon the pun) character. The sacrifice made by Schwarzenegger was a bald head to look like the character, but his muscles and build looked out of place (Freeze was always drawn as a scrawny man). But no matter, the effects of his freeze gun was pretty well done.

We were introduced to a rushed origin of Poison Ivy (it's getting formulaic!), it probably makes little sense of what's happening. Not that Uma Thurman doesn't look the part, though I must confess, at times the costumes look too cheesy with gaudy colours. It's only when we see Uma in the classic leafy blouse and green stockings did Poison Ivy temporarily come alive. Her poisonous kiss was also dealt with without much depth. When you get kissed, you'll go into this psychedelic hypnotic trance, and you'll be under her spell. Here, this gets glossed over. We know both Batman and Robin fall under her spell and started to bicker (in a scene that I'll label outright as Stupid) but the trance like sequence was absent, where they will see the world in some plant like environment, with Ivy in various states of undress. Get my point?

Batgirl was so wrongly done, just to get Clueless star Alicia Silverstone on board. Barbara Gordon is Commissioner Gordon's daughter, but given Jim Gordon's lack of substantial characterization in the entire franchise, Barbara becomes Alfred's niece. Totally off, and I wondered who in DC Comics approved of such a blasphemous change.

The costume Chris O'Donnell wore, seriously looked like Nightwing. They could have titled this film Batman and Nightwing if Nightwing had a more popular and recognizable following. Heck, even the movie's logo, an amalgam of Batman's and Nightwing's (yes, not Robin's) looked cool, and I thought the plot included Dick's wanting for independence and leaving Robin behind to strike out on his own. No disrespect to Chris, but since Batman Forever, the movie's version of Dick Grayson always seemed more like Jason Todd (the fallen Robin who was murdered by the Joker), and this time it seemed a bit worse. However I was quite pleased to see that in the finale, Robin was outfitted in a costume that really looked like Nightwing's, and I actually hoped that if this bad movie did manage box office success, perhaps we might see a Nightwing spin-off. Alas.

I don't mind, and could probably understand why, so many actors and characters were thrown into the mix. But the worse inclusion of all has got to be that of Bane. Bane is a relatively new character who was developed by the drug enhancer code-named "Venom" (You can read more about it in Legends of the Dark Knight 16-20, and Vengeance of Bane). He's also credited as the villain who broke Batman's back in Batman issue 497. This film totally humiliated Bane by making him a voiceless, useless lackey of Poison Ivy.

As for the supporting characters, Alfred was inflicted with a fictional disease, so there goes "reality", out of the window. Commissioner Gordon, again played by Pat Hingle, wasn't given much screen time or character depth and I had already given up seeing the strong brotherhood between Bats and him that could have been. Elle "The Body" MacPherson starred as Judie Madison, the token love interest of Bruce Wayne, which could have been done away with given the zero chemistry. If I recall, the comic Bruce Wayne in the Bob Kane days was engaged to her (or was she called at that time, Julie Madison?)

While the actors probably tried their best, I wonder what ran through their minds when they read the script, because it is one rigged with scenes which leapt right out of Adam West's TV Series. I mean, Bat-credit-card? And from nippled costumes (which still stayed) to butt-shots, what gives?

The Batmobile was mutilated! It was a one-seater open air dragster that looked simply horrible. The worst of all the Batmobiles we've seen, aesthetically that is.

This movie tanked, and rightfully so. It isn't the Batman that can fit into the franchise. It was totally off tangent. Fans around the world hated the Schumacher-treatment, and I'd bet he'll never touch another Bat/DC Comics franchise for many years to come.

So how? Was this the end of the beginning of the end, or the beginning of the end of the beginning?

Are You Ready To Begin

It's a long hiatus since the disastrous Batman and Robin. 8 years to be exact. From a promising start, the franchise pummelled, and Bat-fans around the world wondered if the Dark Knight could be granted new lease of life, given new successes found in the comic-turned-movie genres starting with Marvel's Spiderman. Rumours ranged from adapting Frank Miller's Year One, or having Clint Eastwood in The Dark Knight Returns. The futuristic Batman Beyond also was considered, and so was World's Finest, with Superman.

