Saturday, December 31, 2005

Broken Flowers

Folks from my generation will always associate Bill Murray with Mr-stay-calm-know-it-all Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters, along with fellow comedians and collaborators Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis. Of late, he has been playing nonchalant characters, and probably would be better remembered for his role in Lost in Translation opposite Scarlett Johansson.

Maybe it's his style, that he projects he's sleepwalking through his roles, And this written-for-him role in Broken Flowers as Don Johnson, oops, I mean Don Johnston (with a T, there's a running joke about the Miami Vice fella), a Don Juan type character, seems to have cemented that opinion.

Don changes girlfriends like he changes his underwear. Not that he wants to, but his character makes him a difficult person to be with. We're led to believe that he has made enough from his computer business, and is in semi-retirement mode, doing nothing but watch television at the comfort of his home. His latest squeeze, played by Julie Delpy, has left him (gee what a cameo), and so did countless others before her.

But the pace picks up slightly (it moves terribly slow throughout the movie) when he receives a pink envelope, and inside a typewritten note, telling him that he has a son from an affair twenty years ago, and that son is now on a road trip looking for his father. However, the writer doesn't sign off, there is no return address, and the postmark is faded.

Putting it off as a prank, Don's best friend Winston (Jeffrey Wright) tries so hard to infuse interest and curiosity into Don (he's always putting on the deadpan facial expression), before Don finally, and reluctantly, accepts the itinerary given to him. Which is to revisit his old flames from around that time, to determine if they have in possession a typewriter, which probably was used to type that anonymous letter.

You might think that the premise is interesting, though nothing new, like Chris O'Donnell's The Bachelor, or John Cusack's High Fidelity, where the protagonist revisits his ex-lovers to discover various happenings and encounter various weird situations. Here, we have a load of talent playing Don's girlfriends from the past, like Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and even Tilda Swinton (the White Witch from Narnia) with dark hair.

Winner of Cannes Film Festival 2005, be warned that this film is an acquired taste, and may not appeal or be enjoyed by many. Firstly, the pacing is slow. There are plenty of moments where the plot doesn't propel forward, and shots just stay where they are. Almost every transition from scene to scene utilizes the fade-to-black technique, and each scene is surprisingly short.

Perhaps these techniques fit the Don character like a glove, highlighting his short relationships with each girl, and his indifference to the outcome of each relation. We see that each girl has moved on with her life, some married, some having children, some already successful in their business, and all totally in contrast with Don's laid back character. It is during these scenes of character interaction that we get to experience some comedy, otherwise the other half of the time, we see the usual repetitive shots in airplanes or inside a Ford Taurus, as if to highlight the monotony of travelling alone.

Though it's rated NC-16 for some nudity here, the only nudity you get is from a character called Lolita (Alexis Dziena, who plays Sharon Stone's daughter), and that's only a butt-shot. The entire scene (which I think is full frontal) gets edited out, and along goes the dialogue with it, which somehow screws up the entire episode. There are nuances and implications towards the end of that particular visit which will make you go "Huh?". Pity. Given the crowd in today's screening, I don't think an M18 or R21 is gonna hurt box office takings (school's reopening as well). Now, with that bad edit, I'm sure many will steer clear.

The ending is open ended, and is totally up to your interpretation. My take would be that while one half of the mystery is solved (or perceived to be solved), the other half of the mystery is still out there. And by leaving it as such, it paves way for discussion, which always enrich the experience of watching a movie.

LSRS2 - Production Log #3

The script reading session was held yesterday night during our mX year end gathering. It felt different having the script on hand, as compared to reading off the computer screen. Naturally, some typos (there were two) were spotted.

I thought the casting for DICK and KONG were spot on :-D Well, it should be, since the characters were modelled after them (without the evil characteristics of course). We're also a bit off our planned short film duration of 15 minutes... it probably looks like a 20-30 minute short as of now. Looks like we've got to either tweak a bit to tighten up pacing, or shoot first and edit later.

Now we've got to sort out schedule conflicts, availability, confirm the other casting, location scouting, inventory check... lots to do before our first day of shoot (when ah??)

And oh yeah, just thought of a wicked ending for one of the characters who originally was just hanging there.. haha, and what's the moral of the story?!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

[DVD] Interview with the Assassin (2002)

Don't be fooled by the outline or tagline. This is a mockumentary, just to set your expectations right. I initially thought that it was a real documentary, with real, justifiable footage and interviews which will give the entire who-shot-JFK conspiracy a new spin. Sadly, it isn't, so don't get your hopes up too high.

Walter Ohlinger (Raymond J. Barry) claims to have been the second gunman that faithful day in Dallas. Filmmaker Ron Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty) interviews Walter, and thought that he had perhaps the most important scoop of his career. We follow Walter back to Dallas as he demonstrates exactly what he did on that day to the audience.

Unfortunately, that's the good part. It goes downhill after that with Walter's account that his ex-Marine buddy and Commanding Officer had a role in masterminding the entire thing, and Ron and Walter go in search of that CO. But this mockumentary slowly takes a life of its own, and spins off into a thriller with a twist ending.

The delivery's quite raw, made to look like a documentary, but knowing that it's all scripted, just makes it a bit of a letdown. You would be better off with Oliver Stone's JFK instead.

This is a relatively barebones Code 1 DVD.


Come January 06, Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston will get hot and heavy in Derailed. It's the stuff of what makes a nightmare out of cheating spouses' sheenanigans.

Check out my review of this movie, brought to you courtesy of movieXclusive, by clicking on the logo below

Always remember to lock thy door! :-P

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Top 5 Duds of 2005

5. Election
The watered down, politically correct version that is.

4. The Brothers Grimm
A real test of patience as the brothers try so darn hard to capture your imagination.

3. The Wayward Cloud
Disguised soft porn with madcap song and dance to titillate.

2. Bewitched
Oh Nicole, I so love you, but why oh why did you agree to make a remake that is so far, far away from the original? You twitched your nose so well, you should have wished that this remake could have been done properly, instead of hitting the damn rewind button near the end of the show.

1. Elektra
Jennifer, yo’s so fine in Daredevil, but your figure hugging costumes can’t lift this film from trash. Wonder who’ll emerge champ if you sparred with Halle Berry’s 2004 Catwoman?

Addendum: Some readers have highlighted my omission of The Promise.

Yes dear readers, I did not even consider that an effort of a movie, it's a disgrace to the medium, and to the martial arts genre. To hide behind a label of "fantasy" is just so lame.

I hated it so much that I had wiped it out from memory, until readers had to remind me that it actually existed.

So there, The Promise is ABSOLUTELY THE WORST MOVIE, not only for 2005, but like, EVAR!

Top 10 of 2005

It’s interesting to note that many of the films I’d pick as the Top 10 of 2005, happen to be romances.

In the mood for love am I?
Here we go:

10. In Good Company
Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johansson make good company in this movie. Identifying with the loneliness in this one, I can.

9. Perhaps Love
It’s been some time since a Chinese musical gets celluloid treatment and the complex romance draws you in, together with a myriad of rich colours and costumes.

8. Closer
Beautiful cast with dysfunctional characters. Questions of modern day romances and insecurity have never been raised so subtly.

7. Be With Me
Don’t worry Eric Khoo. The Academy might have disqualified your movie on a technicality, but I’d rank it as the best local movie to date. So much strength with so much unsaid. Inspirational.

6. Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World
Classic Japanese love story on teenage romance, and love lost.

5. Millions
A boy, his trains, his imagination of the Saints, his longing for his mom, and loads of cash. Unconventional, excellent material.

4. Be With You
This is yet another Japanese drama-weepy, which is on one hand so saccharine sweet, and the other, so painfully sad. Emotional roller coaster this one.

3. Der Untergang aka Downfall
The last hours of Hitler and his Nazi cronies are so accurately portrayed, you might mistake this for a documentary. Extremely engaging, up to the last minute.

2. Saving Face
Chinese / Asian values being looked at in a refreshing way. So what if it’s a lesbian romance when the themes explored are so universal?

And my number one movie for 2005
1. Crash
Compelling star-studded cast, tackling racism head on. Plot and narrative so nicely done, how they all come together at the end, you’d hardly find flaws. The song at the finale did it for me.

Notable Mention (Alphabetical Order)

Batman Begins
Cinderella Man
Finding Neverland
Frank Miller’s Sin City
Hotel Rwanda
In My Father’s Den
King Kong
Kontroll (Fantastic Film Fest)
Million Dollar Baby
Perth (also Screen Singapore)
Swing Girls
The 40 Year Old Virgin
The Hidden Blade
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

LSRS2 - Production Log #2

It's already been tentatively titled, one word with an exclamation point. Might end up as the shooting title if we can come up with something better.

The rough cut script is ready, and I distributed it to massb and dgital, before I was reminded, and realized that there are certain issues left unaddressed, and certain scenes I had in mind which were omitted.

Hmm... should be able to wrap it all up tonight. Can't wait to see the reaction of the others who have not had a whiff of what's brewing yet. Will know this Friday when we par-tay!

And yes, we do need to script-read it to see if it can fall within 15 minutes.

Monday, December 26, 2005

[DVD] Romeo Must Die (2000)

I've been a fan of Jet Li's movies, but have been quite disappointed with his latest offering "Danny The Dog"/"Unleashed". While the action was great as usual, somehow the storyline isn't compelling enough. I'm still eagerly anticipating his Fearless in 2006 though, as the publicity stills so far have been promising, and it's touted as his final action movie.

Which brings me back to Romeo Must Die. It's his first feature length Hollywood film as the protagonist, after his villainous start in Lethal Weapon 4 opposite Mel Gibson. And to compensate for the lack of classic martial arts action in LW4, there are tons of wire-work/CGI laden kung fu in this movie.

The storyline's pretty decent, with a gang war between an African American gang, and a Chinese gang, in which Jet belongs to. He and Aaliyah play the offspring of their respective mob bosses, and decide to team up to discover a recent spate of killings between their gangs, as their siblings become the latest victims.

As part of the plot, we see both gangs trying to engage in legitimate business, with a crooked NFL dealer thrown into the mix. It's of little surprise that both gangs, although different in race and culture, are run in the same way - a strong figure head, ruthless second-in-commands, and bumbling assistants.

What appeals probably is the chemistry between Jet and Aaliyah. The latter was an up and coming singing starlet, but unfortunately perished in a tragic air crash. Romeo Must Die is her first movie released when she's alive (the other being Queen of the Damned), and I'd thought she would make a decent actress too. She seemed to partner Jet Li well, and looked credible in some of the action sequences.

Much of the action is stylized, meaning you know, and in a very obvious manner, that the fights all involve wires (since it's HK's Cory Yuen choreographing, and Joel Silver producing it). A pretty nifty x-ray CGI effect comes up on screen each time Jet Li breaks someone's bones. Pretty cool, and not used to often to make you sick.

It's a decent movie which will engage you, especially on a lazy weekend or holiday.

The Code 3 DVD is stocked full with special featurettes, making of documentaries, music videos, and if put into a PC, even leads you to a simple fighting game online.

[DVD] Jeepers Creepers (2001)

I've heard much hype about this horror film, and decided to take a look into it. It delivered some thrills, but nothing fantastic to rave about.

