Tuesday, May 31, 2005


This review is brought to you courtesy of Moviexclusive.com (otherwise it won't be out so early, and yup, my luck held out again and I won a lucky draw for free premiere tickets)

Unleashed, aka Danny The Dog (the original title, and the name of Jet Li's lead character), is the latest of a Euro-production meant for the Hollywood market, this one being a French-UK collaboration, with a mainly European production crew, of which the most recognizable name is French director Luc Besson, as the writer of this story.

Known for his gritty tales like The Professional and Kiss of the Dragon (also starring Li), you'd expect something special from Danny The Dog ("Unleashed" was just typed over the main credits, you'd know what I mean). However, the premise is a bit ludicrous and please, leave your brains at the door. Otherwise you'll have trouble understanding why Danny chose to be treated the way he is, given his incredible fighting prowess when his collar's off.

A title with "the dog", and references to dog-calling names like "attaboy", "bitch", etc, obviously do not go down well, and probably won't be tolerated by the Asian market, given the deragatory connotations, hence the classier name "Unleashed". Actually everything has doggie connotations - from the collar to Danny's new surrogate father being a blind man. Some characters bark occassionally too.

But the plot is a bit of a let down, given the main theme which it tries to dwell upon - Family, without much success. Danny lives in a world of thugs and violence, and this world turns upside down when he experiences the sweeter side of life - the normal ones that you and I lead, with Sam (Morgan Freeman) and Victoria (Kerry Condon). OF course when the thugs threaten the new family, you'd expect all hell to break loose as Danny fights to defend the opportunity of leading a new life.

While the action is stylized in the trailers, there isn't much to offer in the movies, despite its explosive start. You can plenty of throwaway characters that Jet dispatches without much sweat. Given the plot straddles between action and melodrama, the former somehow has less screen time - if you want to make an actioner with Jet Li, the action must stand out, no? All you get are basic street fights with Jet hammering away, and hammering, and hammering some more. You get the drift.

The soundtrack is done by Brit trip-hop masters Massive Attack (one of my fav groups), and I actually enjoyed their music being featured in the movie - I think I'm gonna enjoy it more as I identify the tracks being played at particular points in the movie.

I'm not sure if Jet Li had actually opted to do a more dramatic piece, but this film's premise offers him a weak chance to show his acting skills - the audience, in my opinion, as bloodthirsty as those in the underground fight club, secretly hopes that the drama be minimized. It does drag at times, and offers little depth to plot.

Reommended for Jet Li fans only, and even then you might come out disappointed with this effort. Luc Besson, surely you can write better stuff!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Batman Begins 10 Minute Preview

For those who are still not into the finale of the latest Smallville season, you can still catch the 10 minute preview of Batman Begins here

I'm a long time Bat-fan, and was going to write a piece about the Bat-movies before this highly anticipated one hits the big screen. And going by the looks of this 10 minute preview, I dare say IT'S GONNA ROCK BIG TIME!

The only gripe some of you might have is Henri Ducard's role (played by Liam Neeson), which sounds a bit Qui-Gon Jinn-ish from the dialogue. But heck, I'm not perturbed and neither should you be.

The highlights are

  • Alfred's role in the aftermath of the Wayne's deaths
  • Bruce's training in the far east
  • The suggestion that Thomas Wayne is somehow responsible for his and his wife's death
  • Lucius Fox - listen closely to his conversation with Bruce
  • The discovery and exploration of the Bat-cave, and goodness, they quoted and featured Bat-history! (The railroad running at the cave which Bruce's great-great-grandfather built)
  • The mention of the Falcone crime family (yes, Carmine will be featured in the movie)
  • Batman in action!
  • Finally, Gordon is seen! And we see his budding friendship established with Bats (yes, they converse!)
  • And to the Batmobile detractors out there, seeing it in action might change your mind about the tank-looking beast - it kicks hard ass!

I'm foaming in my mouth just watching this trailer repeatedly (yes, I'm obsessed!)

The Singapore gala premiere is on June 13th Shaw Lido.
Sponsored tickets anyone?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Downfall (Der Untergang)

I watched this film to learn more about the final days during the Battle of Berlin, and to know more about Adolf Hitler and the twilight of his Third Reich at the end of WWII. A good movie can be made based on this premise alone, and true enough, I was blown away, as this film offered a lot more.

