Saturday, April 30, 2005


Divergence is the latest crime thriller to come out of Hong Kong's film industry, and all films of this genre will nonetheless be compared with the grand-daddy of them all - Infernal Affairs, which set a very high bar. Given that this film is produced by the same team, you'd expect the same high standards. While production values are similar, I'd leave it to you to decide the end verdict.

If you're expecting a strong cops and robbers storyline, then you might be disappointed. This film is heavy on relationships between the characters, their degrees of separation, and their duality. Which may not be a bad thing, but I find the dwelling on sappy moments and flashbacks a bit overboard, and at times, the audience was laughing at the improbability of these moments.

This movie unites Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng together for the big screen after the comic fantasy movie Stormriders. Kwok plays a cop who lost his girlfriend under mysterious circumstances 10 years ago, and in the first 10 minutes, lost a key witness to a sniper, played by Daniel Wu, who always seem to be playing nothing but baddie roles these days. However, Wu's sniper character knows that in his career, he is both the hunter, and the hunted, and at times want to prove to Kwok that he makes a better cop. Ekin Cheng's a lawyer who defends the innocent, or so it seems. While he's aware that his clients are sometimes guilty, is he idly standing by?

Thrown into the mix are characters like Cheng's wife, played by the lovely Angelica Lee, who bears a strong resemblance to Kwok's girl, and thus making him a stalker of sorts, Eric Tsang as an underused pathologist, Ning Jing (the only movie I saw her in was the remake of Shanghai Grand) as a bald assassin agent, and Lo Kar Leung as Cheng's client who has shady underworld links and a pop star son, who gets kidnapped.

At times you might feel that the movie plods along, while you might already have been able to unravel the mystery mid-way. This could be due to the sappy moments I mentioned earlier, and taking centerstage is how Kwok's cop character refuses to give up looking for his girlfriend. You can understand how the character feels if you're in the same shoes - loving someone so deeply, and yet having zero closure. And when you think you see her again - is it really her, or had amnesia played a part, or has she deliberately forgotten the past?

While the audience found the scene of revelation and Kwok's reaction to it funny, I felt the opposite - sometimes when the truth is revealed and you can't handle it, you shut down. Really. Trust me, I know. So if I were in his shoes, that'll probably be what will happen to me too.

However, this film does have moments which can iconify it (sort of like the Tony-Leung-pointing-a-gun-at-Andy-Lau's-head moment in Infernal Affairs). The "long run to the fish market" scene is tense, and so is the finale where 3 characters have a standoff, which actually yanked the rug off my feet.

I felt that if this film focused tightly on the plot, and lose some peripheral characters, it might just live up to its potential, and I don't think we'll see any sequels to this one.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Watching this film is like being with your current beau and yet constantly reminded of your ex. We all know that Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is not the xXx in this show, and he's being replaced by Darius Stone (Ice Cube). Heck, I think the producers make the mistake of killing Xander Cage - mentioned in the movie as being killed in action in Bora Bora, Afghanistan, because in my opinion his character makes an excellent action hero.

That's reminiscence number one - being reminded of what could have been if the charismatic Vin Diesel continued for this film. Throughout the film, we see some similarities with Xanda or scenes from the original xXx. Like a scene in a diner with Gibbons (good ol mo-fo Samuel L Jackson, who's given more screen time this time around), a sea-craft ride down a river, wisecracks on the moniker xXx ("I sound like a porn star"), the reluctance of being drawn into the game of cloak and daggers, and (mis)quoting one of my favourite lines in the original - "The things I would do for my country"!

But while Xander Cage's an extreme sportsperson, Darius Stone is more "in your face", given his military background in covert ops, with a penchant for some fries and a shake. The original film's delivery is more subtle, more elegant, while this one's more direct and in a way, nothing different from another action flick.

The action is standard Hollywood-blow-em-up fest, right from the beginning and never lets up throughout the film. Everything's bigger (M1 Abrams Tank, Aircraft Carrier, Choppers), noisier (guns and explosions everywhere) and faster (modified cars and humongous wheels). No doubt the movie looks good given that the action pieces looks expensive, and effects well done by Industrial Light and Magic.