Starring Justin Long and Gina Philips as siblings on a road trip home, perhaps it is the relationship between the two which is refreshing, yet tinged with a sense of familiarity. Instead of the usual boy-girl romantic relationships which are staples of horror movies, sibling rivalry gets the nod, which to an audience, is something easier to identify with.

The main baddie is the unexplained - a mysterious man riding in a beat up armoured truck whom the siblings see dumping wrapped bodies in a church. Against his sister's advice, Darry decides to investigate, and hence they become the latest prey of the creature. We do not know anything more about it, only that it rises every 23 years, for 23 days to feed, to take something from his prey, and doing so by inflicting fear, and smelling.

The creature makeup is interesting, like a cross between a mer-man and a vampire bat, but you don't get to see it in its full glory until the end. And the end to some, might be a disappointment, as it still left things unexplained. Maybe that's the appeal, that you're free to interpret. There should be a lot of gore in this movie, but I suspect the Code 3 edition has pared it down quite a bit.

In short, this movie is one extended country road trip, with some mysterious elements and motivations added. Nothing too fancy, nothing too horrific. And yes, it did spawn a sequel.

Code 3 Extras: Trailers, Cast and Crew Interviews.

[DVD] Galaxy Quest (1999)

There are countless of Star Trek spoofs out there, but this one really takes the cake. It's funny, witty, thoroughly enjoyable, and stars Tim Allen of the Home Improvement TV series (which I am "proud" to admit I never saw an episode before *horrors*)

Directly spoofing the original Star Trek series, Tim Allen plays a William Shatner clone with wicked delight. Here, he's Jason Nesmith, a self-centered man who's Captain Peter Taggart on the show Galaxy Quest. Rounding off his main crew are Sigourney Weaver, who plays buxomy blonde Gwen DeMarco/Lt. Tawny Madison, whose only job is to repeat what the ship's computer says, and Alan Rickman, as Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus, the token non-human onboard the ship, making him the butt of many alien jokes.

While the cast and crew of Galaxy Quest are made to be all chummy and such, in reality, they are a bunch of quarreling has-beens whose show has been cancelled 20 years ago, and are now making ends meet by attending conventions, and opening electrical stores. Until one day, an alien race of Thermians come visiting. They have been watching the transmissions of Galaxy Quest episodes, and have considered them to be "historical documents" of earth and its heroes. Naturally, they bring on board the crew to their ship, the Protector, modelled after the TV series. Only thing is, it's real.

So the Galaxy Quest crew have to play what they have been playing for years, except that it's for real. The ship, the planets, and the enemies as well. They have to quickly learn that they can only survive the harsh galaxy by believing in themselves, since everything on the ship works as it's imagined to be, and by believing in one another, just like in the show. Which is a pretty nifty message inserted into a comedic movie.

It's extremely fun, and do watch out for Sam Rockwell as Crewman Number 6, an extra on the original series who somehow get caught up in the mess, and crossing his fingers each time that he won't die, like on the show.

I've regretted not being able to have caught this in the theatres when it opened, given that it featured 3 aspect ratios in the same film, it would have been an experience to have watched it on the big screen, only if they screened it properly. Nonetheless, the DVD comes packed with loads of extras, so you might want to pick it up and watch it.

Code 1 DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making-of documentary, trailers, and an entire audio track in Thermian!

Never give up, never surrender!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

[DVD] One Day in September (1999)

With the word and controversy out on Steven Spielberg's Munich, instead of settling for a Hollywood drama of the terrorist event that faithful day of the Olympics, you might want to learn more from this Oscar winning documentary.

This documentary uses real footage throughout, with archived news reels, pictures, photos (of the dead, shot, burnt, otherwise), and interviews with family members. But their real coup would be to have interviewed the one and only surviving terrorist who partook in the horror against the spirit of the Olympics.

It also provides those born after 1972, or too young to remember, a look at the events surrounding that day - from the Olympic organizers who are too arrogant to suspend the games, the indifference of the athletes in the Olympic Village, the lack of adequate security (as compared to today), to the politics behind the entire affairs.

Perhaps what will rile you are the West German's botched attempt to rescue the hostages. They were surprisingly ill-prepared, deploying untrained teams, lack of proper equipment, and had to recall countless of attempts, before the final embarassment at the airport, which exposed their severe weakness at handling terrorist incidents. All the hostages were killed in the confrontation, when the terrorists threw hand grenades and emptied bullets into the helicopters they were in. It's only after this that the Germans formed their anti-terror squad, the GSG9 (Counter-strike players will be familiar with this term).

To make matters worse, there was a cover up and collusion between the Germans and the terrorists when the latter apparently hijacked a Lufthansa flight (with only 12 passengers on board, and no women and children), and the former handed over the 3 surviving terrorists of the Munich incident in exchange for safe passage of the flight.

Which is where Spielberg's movie comes in, following squads of Mossad agents hunting down and assassinating those 3 (1 managed to survive countless attempts on his life), together with others who are implicated or involved in the planning of the Munich operation.

This documentary provides an excellent and compelling background, preparing you for the Munich movie coming soon. Watch this.

Code 1 DVD features a relatively barebones version, containing the usual scene selections, subtitles and bonus trailers. But the documentary itself is worth it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

LSRS2 - Production Log #1

After having so much fun with the Fly By Night competition, and developing The Undecided, we (massb, dgital, overider and myself) decided that we've got to follow up with another effort, and who knows, probably start making short films on a regular basis.

Somehow, overider's comment on his blog sparked off an idea which I shared with massb and dgital, and so here we are, still at the script stage. We should be on target to have the shooting script ready by 30th, where we'll be presenting to the other players who have been drafted (mostly voluntarily I'd like to think, haha) into production.

It's gonna be an insane Jan 06, but with the public holidays and long weekend, it presents a good opportunity to get things done :-) Cos the logistics, might be one heck of a pain!

The title, and premise is under wraps for now, so, until next time!

Monday, December 19, 2005

[DVD] The Body (2001)

The premise of this movie seemed interesting enough, although to some, it might be blasphemy. What if one day, the body (or rather, skeletal remains) of Christ was discovered in a similarly described tomb, with tell tale signs of the crucification, the spear wound, injuries inflicted by the crown of thorns, and the tomb dating back to 1 AD?

This film looks at the possible destruction of the faith which hinges on the one man's ressurection as God. Olivia Williams plays an Israeli Sharon Golban, who discovers this body in a tomb she excavates. Suspecting she could be on to something big, she calls for a priest to confirm her suspicion. Soon, word gets around, rumours get spread. The Vatican dispatches one of their priests, Father Gutierrez (played by Antonio Banderas), and ex-military intelligence officer, to investigate and proof or disproof the claim.

While science points to the fact that the body may be that of Christ, it gives a chilling insight into what could make, or break, a religion. Is it blind faith that keeps it going, even if there should come a day when science can ultimately disproof certain theories and events? Here, discovering that body has serious implications because of the repercussions that the major event in Christ's life have on Christians. But what diluted this film from its primary premise is the introduction of Hollywood subplots to jazz up production, like having the Vatican embroiled in political intrigue, and having terrorist organizations taking an interest in the findings as well.

It's a relatively low budgeted production, but one which raised thought provoking questions even if the delivery somehow got distracted in attempts to become a bigger movie in terms of action sequences. I think this film probably would be a good prologue to the controversies that surround next year's Da Vinci Code.

Code 1 DVD contains "special features", but nothing out of the ordinary besides the usual trailers, audio, and scene selections.

[DVD] Bugsy (1991)

After staying at the Las Vegas Flamingo, and spending a substantial amount of time browsing through the artifacts of old Vegas at the Las Vegas History Museum at the Tropicana Hotel, this is one movie I wanted to watch when I got back. Not that I'm a fan of Warren Beatty (I only watched his Dick Tracy movie), but I'm interested in the Hollywood retelling of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's story.

For the uninitiated, Siegel was a gangster, who loves his family, but is as horny as he can get. He falls in love with the Hollywood glamour and life, and comes to know his new mistress, a starlet called Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), who's known in some circles as the village bicycle - everyone's had a ride.

Seigel shares a love-hate relationship with Hill, and it is always bumpy. And little does he know that this love will ultimately cause his downfall and demise. Love aside, there's also plenty of scenes that shows Siegel's violent nature (hey, he's a gangster), and scenes too that highlights his disregard for money - he spends lavishly. There's a subplot about Mussolini too, which highlights Seigel's eccentricity.

But he does have a vision, and that was having the foresight of predicting how Las Vegas would become as important as can be, with the erection of the Hoover Dam to provide it with electricity. He's the one with the vision of creating something in the middle of the desert, which we know today as the Strip, with casinos, hotels, and entertainment from class acts. His vision started off as The Flamingo hotel, which overblew its budget by almost 5 million dollars (at that time). Of course, when you're dealing with mob money, you'd better be careful, as they become impatient with his grander vision of controlling a casino, city, state, and ultimately having the power to influence presidential elections.

Directed by Barry Levinson, Bugsy is the tale of that one man's vision. It's well acted, with a superb supporting cast. Keeping true to the finale, watch out for that flying eye too. And yes, Beatty and Bening met on set, and married thereafter.

Sadly, this Code 1 DVD contains no special extras.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

[DVD] Scream (1996)

It actually took me 9 years to finally watch this slasher flick classic, and I'm now kicking my rear that I should've watched it when it premiered in local theatres back then. Credited as sparking off a slew of copycat slasher films in the late 90s, and reintroducing Wes Craven to a whole new generation, Scream will remain an important milestone for the horror-slasher genre.

Starring a relatively young and unknown (then) cast, Drew Barrymore opens in what is probably the most recognizable start to a horror movie, with her demise after being caught in a cat-and-mouse telephone call with the primary killer in the movie, a psychopath who dons the Halloween "Scream" costume.

That famous opening aside, Neve Campbell plays the main lead Sydney, a student who's now the new target of the killer. Given her complicated background of having her mom killed about a year ago, she is spooked by the fact that she could have sentenced the wrong killer to prison, and the real one is still out there, stalking her.

As with slasher movies, her group of friends become suspects and cannon fodder for the killer. What works is that although the cast is huge, and almost everyone is a suspect! The film doesn't let off throwing at you the red herrings, making you wonder what could be, and if it is.

Looking at the film, the killer is not the invulnerable being that always gets his prey. Here, he does get hit and attacked, which adds a totally new, believable dimension towards the instinct for survival. Also, there are tons of movie references which will keep every movie buff totally happy and jumping with glee at identifying them. I'd like the part where one of the characters laid down the 3 rules of horror films: Never have sex because only virgins survive, never smoke or drink, and never say "I'll be back", because you won't. Sort of summarizes every horror movie out there, doesn't it?

And the ending totally rocks. The script is intelligent (for a horror-slasher movie), and will catch you off guard, if you haven't been reading anything to spoil the movie, after 9 long years.

Sadly, this Code 3 DVD contains no extras besides the norm of scene selection and subtitles. Pity.

[DVD] Strictly Ballroom (1992)

With Strictly Ballroom, I've completed Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy, with the other two diverse films Romeo and Juliet, and Moulin Rouge, common only on the theme of love. Started out as a stage play, Strictly Ballroom tells a tale about (surprise!) ballroom dancing, with Luhrmann's signature touches on colours and zaniness.