Told through the eyes of many historical characters - the various war generals, a defiant Hitler Nazi Youth, Eva Braun, Hitler's stenographer Traudl Junge, and of course, Hitler himself. However, this film never exhibited a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, as each perspective focused on different aspects during the fall of Berlin. There are those who talk about surrendering, some who want to fight to the end, holding onto the Fuhrer's belief that their troops outside Berlin will come to their rescue. You get a good sense of what's happening in the bunkers as Hitler's slowing losing it all.

But this film is not all about talk and no action. Those expecting blood and gore from a war movie, will get just that. The filmmakers did a wonderful job re-creating war torn Berlin, and the bunkers in which Hitler and his generals spent their last days in. We don't get to see the Russians much, but we jolly well hear each and every Made-In-Russia artillery shell that's raining down - the entire movie really makes you feel like you were there in a war zone - every arty raid, every bullet fired. You'll get to see grizzly mock hospitals, where doctors amputate limbs. Suicides are common too, and you see blood and brain matter splatter on screeen.

The many characters are well-acted and brought to life effectively, but I'd like to put the spotlight on Bruno Ganz's portrayal of Hitler. It really brings the chills, and we can see the many hours of research bringing in results of every nuance the Fuhrer had, right down to Parkinson's.

This film, while it humanizes Hitler and his generals, doesn't suggest that they are innocent of their war crimes. It puts into perspective the "other side", giving the audience a chance to perhaps understand the happenings in the fall of a regime.

Though it's 2 1/2 hours long, for someone interested in WWII and the Fall of the Third Reich, you'll never notice its length, and will clamour for more. Highly recommended.

This film is a Cathay Cineleisure exclusive showcase, and today's sneaks happened to be in the smallest hall #6, which is a pity. Tickets are few, and sold out early. Hope those interested will be able to get tickets on the day you wanna watch.

Lego Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick

OK, sometimes I review film clips as well (hey, these days you gotta stay versatile eh?)

Check this out:



Guess with all the royalties paid by Lego to create Star Wars related character and vehicles using their trademarked bricks, they gotta milk it for all it's worth. Kinda cool the way they use the Force powers in space battles - you don't get to see this in Lucas' movies!

Lego Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick has a runtime of about 5 minutes.

Man, I wish they had these stuff when I was a kid.
(MAAARRRMMM!!! I wanna get that R2 droid! *stomp stomp*)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Dreamworks Animation SKG has set high standards with its Shrek series, and follow ups like Shark Tale. Somehow this film falls short of expectations, and the best bits seemed to have been featured in the trailers.

Without going into the story details which you can piece together from promotions - this one has neither the zaniness nor a level of adult sophistication which we are spoilt with, and it seemed pretty back to basics.

Sure the spoofs are there - but not as rampant as the other animations (See? I'm comparing here! It's the standards that are set! I can't help it!). I've only managed to spot Zoolander, American Beauty, Cast Away, and given the premise, how can anyone not spoof the reality TV series Survivor? The lack of spoofs might not mean much, but dialogue without much wit doesn't cut out for me. Louis Armstrong's Born Free being played ad nausem also got to me.

Despite its flaws, the animation is still top notch. The animals are beautifully drawn, and as always, contain that hint of their real life actors in them, like caricatures. In the zebra, you see Chris Rock, the Lion, the cockiness and self-importance of most Ben Stiller's reel life characters, and David Schwimmer's prominent neck resulted in him being handed the role of the giraffe. Jada Pinkett Smith as the hippopotamus? Now that's something different!

Some of you might fall in love with the potential of the supporting characters, and at times, it seemed that they upstage the main leads. The pair of monkeys (one can read but can't speak, the other can't read but speaks with a stiff upper lip), the gang of penguins (they steal the show each scene they're in), a squirrel with rip-off Shrek's-puss-in-boots eyes (awww...), and my personal favourite - the crazed Lemur King, who speaks like an Indian chief (he sounds like one anyway!).

Perhaps with a little bit of direction and a more focussed script (for kids? Or for adults? Or having elements of both to entertain adults and kids alike? Kids were falling asleep in this film - a sin for animation!) this could turn out into a hit. Alas the Dark Side of the Force is strong, and I really don't see this scaling to the peak of the (US) movie charts and dethroning the Sith.

The saving grace for me - the madcap jungle banghra rave party! WOOHOO! Repeated again as the end credits roll, but nothing at the end except for a hippo who thinks its a Tinkerbell.

This review is brought to you by free preview tickets from Yahoo! Asia. I took part in one of their contest in which I had to explain why I deserve the tickets. My answer - I behave like a monkey and my room is like a pig-sty. The things I would say to get freebies...