Did I mention the girls? We get 2 in this one, but their roles are merely decorative, unlike Asia Argento's meatier and eye-"candier" chick role in xXx1. And the villains are your good old one-dimensional foes who tend to lapse into monologues, and I feel that Willem Dafoe is a bit underutilized.

My only gripe with this film is that xXx has to rely on his boyz n the hood - it's actually quite hilarious to see street gangs take on military might, "carjacking" a tank and actually winning. Not too credible, but hey, it's only a movie.

Did you know this film is called "xXx: State of the Union" in the US (referring to the President's State of the Union Address, which forms the finale), but I guess for those outside who don't care less about US politics, we're pretty ok with the dumbed-down title of "xXx2: The Next Level" - makes it sound like some arcade game.

So buckle up and enjoy the ride, and if this is proven as popular as the original, we might see xXx3 (given the setting up of a sequel at the end), and the possibility of seeing a new face as the new xXx. Now if the producers just stop killing them, I'd think it's pretty cool to see a couple of xXxs teaming up. Ooh... the potential for more mayhem!

"Wars come and go, but my soldiers are eternal" - 2Pac

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Land of Plenty

This is my maiden foray into the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF), and my first review of a film featured in the SIFF.

The film tells a story of Lana, who is going to LA after her mother passed away, in search of her uncle. She has been travelling the world with her missionary father, and her last place of stay had been Tel Aviv. While we are shown the glistening skyline of LA, we are soon shown the poverty zone, and how Lana feels about leaving one warzone into another, that the war against poverty is not so much different from the world she had left.

Her uncle Paul, a Vietnam war veteran exposed to the infamous Agent Orange, is now a self-possessed vigilante, playing his overly zealous part in homeland security, rigging his van into a one-stop travelling security surveillance van. (Heck, even his handphone ringtone is the national anthem!) He randomly tails people deemed suspicious to him, and things get interesting when a man of Arab descent is spotted by him buying boxes of chemicals (the irony of making a dirty bomb from a cleaning agent) and later on, being gunned down by unknown suspects.

To reach out to Paul, Lana had to play along at times, to get Paul to open up to her, as their initial meeting isn't really cordial, and it is of course difficult to strike up family conversation with relatives you have hardly seen all this while. But things take a turn when Paul finally wakes up to reality, and his futile investigative effort all comes crashing down for him.

While there is little drastic character development, it is the subtle character representation that is key in this film. Paul represents the "ra-ra america", those who are bent on protecting the homeland at all costs, those who are inept in collecting facts (yeah, there's a dumpster diving scene which rocked) and making decisions based on faulty intelligence. Lana, on the other hand, represents the rest of the world. The compassionate world, reaching out to diversity and trying their best in understanding this difference. It is no surprise that the filmmakers showcase the different attitudes that these 2 characters exude towards a Pakistani whom they meet towards the end.

Good music is peppered throughout the movie, and I always appreciate films that introduce appropriate tunes for each scene that punctuates the entire atmosphere beautifully (Think Cameron Crowe movies). And one poignant line in the film stuck to me as the film begins in LA and ends in Ground Zero, NY - if we can hear the 3000 souls asking us not to use their name in vain, as an excuse to kill more people.

For those in Singapore who wish to catch this film, I don't think there is a repeat screening, so you might have to catch it on discs. And by the way, the lead actress looks like a cross between Audrey Tautou and Liv Tyler - so there.


Director Danny Boyle is known for his stylish films in Trainspotting and 28 Days Later. While the former talks about the evil of drugs, Millions talks about the root of all evil - Money. Lots of it. To be exact, close to 300 British pounds.

This film is about taking and using money that is not yours, the morality behind that issue, and the exploration if sudden wealth can change a person's attitude. It also looks at spending large amounts of money (and the difficulty thereof) in a short span of time, as this film is set against a backdrop of the British Pound no longer being legal tender after 7 days, given the British's decision to use the Eurodollar.