Ballroom dancing might not appeal to many, but this film is thoroughly enjoyable. It begins with the Waratah Championship, where we witness protagonist Scott Hastings losing the opportunity to win it, given his last minute impromptu decision to dance his own dance, totally neglecting the rules and form of ballroom dance.

He loses his partner too, as she doesn't want someone to tangent off without letting her know, and of course, not wanting to stick to the norm. So left partnerless, Scott has to look for someone willing to partner him. In comes geeky Fran, a beginner who's looking for that big break into amateur ballroom dancing, and between the two, they form an unlikely alliance.

Thrown in to the fray are both Scott's and Fran's family objections. With the Hastings, they are constantly looking for worthy dance partners to pair up with their son for the upcoming Pan Pacific Grand Prix. For Fran's, they shake their head at Scott's lack of rhythm. Coming from a spanish dance background, they train the duo and put the rhythm back in their feet.

The climax is one which is cliched, but yet wonderful and moving. I'd bet if it's watched in a movie theatre, it'll have you up on your feet, and clapping away too.

This movie contains a whole array of colourful and offbeat characters that one associates with a Luhrmann film. There's also an element of mystery thrown in as well, which keeps the audience guessing. With a mainly Australian cast, the characters are what make this movie so rich. This movie has a lot of heart, watch it and you'll understand what I mean.

Code 1 DVD Extras: Samba to Slow Fox dance feature/documentary, 3D Picture Gallery, and the obligatory Audio Commentary.

Perhaps Love

I fell in love with the introductory analogy. Life is like the movies, in which you are the director, producer and the star. In your life, there are other co-stars, and of course, that significant other. But what if you happen not to be sharing the limelight in your other's life? Editing is always a pain, and in the final product, you will then learn if you are sharing the same billing, get relegated to a cameo, or in the worst case, get cut out entirely and lie on the floor of the editing room.

Similarly to my 2004 movie of the year, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this film too takes a look at the trying to forget someone in your life entirely. Except in this one, there is no faux-pas scientific methods, but done by sheer human will and pretence.

This is a musical within a musical, and a beautifully choreographed one at that. First thoughts will be, hey, it looks like Moulin Rouge, with big colourful sets, dancers, singers, stunts, and songs with meaningful lyrics. Yes, and given similar themes like Love and Hate, but Perhaps Love tells its own story. The soundtrack befits the musical, and I won't be surprised if anyone adapts this for the stage too.

Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro plays Lin Jian Dong, a struggling film student when he met his love in Beijing. When the film begins, he's already an accomplished actor, and chances upon that same love in his latest movie collaboration. He's not the least surprised at being given the cold shoulder, and goes all out to try and win her back. But exactly what his motivations are - love, revenge, closure, that one pleasure filled fling, remained to be seen.

Much is said about his ability to sing (or lack thereof), but I felt that he sang convincingly in this movie, and fleshed out his role as the pained lover realistically. When his final intentions are revealed, you can't help but to emphatise - yes, that perhaps what he did was justified.

Contrasting Kaneshiro's character is Jackie Cheung's Nie Wen, the auteur director with his mood swings. His current lover and muse is Jian Dong's love in Beijing, and he comes to discover this fact after filming begins. He feels cheated upon, hurt, and channels his raw emotions onto the film. There should be no doubt as to Cheung's singing prowess - powerful is the one word summed up, though I thought it's always the same song? Between the two male leads, his is surprisingly magnanimous, and shows true courage as compared to Jian Dong.

Chinese actress Zhao Xun plays Sun Na, the woman caught between the two men. One is her lover in a past she wants to forget, while the other is her lover who brought her stardom in the present world. It's a highly complicated-in-emotions role, one which explores, and for those in love, might have felt in one way, or at some points in time. When you feel your love is holding you back, would you give it all up to pursue your dreams? Sun Na is one such woman, who will stop at absolutely no cost, and jump on every available opportunity presented, to seek fame and fortune. And it is she who walked out of Jian Dong's life at least twice, to be with an American director, and later, with Jian Dong's assistant director friend, before we currently see her in the present.

Ignoring Jian Dong when they meet in their new film, she can't help but feel her icy walls being broken down by his persistence, though Jian Dong had assistance from Korean Jin Ji-hee's role as Montage, a spirit who interacts with all characters and weaves in and out of the plot, bringing about a feel that there's always that higher being involved in events that unfold in life.

And the way the characters interact is probably fused so seamlessly into the musical, within the musical. Unable to express themselves freely, they do so through the musical's story, premise, and lines. It doesn't feel contrived, but the entire narrative seemed flawless. Even the flashbacks doesn't mar the pacing of the film, but brings about a natural progression and revelation of character development and events.

Perhaps Love is a truly wonderful experience, especially for those who have been in the same ship before. Its ending isn't typical, but one which perhaps is the most realistic an ending can be for the characters involved. Peter Chan has crafted a beautiful masterpiece of a musical for the Hong Kong film industry. Catch this on the big screen before its run is over!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Promise

The trailers, the posters, the casting, all looked promising. Sadly, the storyline is one heck of a convulated one, and I hate to use the word, but absurd is what The Promise is.

This is a fantasy picture as promoted, and true enough, it is, so much that you have to leave your brains at the door. In trying to sound intelligent, the plot fumbles and ended up really unconvincing. It's all style and little substance. To associate this with martial arts films is to insult the genre, and one shouldn't even mention this film nor compare it to Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's time filmmakers wake up to the idea that CTHD is a one-off that cannot be replicated. Do not try to go one up by having characters fly faster, higher, harder. Or run so fast they can break the space-time continuum and time travel. Science fiction this is not.

Yet, you cannot fault the cinematography, which seemed beautiful, until a closer scrutiny makes it so obvious that it's CGI created. Think Storm Rider's special effects in the creation of its world, there is no improvement in the refinement of graphics in The Promise after so many years. Does this mean that only the West can come up with believable CGI worlds for audiences?

Plot loopholes are abound, and you can drive a horde of running bulls right through it. You also get the usual villain driven soliloquy at the finale explaining his grudge he unbelievably held for so long (and the lengths he goes to settle it), and some homosexual undertones in one of the minor characters too. Hip? Guess not. What fails in plot delivery is having drag on what is obvious to the audience (but not to a character) for too long. In fact, almost the entire length of the movie. It wearies the audience, and insults the audience's intelligence.

So what's this movie about? It's a love triangle of sorts, between a Princess (Cecilia Cheung), a General of the Crimson Army (Japan's Hiroyuki Sanada), and his slave Kunlun (Korea's Jang Dong Gun). Playing the chief villain is Nicholas Tse, whose pretty boy looks probably made his character less threatening. Destiny is the running theme of the movie, where each character is destined for certain goals and events, and one in which is set in stone. Cursed by a fairy when young, the Princess is not to find true love, until impossible conditions are met. And the General too is foretold the elements leading to his impending death. What started off plotwise, as promising, degenerated into a web of blah which I wince at by just recalling it.

Are there any saving graces in the movie? Yes, but they are few. Look out for the fights involving Nicholas Tse, where I thought his use of the fan as a lethal boomerang was a marvel to watch. Cecilia Cheung also lit up the screen, but not for her acting nor the character's development though. The editing of a love scene too was uncalled for to get a PG rating, so that more audiences could fill the theatres. I reckon the word of mouth for this film will unsettle that. Hiroyuki Sanada and Jang Dong Gun, I guess, tried their best with the flimsily weak storyline to deliver their lines in Mandarin. Better that way too, with the rubbish I hope they don't understand.

If there is any movie which failed to live up to its hype, this movie is it, miserably. I'm sad to say that this is easily one of the worst films of the year. One more thing, they should have subtitled the opening titles explaining the background of the movie too, if they want to target non-mandarin speaking audiences. Slip-shoddy, careless start to a Chen Kaige disappointment.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Ice Harvest

Santa knows you're naughty or nice, so won't you be at your best behaviour come Christmas? For John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, afraid not, as they go on an embezzlement of 2 million dollars in The Ice Harvest.

You can check out my review at movieXclusive by clicking on the logo below

Blood and Bones

This review brought to you courtesy of a movieXclusive preview session.

I'd watch Blood and Bones for one reason, and that's for 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano. Local audiences will probably remember him in recent roles from Battle Royale, Brother, and Zatoichi. Here, he plays Jyombion Kim, one of the early pioneer Koreans who emigrated to Japan.

From the start, the narration tells us the story of this one man and his life, from a teenager, until his deathbed. And he's a violent man at that, always with a drink in hand, which brings out the worst in him. If he wants to copulate, he makes sure he does. If he wants to whack the living daylights out of a person, or family member, he does too. He's Mr Domestic Violence personified, with cruel beatings to get his way. From opening a fishcake business, to loan-sharking, his aloof, and philandering ways created his extended dysfunctional family, their trials and tribulations. He is an independent, wandering soul, and will probably provide for an interesting character study.

Besides the nice cinematography, the beautiful soundtrack is probably what made it easy to go through this excruciating slow paced movie. If you're not careful, you might nod off at time. The material might be uncomfortable for some; though there was violence, there isn't much gore.

Weaved throughout the show at various points, is the look into the treatment of these Korean immigrants in Japan, the discrimination and difficulties faced in living in another's homogeneous society. There are many characters in the movie - sons, daughters, in-laws, half-siblings, wives, mistresses, that you'll probably be able to create a neat family tree if you link all of them on paper. But don't expect too much story on the ensemble of characters, most of them get their focus at various points, then are quietly dispatched to the background.

It's an awfully sad tale, nothing in it that will make you cheer. But there is something to cheer about the movie though, and that it is shown here uncut and unedited. Meaning you get to see it as it was intended, including male genitalia.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

King Kong

Peter Jackson nailed Kong! (Please pardon bad pun) In his version based on the 1933 classic, Jackson delivered as promised, sticking close to the source material, yet adding his touches of epic grandeur. Doubling the original's length, clocking in at 3 hours, provided ample opportunity for character development for the major leads (and even for Kong itself), and doesn't scrimp on elaborate action sequences.

Kudos to the cast for their effort in what is mostly interaction within imaginary backgrounds and a digital Kong. The main leads of Naomi Watts as vaudeville actress Ann Darrow, Jack Black as movie director Carl Denham and Adrien Brody as screenwriter Jack Driscoll were almost perfect. Given loads of time to flesh out their characters, you'd come to appreciate and understand their motivations a lot more. Black, known more for his zany comedies, makes a wonderful Carl Denham, adding slight humour to his dramatic role. Watts, as usual, looked beautiful in her role as the damsel, who, in an update, brings a certain tough attitude to her fragile exterior. Brody completes the trinity as the lovelorn Jack Driscoll who has to battle Kong for the affections of Darrow.

Production values were certainly top notch, and in the instant this movie opens, you'll fall in love with the accurate depiction of 30s Manhanttan. For those who already know of the story outline, we begin in New York where Denham seeks out a new aspiring actress for his new movie set in Singapore (yes, we're mentioned, just like the 1976 remake). However, he's really leading the ship and crew to Skull Island to make his new movie, and there, they meet up with the island's unfriendly and hostile inhabitants, as well as its god, Kong.

The movie takes about an hour to reach the island, and hence some might find it slow moving. But keep your eyes peeled on the beautiful cinematography, and listen closely to the dialogue - plenty of references to the original Kong movie (I so loved the line where they wanted to get Fay Wray involved in their production, but sadly she had an ongoing movie project with RKO. Classic!)