Potential Spoiler Alert
The following might contain spoilers to some of you, though it's heavily referenced from all available trailers. If you want to stop reading, this is the time.

Christopher Nolan, best known for his works in Memento and Insomnia, takes on the Dark Knight, and brings him back to his roots, back to where he started, back to Crime Alley. He combined elements from Year One and The Long Halloween. Fan favourites. Christopher Nolan's screenplay (with David Goyer) explores the more psychological aspect of Batman, and I give him credit to begin the franchise with Ra's al Ghul and Scarecrow - it always isn't easy with characters without mass appeal.

Given the feel of the trailers, and the narration on them, it is fitting to explore Fear as a theme - Bruce Wayne using the symbol of the bat to strike Fear into the hearts of criminals, and on the other end of the spectrum, the Scarecrow using Fear as a lethal weapon.

Casting was an A-list (character actors) coup, and we have in the flesh, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox from Wayne Tech, Ken Watanabe as Ra's Al Ghul, Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane the Scarecrow, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone of the Falcone Crime Family and Rachel Dawes (created for this movie). We'll also see Year One familiars like Joe Chill, Detective Flass, and Commissioner Loeb.

Christian Bale will no doubt be the focus of this movie. His Bruce Wayne hams up the suave playboy image, while his Batman is menacing, bringing comparisons to Keaton's, especially in a scene which was similar:

[Thug looking confused and afraid]
Thug: Where are you?!
[The Batman hangs upside down behind him]
Batman menacingly whispers: here


With the trailers also harping on the relationship between Bruce and Rachel, let's see if it can live up to the intensity of the one between Bruce and Selina Kyle.

And Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon, what more can I say? If you've seen the stills, Oldman "disappears" into Gordon, and the makeup is excellent - everything's perfect, from the huge glasses, the bushy mustache, and his smoking. Can't wait for him to take on Detective Flass! There will be a budding relationship formed between the Bat and Gordon, and a certain still points to a probable conclusion which follows Year One - a rooftop meeting, with the Signal ablazing! If a sequel develops, who knows what Christopher Nolan might do with The Joker, and a potential introduction of Harvey Dent!

Christopher Nolan also injects into this film tons of iconic imagery and storylines from the comic books, like the young Bruce falling into a "rabbit hole", only to discover bats and a cave, the Crime Alley scene where he kneels between his slain parents, the funeral scene, Alfred comforting a sad Bruce, the tossing of the gun by Bruce (thereby swearing not to take a life), the travelling the world in search of training, the makings of the costume, and my favourite, the exploration of the Bat-cave, which led to the discovery of an abandoned railroad running beneath the cave which Bruce's great-great-grandfather built). Even Batman's cape is given a life of its own! The suggestion that Thomas Wayne is somehow responsible for his and his wife's death, also brings to mind the little storyline in which Thomas Wayne refused to ply his trade for the mob, and hence, making himself and his family a probably mob hit target.

The only gripe some of you might have is Liam Neeson's role as Henri Ducard, which sounds a bit Qui-Gon Jinn-ish from the dialogue. But heck, I'm not perturbed and neither should you be. He was casted for what he was good at, so I guess we can't complain. Also, without spoiling for you the fact about Ra's, some are unhappy with him being Asian/Japanese/Oriental, since he's supposed to be middle eastern. Well, just take it that it's the movie version! Therefore we might not see the Lazarus Pit, which to non-fans might sound a bit hokey, given that it gives immortality. Yes, I know Ra's baby is the pit, but still...

The other unhappiness that made its fair share of rounds was the Batmobile. Many says it's monstrous and ugly. But I like it - it's a bloody tank which looks similar in concept to The Dark Knight Returns. And seeing it in action in the trailers - man, it kicks hard ass!

Nolan's take could be a more psychological aspect of the Dark Knight, hence the focus on the action might not be wanting. The previous films had mediocre focus on the psychological. Heck the realm of the bat is that - what makes him tick, the rationale of exploiting fear, and even most of his rogue's gallery has this psychological twisted nature. The earlier Burton movies attempted to look at dark themes like Duality, until Schumacher brought out the camp and made it into your usual action flick. It's time we have a more intellectual take on Batman, starting from his roots.