Damian Cunningham is a young boy who's missing his mother, who just passed away, and whom we don't get to see until the end of the film (in a very touching scene). He has been living in his own imaginary world since, reading about and dreaming about talking to Saints, asking them if they had met or known about his mom in heaven. Many times, we look at this world through the eyes of this innocent boy, especially when the huge sack of money literally fell onto him, and he thinks that it is a gift from God as compensation for taking his mom.

And that's when the story picks up. His brother Anthony suggested they keep quiet about the finding - reason being the government will tax most of it away, and while Anthony decides to ham it up, using the money to buy friends and cronies, Damian developed a want to help the poor - from people in the street, to Mormons (the punching bag for some major gags in the film, and the hypocrisy of it all), to Africans in need of food, water and shelter, and absolute strangers, which is of course, dangerous when the "real owner" of the bag of money come knocking at the door.

Given the dilemma of spending, how do you want to do it? Invest in real estate? Foreign Exchange? (The savvy Anthony came up with those suggestions, and seeing it on screen is hilarious). Save it in a bank? And given your want to help others, how do you do so without endangering yourself, which Damian

However, when you realise that the money is not Godsent, but robbed while en route to the incinerator (one of the many interesting scenes in this film is the heist), what do you do next? Do you continue spending it? Or give it up? Do you spend the money as a form of compensation for your house getting ransacked by burglars looking for the loot?

Damian Cunningham is played by Alexander Etel, and you can't help think he's the British's answer to McCauley Culkin at his age. He brings forth pure innocence as Damian, and is absolutely hilarious in his dealings with his imaginary Saints (complete with halos).

And the saints go marching on - the highlight of which is St Peter. Listen carefully to the dialogue, as he makes subtle digs into parables and the truth behind a certain miracle - I cracked up at that one.

This film isn't complete without the complementary baddie and the uptight community policeman, and also gives the term social engineering a whole new perspective (even practised by the young!). With Danny Boyle's stylistic editing and beautiful shots of transitions and imaginary situations to complement the social commentary, this could probably be in contention as one of the best films of 2005.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Interpreter

This film is filled with Oscar winners, from the Director Sydney Pollack, to the two main leads in Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. However, taking centerstage is the UN building in New York, where for the first time, filmmakers are allowed into its halls and corridors, rather than relying on soundstages and backlots to create the movie magic. I have a friend who's working there, and of course whenever the building is on screen, my eyes were peeled.

Naturally, the way Security is portrayed in the film got my interest as well, kinda like an occupational hazard, not that I am dealing with the high level stuff, but the same principles apply. Probably I'm the only one getting kicks from watching surveillance, security surveys, threat assessments, background checks, intelligence gathering, etc. Though I could say what they put on screen is plausible, there was one scene in the beginning that had me shaking my head to (i.e. major plothole, unlikely possible in real life), but has to happen anyway to facilitate the plot.

And that's when we have Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) overhearing voices in the General Assembly talking about assassinating a visiting dignitary at the UN, and sparks off a cat and mouse game with her protector, Secret Service Agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) and team racing against time to discover who the perpertrators of the plot is, try to stop it from happening on US soil, and protecting their sole witness Silvia. But is she hiding something from the investigators? Given her constant suspicious behaviour, it surely seems there is more to the interpreter than meets the eye.

In a political thriller like this, there is no lack of showcasing bureaucracy, and politics amongst the various stakeholders, be they UN General Assembly, Security Council, etc. The current terrorism climate also rings close in this film, and it serves as a reminder to the audience that whoever out there hatching these diabolical plots, sad to say, hold the upperhand as to where and when to strike if we don't stay vigilant. However, US audiences might find the act shown in the movie too close for comfort.

The pacing's comfortable, though at times threading close to sappy flashbacks, but when things heat up, they really get tense. IF you're a fan of tense moments like what Se7en offered, this show offers a few which will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Sean Penn, if not the fine actor he is, could easily own the world weary cop role, as do Bruce Willis or even Al Pacino. But he gives his character an additional edge, on one hand brooding over the death of his adulterous wife, and on the other trying to figure out and protect his charge. Nicole Kidman, as the interpreter, brings about a tough-as-cookie yet extremely vulnerable woman in Silvia Broome with an accent to boot, and hey, it works for me (read: eye candy).