And Skull Island proved to be an action sequence playground, with the much touted Kong versus the Rexes (3 of them actually, probably my favourite would be the finale where Kong dealt the killing blows) being the highlight. In a parallel sequence consisting of Denham, Driscoll and various expendable crew, the dino-chase sequence probably put the Jurassic Park sequels to shame, although there are some portions where the digital rendering looked cheap. But minor nitpicking aside, it still made for some edge-of-your-seat moments.

The hour on Skull Island provided much time for the Beast to fall for the Beauty, keeping her as its trophy companion, who performed vaudeville acts for its entertainment, while it served as her protector from mutant like creatures. Andy Serkis provided much of the facial movements and expressions for Kong, just like he did for Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And we do see the sensitive side of the much maligned ape - it seemed that all it wants is a little tranquility, watching beautiful sunsets / sunrises with its human playmate, who seemed to be able to take the roller coaster tossings from limb to limb and from vine to vine with nary a scratch to her beautiful legs and indestructible lingerie. Perhaps a departure from the other Kongs is that this digital one kept its primal instincts in check, and doesn't attempt to disrobe our heroine. Noble.

But as Fate would have it, Kong gets captured in an intense sequence, which shows off its brutality. The movie makes no apologies for many bites, kicks, and slams between human and beast, or amongst beasts. It's violent, but that's the way it probably is. And in Manhatten, hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, Kong wrecks havoc to look for Darrow, and brings her atop the Empire State Building for the climatic showdown. In between, I thought the ice rink moment was a pretty nifty touch, but one which somehow jarred the pace until the intervention of the army.

And that iconic final scene, what a beauty! You'd know it's a lost cause, but yet it's a tragic spectacle to witness. To the sentimental ones, no, I know we'd have all fallen in love with Jackson's Kong by then, but we're sticking to the original, so don't expect anything else but the original ending. And speaking of which, I sure would have loved to hear Howard Shore's rendition of the soundtrack, but alas, his hasty departure due to creative differences with Jackson paved the way for James Newton Howard to pen the score. Not that it's bad, but I thought it lacked a certain oomph at times.

In short, this Kong has all the ingredients of a mighty fine event movie. Given its length, it doesn't squander its opportunities for a more in depth take at one of the best known cinematic monsters created. Definite must-watch!

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I watched this in Las Vegas on the opening day of 9 Dec 05. Sadly, I thought that I would be better off watching Zhang Ziyi in Memoirs of a Geisha, or George Clooney in Syrianna...

This is one of seven books by CS Lewis on the fantasy world of Narnia. My earliest recall of the story was an animated cartoon, where 4 children chanced upon a wardrobe which transported them to a medieval-fantasy ice world ruled by an evil witch.

The introductory scene might confuse audiences that their watching Band of Brothers, though the German blitz over London is a sight to behold. Father Pevensie has gone off to fight in the war, and Mother Pevensie decided to pack the 4 Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, to the countryside to seek safe havens. They get to live with Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent in an extremely underutilised role), and the youngest of them all, Lucy, discovers the Wardrobe in one of the mansion's rooms.

The children bicker a lot, and through their Narnia adventures, learn about the importance of family and cooperation. Disbelieving Lucy at first, the rest got introduced to the wardrobe soon enough, and thus begin their stay in Narnia only after an hour into the movie (Yes, it takes that long before something decent happens on screen). Put under an icy curse, Narnia awaits the arrival of 2 sons of Adam and 2 daughters of Eve to deliver it from the clutches of the evil White Witch (Tilda Swindon, perhaps the only human form in Narnia).

But first, the children have to learn to make sense of the gifts bestowed upon them by Father Christmas, as well as to seek out Aslan, the mytical (speaking) lion, voiced by the regal Liam Neeson, in yet another mentor-like role after this years Kingdom of Heaven and Batman Begins. Yes, he's a good choice, but used too often it becomes deja-vu.

The talking animals became the talk of the town amongst some critical circles, but I say, give it a break. There are talking lions, beavers, wolves, foxes, etc, whose lips move in sync with their impeccable English, that I'm sure will sell many merchandize, probably soft toys.

While the cinematography is beautiful, somehow, familiarity with the source material brought about a monotone feel to the narrative. You'd know what will happen next, and the way this movie is delivered, there isn't much of a crescendo or scenes to excite. Shrek director Andrew Adamson should have known better, but opted for the safe and boring route.

The acting by the animals surpassed their human counterparts. The four Pevensie children are excruciating painful to watch. Their acting's very contrived and forced, and I wonder if there could be other worthy contenders amongst those who auditioned. The pixel-creations of the animators gave the animals more range than the 4 kids. Tilda Swindon looked evil throughout, but that's about it. Somehow her androgynous role as Gabriel in Constantine was way better than her role here as the resident bitch.

The highlight is probably the much talked about, effects laden war scene, but from scenes in the trailer, there isn't much else to add. Already spoilt by mega war scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Chronicles doesn't go one up against what audiences already experienced, safe to subsitute Uruk-hais and various Orcs with animals and mythical creatures like the centaurs. Lacking intensity throughout the battle, I was taking stock of which animal was on whose side, like the polar bears and white tigers on the side of the White Witch, and the mass of centaurs on Aslan's.

Don't get me started on the religiousness and the classification that this film is "Passion of the Christ" for kids. If you subscribe to that, you'll believe anything. It's bollocks, and I think one must have read too much into the major sacrificial and ressurection scene. There is hardly any blood spilt, nor is there any major bloody torture scene to rival Mel Gibson's picture. Just because this scene is similar to Christ's ressurection, or the theme of the coming of the messiah(s), or the betrayal scene makes one label this movie as such, is stretching it a bit too far. It's a children's movie/story, for crying out loud, so just leave it as such.

Will this movie make money? Sure, on the fact that it's an event movie. Chronicles of Narnia built its hype, but didn't offer anything new in terms of special effects, and was weighted down by mediocre acting and a plain, bland narrative. Should there be another movie based on the books, let's hope it betters the first one.

[In Flight] Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

I've actually caught this on a Northwest flight enroute to Las Vegas, so this makes it my first review from those puny LCD screens at the back of an Airbus seat. But hey, given the time it gets to hit the screens here (end of the year?!) I might as well proceed with watching this from anywhere, yeah?

In one word: Excellent! I'm a sucker for stop-motion animation, and this movie takes the cake. For the uninitiated, Wallace & Gromit tells the tale of a wacky inventor and his faithful dog, who is a highly intelligent mutt that can walk on his hind legs and operate various contraptions.

In the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace & Gromit protect the town's annual vegetable growing contest by ridding the town's rabbit problem (oh, so cute, you wanna give them a carrot to chew on). However, their humane techniques of capturing these critters, especially the loads from Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter, straight from another stop motion pic The Corpse Bride), led them to a storage problem.

Wallace comes up with a hare-brained (pardon the pun) idea of brainwashing the rabbits into becoming non-vegetarians led to a mysterious appearance of a king-sized rabbit haunting the populace, and it's up to our favourite man-dog team to return things back to normal, while fending off the competition from a certain Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), a poke at a certain Alan Quartermaine.

While the storyline's pretty straightforward, and the mystery of the Were-Rabbit would've been a non-event for most moviegoers, what makes this movie enjoyable is the intricate details of the plasticine used in making the characters and town come alive. What works is not pretending to tell a very intelligent story, but one that is simple, accessible and therefore, entertaining. And THE character that steals the show is Gromit, given quite a bit of screen time and involved in pretty much all the action sequences. Kudos too to the filmmakers for refusing to budge to recast the voice of Wallace.

You must watch this, and I'd give it thumbs up as the animation of the year contender!

P.S. attached to this picture is a short clip from the Penguins of Madagascar. I thought it was pretty hilarious too, and those dudes certainly deserve a picture of their own.

Lilya 4-ever

After 7 days in Vegas, I'm finally back in hot and humid Singapore. Great to be back I must say, after the roti-beef laden diet in the USofA.

Prior to departure, I've submitted a review to movieXclusive called Lilya 4-ever. It's a foreign language movie dealing with the theme of child prostitution. You can click on the logo below to read the review

Meanwhile, stay tuned as I pen my reviews for Wallace and Gromit, and Narnia, which I caught during it's opening day in the US.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I Think You're Looking For Aeon Flux

Hi there Netizens from, RottenTomatoes, DVDForums and various other boards out there

When I first posted my Aeon Flux review, little did I expect it to have made its rounds in the internet boards like it would, and gotten some remarks like it's fake, etc.

Well, let me clarify that I'm not working for Paramount or am in the industry (as some have claimed). I've an average joe schmuck movie goer like any of you who visit my site, to see my opinions of a particular movie.

And yes, Singapore had got a screening of Aeon Flux on 30th Nov 05 1900hrs, in case you're wondering. And I have no idea why any special screenings, previews, for the critics or not, was pulled out from your respective lands.

Though some sites have listed the main website address (thank you very much) and credited me for writing the "First Official Review", I felt that I should point you folks to what you're here for, and you can click on this link to bring you where you're supposed to be... the Aeon Flux Review

Have fun! And leave comments while you're at it yeah? And oh, did I really rave so badly about Charlize Theron looking so good in that role?

Viva Las Vegas!

Hi there, Regulars of ANutshellReview, I'll be away in the land which Bugsy created, where Con Air flew over and knocked that Hard Rock Cafe signboard, where Danny Ocean and his bunch of Merry Men raided the Bellagio, where Nicholas Cage got laid by Elizabeth Shue... you get the drift

So there won't be an update on movies which are released in Singapore over the period when I'm away, like Perhaps Love (though you can always tune in to the reviews from the good folks over at movieXclusive)

But it's still on my watch list, and I'll be catching it once I'm back on 12th Dec, in time for King Kong! (Bought my tickets already btw)

So later friends, but don't expect any Kiss and Tell.... 'cos what happens in Vegas, STAYS in Vegas! ;-)

The Return of King Kong

No, it's not a movie, but an article I've written for movieXclusive as part of the hype to the upcoming Peter Jackson remake of the 1933 movie King Kong.

You can click on the logo below to read what I've got to say about the return of our favourite gorilla monster :-D

And I am so in love with the iconic scene above the Empire State Building!

Chicken Little

The little chicken has descended on our cinema screens, having teased us endlessly with its chicken dance to the tune of Dragostea Din Tei (that numa-ye song) which preceded most movie screenings, in most theatres, until scratches appeared on that reminder to turn off your mobile phone.

Coming from Disney, with its highly featured departure on making 3D animated films with Pixar, I'd consider it quite a good attempt. Watching it in a digital format, the images are clear, sharp, and Chicken Little itself so cuddly, you'd just want to hug it (the soft toy looks a bit out of shape though).

Based on the well known children's tale, an acorn fell on the head of a chicken and it thought the sky was falling, thereby activating its friends to run for safe haven, only to have the fox trick them all into becoming its dinner.

But this is Disney after all, and gruesome scenes like these are censored and reinvented. Here, the original tale is parodied in the beginnning, and the townsfolk reckoned that Chicken Little is a mad little boy, and caused an embarassment to his single parent Father. Being the outcast of school and society, that didn't stop him from being inventive and creative in life (excellent fun sequence I must say), with loyal pals like Runt the fat pig, Fish out of water, and Abby the Ugly Duckling. Besides these characters, I thought it was a good nod to the original tale by incorporating (minor) characters like Turkey Lurkey, Foxy Loxy and Goosey Loosey.

