Friday, June 30, 2006


Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Anne Hathaway is currently disrobing on our local screens, and I suspect by the time Havoc finished its run, then she'll be heard but not seen, only lending her voice in the animated feature Hoodwinked, by Blue Yonder Films and Kanbar Entertainment. By not being a product churned out from the usual Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks-Fox studios, it's a delightful departure from the expected norms we already have formed by offerings from the mentioned studios.

It's a very adult animated movie, in having multiple probably plots told in a whodunnit fashion. Gone are the laugh-a-minute spoofs on pop culture, not that Hookwinked is relying on the few it has on offer, and in comes some old fashioned comedy done right. Songs are also limited, given that it's only an 80 minute movie, that doesn't have much time to incorporate a mini-musical.

The plot adopts the fairy tale classic of Little Red Riding Hood, where the crimson hooded girl delivers some cakes to her grandmother's house, but found a wolf in her granny's pyjamas, and with her life at stake, she is rescued by a nearby woodsman. Or so we were led to think. In this modern day retelling, we're given a twist to this aged old story, and it's more than meets the eye.

Each of the characters - the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), the Woodsman (James Belushi), the Granny (Glenn Close) and even Red herself, seem to be hiding an agenda, and each are more than who they claim to be. In detective noir tradition, Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) investigates and probes into each of their account of what brought them to that fateful location, and the events that transpired. And this is the highlight of the movie.

With each retelling, the audience gets involved through identifying the timelines where certain events cross one another, and how certain actions become misinterpreted to comedic effect. It's nothing very cerebral about it, as you would have probably guess who's guilty soon enough before the revelation, but what is admired, is how the scriptwriters come up with these zany plot ideas, and interlinking them together is no small feat.

Nonetheless, there are areas during the retelling which are simply quite plain, while some have become gems on their own. Given the many characters, most of which are relegated to few lines of dialogue, some of them just gave way to stereotypes, like most of the piggy cops playing it just for laughs. And there's also a hyperactive squirrel in this picture stealing the show, much like the one in Over the Hedge. Is a squirrel becoming the new animated in-thing?

In a plot involving stolen recipes, Hoodwinked's animation will take a while to get used to. Not that it's bad, but I felt that it wasn't as fluid, or meant to be photo-realistic, given its rather blocky 2D artwork. Then again, it's the story that matters, and this one doesn't pretend to be anything more than an average whodunnit. Fun stuff.

Thursday, June 29, 2006



Be careful what you wish for, because sometimes, they just might come true, whether you like it to or not. A writer's inspiration can also be adapted from real life events, with a dash of dramatic license added to spice things up for the reader. And an environmental message which is worked quite effortlessly into the narrative, makes one wonder in awe too.

Re-Cycle is the latest horror thriller from the acclaimed Pang Brothers, whose Bangkok Dangerous I had enjoyed tremendously. Perhaps an Asian answer to Hollywood's Wachowski Brothers with their flair for interesting visuals and stories which thread on many levels, Oxide and Danny Pang's latest movie stars Angelica Lee (or Lee Sin-Je if you prefer), already having her fair share of spook fests in her filmography.

Ting Yin (Lee) is a successful writer whose love stories are literary blockbusters. Infusing elements of her life into her stories, she gets troubled as she attempts to break genre and work on horror instead. And it is this introductory act that things really go bump in the dark, incorporating the Asian dark mood and eerie atmosphere which have become staples of horror movies this part of the world. Familiar scenes like long hair (The Wig?), water (Ju-On?), and dark frightening shadows make their necessary appearance, coupled with extremely loud music and screams and the right moments, I admit my heart skipped.

But Re-Cycle took a different path thereafter. Gone are the horrific elements used to shock. and in comes a whole lot of atmosphere and computer generated graphics, designed to awe. The centre piece of a slum-like deserted street and dilapidated buildings, with its silently deserted streets, and then plenty of zombies, reminded me of yet another moody horror movie Silent Hill, with its fair share of graphics enhancement. Initially I thought that from the trailer, it looked like a carbon copy of Constantine's Hell sequence, but I was wrong, and I'm still amazed by Thailand's advancement in post production and computer wizardry competency - simply awesome.

Stunning effects aside, the story progressed more into the thriller and mystery realms, tracking Ting Yin's desperation to escape from this unreal world, back to her own. It's like Alice in Wonderland, except that this is no childlike fantasy world with danger lurking at every corner. For those who have enjoyed Neil Gaiman's Mirrormask, this movie's story threads along the same lines in having the protagonist seeking an escape, while going from scene to scene, and place to place, encountering weird surreal locations, and different, out of this world characters. For those who disliked or found the narrative style of Mirrormask wanting, you might feel the same about Re-Cycle too.

However, there is a strong, rational theme unifying these seeming disparate scenes and events. They're not just pretty for the sake of being pretty to look at, but ring home the obvious message on abandonment, through the plot device of re-cycling. Many strange scenes are crafted from this message, while at the same time, bringing a sense of familiarity for an audience to identify with. Therein lies the strength of this movie.

Angelica Lee had plenty of room to showcase her acting skills - being frightened to her wits end, sharing emotional scenes, smelling of desperation or be it in a state of bewilderment, she carries the movie forward aptly, despite slower moments during certain sequences.

My initial thoughts about the movie were not flattering, choosing to harp on the nicely done, yet familiar special effects, and scenes which were somewhat familiar in some other movies. But having pondered a little more into the storyline, I thought it was quite neat, and if not for the spooky introduction, I might just want to watch this movie again.

[Gala Premiere] Re-Cycle

Mac was used in Re-Cycle ok?

The Singapore Gala Premiere of the Pang Brothers new film, Re-Cycle, took place at Prince 1 on Thursday night 9:15pm. The host, Peifen from Yes933FM Radio was on hand to liven things up for the eager crowd awaiting the lead actress Lee Sin-jie and one half of the directing duo Oxide Pang. To keep the crowd occupied, some games were played where contestants who answered some questions about the movie correctly, won a collectible T-shirt.

But after the third question, the guests had already arrived, and this was what they have to share with the near full house at Prince 1 - click on the video to find out more!

You can check out the full coverage of Re-Cycle's Gala, as well as the press interview conducted by movieXclusive earlier in the day, by clicking on the logo below

And I owe Overider one, he got my VCD autographed by Lee Sinjie! Yay!


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns Again

I need a Phone Booth, Pronto!

I had bought my ticket for today's show way in advance, as I didn't expect to get lucky for any previews. But MTVAsia decided to change my fortune, so there I was two days back watching it at a not-so-good theatre. But good thing it's at least the first screening of a non-digital version, so there wasn't any pop-cackle or hiss. Not that it was all bad, but made up for it with my original ticket for Lido 1 in digital format, sat at Row T which just about covers a person's peripheral vision.

And I tell you the second time around it's just as sweet, if not, a sweeter experience altogether. And given that nobody was sitting in the same row, I can unabashedly root for, cheer, clap, each time the Man of Steel saves the day! Kinda insane, I know, but that's what Singer's version does to you, really, especially for (closet) fan boys like me.

Massive Spoilers ahead! Proceed with Caution!

The classic John Williams theme was used to rousing, maximum effect each time Superman appears and does his heroic acts. I especially liked the part where he goes after the plummeting 777, and where he rescues Lois, Richard and Jason from the broken sinking ship. The effects were again top notch for both action sequences, but somehow I preferred the latter, the lifting of an extremely heavy boat from the depths of the ocean, and then with one hand grabbing onto the Whites, the other letting go of the junked ship... awesome!

With repeated screenings - this is only my second, I might still opt for the IMAX version even though it's without 3D here, I started to notice minute details, like

- When Supes crashes back to Earth from Krypton, the scrabble board in the kitchen of the Kent's home, has one word spelt "ALIENATION"
- He still has a dog in the Kent farm (Supes I)
- Martha Kent's truck is the same (model as the )one that he lifted up as a kid (Supes I)
- Jimmy Olsen is still using a Nikon (Supes I)
- The love theme is still kept, when Supes romances Lois and brings her on a short flight around Metropolis
- Lois' Pulitzer Prize winning Daily Planet article "Why the world doesn't need Superman" is dated 13 Feb 2005
- Daily Planet, in preparing two headline issues - Superman Dead and Superman Lives, it's dated 29 Sep 2006
- References to Lex being to the Fortress of Solitude before (Supes II)
- Superman's suit wasn't ripped off his body in the hospital scene. If you watched it carefully again, you'll know what I mean, it's removed (they were lifting his back slightly), though of course, for pace's sake, they need not show you everything.

So if you haven't watched Superman Returns yet, what's holding you back?

And please Mr Singer, continue with the sequels. I heard there are 2 more in the pipeline.

Singer has done to Superman what Christopher Nolan has done for Batman and Sam Raimi has done for Spiderman, that is to take iconic comic book icons, and recreate the cinematic experience for a brand new audience.

Kopi With Royston

massb, Overider and myself conducted an interview with local director Royston Tan over the weekend, and he was very kind to oblige with our request for a Sunday (yes! Sunday!) noon brunch session. You see, massb is in the army, so weekends are his best bet, since he had prepared for this interview for months, don't let the preparation efforts go to waste.