Some may find the plot a tad confusing, given the language used (which calls for an interpretation, sometimes hard to listen in to the English portion), and uncommon character names (hey, it's the UN), but hang in there, and you'll enjoy this film as much as I did.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

What will make a man snap, go out of control, and want to kill the President, by flying an airplane right into the White House? While the setting of this tale is pre-911, watching it in a post-911 era does send some unnerving chills down your spine.

Life is bad for Sam Bicke. His American Dream is falling apart, starting with his family. He is separated from his wife, and she has custody of their 3 children. She has obviously moved on, and is unhappy whenever Sam visits her and the children, and even more angry when he sees her at her workplace.

His moral values clashes with company culture - as a salesman he is expected to make the occassional white lie to sell products. But he subscribes to the moral belief that one should tell the truth, even in business. Needless to say, his quota is always at the bottom rung, and gets chided and belittled by fellow colleagues and his boss.

He tries to start his own business, but is stuck with insane bureaucracy and suspected racism. At one stage he steals from his brother, who's also in the same line of business (rubber tyres), and that plunged their blood relations even further down the gutter.

Heck, even his political ideology he identifies with the Black Panthers also turn inconsequential, as the group gets clamped down.

Frustrated by the current state of his being, he finally puts the blame on the "system", as we see Richard Nixon on tv screens, giving his political speeches in his scandal laden presidency. Sam finally decides to take matters into his own hand to not just be a grain of sand on the beach, and this leads to an explosive ending where the pace of the film quickens.

Sean Penn is absolutely brilliant, and is able to carry the entire weight of this film on his own shoulders. Playing a man with many facades and moods, he brings Sam Bicke to life with ease with his repetoire of acting skills. His co-stars put up commendable performances, albeit short ones . (Can't get enough of Don Cheadle after his excellent Hotel Rwanda).

I checked out this show in preparation of his other film The Interpreter, with yet another Australian actress (His 21 Grams co-star Naomi Watts in this one, and Nicole Kidman in the other... lucky fella!), so if you want to watch Sean showcase his acting ability in a recent non-mainstream film, you can consider this.

The Hidden Blade

The Hidden Blade refers to a dreaded samurai sword skill, which you will see only towards the end of the film. Folks, who like me initially thought that this is one of the usual samurai slugfest, may be disappointed that it's not. But like mentioned in the movie, killing is only a last resort, and even samurais themselves are fearful of death in duels.

But hey, don't jump the gun (pun not intended) just yet. This film has a story to tell, and a poignant one at that. Simply put, it tells of a story about a small town samurai whose village is caught in the transition period of Japan's modernization and introduction of western arms (guns and cannons) and fighting tactics. While struggling to understand the rapid changes taking place in the nation, he has to deal with relationships of the heart with his family's maid, whom he adores but afraid to own up to, and the dilemma of being ordered into a duel with one of this long time friends, whom has gone off the right track.

This film explores many themes, one of which is the samurai code of honour, where committing suicide via disembowelment (hara-kiri) is widely accepted as a practice of maintaining that honour. We also see the bastardization of this honour, of corruption, which brings to mind George Orwell's Animal Farm, where some animals are created more equal than others. The protagonist samurai Munezo often put his head on the line while maintaining that code, even when all else around (including his superiors) put pressure on him into making compromises. How many of us will rigidly uphold our values and principles when faced with adversity? Or will we bow to that pressure and be apologetic for it?

We are also shown the caste system in feudal Japan, which proved to be a stumbling block between the relationship of Munezo and his family maid Kie. The village clan frowned upon and gossips about Munezo's rescue of Kie from her abusive marriage. While the motive may seem justifiable, we all know Munezo's real reason - that he loves her and cannot bear to see her being abused, and ultimately losing her life. Both know that with the caste system, they can never be together. Or can they?