Some might not enjoy Chicken Little, given that we're spoilt with more adult oriented fare like Shrek, or Pixar's always excellent efforts, but I felt it was a refreshing change to watch something simpler. Sure the parodies are there - look out for spoofs on King Kong, the various explicit reference to War of the Worlds, and even Star Wars, but eventually these gave way to its focus on a very basic theme.

That of a child looking for parental acceptance. Chicken Little tries so hard to make his father proud of him, especially after his "Sky is Falling" debacle, that he thought he almost did after a baseball game, but alas, skeletons in the closet return to haunt him, this time, totally unrelated to the original story with the invasion of space aliens. I thought that sequence totally rocked, and was insane, in a good way.

Adam West makes a (voice) cameo as Ace, the Hollywood version of Chicken Litte, which I thought was the best spoof of the entire movie (and brought back memories of his Batman series with his slow, calm voice). Patrick Stewart too lends his voice as a teacher, and given that it's a sheep, the classroom lessons become one of the hardest laughing scene in the movie.

So if you're up for some light entertainment, make it Chicken Little, and no, he does NOT dance to that song, and neither is it played, again. So I do not know why there's so much hate and negative vibes for this movie. Relax! It's about a little chicken trying to find recognition in spite of its size. Give it to him, will ya? What did you say?

A History of Violence

Finally, a movie based on a source material that I've read! Based on the graphic novel of the same name by writer John Wagner and artist Vince Locke, A History of Violence is David Cronenberg's latest film starring Viggo Mortensen (don't know why, but I'm always seeing Elessar in his new character...)

I'm usually ok with film adaptations not sticking closely to the material it's based on, basically because they're on different mediums, and it's a bore to have the movie follow the book word for word, scene for scene. Although this review will be working on the premise that it is a stand alone film, I can't help to notice that, unfortunately, the book told the better story, in terms of characterization (ok, so the movie is relatively short, clocking in about 90mins) and the back story on Tom's (Viggo) history.

If you'd bear with me, I'd highlight some of the major departures from the book - Tom's son now has a beefed up role, Ed Harris's wounded eye is on the wrong side (as shown in the trailers and movie, it's on his left, but it should be the right) and Tom's last name from McKenna has been changed to Stall. The story and ending of Richie has been totally changed. The book has 3 chapters, but it's only the first that the movie dwells upon, and completely changing and summarizing the last 2 chapters.

The introduction is one incredibly long, and slow scene which showcases the 2 killers that Tom dispatches in his diner thereafter. I like this scene which is superior to the book, but somehow it sets the pace of the entire movie - slow and measured.

The story tells of an everyday all American Family, the Stalls, who live in a small town of Millbrook, Indiana, being brought to the limelight when head of the household Tom, guns down 2 violent thugs who robbed his diner and threatening his customers. Tom, a soft-spoken man, becomes the town's hero, and soon after, more thugs from the East Coast come and stalk him and his family.

But is Tom the man he claims he is, or has his past finally caught up with him? Playing Tom, Viggo Mortensen puts up a credible performance as the unassuming Tom Stall, and does an about turn as a violent character of his past. While the theme talks about violence and the debate on the necessity of it, it gets brushed away pretty quick towards the last act, which degenerates this movie into a short actioner.

Needless to say, the psyche of the Family plays an important role between contrasting the relationship between Tom and his wife and kids, which changes as the movie progresses, and that between Tom and Ritchie (completely re-written for the movie), which I thought was a pity.

The R21 rating is for violence (gruesome shots of heads blown off etc), but if they'd stuck to the book, there'll be more scenes like the one with the drill-in-the-leg torture scene, etc. But Cronenberg decided to include sex scenes between Tom and his wife, which figured some cheerleading role play, a 69, and a totally out of character rowdy staircase romp. Hello, this is not a History of Sex. (I know it's Cronenberg, but still)

While I liked this film for its slow pace (no frantic MTV styled quick cuts, or scenes which appear and disappear at the bat of an eyelid), I can't shake off the feeling that this film had the potential to be way, way better. Excellent I do not think so, but it still is an enjoyable movie to catch on a weekday.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Aeon Flux

For the uninitiated, Aeon Flux is based on the series of animated shorts from MTV. Set 400 years into the future, it tells of a surviving utopia of humans after a virus eradicated 99% of the world's human population. The colony now live in a walled environment, under the leadership of the scientist who discovered the cure for the virus.

But with any kind of leadership rule with some hinting of hanky-panky behind the scenes, there will always be that bunch of rebels (like Star Wars, Matrix, etc) ever ready to upset the status quo. Here, the Monicans (as they are known) are avenging those who have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and like James Bond, have cool toys to accompany them on missions. Charlize Theron plays the Monican's top assassin known as Aeon Flux.

And she is just about the best thing in the movie. Full of close ups on that pretty face, and long shots of those incredibly long limbs, Theron waltzes her way through the film with ease, given the character's sheer invulnerability and ability to subdue any opponent without breaking into sweat. She does a few wardrobe changes too (drool), and her hair, now jet black, styled ever so beautifully at all times when she's kicking ass.

The movie rehashes the usual sci-fi themes that have been beaten time and again, that of mortality, and the morality behind immortality. Probably I haven't watched the MTV shorts to understand more of Aeon Flux, but as a standalone movie, you sort of guessed its the usual "bad-to-clone-humans" storyline about one-third into the movie. By the time you're half way through, you would have guessed what's next on the agenda, and how it'll end.

One sore point about Aeon Flux is the lack of a credible, strong villain. The baddies kinda lacked focus with its internal bitching, and double-crossing / switching sides so often, they make villains look so embarassingly fickle minded about their cause. Most of the time though you'll only see lots of foot soldiers in ugly uniforms, dispatched like bowling pins. Also, I felt that the filmmakers sort of changed their minds about the ending - quite clear what had happened, and quite amazed at what happened thereafter (Not wanting to spoil, just look out for a character).

Given the film's length (approx 90 minutes without end credits), very little is said about the abilities of the Monicans, except they make excellent assassins (or at least Aeon is), with abilities that can be enhanced by changing some body (spare) parts. The cool thing that they have is the telepathy amongst the agents, as well as their Handler. Kiss goodbye to meeting rooms, where you can have ultra-cool meetings in your cerebral cortex instead.

And that's where the special effects struck gold. Other than that, and the teleportation effects, for a movie set in the future, it looked relatively low-budgeted, if compared to contemporary sci-fi peers of recent times.

One surprise I got was Pete Postlethwaite's appearance as the Keeper - I thought he looked quite funny in his costume, although his underused character played a pivotal role in the events that unfold.

So except for hardcore Aeon fans, or admirers of Theron, this film could prove to be unappealing given its relatively weak sci-fi story as the backbone. Ooh, I must rave again, Theron looks absolutely gorgeous with her uber-chic hairdo and slinky black lycra.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

[DVD] Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

The first thing that strikes you from this 1964 classic, is the extremely long title! Directed by Stanley Kubrick (2001 Space Odessey, Eyes Wide Shut) and starring the talented Peter Sellers (the Pink Panther franchise), this film touches upon the use of nuclear weapons, or the lack of controls thereof.

In this nuclear age (and during its infancy at the time of the film's release), this question is always in the backburner: Who is given the authority to launch these weapons of mass destruction, and what controls are there to prevent the authority from being abused?

The film begins with one crazed US general being able to order the B52s in the air (Cold War time, these bombers are always in the air to strike targets within 2 hours) to attack the Soviet Union with its nuclear bombs. The US President (Sellers) questions how this is so, and the very plausible reason being, if a sneak attack happens on US Soil and on the US Government, then there must exist a system for the lower echelons to launch retaliatory strikes. Which was what happened, except that the US was not under attack.

Sellers is excellent in his multiple roles as a British officer attached to the crazed US general, the US President himself, and Dr Strangelove, a Nazi scientist turned US Presidential adviser. Now that the US is seen as the aggressor, Sellers turns in a fine serious performance as the President, who has a lot of answering to do to his Soviet counterpart. However, tables are turned when the Soviets confirm the existence of their doomsday device, which on one hand sounds absurd, and on the other, raises the stakes for the world's survival.

What appeals in this movie is that, given its various serious theme, Kubrick manages to inject wicked humour into it effortlessly, like the sexual innuendos galore (the riding of the phallic shaped nuclear bomb, the talk of bodily fluids), yet keeping the audience fully aware of the gravity of the situation.

This is definitely one of my favourite movies of all time. And Seller's performance, need I rave more? (Look out for James Earl Jones' maiden appearance on the big screen too!)

The Code 1 DVD contains loads of features, but of most excellent value are the documentaries, one on Kubrick's claim to fame and his movies, and the other, close to an hour's worth of Dr Stangelove's making of details. You must watch them to appreciate the movie a whole lot more.

Code 1 DVD Extras: 2 documentaries, split screen interview with leads Peter Sellers and George C Scott, Theatrical trailers, Advertising Gallery and very quirky animated menus.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Saw II

I'm such a fan of the original - I like blood and gore, and Saw had one of the more intriguing and sick stories around, which saw the introduction of an original villain in recent memory, Jigsaw. What worked in the first film was the strange premise of 2 seemingly unrelated characters being put in a life and death situation, forced to compromise or die together. Also, the twist at the end was oh-so-nicely done, that it just begs for a sequel to be made.

But I was initially skeptical at how a sequel could top the original Saw. Sure, Jigsaw returns, but are we expecting more of his sick games to beef up the sequel, leading it predictably to more of the same?

Surprisingly, it doesn't. Now, you have a group of 8 persons stuck in an unknown booby-trapped building in which they have to escape from. Needless to say, Jigsaw has the entire plan rigged right from the beginning, except that the audience and the players don't know how, or why. It's reasonable to say that you'll be expecting characters to die one-by-one, in bloody manner (so promised the tagline) befitting the original.

While Jigsaw was mostly heard and not seen in the first movie, here, he's seen and heard in full glory. Donnie Wahlberg plays detective Eric Matthews, who leads his partner Kerry (Dina Meyer) and a group of SWAT to take down Jigsaw. Playing a psychological game with Eric, Jigsaw taunts him while explaining to the audience a little bit of his own background, which tied to elements from Saw.

Fans of the original will squeal with delight when these tiebacks, settings and even a character make an appearance in the sequel. It links the two movies together very nicely, and I wonder why the local distributors didn't have a back to back screening this time, like what they did for Kill Bill.

Alas, the version shown here, despite its NC-16 rating, is a watered down version. Obtaining a decent box office returns would have ruled out the M18 or R21 cut. However, don't let this minor nitty gritty spoil your fun.

At times, this movie hums along and you find predictable elements (at least I thought it was under threat of becoming a so-so mediocre sequel), but the last 10 minutes will leave you at the edge of your seat, and deliver when you least expected it, applying a signature that says "Yes, this is a Saw movie". Another sequel, if there is any, will be in my list of must-watch.


Perhaps this was touted as a romantic comedy with a psycho-analytical character thrown in, kind of like Analyse This and Analyse That. Put the characters in a crazy premise, and see how their relationship work out. Meryl Streep stars as Lisa, a psychologist to Uma Thurman's Rafi, who, unknowingly to both, is dating her son David.