Overider and myself actually were early, too early in fact, despite deliberately missing a bus, but then we had a good time at the kopitiam waiting, talking, waiting, bugging massb, rinse and repeat.

And since it was a laidback Sunday session, I'd bet here's a side of Royston that many of you have not seen in photos before. Quite cool with the shades, like WKW :D

Here's one picture for the album!

LtoR: Randy Jackson, Royston, myself and Overider

In any case, you can read more about the interview at movieXclusive by clicking on the logo below

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Drink, Guns and Smoke Make Interesting Bedfellows!

I was attracted to the movie because of its title - Thank You for Smoking. It's not politically correct - where's the "not"? And the trailer looked like it was a whole lot of fun as well, with a tobacco evangelist spreading the good news about smoking and cigarettes. Coincidentally, this movie also turned out to be this week's GV Surprise Screening selection.

I like movies with ensemble cast too, and this one consisted of Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Sam Elliot, Rob Lowe, William H Macy, JK Simmons, Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes and Cameron Bright. Not the usual big names, but a stellar cast nonetheless, some of whom you would've come across in other big budgeted movies, like JK Simmons - the James Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spidey, or Cameron Bright - the most over-under utilized kid from Ultraviolet and X3.

The opening credits played to the song "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette!", consisting of colourful cigarette boxes, already got me hooked, and the protagonist of Nick Naylor (Eckhart), the tobacco industry lobbyist, is one heck of an interesting character, and holds one heck of a dream job. He's not a lawyer, but can sure talk like one, and has the same uncanny ability to turn black into white with his wit and persuasion.

There are plenty of witty lines and dialogue in this movie, played out with some cheese and infused with comedy at the right moments. My favourite moments are those in which Nick teaches his son Joey (Bright) how to win arguments, which he's the best at the business at. About the flawed but sounds-so-sexily correct logic which is employed to break down the arguments of another.

He has few friends, since anti-smoking lobbyists are a dime a dozen, and counts amongst his circle of trust, the Mod Squad, consisting of fellow spin doctors from the Alcohol and Firearms industry (Maria Bello and David Koechner respectively). Their chill out get together dinner sessions are a hoot to watch, as they go about sharing ideas, spinning techniques, and rant about their collective enemies.

If there's a lesson to take away from this picture, it's not to sleep and tell, especially if the reporter has glorious tits, in the mould of Katie Holmes. Bent on exposing the slickest in the business, you thought that Nick would be beaten down with a scandal. But as they say, it's always tough to keep a good man down! Besides the romantic entanglement, there's a little sub plot about office politics, like having a "leaning mountain" in the form of your boss's boss, and the trouble that will inevitably knock on your door when he's no longer around. Compelling stuff.

In a movie which seemed to be pro-tobacco, you'd be surprised that NONE of the characters actually light up on screen! The closest we got to was from a movie "Sands of Iwo Jima" shown on television, but he got shot when he was distributing ciggies to his mates. How's that for irony? And I have no idea why the local rating is M18 for sexual references. Sure there was sex, but you can't see a thing, and it got truncated badly anyway. Why can't the censors get straight to the point that it's M18 - Pro-Cigarette movie, which would align with local laws that cigarettes cannot be sold to those under 18 years of age? One wonders.

Then again, as addressed in the movie, I liked the part where there was a commotion over the effectiveness of having horrible pictures of death printed on the cigarette boxes. You must watch and see if you agree with the arguments presented. But the bottom line is, it's all about choice. Everyone, unless you're extremely ignorant, should already be aware of the dangers. If you want to, go ahead. If not, that's fine too.

Now where's my cigarette? (should I, too, stick an M18 warning or attach some grotesque pictures? :P)

Superman Returns

He's Back!

Superman returns! And in a style befitting a worldwide pop cultural icon easily recognizable from that distinctively red-yellow S-shield. Being stuck in production hell for almost 2 decades since the last movie installment, Bryan Singer has resurrected the Man of Steel for the silver screen, with an all new cast made up of fresh faces and veterans, even Marlon Brando, as Jor-El.

In the hands of lesser directors, it will be tempting to make a Superman movie consisting of mindless slugfests, capitalizing Supes' invulnerability. Early drafts of a new Superman movie wanted to do just that. In the hands of unimaginative storytellers, this same invulnerability will also prove to be a bane, and therefore translate into a bore. Singer, based on his track record of his successful X-Men movies, in massaging multiple favourite characters and telling a compelling story, weaves his brand of magic into Superman, giving us not only what everyone would come to expect, but also an extremely important factor that makes this movie a winner -

He humanized Superman. It's no easy feat, but he pulled it off wonderfully.

Being the last son of Krypton, sent here like a messiah with powers to conquer, it is too easy to dismiss him as a boy scout on a mission to save the world from evil doers and natural disasters, and take for granted that he does what he does, because he can. Singer worked plenty of emotions into Clark, as well as Superman, in feeling the isolation of an alien in an adopted home, in always trying to pretend to be what he's not. You feel his pain that despite being around his loved ones, he will never able to always be there for them, because of his higher calling. There are scenes which makes you feel just that - Here's Superman, but ok, now that you're safe and sound, he has to go wrap things up, see you around later. A man yearning to shut out the outside world for quality time, but not being able to do so, for who he is.

For someone almost invulnerable, Singer worked into the story, moments where his invulnerability wanes. And I tell you, even the most stoic critic of Superman, will feel pain and anger when that happens. It's as if Superman was a fellow human being, and seeing him subjected to the cruelties of nasty human thugs, just makes the blood inside you boil. You want to help, but obviously can't since it's just a movie. But you feel just that way.

Brandon Routh, a relative unknown, filled the shoes well as the new Clark Kent/Superman. He bore some resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, and at times even sounded like a youthful version of Reeve too. He did a commendable job in not being over-awed in a role which is under constant spotlight, and he is believable both as the Man of Steel, and as the bumbling Clark. I believe Routh will win fans approval worldwide for his portrayal, and it should endear him as another definitive cinematic Superman. I like the continuation of that bit through conversation that Superman doesn't lie.

Kate Bosworth too did a great job continuing the film version of the tough as cookie Lois Lane, though here the character has mellowed somewhat because she's a mommy now. And it's always the little things that count, that she still smokes, still is a klutz at times, and an extremely nice touch to progress from the first two Reeve-Kidder Superman movies, she finally won her Pulitzer Prize, although it was for her story which stung with a criticism on why the world doesn't need Superman. (Look out for that explicit jibe about the Oscars too).

And not to forget, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, criminal mastermind. Brain over brawn. It's interesting that Superman's greatest enemy has always been Lex, a mere human, but with a desire to eliminate Superman, and here, Lex wastes no time by lapsing into mindless monologues when going one up against our hero. Spacey's Lex is slightly different from Gene Hackman's, in that this one had a little more comedic flavour, though not always intentional. Spacey hams it up a bit, and made it somewhat scary - you'll never know what is going on inside his bald head. And there are some scenes which just crack you up at times, like the gig with the toothbrush (shan't say more).

Lex's scenes were slow to begin with, but builds up into a megalomaniac's plot to become a landlord, again tipping the hat and staying true to the Hackman version. That means that there is no LexCorp, but that's just a minor upset. His array of wigs and headpieces are also included, and his female companion in Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey) brought back shades of Eve Teschmacher from the 1978 movie, in having a thing for Superman and humanity in general. In reference to the earlier movies, Superman's ability to see through lies was also mentioned, and it worked into Lex's brainchild of an idea in having Kowalski put up as a sort of bait.

Plenty of nice performances from the supporting characters, like X-Men's Cyclops James Marsden (does he hold the honour of starring in superhero movies from Marvel and Dc?) as Richard White, the Superman alternative of a man who can always be there for you, the family man with no cares of the outside world other than his own family, and Frank Langella bringing veteran clout as Daily Planet's Chief Editor Perry White. Sam Huttington's Jimmy Olsen was a natural too, rounding up our Planet's crew.

Singer gave fan boys what we've come to experienced - Superman's powers. As far as I know, most of the obvious powers were covered, from heat vision - two techniques used, TV's Smallville invisible swirls and the laser beams blasting, his invulnerability, his ability of flight with nice details like sonic booms when he breaks the sound barrier, the see all X-Ray vision, his super eavesdropping ability, and his powerful breath. It's a showcase of powers done to perfection with today's special effects. And of course with technology, Superman is always in a constant state of motion, seldom with his feet on the ground (hey, if I can fly, why would I want my feet to be planted firmly on the ground? I float!)

There are plenty of exellent elements incorporated from the earlier movies, like the opening credits scene, spruced up of course, but you'll see touches of the original, and THAT all too familiar fanfare theme composed by John Williams has been combined into a new score as well. It's as if to signal an intention to reboot the franchise, but keeping with it the good bits from the earlier movies, saluting them, like in that final flight around earth's orbit.

