Thursday, May 08, 2008

[5th NZ Film Festival] Opening Night - Flight of the Conchords, Take 3 and Crossing The Line

Tonight marks the opening of the 5th New Zealand Film Festival here in Singapore, where the festival proper will run starting from tomorrow until Monday. The line up of the films can be found here, which includes details like the synopsis, schedule and duration of each film, coupled with direct links to book tickets online.

Given that tonight's opening screening are short films, I'll just do a capsule review of each so as not to spoil the fun. Good news here, tonight's screening of 2 episodes of Flight of the Conchords, and Take 3, will be screened for FREE on Saturday 10th May at 9pm, GV VIvocity. Tickets are available at the Vivocity box office, so grab them while you can!

Flight of the Conchords

Made into an HBO Original Series, Flight of the Conchords is a comedy series that follow New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement who form a two-man digi-folk band as in the title, trying to make it in New York. It's an uphill struggle as they have an ineffective part-time manager, and a fan base of, erm, one obsessive married female.

The first 2 episodes were screened for the gala, entitled "Sally" and "Bret Gives up the Dream", from Season 1 which consists of 12 episodes in total. In Singapore, we can look forward to it on the HBO come 9 June, and from the looks of it, it's really a crowd pleaser, where jokes come fast and furious, stemming from the lightning wit of the characters, dialogue, and natural charisma of the two leads.

But what really, really took the cake, were their songs! For those who thought that Tenacious D's music and lyrics were insanely funny, wait till you hear those from Flight of the Conchords, as well as their cheesy, low budget music videos, which is a throwback to Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind "Sweded" videos.

I'd had wished I had the opportunity to watch a lot more than the 2 episodes screened tonight, but I guess we'll have to wait until June! Click on this link to access the series' official home page, where it's filled with tons of trivia, as well as episode guides where you can get your fill of videos, blogs, discussion forums as well as to download and laugh all over again at the zany lyrics of their songs!

Take 3

Also another comedy, what will strike you first and foremost in this Roseanne Liang short, is the editing. Opening in 3 split panels, each the domain of three of its main female characters who are all actress wannabes, this is a classic united-we-stand-divided-we-fall tale where we see how each stumble through their individual auditions for roles, before they feed off each other's strengths to really ham it up unwittingly in their joint roles and attempt to cut across Asian female stereotypes.

This short had received a special mention in the Generation 14plus Competition of the 58th Berlin International Film Festival, and it's not difficult to see why. Nicely shot, wonderful casting, a simple, effective and funny story, coupled with technical brilliance, I can't see how this movie will not bring a satisfied smile to your face.

Crossing The Line

Now tonight's gala opening of the 5th NZ Film Festival, was made even more special and memorable, when the organizers got permission from Peter Jackson himself to screen this approx. 10 minute short film Crossing The Line, written and directed by Jackson using the alpha prototypes of the RED-ONE camcorder "Boris" and "Natasha".

It is indeed a rare opportunity and privilege to watch this on the big screen in all its cinematic quality, given that it's been a while since we last experienced a Peter Jackson movie after his King Kong way back in 2005. Crossing the Line is set in WWI, and tells the story of a pilot, and an infantry soldier getting ready for his final charge. Like the usual cliches you can find in almost any WWI movie, the pilot has a sentimental teddy bear possession which he brings onboard his open cockpit, while the soldier, like many others, keeps close to his heart a black and white photograph of his one lady love.

And when the orders are given, one takes to the skies in death-defying dogfights with enemy warplanes, while the other has to charge across badly charred fields to engage the enemy, who's gleefully mowing them down with machine-gun and sniper fire. Naturally, you'd expect the two separate story arcs to converge, but not before each having their own challenges to deal with - the pilot with his teddy bear dangerously dislodging from its haphazardly stuffed position, getting in the way of the pilot's controls, and the soldier having to locate his lost photograph somewhere in the field.

But the brilliance here are the technical aspects of the film, where Jackson fully exploits the camera to bring about an exhilarating aerial dogfight, which I thought had triumphed over the more "Saving Private Ryan" styled ground battles, though he managed to transcend cliches through the effectively told stories of both arcs. You'd not notice how fast those precious 10 minutes will pass you by, before you clamour to want to see it all over again.

You can view a 30 sec Trailer of Crossing The Line here

or download the video clip from here.

I'm already looking forward to having a great time savouring all the movies in this year's festival lineup, and have gotten my tickets. If you haven't, then you just might want to do so as soon as you can, as I spy that tickets are flying off the box office counter fast!

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