The caste system doesn't only apply to relationships of the heart. Even within samurais, this system applies. Munezo is a small samurai in a small village, and is given little respect by samurais belonging to larger clans and cities. Think of it like the army, where foot soldiers have to "Yes Sir" every officer's instructions - even when it means given the order to kill an old friend who has gone fugitive. Munezo again struggles with this, but knows that as long as he's a samurai, orders are to be obeyed.

Change and modernization is central to the story. And in this film, there are numerous hilarious moments as the samurais in training as a modern army come to grips with strange rituals like foot drills, the handling of modern weaponry, and even the way they run. It's something like Tom Cruise's Last Samurai, only that the training's more comical here, and subtly highlights the dangers losing of one's cultural values when the world moves rapidly in change.

And finally, for those really waiting for a slugfest, there are 2 fight scenes in the entire movie. One is when Munezo seeks his old master for new guidance, and is being taught a new skill / trick. The other is when Munezo meets his longtime friend for a final showdown. Do not expect "wuxia" styled swordfights. Think Star Wars: A New Hope, the duel between Darth Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi. The duel happens with measured strokes and strategy, rather than fast paced action everyone's used to these days.

But again, the emphasis here is not on violence. It's a simple tale with powerful themes, and you will applaud when The Hidden Blade is finally used, justly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Guess Who

The premise of this remake is something you probably have seen before in other mis-matched racial pairing flicks, like the Lethal Weapon series, or Rush Hour series. You'd sort of expect the usual barrage of racial jokes coming hard and fast, but somehow this film falls flat in that aspect.

Not that it isn't funny, just that at times, it sounds too contrived and tries just too hard at getting the audience to buy into the idea.

While the jokes are somehow weak, it does make up some ground in the relationship aspect - it tries to explore inter-racial relationships, racial bigotry, and near the end gives some tips to the guys in how to maintain a 25 year relationship... but that's that. Since it isn't a serious relationship drama like Sideways or Closer (hey, it's supposed to be a comedy, remember?) the film tends to gloss over details and punctuate these moments with humour.

Not that this film doesn't have its moments - the dining table scene and the end credits (yes, do stay and watch, and pay close attention to the dialogue too) were redeeming bits, if I can consider so.

We can't blame pretty boy Ashton Kutcher playing yet another pretty boy role similar to My Boss's Daughter, or Just Married. Guess he's a bit stereotyped given the minor success of his better films like The Butterfly Effect, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Watch this show and it feels like you've just been punk'd!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

S Diary

This Korean movie is told in 2 halves.

The first half opens with a relationship break up between the protagonist Jinny, and her current boyfriend, who says that she is suffocating him in their relationship. She is puzzled, and starts to ponder about her love life, and we are transported back to each one of them (there are 3), with each having a diary of its own.

The first is with a church choir teacher, who succumbed to lustful temptations during tutoring, but eventually left her to become a priest. The second is a traffic cop who left Jinny abruptly when he found a rich woman via a matchmaking agency, and the last is a graffiti-spray-painter-good-for-nothing-with-a-doggy dude, whom she left because he was too flirtatious.

In all these relationships, attempts are made to philosophize exactly what love is, and to what extent do you demonstrate this love to the other. As Jinny matures, her outlook of love and relationships also changes, and her thoughts are punctuated with common and familiar statements of love. While all of the past relationships started on the oh-so-sweet note, as it goes on, you start to think if it's really anchored on love, or lust and physical desire.

In those breakups, we are also shown how each party takes it in their stride. Some are remorseful, though almost all are in it for sexual gratification.

And that's where the 2nd half of the movie kicks in, when Jinny decides to take her revenge on all of them, using various unorthodox methods which draws in the laughs. Also adding to the humour is the character of Jinny's mother, who somehow has a physical knack in communicating with her daugher. You have to see it to believe.

However, the movie ends in a more sombre note - that in each relationship, there exist beautiful memories, and that these memories are shared, and can never be taken away. This is very true and I can somehow identify with the ending.