There are also many signature scenes which have already become part of the Superman mythos, put into the movie as well, like how reliant he is from Earth's yellow sun as his source of power - that flight into the sun rays to recharge, gave me the goosebumps, as did the scene where he tips a car, right out from Action Comics, as does his lifting of the globe scene, akin to Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his broad shoulders. And his constant staying in orbit to tune in to cries for help like a police radar, is just pure classic, which brings him to places around the world where his assistance is required.

Now this might be premature, but if it's any indication, a World's Finest movie, if done correctly with Routh and Bale in their respective title roles, might just blow the minds of fans worldwide. Until then, this Superman soars and epitomizes truth and justice in a world that needs a beacon of hope. I like to believe that almost everyone who has encountered the Superman character, in print or in various media, is secretly admiring and supports the character, whether they like to admit it or not. Somehow a character who wears a cape and saves the world is boring and unhip somewhat.

Singer's Superman might just bring all fans out in the open, and declare that yes, that's the Man of Steel whom we have been so familiar with, taking his rightful place amongst the better cinematic versions of other superhero movies.

You Look Familiar...

Saturday, June 24, 2006


I would initiate this Vixen into my Gang anytime!

I could start off this review in Singlish by saying "This movie damn havoc", and it just about sums it up accurately and nicely. Sex, drugs and gangsterism from the hop is hip culture, this movie attempts to provide a social commentary about the lives of super rich teenagers in the Palasades, wasting their bored lives away by trying to emulate another culture they think is cool, the wannabes who chose not to conform to the norms, but try their darndest best to be one in the 'hood.

Anne Hathaway assumes the lead role as Allison Lang, a wide-eyed teenager whose language is as beautiful as her appearance. Having her material needs satisfied by her ultra rich parents, but living in essentially an empty home, her friends and her seek out the alternative lifestyle which promises loads of fun and excitement - drugs, drink and fights. Being associated with a gang brings about some perceived self esteem and self worth. But where do you draw the line when you're always seeking another high moment?

A journey to "downtown" - the areas of the have-nots, where seedy bogeymen reside in, areas where parents warn their children to stay away from, sparks a discovery of a wonderland for Allison and her best friend Emily (Bijou Phillips), as they make repeated trips to be amongst the real boys in the 'hood, to hang out, chill, and do whatever them wannabes have done at a magnitude of 10. It's a primal attraction and sexual tension between the girls and the men (not the boys they hang out with, who pee in their pants when faced with real danger - acting cool is not cool), and between Allison and Hector (Freddy Rodriguez).

But like all revelations, sometimes it takes the hard way to learn a lesson, and the movie picked up on this rather rapidly in the last third, once they got enticed into playing a game of dice (with sexual connotations) in order to be initiated into Hector's gang. Basically, the audience observes the attraction of an alternative lifestyle, of wannabes thinking they can handle it all, and of redemption and change.

While it was a surprise to see Michael Biehn in the movie, the movie clearly belonged to Anne Hathaway in her very first attempt to break away from her goody-two-shoes roles like in the Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted. However, with the M18 rating here, this movie suffered cuts where it really mattered, and a poor edit too at one of the more pivotal scenes which literally screwed up the understanding of what actually happened, only to be told at face value, suggesting the "truth" of the matter, at a later stage. Sometimes I wonder why not release it as R21, and keep the film intact. Surely Hathaway has fans, but to mutilate the movie to let them in, is a bad decision.

It's peculiar to have the movie released this week, up against Singer's SUperman. Maybe some rebellious bored teenagers happen to be the answer to balance the truth and justice that the last son of Krypton embodies?


Romancing Singapore!

The very first Indian movie I saw in its entirety as a kid, was Annamalai, starring Superstar Rajnikanth. Since then I was intrigued by Indian cinema, but never found the patience nor the time to sit through the standard fare of at least 2.5-3hrs of pure spectacle. On and off I caught bits and pieces of movies shown on TV, and the last Bollywood movie I saw mid-way, was Shah Rukh Khan's Asoka, and that's it.

Krrish is the sequel to the blockbuster Koi... Mil Gaya, also directed by Rakesh Roshan, but no worries if you haven't seen the first movie - you'll be brought up to speed in no time, and Krrish will also work if it stood alone. First off, it's a superhero movie combined with science fiction, so that was a plus point to have this movie reintroduce me to Bollywood once again. And it worked. With romance, action, and some comedy thrown into the mix, what more can one ask for in terms of pure entertainment?

Those not familiar with Bollywood movies might balk at the length of Krrish - almost 5 minutes shy of 3 hours, which is quite standard runtime fare (there is a clearly marked "interval" in the movie, but it was not utilized here). But I tell you that you won't feel its length, and will actually secretly hope that it continues some more. The first hour dwelled on the introduction of our hero Krishna (Hrithik Roshan), a man born with extraordinary powers, whose grandmother Sonia took upon herself to shield him from a world awaiting to exploit his talent, if discovered. It's like a visit to the Kent farm, with Krishna practising his powers in secret, except that the whole grandmother-son relationship looked more at home vis-a-vis Spiderman's Aunt May and Peter Parker.

When Krishna meets Priya (the gorgeous Priyanka Chopra, Miss World 2000) by chance during her adventure holiday camp, and he becomes smitten with her, moving the movie towards a romance. She's the quintessential Singapore modern career girl, who puts career (or trying to salvage it) before love, and therein complicates matters of the heart when we get to the boy-momentarily-loses-girl bit. Plenty of drama in this area, though it doesn't dwell too long on it, increasing the pace for the action bits.

Those eager to see Krrish, the superhero, will have to wait almost 2 hours before he makes an appearance in full costume. He's like Jet Li's cousin Black Mask with the black outfit and abilities, but with a better looking facial piece to disguise his identity. But with or without costume, we see Krishna's prowess through various stunt and fight choreography enhanced by wirework from one of Hong Kong's stunt masters, Chen Siu-Tung, especially in his "qing gong" abilities to glide effortlessly through the air like Chinese martial artists. There's also a showpiece for Hrithik to demonstrate the kung-fu skills picked up, and the fights, if compared with other Bollywood movies, have toned down its cheesy sound effects and credibility issues because of its premise (if a superhero punches you, you'll definitely fly what).

And what's a Bollywood flick without song and dance? Yes, our hero sings and dances when romancing his love, from the mountains in India to the skyscrapers in Singapore, but he doesn't do so as his alter-ego Krrish (yup, just let the superhero stick to kicking serious rear). There are 5 beautiful songs in Krrish, and save for the one in the circus, the rest did not involve mass dancing by extras, which kept the focus purely on the leads. And the dance choreography was pretty amazing too, though I was surprised that Hrithik Roshan, given his muscular bulk, could dance so gracefully. Oh, did I mention Priyanka Chopra is gorgeous?

While the romance and action bit were interesting, the science fiction bit was unfortunately found wanting. Not that it was bad, but because it was too familiar. Adapting the same plot as Philip K Dick's Paycheck, the sets, premise and plot device looked exactly the same as John Woo's Paycheck movie - we have the evil Dr Arya (Naseeruddin Shah) building a supercomputer which can look into the future, and therefore becoming God himself. The evil lair too looked like Woo's underground lair in M:I2, complete with pigeons (no doves in Singapore).

For those who want to know more about the local landmarks used - Singapore Expo was used quite a bit, since it's large enough to be filmed at different areas passing off as different venues, even doubling up as Changi Airport's arrival hall entrance with smart editing. The Esplanade was another choice location as the HQ of a conglomerate run by Dr Arya, with National Library's Pod doubling as the penthouse office. There are many scenes with glass windows, which will clue you in on the location of the current setting. Other notable locations are the condos at Kallang, Shenton Way / Raffles Place, Lau Pa Sat (widely publicized during the shoot here), the Singapore River and our offshore islands.

Krrish reminded me that cinema is about the big spectacle, and I encourage anyone who's into song, dance, and especially those interested in seeing local landmarks make their way into movies, to give Krrish a shot. It made Singapore look sexy, and probably showed us a different angle in making an action movie here. While awaiting the arrival of Singer's Man of Steel, watch Krrish!

Evildoers Beware! Krrish is in Town!

Friday, June 23, 2006

The World's Fastest Indian

This movie is a contender in my shortlist for favourite films in 2006. It's heartwarming, and has a great story to tell about determination, to always think out of the box, and just about that never say die attitude. Sir Anthony Hopkins makes it a pleasure to watch too, as the New Zealander whose charming demeanour helped him loads in achieving his dream.

This little motorcycle movie beats plenty of the noisy summer movies so far!

You can read my review at movieXclusive by clicking on the logo below:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Scary Movie 4

The Toilet Jokes Actually Stink!

I'm a fan of campy grossed out politically incorrect comedies, so films like Top Secret!, Airplane, Hot Shots and Naked Gun, are right up my alley. For some strange reason, I never did watch any of the past Scary Movies, save for the bits shown in various trailers. And I'm sad to say that Scary Movie 4, is unfortunately, not very funny. Quite forced in certain aspects of the humour, and isn't a laugh-a-minute madcap zany comedy in the mould of the earlier mentioned films.