Seemed like a lot of people saw the same preview, given the entire halls 1-5 of Cineleisure was block booked for this event. The freebie doorgift? One Bossini plastic bag containing writing pads, bookmarks, flyers, and a small box of cereal.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Revenge of the Sith Again

Nope, this ain't a movie. Just thought I wanted to post my thoughts after watching Episode 3 for the second time over the long weekend.

The second time's more fun - you know the story, you know what to expect, so it's time for easter eggs, and sitting back, soaking up the battles all over again, and of course, oggling Padme in all the limited scenes she's in :P

Somehow, I can't get over the fact that in this movie, she's reduced from Hot Queen (love those outfits in Ep 1), to space action chick in Ep 2, to Tears in Ep 3. Not to mention she appeared in that all famous buns hairstyle in her first scene. Eeks! I thought they manage to keep that to the Clone Wars cartoon. Guess not!

Been trolling a lot of forums, some like the film, some hate it. C'mon folks, it's Star Wars! You don't feel the Force in this one? Clouded your mind, the Original Trilogy has. :-) I think there are 2 groups of people here. Those who truly believe the Original Trilogy cannot be surpassed, and those who just wanna bash the film for the sake of bashing.

For those who have yet to watch the show, I'd recommend to go for the digital formats now.

Non-digital - the quality will degrade after many screenings. I watched the non-digital format on a preview day (18 May) and although it was the first evening show, the signs of wear and tear is there - a skip here, a jerk there.

Digital - I watched it over the weekend, and there is no degradation of image quality

After so many screenings, non-digital formats will suffer drop in image quality. Same price some more leh, dun lugi ! (oops, hint of Singlish there!)

Btw, Funkygrad has posted an edited version of my review. You can check out the Professionally Edited Version Here

Having gone through an editor makes a whole lotta difference eh? Kinda like that version :-)

Tomorrow, Madagascar! Got free preview tickets from Yahoo! Asia!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith

To all the fans out there, it is time to rejoice. George Lucas has delivered in Revenge of the Sith. In my list of favourite Star Wars movie, it ranks up there with Empire Strikes Back in its emotional level, and action sequences.

It's natural that this review contains no spoilers, as most of you would already know of the plot, and of the ending, since it leads to A New Hope, and given the countless slew of marketing techniques used to promote this movie.

But the question is, what actually pushes Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side. And this is the crux of the movie - if the delivery or narrative is poor and unconvincing, then this movie will sink. Fortunately, Revenge cuts to the chase, and to the point, elaborating without being boring, pacing kept consistent with breathtaking action in between serious dialogue.

The best scenes in this movie is however, not the action. They are each time Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker share a scene. After all, this movie is about the Sith, and everytime these two are together, there is an ominous sign hanging that Anakin gets closer to the Dark Side, waiting for the inevitable to happen. If you're with Palpatine, I'd bet you will be smittened by his subtle sweet talk of power. George has written all these scenes well, and you really feel the seduction.

But what really hit the spot was Hayden Christensen's performance. He brought out fear in Padme's death in his nightmares (which was actually a self fulfilling prophecy), arrogance of his knowing his Jedi powers being improved and unmatched, confusion of his dilemma of being in a corner, torn between the Jedi Order he belongs to and his confidante Palpatine. You feel Anakin's sadness and loss each time he makes a mistake when doing evil deeds - you feel his tears, every time he is torn in a world of political plotting, of being an unwilling double agent.

Which makes me ponder, being a child prodigy Anakin Skywalker is, it is without proper supervision that he is being seduced by false promises of unlimited Dark power. Yoda gets sent off for a mission, so does Obiwan, leaving Mace Windu (who doesn't like Anakin, and vice versa) looking after him. It is precisely this opportunity that Palpatine gets closer and pushes Anakin over the edge. In a way, the Jedi's arrogance (or probably Mace's) caused their downfall, and Anakin's love for Padme being the fuel that Palpatine openly exploits.

The Jedi Massacre, though short, is extremely painful to watch. You see the Jedis trying their utmost to survive in their respective warzones, yet being murdered in cold blood by hordes of "friendly fire" - Order 66. It is a sense of great loss and pity, and you'll be holding your breath to see how Yoda survives.