For those who have loved and lost, this movie is for you.


The trailer of this film does not do it any justice, as it presented this film like another rehash of Nicholas Cage's National Treasure, given the success of that film at the box office.

While this show is somewhat a treasure hunt adventure, the focus is far from that, as it manages to put in many different subplots and mix them well together, even though each subplot takes up little screen time. You have two treasure hunters (Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn), a World Health Organization doctor (Penelope Cruz), Mali warlords, a French industralist (our favourite Matrix Merovingian without the exaggerated French accent), with plots about pollution and toxic waste, a Civil War era iron ship, feuding factions, shady clandestine organizations and treasure hunting.

Based upon a Clive Cussler novel, the feel of the movie is like an Indiana Jones adventure, with interesting and sometimes comedic action sequences, its own catchy Dirk musical theme (that could be a mainstay if this show has its own franchise), a capable sidekick who provides the laughs, and even makes subtle digs at Indiana Jone's penchance for not losing his fedora hat.

I've never watched a Matthew McConaughey flick since his major debut in A Time To Kill (also based on a novel, by John Grisham), and if this movie proves successful, he might be on his way to a new movie franchise. Steve Zahn manages to bring across the comedy with uncanny timing, and Penelope Cruz, well, what more can I say?

If you enjoyed National Treasure, don't let the trailer fool you into thinking that this show is similar. It's more.

The Pacifier

It seems like at some point in time, all Hollywood beefcakes just have to make that foray from action movies to comedies. Stallone did it with Stop Or My Mom Will shoot, and Schwarzeneggar did it with Kindergarten Cop. Now, we have Vin Diesel playing nanny to a bunch of kids in The Pacifier.

The plot is so formulaic that you can guess the villain of the show the minute he appears. Vin Diesel plays a Navy Seal tasked with protecting the kids of a professor who was killed during a botched mission. As with these films, the kids at first resent his presence, and he feels extremely uncomfortable in this new role like fish out of water. But through everyday interaction and facing common adversities, they bond well and in time for the final showdown with the villains.

It's refreshing to see Vin Diesel take on a comedic role, but somehow he doesn't seem to feel at ease, probably because it's his debut in this genre. While you may cringe at some of the set pieces of the show, you might go "awwww" at some of the antics the younger children pull off.

However, the editing of the film could be improved somewhat, as at times, especially in the first 30 minutes, somehow feels choppy and cutting from scene to scene with very little realism of "film time". I suppose that many scenes over a "film time" of 48 hours were filmed, but some parts of it ended up on the editing room floor, or perhaps saved for the DVD.

But for those wanting a relatively entertaining evening, then this show is still enjoyable, but do not expect anything more than an average action-comedy flick.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


This film attempts to explore the sleazy cyberworld of internet sex chats, and suggests things that we all know of cyberworld - you might not be who you are represented online. Am I talking to a hot young chick? Probably. But chances are that it could turn out to be a balding fat gay man pretending to be a hot young chick.

The pretty Aya Ueto stars as 17 year old Japanese schoolgirl Asako, who one day decides to play truant and ponder on what she wants to do in life. She chances upon 10 year old elementary schoolboy Aoki, who is extremely horny, and introduces her to the world of cybersex, and lucrative business of impersonating an online woman in a chat room.

As expected, cheap laughs result from numerous awkward situations between the two, and from the interactions in the chat room. There is a moment when the filmmakers attempt to highlight the dangers of net predators, but somehow it was quickly brushed over with humour from the next scene. They have also tried to explore other themes like meaning of life, etc, but like films with weak storylines, this only serves to distract and frustrate audiences.

This film might seem to appeal to fans of American Pie, but given that the raunchy US flick has lots of skin to show, this one pales in comparison, and falls flat in its choppy delivery. The yawning and complaints from the rest of the audience tells me that their sentiments are the same. Probably the only saving grace of this film are the lingering soft focus shots of Aya Ueto.


The movie gets its name from golf. Really. It's referring to the 3-iron golf club, which is featured prominently in the show, either as a hobby/sports equipment, or as a weapon.