Rafi's just been freshly divorced, and has only Lisa to talk to about her problems, and new life found when she met a new man in her life. She lies about David's age (increased it from 23 to 27), and wonders if a younger man would be suitable for her. You know it's situational comedy time when Lisa finds out about the truth, and discovers that she's caught between maternally protecting her son from a non-Jewish girl and frowning upon their relationship, and the conflict of interest between herself as a professional, and her client.

While the trailers seemed to suggest that most of the film will dwell on this aspect, and provide many laughable moments, this film is actually more serious that it looks in examining two major issues - that of religion, and the age gap between lovers.

David is an aspiring artist who's bumming around in life, until he met Rafi and moves in with her. While initially a novelty - Rafi enjoys and exhilarates about the sex and his manhood to Lisa (uh oh), though through cohabitation she starts to discover that David is still immature in his manners, and this gets personified in a hilarious scene where he prefers to spend more time on his Nintendo. Being 37, she feels her biological clock ticking, and wonders if she would be selfish to impose on David and have him grow up quickly. Given the age gap, it's also about sacrifices that one would make to bridge the difference, especially in expectations from the relationship (though in the beginning, it's all about the sex).

Like most romances, boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy falls out of favour with girl. David has issues with telling his estranged mother about his relationship with Rafi, first because of their 14 year age gap, but more importantly, he knows that religion will play a major part in having her accepted as part of the family. Which makes you wonder about real life romances as well, the role of religion in a relationship, if it has the power to make, or break.

Uma Thurman is already 35, but still looks ravishing on screen, despite a few visible wrinkles. Newcomer (well, TV veteran) Bryan Greenberg holds his own as the young adult David Bloomberg, especially against veteran Meryl Streep.

Prime is a bittersweet tale, and I find it set in realism. Gone are the overplayed lovey-dovey moments, and I welcome the fact that with every relationship there are issues, and the major ones are the obstacles which determine if the relationship can survive, or not.

[DVD] Everlasting Regret

A romance set against the backdrop of a developing Shanghai, Everlasting Regret tells the story of Qiyao, played by Sammi Cheng, who seems to be out of luck with the men she encounters in a 40 year period.

Check out my review at movieXclusive by clicking on the logo below

Thursday, November 24, 2005

[DVD] Empire Records (Remix! Special Fan Edition) (1995)

This quirky take with memorable characters take place in a span of 24 hours in a record store known as Empire Records (Tower Records anyone?) It highlights a day in the life of the store employees, made up of teeny boppers like proverb spewing Lucas (Rory Cochrane), suicidal rebel Jane (Debi Mazar), slutty Gina (Renee Zellweger), smarty pants Corey (Liv Tyler), amongst others.

The story starts off with Lucas taking nine thousand dollars from the cashier at night before he closes the store, and loses it all in a hilarious sequence at Atlantic City. Joe, the co-owner, learns about this, and the recovery of this amount of money forms the running theme in this movie.

Thrown into the plot is an equally hilarious character Rex Manning, a has-been singer who's due at the store for an autograph session with his fans. You'll definitely dig one of his cheesy music videos. Corey has a crush on Rex, and tries to seduce him, but falls flat in embarassment. Of course she's shocked when good friend Gina manages to pull the seduction off, and me-ow, a catfight ensues.

As if the day isn't bogged down with too much activities in serving customers and spinning good music in the store, the employees learn that their beloved Empire Records will be absorbed by Music Town, a larger competitor. Therefore it's also a race against time to preserve the identity of their store.

But it's a feel good movie, with feel good songs sprinkled with the occasional metal, so the ending is somewhat predictable with all threads and sub plots merging into one grand finale. Needless to mention, my primary objective is actually to watch Liv and Renee in one of their earlier movies :-)

Code 1 DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, music videos

[DVD] The Patriot (2000)

Brought to screen by the creative team behind Godzilla, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin bring on board 2 actors of Australian descent (Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger) to tell you a tale of the American Revolutionary War, set in the year 1796, where the British are whipping the Continental soldiers real bad. It doesn't dwell too much on the big picture, but focuses on a smaller details which might stir your interest to read up more on that part of history.

Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a retired soldier, now farmer, who has a war reputation of being a brutal, efficient man of war. He tends to his land and brings up seven children, of whom the eldest, Gabriel Martin (Heath Ledger), goes against his father's wish and enlists in the Continental army to pursue his ideal of freedom and just cause.

As Benjamin warned, this war will be fought not on some faraway place, but at their doorsteps. And true enough, he finds British soldiers on his land, who finds fault with him, murders one of his sons in cold blood, and taking away an injured Gabriel. Enraged, Benjamin massacres an entire platoon of soldiers, and earns himself the nickname "The Ghost", in one of the more intense battle scenes in this movie. It's satisfying to watch how one man (and his two other children) plan an ambush and take on their enemies, while showing no mercy in their quest for revenge.

Drawn reluctantly into the war by his personal unfortunate episode, Benjamin volunteers for service and links up with Gabriel to recruit a band of militia Patriots to take on the well organized British soldiers, using guerrilla tactics to ambush and contain the British in the south, stalling their plans to move up North to crush Washington's troops.

It's interesting to note that the British general Lord Charles Cornwallis (played by Tom Wilkinson) was portrayed as a gentleman who fights fairly in his own opinion, and prides himself in doing so. But when the desperation for success creeps in, he sanctions guerrilla tactics against the civilian townfolk in order to get to the Patriots (sounds like modern day terrorism?). You can't help but laugh at his naivety when being conned by Benjamin in one prisoner exchange scene.

As with most war movies after Saving Private Ryan, blood and gore get a fair bit of air time, and back in the 18th century, war is fought almost face to face. There is the musket, which fires only one shot, then requires a reload, and a long bayonet affixed at the tip for that bayonet fighting in close quarters. But what really is terrifying is the artillery's predecessor - the cannon. Many scenes in this movie show how a simple cannonball can decapitate human limbs, and even rip a human head off the torso. Pretty gruesome stuff.

Running close to three hours long, this movie doesn't bore you with its many subplots about family and relationships, but rather, these elements enhance and bring forth the horrors of war, that everyone out there is a brother, father, son, and highlights that not every war is meant to be for a honourable cause. It could be as simple as fighting for, and with, the person beside you.

Code 3 DVD Extras: 2 Making-of documentaries, many deleted scenes, commentary, An art to film comparison, how the visual effects were produced, trailers, and a photo gallery.

Monday, November 21, 2005


This review is brought to you courtesy of a movieXclusive preview session, otherwise it won't be out so soon!

I was full of hope for this movie, mainly because of its stellar cast of Simon Yam, Samo Hung and Donnie Yen, and the hype up confrontation cum battle between the latter two on screen. With their martial arts background, action fans will be in for a treat. Also, with the string of disappointments so far with Mob Sister and Election (the edited version shown here), I'd thought that this one would've lived up to its potential (no coincidence that Yam was in the other 2 films mentioned).

While I enjoyed the movie and its build up, I felt particularly let down by the ending. The beginning of the movie with its explanation of the background of the Chinese Astrology the film identifies itself with (hence the acronym SPL) would have set the expectation, but perhaps its the execution that I couldn't come to terms with. Then again, it provided one of the better special effects / stunt shots. It could (and I am speculating here) the ending was such cos "I'm the bigger star here".

But I'm digressing. It's a cops-and-robbers story that has set its main focus simply at cops going all out to nab the robber. Simon Yam and his team of maverick cops share their common hatred for Samo Hung, the same way that Kevin Costner's Elliot Ness and his Untouchables do with Robert De Niro's Al Pacino. They try to nail the mobster, but each time he goes scot free. Things get interesting when opportunity presents itself, as morality gets questioned, and highlights the good/bad/ugly, black/white/gray situations that cops sometimes find themselves in with that universal question - Do the means matter to justify the end?

Thrown into the fray is hotshot-ultracool demeanour cop Donnie Yen, who is supposed to take over from Yam as the latter is set to retire over the Father's Day weekend. He too has his loyalties challenged when he learns of the plot that Yam and team pulls. What appeals is the way these characters get sucked into a chain of events that neither can pull out from - does fate/destiny/the stars all determine the chain of events that follow?

The subplots get in the way sometimes, as the pace for the events that follow that weekend gets broken up for sentimentality - Yam's taking care of a little girl smells like Mob Sister's, a cop buddy's love for his estranged daughter bears some resemblance to The Rock's Sean Connery, and Samo Hung's love for his wife and newborn child interrupts tense moments with its dreamy mobile phone ring tone. I was also wondering whether Simon Yam found it deja-vu to be driving Yen around in a car, showing their jurisdiction - seemed too familiar with a similar scene in Election where he was driving Tony Leung around to show him their territory.

Though you might expect to see punches fly between Yen and Hung, and with its M18 rating, you really don't get to see punches until at least 30 minutes into the movie. While the fight between the two upstages Daredevil's (hero versus oversized Kingpin; I'm still amazed by Samo's agility at his age), it's really the battle between Yen and newcomer Jing Wu (an uber-violent knife wielding villain) that is the highlight and makes this movie worth the price of admission. It's fast, slick, violent, and beautifully choreographed, you'd just wish it could've been longer. Violent it is, and uncensored, but it doesn't get too gratuitous with blood. The fight sequences stand out for its stark brutality, and perhaps also for its realism.

You must forgive the acting at times though, as there's nothing to shout about really. Simon Yam is the no-nonsence, but willing to bend the rules cop, Donnie Yen with his over-confident attitude, and Hung just hams it up as the cigar chomping Kingpin of Crime. But perhaps I would like to shout about the introduction of Yam's team to the audience when Yen visited their empty office - it's very retro, with the characters given the spotlight after undergoing a short action sequence in a police raid.

On the whole, the movie works, up till the supposed ending which put me off, and where the final "hurrah" brings it down a little. It has many stylized moments accompanied with an upbeat soundtrack, but it's substance over style that matters sometimes. I'd recommend it for the stylo-mylo moments, the alleyway fight, and the suggestion that not everything can be categorized into black and white.

[DVD] Visionaries

Those who grew up in the 80s will definitely remember this cartoon series. Who would've forgotten the animal transformations and the magical chants to activate powers from their staffs?

For those who want to relive those moments, there's a special collector's edition DVD box set out now! You can click on the movieXclusive logo below to read my review of the box set!

The Undecided

So, here it is, our amateur debut, on its international (read: internet) release!

Courtesy of dgital, you can finally view our 5 min short film which was entered for Fly-By-Night 2005 by clicking on this link

Enjoy, and all comments welcomed!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

[DVD] Mighty Joe Young (1998)

Merian C. Cooper came up with the story of King Kong first, about the 40 foot giant ape which was discovered in Skull Island, then brought back to New York to wreck havoc. He too dreamt up the story of a smaller ape - 15 foot, who lives with his human protector, and brought back to the USofA where he wrecks minor havoc against poachers.

Joe is a gorilla whose parent died under the hands of poachers. Being the target, he in turn was protected and raised by the Young family, namely Jill Young, who lost her mother too on that same faithful night. 12 years later, Jill (Charlize Theron) have to find safe haven for her ape friend Joe, whose day out attacking explorer/researcher Gregg O'Hara (Bill Paxton) brought unwanted attention to itself.