It was a long wait in bringing this movie to the big screen, and fans around the world are really crossing their fingers that this team, will finally bring the Dark Knight back to its cinematic glory. With top casting and an origin storyline keeping most of its material together, the potential is there, and we want to experience it. Bob Kane was around when Burton made the first film. How I'd wish he was alive today to witness Chris Nolan's take. He might be proud.

June 16. Be there.

"I seek the means to fight injustice. To turn fear against those who prey on the fearful" - Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mr and Mrs Smith

Nevermind the tabloids, this show is a must watch to see exactly how sizzling the chemistry is between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And it's no surprise that Hollywood's sexiest couple wraps the entire show in their sensuality.

Brad Pitt is John Smith (a very generic name which was the highlight of a joke), construction foreman in the day, top killer at the side. Angelina Jolie is Jane Smith (again very generic), IT company CEO as a front, top assassin extraodinaire. Mr and Mrs Smith, living in suburbia New York, to everyone, a perfect marriage (and in my opinion, they do look good together)

This film takes a very successful and insightful look into relationships, courtship and marriage, albeit with a sprinkle of well timed humour. It's a joy to watch them showcase typical marriage problems (the film starts off with things not going too well after a very successful courtship) like the lack of communication, the petty arguments, the little deceitful secrets, and always, always accidents which somehow come across as deliberate actions. And when things get out of hand, who do they run off to for solace? Why, their best buddies of course! It's these situations that you can connect to in real life, that sets this show apart from your usual action flick.

They argue, they fight, especially when they find out that they work for rival assassin companies. From guns to knives to fist fights, the action is top class - always something different, always surprises around the corner. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and each time Jolie hits the roof, she's never short of bringing down the house!

Vince Vaughn shines as Pitt's sidekick Eddie, with his off the cuff remarks. And the film takes a subtle dig at one of Vince's earlier film Psycho, with his character living in solitude with his mom, whom we never see on screen. Fans of the TV Series OC will probably celebrate at Adam Brody's short appearance.

Before you groan at the action pieces (too many guns, too many chases, etc), let me assure you it's refreshing - not only you get to see the very attractive leads in action (yes, Jolie did the leap-off-the-building stunt herself), but the marital / relationship bickering thrown in for good measure worked buckets. It is with this ingredient (heck, I'm getting all homely now) that makes the highway chase here a tad more entertaining than the one in The Matrix Reloaded. And the finale shootout will make even John Woo extremely proud - sweet poetry in motion.

Ah, and the trailers don't give away everything (or anything for that matter), so it's a joy to watch when your thoughts get pulled from under (say, didn't the trailer suggest this, or was it that?) Never mind the trailer, watch this movie for what it is - rip roaring action, identifiable life experiences, and the sexy Angelina Jolie!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

sgblogconspiracy - The Matrix version

Trinity: I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing... why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you read It's the question, Neo. It's the question that drives us. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
Neo: What is Bloggers.SG?
Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.


Agent Smith: It seems that you've been living two lives. One life, you're Thomas A. Anderson, program writer for a respectable software company. You have an NRIC number, pay your taxes, and you... help your landlady carry out her garbage. The other life is lived in the Blogosphere, where you go by the blogname alias "Neo" and are guilty of virtually every anti-gahmen blog postings out there. One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not.


Morpheus: Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the blogosphere. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: Bloggers.SG.
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
Neo: Yes.
Morpheus: Bloggers.SG is the core of the local blogosphere in which you blog. You blog when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. However, it is a world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That it is all a conspiracy, Neo.


Morpheus: The local blogosphere is a system, Neo. When you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to read from their blog posts. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so hopelessly into blogging...
[Neo's eyes suddenly wander towards a woman in a pink dress]
Morpheus: Were you listening to me, Neo? Or were you looking at xiaxue in the pink dress?
Neo: I was...
Morpheus: [gestures with one hand] Look again.
[xiaxue in the pink dress is now Agent Smith, pointing a gun at Neo's head; Neo ducks]
Morpheus: Freeze it.
[Everybody and everything besides Neo and Morpheus freezes in time]
Neo: This... this isn't Bloggers.SG?
Morpheus: No. It is another training program designed to teach you one thing: if you are not one of us, you are one of them.