But the movie isn't about golf. It's difficult to classify its exact genre as the film is extremely unconventional. It's about an unconventional protagonist living an unconventional lifestyle, developing an unconventional relationship, with an unconventional ending.

Watching the show certainly gave me unconventional ideas - the protagonist, who doesn't speak a word throughout the show (and also unnamed), lives his life by giving out flyers at residential homes, pinning them at the house's keyhole. When he returns few hours later, those homes with the flyer still attached, will therefore indicate that no one's at home. So he'll break into the home, and becomes Goldilocks, living in their premises, eating their food, sleeping on their beds, and in return, does their laundry and fixes spoilt household items. He does not steal valuables, but has a weird habit of taking pictures as mementos of having been there.

Until he breaks into a home of an abused wife, gets acquainted and elopes with her, and she follows his lead and lifestyle - two's a company, until halfway through the show when things start to change as the law finally catches up with them.

I will not elaborate much on the last third of the narrative, as things really take such a creative turn that some in the audience just felt was ridiculous at times. Also, the ending is open ended, and some might feel uncomfortable with it, as it leaves some questions unanswered. (For those interested in a short discussion, you can refer to the spoilers at the end of the review).

The acting of the two leads are commendable, because dialogue is kept to a minimum (for the male lead, none at all), therefore it takes tremendous effort to convey feelings and emotions across totaly by body language.

Watch this with an open mind, but if you're one who thrives on action and dialogue, then this might not be for you.


The skill which the protagonist picks up during jailtime is plausible, but take a little stretching of the imagination. While the trick is real - the eye can only see 180 degrees, so by staying outside this range, you can render yourself "invisible", somehow to keep up the charade is quite impossible, in my opinion.

I'd like to romanticize the ending as this - He hadn't really gone back to his lover's home, and that she was going insane from the waiting and the longing and starts to imagine things, as the last line of the movie puts it, it's sometimes difficult to draw the line between fantasy and reality.



I admire filmmakers who manage to explore powerful relationships and character development in a tight two hours, and Spanglish falls into this category perfectly.

As the name goes, "Spanglish" is a combination of two words - Spanish and English, and is one of the major themes covered in this film, which is the clash of cultures, and the fear of dilution of cultural values. Paz Vega plays mexican (illegal) immigrant housekeeper Flor, to an All American family, Mr and Mrs Clasky, played by Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni. They have 2 children Bernice and Georgie, and live with Tea's mother in a rich suburb. All seems well at first, but cracks start to appear as the story develops, as Paz discovers during the course of her work. The father is self deprecating as he is easy going, the mother is neurotic most times and imposes her wishes on the children (especially the chubby daughter, whom she thinks must lose weight), the daughter upset with her mum for that expectation of her, a son who sings his grandmother's jazz oldies, and an alcoholic grandmother.

A large part of the narrative takes place during the summer home, with major character development and relationships take over as the centerstage in this film. It is natural that the interactions between the characters develop from what it was in the beginning, to what it is at the end. Some turn for the better, while others just couldn't be. The importance of family and family values are explored. I will attempt to dissect the major relationships:

John and Deborah Clasky: As husband and wife, it seems that their relationship isn't that good to begin with. With his easy going nature, John tends to give in to Deborah on a lot of things. Deborah expects her husband to not be the "good guy" to the kids, but to be in agreement with her on issues she deems as important and in her opinion, correct for the kids. Their relationship gets put to the test when one of the commits adultery, while the other is unwittingly being tempted into his own.

John and Flor: As employer employee, they develop mutual respect for one another when they realize that they share similar values. To communicate with John, she takes up self-study English lessons, and their friendship progressed to mutual liking. They share the same parental anxiety and have frequent honest conversation expressing their thoughts. However, they develop feelings for each other, and find difficulty on where to draw the line between their ever increasing desire to be close. When the line is crossed, do you call it quits because it's the correct thing to do? The last 30 minutes of the film is tinged with sweetness from this blossoming romance which couldn't develop further by virtue of principles. You are left wondering, what if?