Sure, it contained the usual barrage of explicit toilet humour, sexual innuendos in the dialogue, the urge to hump everything, and plenty of sight gags involving genitalia, but I guess too much of something will make you sick of it. And that's what happened with SM4.

The main leads of Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko) and Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) find love despite having to separate because of the Tri-pod alien invasion. Each took a different path - Tom in keeping his family alive during the carnage, while Cindy has to undertake a mission to discover the truth behind the invasion, after being tipped off by a faux-speaking Japanese ghostly kid who can't walk backwards down a staircase.

Doesn't make much sense, does it? It doesn't matter actually, with comedies of this genre.

But you got to admire the scriptwriters for almost seamlessly including the many references and scenes from so many thrillers and horror movies, and weave them all into one complete narrative, never mind if it doesn't make much sense at the end of the day. It's not easy collating the recognizable scenes, and piecing them together. The main bulk of references would have to come from Spielberg's War of the Worlds, Ju-On, Saw and The Village, just to name a few. Real life personalities were also not spared being buffooned, like Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal and even George W Bush (played by Zucker regular Leslie Nielsen).

Maybe the franchise is running out of steam, or the references the movie pulled from were not very interesting as spoofing material to begin with. I wouldn't recommend this weak comedy, even though a Scary Movie 5 has been announced. Yikes.

[DVD] Royston's Shorts


The Asian Film Archive Collection has recently launched a new DVD compilation, the first being Singapore Shorts, and now, a collection of short films by prolific director Royston Tan.

This DVD compilation contains three sections - The Shorts, The Special Features and an "About" section, containing information about Royton, about the Asian Film Archive, the funraising effort of the DVD, as well as the credits. Here's a quick review of the shorts included in this compilation:

Shot in black and white, consisting of many quick edits, and non distinguishable sounds, perhaps one of the few scenes which you can make out something, is that yellow shirt hanging on a telephone pole. Very quirky short, done to the tune of local band Concave Scream's Benign. Oh, and the dolls used actually have names, in alphabetical order too.

There's something about a father-son relationship, the love both individuals have for each other which is never explicitly expressed, and is quite realistically portrayed from an Asian context. Beautiful cinematography, and an excellent soundtrack score using Chinese stringed instruments like the er-hu and gu-zhen, you feel for the father as he narrates his relationship with his son, and longs for a forging of closer ties before his time is up. Easily one of my favourite Royston shorts.

Hock Hiap Leong
This short is fast becoming one of my favourites, especially after repeated viewings. The myriad of colours and that Ge Lan Cha-Cham-Bo! song just blends perfectly, not to forget the nostalgic 50s-60s setting of the coffeeshop as well as costumes!

Taken from my earlier review
The title of Royston Tan's short film refers to a coffeeshop by that name, which has since closed its doors. Like an ode to the shop and its owners/stallholders, memories of the 60s heydays are brought back in a song-and-dance routine which includes the beehives and a-go-go moves.

The beginning looked similar to Moveable Feast, with its protagonist taking in the sights and sounds of the aged-old coffeeshop, and laughter abound when he breaks into a song, complete with high pitched girlie voice, kinda like a bollywood movie with numerous male and female dancers going through their paces in the cramped setting.

Enjoyable short clip, leaving you wanting more.

It's amazing how something so deceptively simple to create, can evoke emotions of sadness, isolation and loneliness. In all of 3 minutes, this short contains visuals from Korean television ads, a beautifully sad musical piece from the movie Il Mare, and a subtitles-only monologue. I thought this short had the same style which was used in Eric Khoo's Be With Me, and called on the same emotions... until the painfully ironic finale.

This short mirrors Sons, yet another sad tale, but one which many can identify with, especially if we had taken our moms for granted. This short perhaps has the strongest story of them all, without actually saying too much. The narration in itself already worked wonders, recounting events and attitudes, good or bad, towards Mother, with the visuals and the score complimenting it all seamlessly. Check out the production notes and the Interview with Royston (Special Feature) to learn more about how this short came about and was developed.

The Absentee
Jumping at the chance at collaborating with local band The Observatory, this is an experimental piece done to the band's track called Killing Time. Plenty of facial closeups and check out those freaky eyeballs, but seriously, not very easy to digest.

The Blind Trilogy: Blind / Old Parliament House / Capitol Cinema
Three different premises intertwined into one, with a capsuled look into places which are no longer, like the old Capitol Cinema at the junction of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road, with its famed winged horses adorninng the left and right of the screen, and the old Parliament House, now converted into a performing arts venue. Together with the last segment shot in a reserve, it is the ambient sounds, in a natural environment or manufactured from the past, that is the centerpiece of this trilogy of shorts. The old parliamentary speeches, Shaw's old distinct signature theme, or just noisy crickets, the short ends with Corrinne May's Fly Away.

Careless Whisperer
A memorable reject during the audition stages of the very first Singapore Idol, Patrick Khoo aka Mr Careless Whisper, shot to notoriety for his almost inaudible performance of George Michael's signature tune in the 80s. However, it's pretty amazing how Royston managed to weave a relatively adequate performance from this silent man, as a security guard who wants to impress a girl in his workplace with his singing.

The short plays with a mat-rocker styled narration to explain the hilarious visuals of the life of Patrick, which included sight gags of his guy and girl friends, one pair who is played by Don Richmond, who contributed the song "You'll Never Have To Fear", which Patrick sings at the end, audibly, though I'm not sure if the production team had to increase any volume to its maximum. The finale, with the crane shot and special effects, plays like a typical music video about love.

New York Girl
Karen Khoo, the art director on some of Royston's shorts, stars as New York Girl, an aspiring actress wannabe who's in a pseudo-casting call. This is one of the most simplest short of his ever produced (from an audience's point of view), save from the hilarious tongue-in-cheek redition of Wonder Woman as the opening credits. It's simple, because there's only 1 person, Karen herself, engaged in more or less a monologue of sorts, but it just meant that everything hinged on her sole performance to make this short work.

And it does, as you get to see some of her talents like her demonstration of various accents, of the English, the French and even the Japanese. She also got to diss Fann Wong for her "act-cuteness", as well as Jackie Chan for his monkey antics. Though the part which was really interesting and funny, is her impersonation of mat-rockers singing Aerosmith's I Don't Want to Miss a Thing from Armageddon. Really spot on!

But this short isn't all about fun and games, as it meandered towards a drama-mama ending, and capped it off with, sort of like a continuation from Careless Whisperer, her beautiful rendition of the same Don Richmond song You'll Never Have To Fear, as the closing credits roll.

Shot on location in Hokkaido, this short marks a collaborative effort with a mainly Japanese crew. Different cameras were used, and hence produced a short containing a different look and feel for scenes, about a man in a monkey suit, looking for lost love, for that someone or something, in order to get it back. This is perhaps one of the rare shorts, besides 4A Florence Close, which has the director appear in front of the camera.

You can learn more about this short through the Interview with Royston included in the Special Features section of the DVD.

4A Florence Close
A silent film which captures the happy and poignant moments of a family, in the selling of their home where memories are abound. No dialogue is necessary when reminiscing the happier times, set to the constant whirl of a projector, akin to a walk down memory lane.

Royston's shorts are always well known for their visuals, and the encoding in this compilation managed a fair job to showcase those unique visions adopted for the shorts.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, which adequately brings out the many musical pieces used throughout the shorts. Having gone through the credits for all the shorts, it is obvious that sound and music plays an integral part of Royston's Shorts. If anything, the music have all been carefully selected to add a separate layer to evoke feelings from an audience, and from Sons, Hock Hiap Leong, and Mother, the music punctuates the shorts and gives it additional oomph!

Special Features

It is interesting to know that there is an options menu for each short featured, with insights to the director's thought process on how he came up with the idea, and the list of awards the particular short has won, if any. It's also apt to have included the key musical theme used in the options as well. Can't get enough of the wonderful tunes Royston used which fit most suitably with his visuals.

The key special feature included, besides the filmography, awards and retrospectives listing, is the short 4A Florence Close, a rarely seen personal short about his own family home, and his thoughts about the short. There's also a 25 minute interview with Royston, about his childhood, the insights to his films like Hock Hiap Leong, Sons, Mother and Monkeylove, including snippets of 15 and Cut, his influences from television, his style, the "Royston Emergency Fund", and on Singapore too. If anything, this short interview is the jewel of all the features to learn more about the filmmaker. The only gripe is the slight synchronization issues in video-audio.

There is a companion website for the DVD at the Asian Film Archives, containing more extras like an Online Gallery containing the film stills, behind the scenes pictures, and a storyboard for the short Monkeylove, an essay and a bibliography.

But I felt that all these extras should be packaged into the DVD itself, and be replicated on the website if deemed necessary, so that the DVD can be self contained. Also, since I'm on the "more is good" mentality, more storyboards and an indepth look into the production process would be much appreciated by fans, to take a sneak peek into what makes Royston tick when producing the award winners.