And yes, the lightsabre battles - this film sees the most duels in the series. Obi-wan and Anakin vs Count Dooku, Obi-wan vs General Grievious, Mace Windu vs Palpatine, Yoda vs Palpatine, and finally, Obi-wan vs Anakin. Amongst them, I would rank Obi-wan vs General Grievious the weakest of them all, despite the boast that Grievious can weld 4 sabres and fight with them simultaneously. The ones which packs a punch, are Mace vs Palpatine - the battle between the Jedi's best in the lightsabre swordsmanship, and the power of the Dark Side, Yoda vs Palpatine - masters of the Light and Dark side dueling, with one of them admitting failure and loss, and finally, the battle amongst brothers, Obi-wan vs Anakin. I like this one the most, as the speed and red fiery environment they do battle in, really bring out the blue glow of their lightsabres as they duke it out in fantastic speed. The only time when sabres of the same colour clash, and the best.

Fan favourites like R2D2 (don't we love this droid!) and even Chewbacca make appearances. Jar Jar Binks too, but without dialogue. C3PO however, got limited screen time. My only gripe, if any, will be Padme being reduced to Tears - from the tough cookie she is in the prequels, probably being an expectant mother has mellowed her a lot, and she is always so sad when she comes on screen.

John Williams, there seems to be no wrong he can do with his score, as his Battle of the Heroes track highlights the fight between good and evil, between the surviving Jedis and the emergence of Sith power.

I would be watching this movie again, to take in the fantastic seduction scenes of the Dark Side, the sense of loss, helplessness and confusion, and the agony of betrayal from those whom you trust. Powerful themes brought out in a tribute finale to the entire series, a fitting film that bridges the past films to the Original Trilogy loved by many.

May the Force be with you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Saga Is Complete

I can't remember if I had watched the original Star Wars when it premiered in 1977. I would have been 1 year old then. And even if I did, I wouldn't be surprised, given that I was brought up with extremely frequent trips to the movies.

But I remember Darth Vader, in his menacing voice, fist in the air, blaring "No, Luke, I AM YOUR FATHER" before a young teenage boy plunged into the abyss below. I was 4 years old when I watched Empire Strikes Back at the now defunct Odeon Theatre (where Odeon Towers now stand at North Bridge Road), and my, was I awed by the robots (stormtroopers), the fights (TIE fighters chasing the Millennium Falcon), man vs machine (rebel alliance vs AT-AT Walkers), the spaceships, and yes, the lightsabre battles.

After that movie, my toys were Star Wars - action figures (I had countless Luke Skywalkers - in X-Wing uniform, Hoth getup, Luke in Empire Strikes Back with the blaster featured in Bespin), 12" C3PO, Han Solo and Boba Fett, a big Yoda puppet, a huge X-Wing fighter jet that changes to battle mode when you depress R2D2, a battle-weary snowfighter, and a life sized red lightsabre. Not the replicas that you see in the market these days (would wanna own one), but something made of plastic which made the humming sound as you swing it about. And boy, did I swing that lightsabre!

Contrary to popular belief, my favourite Star Wars character back then was not Luke Skywalker, but Han Solo. To a young boy, I liked his devil-may-care attitude, the flamboyance, the arrogance, and hey, he owned the greatest kick-ass spaceship of the all - the Millennium Falcon, has a great "pet".. err.. pal - a Wookiee, and wins the girl - a princess at that!

With Return of the Jedi, I celebrated with the Ewoks when the Rebel Alliance triumphed against the evil Galactic Empire - Hey I was only 7 years old! I jumped with joy as the Ewoks creatively kicked Stormtroopers' rear, and wept as they sustained losses. I gripped the edge of my seat as Luke Skywalker went up against his father Darth Vader in the Emperor's throne room. I watched as helpless as Vader was when Luke got zapped by the Emperor's Force Lightning, and I cringed when Luke finally removed Vader's mask. My eyebrows were raised when Princess Leia was held captive by the fat slob Jabba the Hut, and made to wear the now infamous bikini outfit.

Was this the end of Star Wars? No, as I was old enough to know that perhaps I've missed the very first episode - A New Hope. VCRs were becoming common place, and soon enough, I was watching Star Wars again on the small screen, with a sense of deja-vu that perhaps I've seen this film before, sometime, somewhere.

And it was then I realized the movie showcased one of the greatest Jedi knights of them all - Obi-wan Kenobi, who only appeared as a ghostly shadow in the later 2 movies. He introduced me and Luke to the Force, and to the lightsabre - an elegant weapon in a more civilised age. Suddenly Star Wars was reinvented for me - What is this Force they were talking about? Obi-wan hypnotizing Storm Troopers? Now that was new, and cool!

The quest to know more about the Force continued as I watched Empire Strikes Back on VHS - the little green man started to make more sense as he imparted his words of wisdom to Luke - anger, fear, aggression leads one to the Dark Side, and adventure is what a Jedi craves not. He demonstrated that even a little one, a master of the Force, can do great things - like lift an X-Wing fighter out of the swamps of Dagobath.