Jill and Gregg form an uneasy alliance as they transport Joe to a man-made habitat in Los Angeles, and the habitat and Joe come under attack from the same poachers 12 years ago, this time wanting revenge.

It's a simpler tale compared to King Kong, but somehow I find the storyline a poor cousin to that of Kong's. It's difficult to live up to classics I suppose, but there are moments enough to elevate the film.

Like the action sequences. The first time we see Joe as an adult gorilla taking on the research team in their jeeps was a sequence to behold. You can see the CGI-ed Joe in its full glory as it gallops(?) with incredible speed and using its wit to overcome its aggressors. The scaling of a ferris wheel felt like a weak homage to Kong's scaling of the Empire State Building. Then again, Joe is about 1/3 the size of Kong, but can it roar as loud too.

Or the moments where Joe actually coos like a baby, when Jill teases him / plays games / sings lullabies. Along the lines of Kong, only a beauty can tame the primal beast.

Mighty Joe Young is a remake of its 1949 debut, which featured a stop-motion animated Joe. And oh, did I mentioned I watched this also because of Charlize Theron? 'Nuff said!

Code 3 DVD: bare bones version.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Just to get it straight, I have not read a single line in a Harry Potter Book. Not that I don't want to, but because I don't have the time. Probably when I finally watched all the movies would I consider and find time to read what JK Rowling had originally intended. So, at least you know that my review is solely based on the cinematic franchise.

And I'm glad to say that this movie had lived up to its hype of being darker and more adult. Gone are the muggles (hardly see any now) which opened each HP movie before (with added comedy, now thrown out), and you're plunged straight into the thick of action with the Quidditch World Cup. Which turns into a massacre of sorts, signalling the inevitable of the evil Lord Voldemort.

Not that the muggles are left out on purpose, but if you had taken a look at this book's length, it's no surprise that unnecessary subplots need not get translated to screen. Stick with the main plot, and trim it down to a more palatable 2hr 45min movie. But with so much going on screen, you will hardly realize the length of time in which you butt is on a cinema seat.

So what's the main plot you say? It's the Tri-Wizards tournament, a potentially deadly series of 3 games which pit the skills of the wizards from 3 schools against each other. The winner will be crowned with eternal glory. But something seemed strange when Harry Potter somehow got nominated by the Goblet of Fire to participate, thus bringing the number of contestants to 4, and breaking the age limit set in this tournament. As usual, there is always a major mystery that runs throughout the movie - the motive behind his nomination and taking part in the Tri-Wizards tournament, which gets solved in the end with the introduction of a twist (which may not be a twist for those who've read the books).

So while Harry is surprised and becomes the reluctant hero, he has to grapple with first loves and crushes, while trying to convince best friend Ron that it wasn't his intention to gain eternal glory and therefore rigged his nomination for the tournament.

Great care is given to make the tournament come alive with its special effects, and to that, it's faultless. While we didn't see the other dragons in action, the Hungarian species (no dragons were harmed in the making of this movie, says the end credits) which challenged Potter could be one of the best action sequences in Goblet of Fire. However, with the intense focus on this, something's gotta give way, and sadly, it's the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione. Not that they don't get to interact, but the camaraderie and the bickering these folks endeared themselves to are somehow sorely missed. Goblet of Fire seemed more like a one-man show (Harry Potter's), while the other two become peripheral characters. Quite a pity.

But the actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint still delivered, and with them growing up in real time, adds a dimension of maturity to the cult characters they play. So much is said about Radcliffe's half nude scene (with a character from a past movie), and of Cho Chang, but what probably iced the cake was Ralph Fiennes' appearance as Lord Voldemort. One word - chilling!

One scene did irk me though, and that is the careless editing at the prom/ball scene. One minute Harry and Ron were sulking at the table, with Hermione obviously in cloud nine with the company of Viktor Krum, the next minute they're bickering and she's crying. While I know what they are trying to get at, and hint at a possible jealousy between Ron and Hermione, the editing was poorly done and was just jarring, disrupting the pace and flow. I didn't figure why they would want to scrimp on that scene, what's a few minutes more in a long movie, or they could take it out altogether.

Nonetheless, I dare say this is the best Harry Potter movie to date, though some would disagree with my opinion that the movies have seemed to better itself with each sequel. Bring on the Order of the Phoenix!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Making of "The Undecided"

As one of my friends put it, it's part-action, part-thriller, part-sci-fi, part-comedy. It's all that and more actually, because what do you expect when you put 4 film nuts together?

Fly By Night 2005 SponsorsIt's Finally Here!

A whole lotta ideas, that's what! It was a crazy 40 hours, which led to the birth of our maiden (virgin?) short film effort aptly called, The Undecided. Here's my take on the journey, and be sure to check out my fellow collaborators blogs: dgital, massb and overider for their take on the same spate of events too

Friday 11 Nov 05 1930hrs

The announcement was made at the Substation's Guiness Theatre, and the theme for this year's Fly By Night Video Challenge 2005 was

The Theme^#&$*)

The OrganizersTan Pin Pin and Yuni Hadi

Yes, you saw that right. It's pretty insane don't you think? You could interpret it literally, figuratively, translate it to numbers, translate it to words, read it vertically, treat it as a vulgarity, the possibilities are endless.

Ready To Roll!Raring to Go!

So what did we do?

Fly By Night Instructions!Gotta Read Instructions!

Friday 11 Nov 05 2000hrs

We went for dinner lah! Hungry after a day at work, we adjourned to Plaza Singapura and tried out the fishy restaurant at MarketPlace. Can't work on an empty stomach right?

But First. Dinner Beckonsmassb Shocked By Amount of Food!

Sure we brainstormed as well, over a meal of fish-and-chips, deep fried shrimps and prawns, while being in awe at the blowtorch used to cook the seafood platter, and learning something about diving from overider. And oh, we met massb's ex too, labelled the Psycho-Babe, which somehow crept into our brainstorming ideas.

Friday 11 Nov 05 2100hrs

I Smell Starbucks CoffeeCoffee Smells...

Being chased out after finishing our dinner, we needed somewhere quiet to continue brainstorming. Starbucks at Plaza Sing didn't make it, so somehow we ventured to Park Mall's Olio. But since it closes at 2230hrs, we had to make do at the benches outside Park Mall.

We Really Need CoffeeThe Dazed and the Wide Awake

Ideas were thrown about, discussed, and thrown out the window faster that you can say Fly-By-Night. It's pretty amazing, that we started off with wanting to do serious drama, but ended up with what we finally had. We did a vote of the ideas thought up over dinner, and eliminated the list of possibles to the list of probables by doing a 4-man vote.

Propositioning?How Much? :-P

It was pretty difficult, as we had different ideas and had to weigh the practicality of each. Thus, science fiction was discarded, together with ordinary ideas like the chronicles of a boy late for his exams. We actually had Cleopatra Wong agreeing in principle to help us out in our effort, but given that we didn't know the general direction of our story, we might not (and in the end didn't) need to enlist her help. If you're reading this Cleo, thanks for agreeing to help us out! Given this experience under our belt, we might need to next year if you'd like! :-)

massb Proving a Plot Pointmassb Scaling Lamp Post!

The clock was ticking away, and we were getting nowhere, though it doesn't necessary mean it was a bore. Many ideas were considered, but somehow we managed to poke loopholes in them as we dwelled deeper into the story. It's tough, coming up with a credible yet fun story, and having it easy to film.

Friday 11 Nov 05 2330hrs

We thought we were nearly there, and at this moment, we were running amok with a story about a relationship, about a note, a suicide note, a library, a note in the book in the library, a twist in the story, a supernatural element, a montage... wow!

But we poked at the loopholes and threw it aside. Hmm.... we still didn't have a shooting script at this point, let alone a broad outline. We still had the ideas coming, and had to take turns to elaborate on them.

How Now Brown Cows? Still Clueless!Is There No Script?!

And then, at the level of exasperation, we thought, it would have been great to have filmed what we just gone through - the endless "arguments" and the horsing around. And then it struck us.

We could do a simple mockumentary showcasing the Organizers and the Contestants' point of view of the entire event. Thrown in would be montages of various genres of films, which would allow us to experiment and have loads of fun experimenting.

So by Saturday 12 Nov 0030hrs, we headed home, but only with a broad outline, and nothing more. We decided that we can fill in the blanks as we moved along later, and since massb had drama sessions in the morning, overider, dgital and myself would meet up at 1000hrs to start our project.

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1030hrs

So We Started The Day Early...Road Trip!

Make that 1030hrs, and overider picked us up in his cool vehicle (yes overider, you da man! Our driver cum actor cum cameraman cum storyteller cum everything else, then again, most of us were too, except for the driving bit :-) where we headed for...

... With Breakfast From McDonald'sHappy Meals!

MacDonald's for breakfast - King Albert Park. Again, we can't work on an empty stomach eh? And we discovered overider had chalked up close to 4000 points to redeem burgers for a whole year! WOW!

It's pretty serene at this point of time, we didn't feel compelled to buckle under pressure and produce some form of script. We still had an outline, a broad one at that, but what we did was to surf the net for movie gossips at joblo's

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1200hrs

Finally massb called and woke us from our lethargy, and it's time to pick him up to venture into film production proper, and dgital's workplace. It's an office somewhere in the west, which provided us with great interiors, and later, fantastic rooftop and carpark for probably one of our best and cheesiest moments.

But first, we realized that overider's Toyota had its fuel tank showing E, and in no way do we want to experience the limits of Toyota's reputable fuel consumption. While at the nearest petrol kiosk, we saw overider's secret family!

And Met With Overider's So romantic, hold hand somemore leh!

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1300hrs

Finally, we had an office space to shoot something, and it's not before long we had to change into our wardrobe - one formal attire for an office look, and the other an informal attire for our contestants look.

We Should Have Gone With The Full MontyI tell ya we should spoof the Full Monty!

We did film quite a lot of footage in this setting, with crazy antics like hoisting tripods and 360 degree camera angles. Our nerves were calmed once we shot our first clip, but thought that it could improve a whole lot more. There were reshoots, and reshoots, with various ideas thrown in each time before we shot. It's kinda amazing that we developed and discussed the scene first, then proceeded to shoot them, just like that. Still no script. Ain't that tough after all Wong Kar Wai :-D

Low Budget War of the Worldsmassb and the alien.. ermm.. camera tripod

It's pretty mundane stuff that we hacked up for the organizer's bit, basically just to poke fun at them. However, we seemed to dwell a hell lot of time here, probably just getting into the groove of things. One thing's for sure, we got more comfortable in front of the camera. I was a bit conscious at first, looking into the camera when delivering my lines, but as it went on, I didn't even knew it existed.

Or Brokeback Mountain!No, we ain't touching R21 material!

Tony Jaa!

This was cut off from the final product, but we had myself dissing overider after he did that stunt kick on me and massb, and we had overider proclaiming himself to be better than Jaa. Pretty fun time we had shooting this sequence, the Kick which was preserved in the filmlet. Massb also improvised with his dramatic falling over the chair stunt, and we had to reshoot the entire scene again because of the lighting conditions - this is not gonna be the first time we reshot or rearrange stuff due to the (poor) light.