Nonetheless, this DVD contains a neat collection, and an excellent platform for anyone who wishes to know more about Royston's Shorts (hence the title), and my take is that it is already a gem of a collectible to be included in any DVD library, especially of local movie buffs. So what are you waiting for? Grab your copy today, now available at good stores.

I got mine autographed already! :-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

[Cine.SG] TalkingCock the Movie

Kua Liao Bo? (Have You Seen It?)

After watching a special surprise screening of Singapore Dreaming for a test audience, a local movie which I find as the best for this year thus far, I was curious to find out about directors Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh's earlier effort, TalkingCock the Movie. Not that I never heard of it, since I'm a regular reader of their #1 satire website TalkingCock, but somehow I didn't manage to catch it in the theatres back then. Thankfully, Cine.SG provided an opportunity to do so now, in its original cut some more.

Though I could understand the rawness of the movie in terms of production, editing, etc, but it was really a crazy, crazy comedy, leaving no stones unturned. The opening alone, starring Colin himself as Mr Censor, is worth the price of an admission ticket. Poking fun at you-know-what, I believe this was even before Royston Tan did his Cut. And in true Singaporean TalkCock style was this movie filmed, in various languages and dialects (Singlish too, hooray!), poking fun from everything starting right at the beginning of local history when Sir Stamford Raffles (Neil Humphreys) tried to select a name for this once swampy place.

In fact, this movie is truly Singaporean, with a multi-racial cast given individual segments to address issues, poke fun and laugh at themselves. You have the eAhLong (Chinese), a Bollywood inspired mini musical with its lead having a penchant to swear in Hokkien, and a Malay-majority Mat Rocker band. Comprising of various segments, I certainly had clear favourites, like the Turbanator and Hoot U(niversity) pieces... KUA SIMI!!!

While some segments worked with laugh a minute moments, others did not. For example, the China-girl episode leaned more towards a dramatic piece rather than a crazy comedic episode, and ended quite flatly too. So did the eAhLong segment, which somehow dragged a bit towards the ending. But I must salute the way each segment introduced the other, each time differently, with various transition techniques used.

The dialogue were authentically Singlish - don't shy ok? Cos that's the way most of us speak during our cock talking sessions, and the witty names of characters which are a hallmark of the website, made it to the movie as well. Some filler characters were used to run through the entire movie, like the lecherous Ah Pek with his umbrella, and the va-va-vrrooooom chick with incredibly long armpit hair. Eeewwww. And hey, don't forget the many songs used (in all languages), and the jab at product placement, with the Auntie Auntie conglomerate marketing absolutely everything useful (and of course useless) in the show!

If you're looking for authentic local comedy, go no further than to start with TalkingCock. No regrets, bruddah!!!


After the movie, Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh were on hand for a Q&A session - Sorry, no pics or vids this time, my cam didn't like the lighting in the hall. Scattered throughout the audience too were some of the cast and crew, including the Project Dierear/Belakang Boyz, that pop group boy band (ha!) who was featured in the final segment of the movie.

They recounted and shared the inane experiences with the censorship board, the red tape they encountered to get this movie released, the cuts that were requested of, even with the vulgarities intentionally bleeped out.

The subtitles, if you notice too, were all in grammatically correct English, and even the Hokkien swear words were translated into their respective body parts like Vagina and, I like this one, Holy Penis. The original DVD release, which has already sold out years ago, had its subtitles for the Hokkien swear words replaced into harmless stuff like "Lunch Box" (eh!), but what the heck, watch out for a re-release of the DVD sometime next year, with more bells and whistles!

Surprisingly, TalkingCock the Movie has been shown in about 10 festivals worldwide, and just returned from Poland. And Colin recounted how curious the French were about "Auntie Auntie".

Many questions were asked pertaining to the making of the movie, if the directors had any prior experience (no), where did they get funding from (mostly from their own pockets), and how long it took to develop it (one week for the script, 16 days of shooting).

Congratulations to Yen Yen and Colin, indeed it's remarkable that they've learnt so much from this movie, that you can see the stark and vast improvement in their upcoming movie Singapore Dreaming. Not that TalkingCock was bad to begin with (hey, it did entertain, ok?), but as they mentioned, this movie was their film school, an experience which no school can provide.

And one more thing, if you'd like to get some TalkingCock merchandise, you can take a look here. I got my autographed Coxford Singlish Dictionary already :-)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

[Retrospective] Han Yew Kwang

Director Han Yew Kwang had his feature film Unarmed Combat make its debut at Cine.SG, and as a follow up to the premiere, 3 of his short films were given a screening at the Substation's Guiness Theatre today, after which a Q&A session was conducted for the audience to pose some questions.

Here, I'll mix my review of the shorts, as well as nuggets of information shared from the Q&A Session


Pinball, or the Mandarin title directly translated as "Man in his 40s", tells the story of a driving instructor / tester, and the relationship with his dutiful wife, and his karaoke-mad father. As his 20th wedding anniversary is approaching, he is made to remember about a promise to his wife, that he will learn how to ride a bicycle, and ride her around Bedok Reservoir (or to me it looked like it was) 5 times. As the deadline looms, the tables are turned as the instructor becomes a learner as he grapples with riding a two-wheeler, to comedic and dire consequences.

It's a light hearted comedy, with witty jokes and dialogues making up for the lack of slapstick. Also starring Johnny Ng (male lead from Unarmed Combat), this movie has the potential of being expanded into a feature film, and it's already in pre-production stage. I felt that its theme of love is universal, and it has some social critique built into its conversational pieces very nicely too.

Filmed in black and white, with flashbacks in colour, this was a deliberate attempt to contrast between the mundane now (hence b/w) and the more colourful past in which life was more interesting and happy with his wife. I suppose this could probably be a technique adopted to the feature as well? It remains to be seen.

Why the title Pinball? It alludes to the analogy that in the game of Pinball, the introductory trajectory of the ball is that along a straight tunnel - reflecting the life of the lead Jiaqiang, before he embarked on his quest to fulfll his promise. Similarly, things gets more interesting for the pinball once it emerges from the tunnel, and goes on its random path within the game, as will Jiaqiang's life take during the course of the movie. Perhaps as Yew Kwang puts it, it should be clearer when the film explains itself and its title.

Unarmed Combat / Tie Nan (direcctly translated as Metal Man)

I shall refer to the short film title as Tie Nan, so as not to confuse between the short, and the feature length film. Tie Nan offered the opportunity to compare which scenes made it to the feature, as well as to understand how a plot meant for a short, could be extrapolated into a feature length movie with more characters and situations added to the mix.

The crux of the movie is all here - that of the arm wrestling competition for women, and of the slapping of the husband in front of his friends. Other than that, there were some changes made for the feature, such as Metal's occupation, as well as the roles of his colleagues/employees. However, while the story suggested moments to the inevitable finale, it sort of hung halfway without much closure. The feature becomes superior in terms of opportunities for character development, as well as an expanded supporting cast to make it all interesting. The editing style of the feature too overtakes the short, which utilizes more stylized transitions from scene to scene.

But there will always be a comparison between the feature length film, and the short it was extrapolated from. Just like Royston's 15, many here preferred the short rather than the feature. For me, the feature Unarmed Combat worked a lot more than the short Tie Nan, because the short had plenty of questions left unanswered, as well as plenty of blank spaces in which the feature filled up nicely.

The Call Home

The Call Home examines the background story of one of the many foreign workers who seek employment as construction workers in Singapore. This movie is vastly different from the other two, as it is not a comedy, but a rather quiet, serious story. The tale focuses solely on protagonist Kasi (Soundrarajan J), a new migrant worker, as we follow his adjustments to life in a strange new world, and for an audience to learn why he's here, and how the weight of the world is felt on his shoulders. I felt the movie was in 2 parts, the first being silent discovery in almost very quiet moments in many scenes, while in the latter half, it was a grippingly sad revelation to the audience about his background and worldly troubles.

This short is Yew Kwang's graduation film, and he selected this script amongst the 3 being offered. He wanted to know what's life for a foreign construction worker in Singapore, and thus this script had given him an opportunity to do so. He actually had a casting call, and real construction workers turned up, whom he would have preferred to select, but alas, obvious scheduling issues prevented it from happening. Thus most of the cast are professional stage actors.

Yew Kwang joked about the film being in Tamil, a language he obviously couldn't understand, and they got an Indian translator to listen to the dialogue, while they solely paid attention to the acting. Until the translator didn't turn up for subsequent shoots and they had to blindly trust what the actors had said in their dialogue!

There was a key scene in which Kasi had a long conversation with his wife in India, and the camera was focused solely on his back. For obvious reasons, there wasn't space behind the phone booth used to mount the camera. But on a different level, the audience experiences what the wife would have felt, only able to hear his voice and tone, and cannot see his expression.

Other nuggets of info
- The use of colours (or lack thereof) is to reflect the mood when Kasi is about to make the phone call, and thereafter.
- The finale at the mass film screening was done in one take, and then it rained. Catherine Sng suggested to screen this short for them at the open field.
- The timeline was shown in the short to give it a documentary feel, as well as to show the changes to a new migrant worker in a short period of time.
- It was intentional not to show the face of Kasi's workplace supervisor. Not that it wasn't shown because of a fear of backlash on his treatment, but since the story was deliberately left ambiguous most of the time, it was decided that showing the scene with the supervisor in the usual manner, would have disrupted the flow. They did shoot the scene the usual way though.