Tank: We're supposed to start with these operation programs first. That's major boring shit. Let's do something a little more fun. How about... scripting?
Neo: Perl? I'm gonna learn perl scripting?
[Tank winks and loads the program]
Neo: Holy shit!
Tank: Hey Mikey, I think he likes it. How about some more?
Neo: Hell, yes. Hell yeah.


Neo: I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid... you're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I'm going to blog, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a Bloggers.SG without you. A Bloggers.SG without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A Bloggers.SG where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.

to be continued...

technorati tag: sgblogconspiracy

Thursday, June 02, 2005

sgblogconspiracy - xXx version

I guess you've heard about it. The inaugural Singapore Blogger Conference event. The stakes are high, and I'd bet the place will be crawling with gahmen agents. There will be many kinds of people, and I'm tasked to find out whatever I can about them. The dirty. The dangerous. My kind of people.

I'm been risking my life for a lot of stupid reasons. This is the first one that makes sense to me - The fate of the free blogosphere in the hands of gahmen agents, or bloggers (or issit blogders?)

I'm only one man, and agents always snigger, what can one man do?

But I'm the new xXx. Welcome to the Nutshell Review.

The things I'm gonna do for my country!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

xXx2 Freebies

Can't remember when I joined the Sony PlanetMG contest (can't even recall the details!), but I got a pleasant surprise today when I saw a package sitting at my desk when I came home.

Opened it up, and read through the Congratulatory letter. WOOHOO!

Got for myself a xXx2 black T-shirt and a xXx2 red wristband. Still haven't figured out how to post pictures yet, so a description should suffice: T-shirt has the xXx2 logo emblazoned in red, with the subtitle "The Next Level" beneath the logo, though I thought "State of the Union" might be nicer. So it goes into my collection of black movie tees: The Matrix Revolutions (the coolest) and I, Robot are those that I have gotten for free.

The red wristband? I gave it to mom :P

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Resistance is useless! Don't panic! The answer is... 42!

I've read Douglas Adams' book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy once, as a young kid, so I can't really remember the details, and therefore, can't comment from a purist's point of view (heh, wish I had the Point of View Gun). What I can do however, is review the movie as it is, from a cinematic experience.

And it's fantastic! From the opening narrative, characterization, beautiful stunning CGI, especially on the creation of Earth, this film seems to do no wrong. The wit and dry humour play an important part, though some might not get all the jokes. And key to it all is the intelligent way in which the creators recreate The Hitchhiker's Guide - where slick animation vividly brings forth the tips and tricks to living life in the Galaxy.

The characters are always the highlight, and rightfully so. Who can forget Marvin the manically depressed robot, who (!) is brought to life on the silver screen. Sam Rockwell shines as the narcisstic President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox. Martin Freeman does a commendable job as Brit Arthur Dent, whose home is set for demolition for a highway (oh, the irony of it all), and Zooey Deschanel provides the eye candy as sassy Trillian. Mos Def as Ford Perfect rounds off the galaxy adventurers. The cameo by John Malkovich proves hilarious as Humma Kavula, religious cult leader waiting for the next big sneeze - Bless you! And I can sense the audience eagerly awaiting the appearance of Deep Thought, spouting that immortal line, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything...

While you wonder at the marvels of technology in this sci-fi film (hey, there's a spoof from Star Wars), underlying it all is a simple love story that develops between Arthur and Trillian, and the challenges of admitting your affections to your partner.

Stay tuned during the end credits, as you get another Hitchhiker's Guide entry, which explains the aftermath of what happened after Arthur uttered the final words.

I've enjoyed this film tremendously, and I feel it should appeal to non-fans of the book as well, probably reining them in to read it. I know I would.

To Douglas, for creating this classic and developing new material for the film. So long, and thanks for the fish!
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