We enjoyed ourselves so much with filming action sequences, we decided to do 2 more before embarking on our location shoots, not all of which we went, but these were some that were planned: Esplanade, Labrador Park, WWI and WWII Memorials, National Library, Toys R US, Registry of Marriages, Fort Canning, and dgital's place.

Carpark Crime

So we went back to the carpark, and created a quick murder scene, with detectives overlooking the body of a slain man. Overider somehow came into the shot, and the scene in which you see, was it. The knife that you thought you saw, was actually my red pen. :-P And no, no overiders were harmed in the making of the scene :-P

Rooftop Rumble

This was unbelievable - we thought of this insane scene where overider will try and ram me and massb with his Toyota. We did film the discussion for this scene, so perhaps it'll go into the making-of documentary.

The Car That Tried To Knock Us DownVrrrroooooooommm....

So massb and I were coming out from a stairwell, and just as the vehicle approached at "top speed", we had to fling ourselves away from danger. Not bad eh? All action, with no stunt double leh! But we weren't satisfied, and filmed what you saw in the scene later, with me and overider Vs massb in a car toolkit Vs yellow umbrella fight. Sort of. The amazing thing was we only did it in two takes - one as a rehearsal on what we're gonna say and do, and the other with the camera rolling. Not bad, for amateurs.

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1630hrs

It was hot hot hot at the rooftop, so overider's car gave us airconditioned comfort as we made our way to the next destination, Labrador Park, to make use of the cannon monuments for our War scene. Along the way, I think the sky was unhappy and spat on overider's windscreen. Twice.

A Change of Environment Might Help!So, where are we heading?

Only overider and dgital brought along their No.4 as part of their wardrobe change, so naturally they were casted in starring roles. You can see that from the final footage, the camera was trying hard to take shots above the waist, cos the bottoms were jeans! And all we had was one helmet and one jockey cap, but good enough to make it seem convincing.

Of Guns and Runs

It's like kids playing at the playground, with imagination running wild. Here, overider had to imagine himself putting rounds into the big cannon, while dgital had to steer the gun to the right direction. Perhaps the most outrageous moment was to have them imagine they had fired the gun - it's in the final footage, it's madness I tell ya! :-D

Looks Like This is a Job For...One of those stylo publicity stills

Our Boys In Green! Fire In The Hole!Fire in the Hole!

The next sequence was to have the two of them (plus me, the camera man) run up some forest slope. We only did two takes, one which had some dramatic light shining down on our soldiers, and overider somehoe blocking dgital towards the end (running in a single file), while the other had overider run off screen, and right into a tree (damn, too bad didn't capture this moment!)

'ello! Anyone There?!Don't Try That At Home Kids!

There's a deleted scene here, which showed massb sulking as he didn't get a chance to play soldier. Pretty cute, with a piece of leaf rebounding to poke his eye haha!

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1730hrs - It's Time To Get Married

Running + Slope + Afternoon = loads of sweat. It was almost evening when we made it out of Labrador Park, and along the way, stole a footage of a groom and bride while they were posing in front of some door. Thanks, whoever you are!

And it was another long drive to ROM, where we shot a clip of massb awaiting his Juliet. Actually it's an excuse for us to reminisce about this cute chick we saw yesterday at substation :-P

Wherefore Art Thou Juliet?Seriously Waiting for his Beau...

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1815hrs

It was a quick journey back to the Substation to film the competitors portion of rushing out of the Guiness Theatre, to serve as a kind of transition / introduction to the characters. A big black mercedes was parked right in front of the entrance, and we were racing against time to shoot this before night falls.

No choice, had to park the park slightly in front of the entrance, and do the shoot. It was tough as there were curious passers-by who got into the camera frame, but before we can say "SIO AH SIAM AH", we finally completed what we set out to do here.

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1815hrs

Our stomachs were growling, so it's off to the revamped Marina Square for a dinner of...

Chicken Fuel for DinnerKFC!

It's also ample opportunity for us to rest our tired legs, and to recharge. We noticed a dark alleyway at the carpark that we earmarked for a possible shoot, but that was not to be. But we had an Ed Wood moment of inspiration, to do a UFO invasion over the Esplanade. Here, you see overider with our UFO prototype:

Richard and his New Toy UFO"Now all you need to do is to attach strings..."

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1900hrs

There were many purposes going to the Esplanade - we can visit our friends at PopCornPop and shamelessly borrow their Star Wars Lightsabres for our shoot, go to the Library to return our DVDs, or shoot something in the library. We didn't do the first one cos we're not shameless enough. We did the second one cos if we didn't we'll get fined, and the third one, we didn't dare risk it because of the warning sign posted at the door which says no photography or videography.

But we did go to the rooftop of the Esplanade, twice. The first time we had chanced upon an ongoing show at the ground floor, where 2 female fighters were duking it out with their swords, sparks and all, to the crowd's delight. We had wanted to use the footage, but in the end it will become a deleted scene.

We had a mini interval leaving the rooftop and chancing upon an extremely huge butt crack. What can we do? It was staring at us right in the face! Tsk, the hipster jeans these days...

Toilet Got Hantu Leh

And we returned to shoot a horror sequence at the Esplanade roof male toilet. We thought we were in luck when we checked the cleaning schedule - the cleaner just left, therefore the toilets are clean enough for us to film up close.

Alas, there are a number of users who popped in and out, and we had to somehow block, and make it uncomfortable (by staring and telepathically asking if they had finished with their business) for them so that they don't linger on too long to either
1. think we were up to hanky panky in the toilet - there were 2 guys in a cubicle :-P
2. alert security

But of course, after the shoot, overider had the urge to utilize the toilet bowl for real...

Saturday 12 Nov 05 1945hrs

We needed the dialogue scene for the competitors, and instead of wasting more time going back to where we started it all - outside Park Mall's Olio Dome, we made do with the foyer of the Esplanade theatres.

And we didn't expect to be interrupted big time by the bloody ringing of the bell and announcement that the show (for that night) was about to start (at 2000hrs). So we had to shoot-stop-shoot-stop-rip-out-hair-swear-shoot-stop. Until all the paying patrons are safely inside the theatres enjoying whatever production was on stage.

It was a musical chair moment as we had 4 of us, but only a 180 degree angle which was properly lit, so we had to move about to be visible on screen. I think many at the lobby thought there were 4 mad persons who can't decide where to sit.

Also deleted was a scene in which I gave our Romance idea a thumbs down :-P

And at this point, we realize that we were threading on thin ice when the battery of the camera was down to about 25%, and here's the best part - the camera doesn't have a DC inlet, and the charger is with dgital's friend! Bless that friend though, cos she had to cut short her outing on a Saturday evening just to be at home to pass us the charger. We owe you one!

Saturday 12 Nov 05 2030hrs

So it's back to Marina Square where the car was parked, and off to shoot our Horror clip at a block of HDB flats opposite massb's place in the East. We had to choose a correct block - those upgraded ones where the lifts have the look-in windows. Why? Cos we wanna reverse a Ju-On shot, a passenger in the lift, with the "ghost" staring in.

You'll never believe the difficulty in getting this done. For starters we gotta scrimp on the battery life, meaning on-off-on-off-on-off the camera just to enable us to make that perfect shot.

Second, we had to choose the busiest block, and the lift continuously got used by the residents! We aren't gonna scare their wits out, so we had to start-stop-start-opps-someone-came-into-the-lift-oh-they're-gone-start-stop. dgital and I thought we spend the longest time, EVAR!, riding in a lift, from ground to level 16, down and up and back again.

And I think the spirits were against us too... as the shot we wanted somehow had a reflection of me holding the camera, and of dgital standing next to me, preparing to be spooked. Here's the best bit - what you see in the final product, was a combination of rejected film + static shots (due to battery dying). The battery did give up at the final moment, but that's when we decided that principle photography was over.

Saturday 12 Nov 05 2200hrs

Really Flying Into The Night - It's Tough Work!Road Trip at Night

It was to dgital's place for editing, but without battery, it's gonna be near impossible to get the clips uploaded in full. We tried, but it died on us halfway. So in the meantime while waiting for dgital's friend to get home, and for overider to arrive her place to pick it up, we ogled at dgital's DVD collection, and were in the warm hospitality of his folks - fueled ourselves with food and drink :D

So by 2330hrs, overider had already gone off (I think he clocked maximum mileage for a day) to fetch loads of people, massb and I decided to go home, shower, rest, before coming back again to dgital's place to do the editing at 2am.

Sunday 13 Nov 05 0100hrs

dgital tried to call me, but I was already in comatose state. Woke up at 0130hrs, and got updates from massb in a cab on the way to dgital's place, that overider got lost in Punggol, and dgital had to make a trip to his friend's place to pick up the charger. (Overider on the road the whole day and night!) And we've got at least an hour to spare for the batteries to charge to a reasonable level.

Sunday 13 Nov 05 0200-0500hrs

It's a blur during these hours - dgital and myself editing the film (actually more dgital than me, I was the eye power :P), and massb going through a selection of music.

Fact is, I didn't know when overider arrived - it was a surreal moment, burning from lack of sleep, to the insane rush of editing. Sometime within these hours, we decided to continue with our Signs spoof, and went creative with aluminium foil.

Forgive Me For I Have Sinned...Overider Dishing Out Free Blessings...

Editing was a pain though - software couldn't work, and we had to rely on Microsoft's Movie Maker (Bill Gates gonna be proud), some clips which we wanted ended up on the virtual floor - which we later realized, almost all our "organizers" scenes were edited out :(

Do Not Disturb - Editor At WorkChop-Cut-Paste!

Sunday 13 Nov 05 0600hrs

Finally, we got down to our last shot for the day - the classic Signs spoof which somehow made its way to unofficially represent our short film. And that last bit where overider turned to look at massb, was unrehearsed. I dunno why, but somehow overider adds his nuances at the right moments, at the right places! :D

Protection From Mind Reading Aliens!

After which it was a mad rush to re-edit the film, and at this time we were suffering from lethargy, but we had to persevere. Wonder how the other teams were doing.

Ultraman Doesn't Suffer From Lack of Sleep!Should've Included an Ultraman Vs Godzilla spoof too...

Sunday 13 Nov 05 0700hrs

It was so kind of dgital's folks again, as they had prepared breakfast for us (wow!). Adding music was a challenge too, but we managed to find some appropriate music to mesh in, like the A-Team theme, parts of 2046 (which was also used for the 2 beat / cut-scene in the lift horror film), and Green Hornet for overider's Tony-Jaa-ish moment. I think this was probably the best bits. Music fuels the soul, and we had a good time listening to some gems.

But wait! There's more! We actually forgotten about the ending we wanna shoot, so dgital had to don his formal attire once again to complete what we had set out to do. So finally, after 36 hours, we were done.

Sunday 13 Nov 05 1000hrs

Almost. It was a pain rendering the movie back to DV format. There were some unexplained skips that threatened our short film, and the second time, the battery ran out again and aborted the process. We were hinging on the last rendering, do or die, to make it. (And we thought it was the quality of tape that had a part to play too) :P

Sunday 13 Nov 05 1215hrs

We were finally out the door, overider and I, to submit our work. Burned a CD too in record time containing the film and some production stills, and off the the Substation - we just had to get there by 1300hrs, or all will be lost.

The GoodsAre We So Proud of This!

We arrived at 1245hrs, and submitted our entry just before the eventual winner did. Hey, it came with a boxset leh!
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