The Q&A was wrapped up, and those who had not watched Unarmed Combat, were informed that the last screening was at the National Museum Gallery Theatre that evening. All in all, great afternoon being given the opportunity to watch the shorts, and being able to see first hand how an idea conceived as a short, could have the potential to be developed into a feature.

Would be interesting to see how Pinball, his next feature, would turn out to be like. Look out for it!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Road to Guantanamo

Whatever Happened to Innocent Unless Proven Guilty?

Guantanamo Bay has surfaced in the news again, with the apparent suicide of 3 inmates. For the uninitiated, Guantanamo is set up by the US to hold enemy combatants for interrogation, those captured in the War on Terror. But the movie questions, just how exactly effective the interrogation is, or whether perhaps, as per widely held suspicion, that the folks now inside one of the most notorious prisons, are mostly innocent folks caught in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Using the "Tipton Three" as a reference point, and the lead characters, The Road to Guantannamo is part documentary (using archive footages), and part drama, with pseudo-interviews with the trio, coupled with dramatizing the sequence of events from the beginning where they set off from Britain to Pakistan for a wedding, before crossing over the Afghan border, being captured by the Northern Alliance, imprisoned in Kandahar, then shipped to a makeshift Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo, before their final destination at the purpose-built Camp Delta.

Throughout the movie, you're constantly reminded that so long as you're not part of the victorious team, you're in for a hell of a ride. It doesn't matter if the Geneva Convention's gonna be followed or not, as both innocent and guilty parties are subjected to the same treatment. You'll witness first hand the treatment of prisoners, starting with the capture by the Northern Alliance, packing them into containers, and firing at it for light and air. Caught by the bullet? Too bad.

And it doesn't get any better in the hands of the American troops as well. Granted, they're prisoners, but it'll call to question certain tactics used for torture, and also the constant state of bewilderment that the prisoners are subjected to. The movie documents well-known incidents like the disallowing of prayers, of the using of dogs to cajole the detainees into submission, and the worse of all, the mistreatment of the Holy Book and the flushing of it down the toilet.

It demonstrates again the lack of respect and understanding of the captors over the captives, and such ignorance in no way will win any hearts or minds over to their cause, questionable to begin with. Having the upper hand, and yes, their prisoners, doesn't mean lack of basic respect. Maybe that's just me. And it's just plain ridiculous to see the red tape process they have over the transportation of unarmed prisoners from their cell to the interrogation office - with the masking, kneeling, lying faced away, hands on the head, cuffs, and being dragged, all this while with someone pointing a machine gun. Talk about using a bull knife to kill a chicken.

Perhaps the scenes which highlights the deceit, lies or just dumb intelligence gathering on the part of the CIA, military intelligence and various other intelligence groups like the MI5 were the best bits. These tactics of guile are outdated, and rings of amateurish attempts to weed information out of the detainees.

It's a powerful movie, which at the end of it, will just provoke sentiments in the audience to question the effectiveness of the prison, the tactics used, and probably fan the flames of those who are actively seeking to close it.

[DVD Launch] Royston's Shorts

DVD Launch - Royston's Shorts

I was at HMV Heeren this afternoon for the DVD Launch of Royston's Shorts, a compilation of short films that local hotshot director Royston Tan had made over the years, the ones which have garnered him international acclaim and awards. The crowd loitering around level 3 grew steadily until his prompt arrival, dressed in all white.

Here's Royston!

During this time, of course I was in the queue at the counter purchasing my very own copy, which I think everyone into local films, should include in their DVD library, if anything, for a quick accessible medium into his shorts (now why didn't that sound exactly right?)

The Crowd

After a quick introduction, the audience was shown 2 of the shorts - Hock Hiap Leong and Mother, after which Royston shared nuggets of information about the 2 shorts

Sharing His Films

Hock Hiap Leong
Royston was literally running away from making a short titled "Bait 15"(?), and took refuge and hung out at an old styled coffeeshop, where he could smoke anonymously in singlets and shorts. The owner noticed his presence and asked him to come by more frequently, as the coffeeshop was about to close down. He had wanted to volunteer his services in the last days of the shop as a coffeeshop assistant, but was rejected by the owner. So Royston decided to help by making a short film for the owner instead, which he could keep as a memento.

Quick Facts
- The short was filmed in 1 day, on Boxing Day
- The scene with the old uncles in feather boa: they were made drunk and told to follow Royston's lead
- The short is still touring festivals
- A Ge Lan song was used as Ge Lan's songs were the owner's favourite.

The Actor Jeremy Pang

The lead actor for Hock Hiap Leong was present as well, and so were Royston's crew who were scattered amongst the audience.

Mother arose from a prison inmate's story to Royston. During the same time, a friend's dad had passed away, and the family discovered a lot of film stock and footage which they didn't know what to do with. As a believer of destiny, Royston married the two together, and hence the short film Mother.


Royston also shared his experiences about the films he made, and the most challenging was Sons as it was his first time working on 35mm. When the Q&A was opened to the floor, in answer to a question - his shorts are made on Super16, except for Sons.

Touching upon one of his most rarely seen short, 4A Florence Close, it was a personal film which comes from his own family. They had to sell away a house that was used as a frequent gathering place for his extended family; their frequent Sunday dinners even had to have 2 shifts to accomodate everybody.

His favourite short film is the Blind Trilogy, and they hold the honour of being the last group of folks to have used the Capital cinema as a filming venue.

It was also obvious that two of his shorts, 15 and Cut, are not in this compilation, and also omitted were his student days work, which he felt were amateurish and too embarrassed to be seen. However, he did share that one day they will be released, as will 15 and Cut too. Keep your fingers crossed!

So is Royston the "Bad Boy" as the media portrayed him to be? Here's what he had to say:

Is Royston a "Bad Boy"?

At the close of the event (before the other similar launch at Ngee Ann City), five limited edition posters (Singapore has only 80, according to Royston) of his upcoming feature length film 4:30 were given out to winners of a quick trivia contest, and I helped overider to one. We got ours autographed, but I shamelessly got both my DVD sleeve and disc signed as well LOL

Everyone Likes Autograph Sessions

One Happy Fan

Click here to read my DVD Review of Royston's Shorts.

BTW, in case you have not realized, 4:30 opens on 29th Jun 06. Early buzz from this year's SIFF audience who watched it in April (it was given the honour to close the festival) has been positive, so remember to get your tickets when it premieres!

Just My Luck

Get a Room, Will Ya?!

The only Lindsay Lohan movie I had ever watched was Mean Girls (2004) on board a flight to Europe, and I thought it was a pretty entertaining chick flick. Herbie Fully Loaded somehow didn't appeal to me, so Just My Luck was next on the screens here. There's another little story too on how we picked this DVD in Petaling Jaya, KL, Malaysia, together with Scary Movie 4, and then donated it, but heck, that's another story for another day, and it really was just our luck that night of the purchase.

Just My Luck tells the story of the crossing of fated paths between an incredibly lucky girl, and a totally unlucky guy. In typical boy-meets-girl fashion, these 2 individuals will meet, and re-meet each other again in make-believably coincidental situations, and find in each other, the sparks of love. The introduction was quite neat, as we get acquainted with Ashley Albright (Lindsay Lohan), the walking good luck charm, and Jake Hardin (Chris Pine), a walking disaster with a knapsack full of emergency supplies to help him tide through the day.

One's a sassy PR consultant, the other a "bao-kar-liao" (takes care of everything) lowly worker cum cleaner at a bowler's, aspiring to make it big via his discovery of a Brit band, the McFlys. The couple meet anonymously at a masquerade ball, and a seemingly innocent kiss transfers all the luck on Ashley, to Chris. And so it follows that Ashley will try everything she can to get her luck back. Until her conscience starts to question just who might need the luck more.

The reversal of roles story isn't really new, only the medium and method are different. Like recent movies The Shaggy Dog, and even Lohan's own Freaky Friday, are movies that belong to the same story genre. So the question is, does this one work? Given the good looking cast, it should appeal to the youngsters who are fans of Lohan, or are attracted to the good looks of Chris Pine. Their chemistry worked well off each other, and you can feel their respective surprise and frustration as their lifestyles differ drastically.

There are plenty of situational comedy infused with a story like this, but most of them felt contrived. Towards the end, given that luck could swing the situation either way, some scenes seemed to be stuck in limbo way too long, waiting for that punchline to give it direction. Granted, being incredibly lucky already is stretching the plot a bit too thinly, so you'll be better off treating this movie like a childish fantasy. A typical date-safe movie enjoyable at certain points though, with the usual expected feel-good ending.