Deborah and Cristina, Flor's daughter: When Deborah entices and unwittingly seduces Cristina into the all american lifestyle, so much so as even lying to her mum. Deborah is taken to Cristina because she is what her daughter could probably never be - smart, thin and beautiful. Cristina, on the other hand, enjoys Deboarh's company and attention because, hey, it's the American Dream, no?

Flor and Cristina: The movie is narrated by Cristina, from the time when she was little and her father walks out of the home, the hardships that mother and daughter endured through their journey to the USA, and her understanding of her mother's hardship with work to bring her up singlehandedly. Flor is understandably protective of her daughter's wellbeing, and especially in teacher her correct values and her heritage. She becomes jealous when Deborah, in her eyes, start to become more important to her daughter, and sometimes envious of the material wealth that Deborah showers on Cristina that Flor can never ever provide for. Flor fears that her child will be "hijacked" by Deborah.

Deborah and her daughter Bernice: Her daughter at times resents the attention that her mum is giving Cristina, as she knows that she could never be thin as expected by mum. She has fears of comparisons.

Bernice and Flor: Flor starts off as work being strictly work, and no intervention into the family affairs. But she felt compelled to help when Bernice feels upset when Deborah subconsciously puts her down, most of the time subtle digs at her weight. Flor becomes Bernice's confidante in that sense, and John points out to her the hypocritical ways in which she disallows Deborah to treat her own daughter Cristina in similar ways. That scene between John, Flor and Cristina is comedic at times, but powerful nonetheless.

Other relationships too long for this review to cover, and also they are quite minor, but at the end of the show, most relationships stay intact because blood runs thicker than water.

The main casts excelled in their performance, but I like to single out Adam Sandler. He has demonstrated that he is capable and comfortable doing drama, instead of the madcap comedic characters we associate him with. I hope he does films of different genres to highlight his capability as a serious actor. Also catching my attention in a cameo is Sideways' Thomas Haden Church.

This is a touching drama with an ending that some might deem as heartwrenching, but I highly recommend this film.

Be Cool

A new opportunity to watch John Travolta and Uma Thurman boogie on the dance floor together, is worth the price of the admission ticket. Who could've forgotten the classic scene from Pulp Fiction where the two made trademark moves to the song "You Never Can Tell" - now both of them sizzle to the performance of the Black Eyed Peas. Perfect on-screen chemistry, and one that can rival their previous dance performance.

Be Cool is the sequel to Get Shorty, while the latter parodies the film industry, this one brings along the same formula for the music industry, and it shows again that perhaps there is more than meets the eye in getting a record produced.

The narrative is simple at first - as Chili Palmer (loved that Heneiken ad by the way) tries to inch his way, totally greenhorn, into the industry, he gets involved with the Russian mob, the hip-hop gun wielding gangsta rappers and their producer, his starlet's ex manager and his partner, and to a little extent, the cops too.

And that's when the plot might get confusing to some. You have to pay close attention, otherwise you'll miss the plot filled with double, sometimes triple crossings as Palmer outwits, outplays and outlasts them all.

But to those who lost the plot midway, no worries, as there are parodies galore that you can enjoy in this film, poking fun at movie sequels, at dim witted gangsters, and the script is pretty witty with its one-liners and quirky cast of many. Or you can enjoy the musical performances like Black Eyed Peas, Aerosmith and of course, Christina Milian.

While John Travolta plays it cool (seems like he always breezes through his films these days with a "devil may care" air), and Uma Thurman looking beautiful as always, it is Vince Vaughn and The Rock who steal the movie from right under all the other casts noses. Vince Vaughn's take on his cowardly character who acts like he's "Black" (with ghetto speak and all) is top notch, and The Rock as a wussy faggot bodyguard always get you in stitches when he's on screen - he even parodies his own "People's Eyebrow"!

Be warned that this film may not be enjoyable for everyone (especially for those who are impatient and can't wait to get to the chase), but be cool, and enjoy the ride.
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