Friday, June 16, 2006

King and The Clown

Damn I Look Beautiful

King and the Clown was South Korea's best selling film of 2005, having sold more than 12 million tickets over a span of 7 weeks. But after watching it, it's difficult to fathom the craze, nor about the New York Times hype that it "may be the equivalent of 'Brokeback Mountain'". Not that it is a bad movie, it is actually entertaining and tells an intriguing story in the courts of the Korean emperor.

Perhaps anything to do with the gay theme will suffer inevitably comparisons to Lee Ang's acclaimed Brokeback Mountain. But somehow, the way this film developed, I saw it in a different light - a story between two male best friends, even though one of them might look and behave more effeminately than even some girls do. Instead of jumping to the straight conclusion that both the protagonists are gay, why can't it be a platonic relationship, and that the more effeminate one had chosen what he had to do, i.e. sell backside, because being poor minstrels, they cannot afford to put food on the table? Literally capitalizing on his looks, to bring back the dough. Sure his friend might not like the idea, and it could be interpreted as either being jealous (as a lover), or disapproving (as a friend). Then again, because of culture, this movie might have decided to be more subtle about the theme. Ambiguous to say the least, but it makes for interesting debate if you watch this with a friend.

Two friends, Jang-seng (Kam Woo-sung) and Gong-gil (Lee Joon-ki), are impoverished street performers who dream of having their entertaining performances reap rewards they should be getting. They come up with a wildly popular and bawdy performance poking fun at the emperor and his consort, and it's not long before they get arrested, only to have Jang-seng proposition a dare, that if the King doesn't laugh at their skit, they can be put to death.

As fate would have it, their jittery performance brought on a favourable response from the tyrannical King (Jung Jin-young). Having now become official court jesters, their subsequent plays, whose content they obtain from coffee-shop talk of those days, about the royal family and other court scandals, serve as suggestive fuel for the King to break free from his constrictive shackles, and take some serious action according to his whims. But dictator attitudes aside, he casts a lustful eye at Gong-gil, and turns almost childlike when in his presence, in private. The most powerful man in the kingdom, reduced to a vulnerable kid in the presence of a lowly minstrel. What ensues is an interesting look at the relationship dynamics amongst the three men, and with the people around them.

Set during the Chosun Dynasty, King and the Clown has some of the most gorgeous sets bringing to life an era long gone, and beautiful costumes that drown the movie in a myriad of colours. The songs are also fairly pleasing to the ears, and the skits, I believe, are likely to be many times more enjoyable if you understand Korean, instead of having to rely on subtitles.

The movie also makes discreet jibes at those in power, and their ability, or inability, to accept satires about themselves. It is always easy for men in power to dismiss harshly the satires and their creators, but it takes a lot more to be able to look past the comic and understand the issues made fun of. There are brief scenes at courtroom politicking and on corruption, but these scenes are too short to leave any lasting impression or distract the audience.

The cast is a delight to watch as they carry their roles with aplomb. The chemistry between the 3 main leads was almost perfect, especially Jung Jin-young as the temperamental King - childish at times, serious at others, and the androgynous looking Lee Joon-ki truly owned the role of Gong-gil, that even as a guy, I thought he was beautiful to look at (*ahem*).

All in all, King and the Clown is a story of friendship, how good friends fend for each other, how, despite shortcomings and misunderstandings, the best medicine is always laughter, and it's the strength of the bonds between men that can ultimately stand up against fear and overcome any adversary. If only the opening didn't spoil the entire movie.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Mid Way Checkpoint

Since today's the mid year, 15th of June, a quick sanity check revealed that I have watched and reviewed

104 Theatrical Releases - already 77% of 2005
12 Festival Films - 57% of 2005
35 D/VCD Titles - 109% of 2005 (OK, granted I started this segment late in 05)
Short still in production


What's to come in the next half of 2006, hopefully, will be more interesting stuff besides the usual reviews. Still in the stages of development and crossing of fingers :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Mork Phone Home

If I were to tell you I grew up watching Robin Williams do his "nanoo nanoo" on television's Mork and Mindy, then yes, you'll know how ancient I am. The last movie I've seen with Williams in it (ok, just his voice), was the animated feature Robots. His is a career with pretty defining movies, like Dead Poets Society and Awakenings, to darker fare like recent movies Insomnia and One Hour Photo, vastly different from his comedic roles like in Mrs Doubtfire and Cadillac Man.

So it's almost a must for me to watch RV, despite its almost silly premise for a family comedy. It's Robin Williams, and he could lift almost any mediocre movie, in my opinion, and depending on the genre, either swing it to comedy with his perfecto impersonations and ad-libbing, or flaunt his acting chops in more serious roles.

However, in RV, you could see him slow down as the movie misses the mark at certain points, unsure of what it wants to be. Certain scenes were dragged out for too long, and could have been shortened instead. But it doesn't mean that it's a bad film altogether.

Telling the story of the dysfunctional Munro family who communicates via instant messaging, Robin Williams plays the head of the household, who on one hand has to try and keep his promise of bringing his entire family for some serious bonding sessions over a Hawaii holiday, but on the other, have to keep to his work commitments in order to save his rear and from being retrenched in the face of young upstarts eyeing his job. Talk about work life balance!

So he devises a plan to do both, by hiring a Recreational Vehicle (hence RV), a truck like vehicle with all the modern trappings like television, sofas, bedroom, etc. The only glitch is that the Munro family is besieged by infighting, and are quite the anti-social family to begin with. Having to live out in the rough, and in camp like communities, spell a totally different ballgame for them altogether.

That is until they meet the Gronickes (played by Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth), a family of five seemingly strange people with prozac-enhanced attitudes toward life. The movie picks up whenever the Gronickes come into the picture, and they play it for laughs as the all American, all innocent, all singing family, kinda like the Brady Bunch. But the Gronickes are more than meets the eye, as we slowly find out, as RV splutters towards the finale in many cliched moments until an all's well that ends well close.

But it did offer an interesting attempt in contrasting between that of a salaried man, and one who is financially free. And to break down stereotypes and perceptions of classifying fellow men based on their behaviour and appearance.

Royston's Shorts

Finally, a compilation of short films from one of our local directing hotshots. You've heard the name, you might have seen some of the films, but here's a collectible DVD with gems you probably would have missed.

Though of course, with the PG rating, you can forget about having Cut and 15 included in the compilation. Anyway, it should be an interesting addition to your DVD library.

In any case, I'm gonna get, and so should you!

And it's just in time for his 0430 release too...

Monday, June 12, 2006

[DVD] Joyeux Noël (2005)

This film was France's entry for the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, and in my opinion, it's not about war, but rather has a strong anti-war message.

One in which all men are brothers, and it's a world without strangers. Pretty engaging, and sends your mind through a number of thought processes.

You can read my review of Joyeux Noël at movieXclusive by clicking on the logo below

Sunday, June 11, 2006

[DVD] The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971)

This is Not Computer Generated

I can't remember the details behind the reason why Wang Yu left the franchise, but Chang Cheh replaced him with David Chiang in the titular role, and of course it's a totally new character, having his own motivations and background, as compared to Yu's Fang Gang.

Written by Ni Kuang (author of HK's popular Wesley science fiction series), the new one-armed swordsman is now Lei Li (Chiang), an arrogant young swordsman whose specialty is his "yuan-yang" double swords. A hotheaded, up and coming hero, a diabolical plot was hatched by Lung I Ching, a veteran swordsman in the martial arts world, to keep these young upstarts at bay. With his three-joint-poles, which always seem to defy gravity, he schemes and manages to duel with Lei Li, defeating him and caused Li's arm to be chopped off.

Herein lies the difference between this One Armed Swordsman, and the original Fang Gang. Fang Gang had lost his arm because someone else hacked it off in a fit of rage. Here, Lei Li actually gambled with his arm - the loser of the duel would have to remove it, and retire from "society". While Fang Gang had to learn his martial arts all over again, Lei Li was already skilled with his left hand, because he was originally ambidextrous. Also, Fang Gang's weapon of choice is his father's iconic broken sword, Lei Li doesn't seem to have any preference, and could fight with any.

While there is a token romance with the daughter of a village blacksmith, the introduction of a special sword didn't seem to auger well, and it didn't last - it lacked something special, be it emotions or prowess, and seemed too generic. Anyway, I can't help but to chuckle at Ti Lung's character Feng Chun-Chieh, also a young upcoming swordsman who uses two swords. Chun-Chieh and Lei Li formed a sense of brotherhood when the former protected the latter from bullies, only because the latter doesn't wish to use his martial arts skills anymore. They become fast friends, but from the way their scenes were shot - the numerous hugs, back-slapping, arm holding, eyes longing, you might be expecting one of them to say that if only he knew how to quit the other.

That aside, you'd come to expect the usual ketchup blood laden violence which have become the hallmarks of Chang Cheh's swordfighting movies. Here, it doesn't get any less bloody, and scenes can be quite graphic with the numerous decapitations of limbs, and one really interesting decapitation of half a human body, across the waist.

There are plenty of set action pieces, like that iconic fight on the bridge with many footsoldiers simultaneously. Scenes like these are what Tarantino adopted in his homage Kill Bill double feature, where the hero goes on an unstoppable roaring rampage. Though I must admit the introductory fights don't contribute much to the plot - just there for the sake of showing off what Lei Li can achieve.

All in all, it's great fun, just to watch what our parents were watching as they grew up, and comparing these films to the standards of today. While cheesy, the good old classics stand out for their groundbreaking effort in those days, to bring us what has evolved till now.

Code 3 DVD contains minimal extras, just one trailer, a photo gallery, the original poster, one general paragraph passing off as production notes, a biography and selected filmography of the cast and crew.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Omen

The Patented Constipated Look

The remake of The Omen will mark a triple grand slam of horror movies I watched in a week (which is so rare), with Slither and Silent Hill making up the other two. From one demonic kid in the latter movie, to Damien, one of the earlier demonic kids in cinematic history, this remake, like most remakes, will make you wonder, just what is the point?

Director John Moore (watched his remake of Flight of the Phoenix, and Behind Enemy Lines) has crafted it scene for scene, but of course with the usual updates made in setting and the props department. The story plays on this year's calendar with 6th June 2006 (6.6.06) being extremely attractive for such a film to open, with the triple 6s the number of the devilish beast. And I guess most Singaporeans will still fall for any horror movie hook line and sinker, as many evening screenings on that day, were completely sold out. Mental note to self - horror films should make money here.

As the hokey prophecy goes (hokey because the film forces relatively current events to fit the trumpeting angels of Revelations), the son of Satan will make his appearance of Earth, and spell the end of mankind. Sounds boring, doesn't it, especially since John Constantine already had a field day bitch-slapping Son of Satan back to hell, and showing the devil the middle finger while at it too.

Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles star as the Thorns, parents to Damien, son of Satan, born from a jackal. An ambassador, Robert (Schreiber) makes an illegal pack with a priest (never trust false prophets I tell you), and innocently raises Damien as his own. As our boy grows up, strange happenings start to occur, starting with the happy self-hanging of their nanny. Pete Postlethwaite stars as Father Brennan, who takes it upon himself to warn Robert of dire consequences, and the need to rid Damien soonest possible. But things aren't easy, especially with a new nanny Mrs Baylock (Mia Farrow, in quite chilling a role), being the new surrogate guardian of her hellish master.

Just how terrifying is this remake of The Omen? By today's standards, and given the remake, it is a piece of chicken feed. It's not scary, and the death scenes are so Final Destination-ishly bad, they make the deaths in Final Destination look like instant classics. The body count is not high as well (maybe Damien needs to grow his powers first), and we're only offered 3 "grandeur" deaths in the whole movie. And it's always sad for a horror movie to have to rely on cheap scares to try and frighten the audience. And what more, in dream sequences too, with quick cuts, and loud crescendos.

Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick probably is the child actor with the easiest role to date, and all it requires is of him to act like he's pissed all the time. Not very challenging to stretch his acting chops, but then again, the rest of the cast all had it easy too.

The version shown in local theatres is the edited version, with some noticeable "censored" bits glaringly missing. So if you prefer your gore in its complete glory, then you might reconsider. Then again, you might be better off with the original.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Silent Hill

Fishbone! Fishbone!!!

Thanks to dgital for the free preview tickets :-)

Never piss a mother off by taking away or threatening her child. We've seen plenty of tough mamas in contemporary movies, and Jodie Foster comes to mind in having personified the tough-as-nails mum in Panic Room and Flight Plan. No, she doesn't have a part to play in Silent Hill, but the premise, about a mother on a journey to recover her daughter from the clutches of harm, couldn't be more familiar.

And before you dismiss this movie as just another run off the mill video game adaptation, this movie is surprisingly good, in setting up its atmospheric moments. We've had plenty of misses with this genre, and only a few hits. Staying faithful to the setting of the source using CGI enhanced sets and SFX, it took its time to introduce the mystery surrounding Silent Hill, teasing you with long sequences which seem to journey nowhere. Which by then, some of you would have already given up, as you ache to see more of the beasts which go bump in the darkness, only to have an all too quick daylight interrupt the flow of carnage, and having to endure through long moments of silence and basically beating around the bushes.

Then again, it's precisely this hide-and-seek that the movie stays an arm's length away from the usual expectation of action, action and more mindless action. Silent Hill is a very adult adaptation, staying true to the spirit of gaming, with its endless round after round of puzzles and encounters before everything starts to make some sense. Those expecting a splatterfest will be disappointed, as there aren't many. While the monsters and creatures are a sight to behold (they're disgustingly beautiful), most times they get introduced and addressed too easily. Just as you get into the swing of things with a particular beast, it gets hauled away from view, whatever the reason. I dig the spasm-induced dancing faceless nurses, but they're given too little screen time.

It's more mystery than downright horror, basing its theme on superstition and misguided faith on different planes. There're little "boo" moments, as everything builds up gradually, adding to the suspense. Eventually, you'll get to the closure, with the big mystery and back story unveiled, adding some gravitas to the movie, and could serve as a springboard to any sequels if planned.

Radha Mitchell plays Rose Da Silva, the mom who partners cop Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden) who assists her in the paranormal realm of Silent Hill to track down Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), yet another creepy kid (the other kid's the Anti-christ in the remake of Omen. These days creepy kids are in!) who holds the key to the entire whodunnit. Sean Bean was wasted as Rose's husband, in a role that is created only because everyone else substantial in the movie is female. His role is actually to accentuate that Silent Hill exists on different realms, with him being in the "real world" while the others are trapped in another plane of existence. And of course in movies like these, the acting's nothing really to shout about, since expressions are limited to looking scared and looking bewildered.

It'll take a while before you can scratch past to get to the storyline, as your eyes and attention will be peeling away the layers of beautifully crafted production sets and awesome graphics, and your ears appreciating the music adapted from the games. And with a satisfactory story as justification, this could perhaps see a new beginning to games wanting to make it to the silver screen, if done correctly.

Monday, June 05, 2006

[Cine.SG] Unarmed Combat

2006 has been a bumper year for local movies so far, with a slew making it to the big screen, or are scheduled to be released later this year. Cine.SG was just launched (you can read the Gala here, link coming soon!), and has provided a platform for films made in Singapore, or by Singaporeans, to be screened.

Director Han Yew Kwang's Unarmed Combat is the first feature film to launch the series, a quirky comedy about a tale of two women, and a man caught in the middle. What strikes you immediately during the opening, are the still shots of the shop front of an old-school laundromat, complete with plenty of nostalgic looking equipment of yesteryears, and that infectious ear-worm of a theme tune, akin to the style and production sets of Kung Fu movies of the past.

Ear-worm trailer

While there were shades and elements of kung-fu styled influences worked into the story, it's set in modern times, and explores the dynamic spousal relationship between Metal (Johnny Ng) and his wife Fendie (Catherine Sng), as they struggle through their recent obsessions - the former flirting wistfully with a nymph like silent beauty Ping Mei (Marilyn Lee), a woman that he cannot possess, except getting his thrills through stolen lingerie, and the latter training too hard to become the all woman's arm-wrestling champion. Their lives go topsy-turvy when Ping Mei enters the picture, and she too, is obsessed with a very warped idea of Love.

The two leading ladies deserve special mentioning. In Kan Lume's Art of Flirting, Marilyn had plenty of dialogue going, given the nature of the movie. In this, she plays the silent suffering(?) woman, fragile on the outside, tough as nails on the inside, with an agenda that fuels her survival. Catherine's role as Fendie was much entertaining, having to begin with the submissive wife role, before growing her confidence in arm-wrestling, and allowing a hobby to totally overwhelm her and to exert her dominance over her husband Metal. A truly reversal of roles here, which goes full circle.

Like any self-respecting martial arts master, Metal has his posse of disciples. Here, his employees provide much comic relief as mahjong obsessed and massage lovers, and are Metal's pillars of strength in his quest to turnaround his misfortunes. As a comedy, there were jokes galore in this movie, some conversational, others slapstick, some unfortunately falling flat, while others had its defining moments. Fans of toilet humour will have a field day though, as it's quite clear that Yew Kwang had adapted these moments into the movie from his influences like Stephen Chow. Quite a number of scenes take place in the household toilet setting too, invading probably one of the last bastions of solitude left in any regular household.

Straddling the thin line between arthouse and commercial accessibility, the narrative style requires a little getting used to initially. With constant flashbacks telling the background stories of each major character, weaving together some plot devices linking their backgrounds of what transpired a year ago, I thought it was a pretty neat attempt, before moving along in the second half in a much straight forward manner. So as advised, persevere through the first act, as it might get a tad slow and repetitive in certain scenes, but nonetheless it'll play out and make much sense later.

Unarmed Combat is a modern day reminiscence of yesteryear's kung-fu movies. Like Yew Kwang mentioned, it's part action, part comedy, part drama, part everything. As I've always encouraged, if you haven't seen any made in Singapore movies, here's yet another opportunity to do so!

Unarmed Combat is now showing at the National Museum Gallery Theatre and The Cathay cineplex. Click on Cine.SG for more information on ticketing details.

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