But what is this Dark Side? I've learnt more in a re-run of Return of the Jedi - that you have 2 sides to the Force, and Vader and the Emperor tried to seduce Luke to their side - the dark side, so that together they can rule the galaxy, or so the Emperor thought, unknowing of Vader wanting to rule it together as Father and Son with Luke.

The Force, and the lightsabres, defined what Star Wars is to the kid I was. I was thrilled when Luke started to use a green coloured Sabre in Return of the Jedi, as the movies so far showed evil (Vader) using Red, and the good guys (Obi-wan and Luke) using blue. Perhaps there was a reason to the colouring of the sabre?

The quest to answer all the "whys" and "hows" led me to read countless literature (read: pop fiction, comic books, role playing games, etc), and watched numerous re-runs on VHS (Bless the invention of the VCR!). I watched it so many times that I could literally quote dialogue from start to end. I discovered new things each time I watched, and found new meaning in sagely dialogue from Yoda. And identify with the soundtrack I can - John Williams did a fantastic job in signature tunes like the Imperial March.

The Star Wars crave in me eventually settled down as I grew older. Some might say I outgrew Star Wars. As time went on, the Special Editions were released, with new unseen footage being showned for the first time. I became a boy again, relishing each opportunity to spot something new (hey, I didn't see that driod there before!), and soaking in the editions in THX ready movie theatres - the sound is now awesome, the images, crisp.

But the boy in me truly rejoiced when George Lucas announced that he would be doing the prequels. For now we can truly see the vision George had when he spoke of a more civilized age.

We're shown the planet Naboo, which opens The Phantom Menace. Somehow many fans around the world didn't really enjoy this one. Many found the idiosyncracies of Jar Jar Binks unfunny and plain idiotic. Many also found the "YIPPEE" that Anakin exclaimes irritating. Is this the Star Wars that we've grown up with? Suddenly skeptics were all out in force slamming the movie for being un-star-wars. But hey, this is the vision that George Lucas had. Naboo, and Coruscant, were indeed, civilized planets. But I felt many fans were slamming the movie in uncivilized manners.

The number of years in between actually helped in bringing out the new worlds that George unveiled. Technology had improved, and this assisted in fleshing out new characters and civilizations. We had the Trade Federation, the Jedi Temple, Darth Maul with his twin blades, the gleaming shuttle of Queen Amidala, and wonderful, graceful Jedi moves from Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-wan Kenobi, now only a Padawan.

Skeptics might have called Pod-Racing an obscene attempt in making money from toys and video arcade, but I enjoyed the scene nonetheless. The only flaw, if I find in the movie's narrative, was that perhaps it moved too far back in Star Wars history - showing Anakin as a boy, a mysterious one at that, being conceived by the Midichlorians - the organisms behind the mystical Force. Suudenly fans around the world had to deal with a new word, and an attempt in making the Force a bit more scientific rather than mystical. Some were, of course, unhappy with change.

But bear in mind that this is still George's vision, and like it or not, it stays canon. Don't forget the little things that mattered, like Ewan McGregor nailing Alec Guiness' Obi-wan to a T (although a younger version), and the beautiful Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala / Padme. Even Keira Knightley was in this one, as one of Padme's handmaidens. Not to forget we also saw the debut of our favourite driods R2D2 and C3PO!

The Clone Wars were the highlight of Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, and my, what a war it was - where the predecessors of the Stormtroopers were shown, and the backstory of how they came about. Fan favourite Boba Fett made an appearance, though as a kid, and it was his father who donned the now famous looking armour. Christopher Lee gave an impressive performance as the Jedi turned Sith apprentice, and fans around the world probably jumped with glee when glimpses of the Death Star plans were seen!

Omnimous as it was, we see Anakin slowly slip into the Dark Side, unable to control his feelings and anger, when he went on a rampage to massacre a sandpeople tribe. However, some fans still came out of the theatre with guns ablazing - lamenting how they hated the romantic dialogue, the romantic setting of Attack of the Clones. But I wonder if they had forgotten - Luke and Leia were the children of Anakin Skywalker. Already we have a mysterious birth (Anakin's), surely we would expect the more normal way the twins were conceived, no? In my opinion, this film managed to strike a balance between romance and action.

And the action again was at its best - clonetroopers in their first ever Clone Wars engagement, Obi-wan Kenobi fighting alongside his padawan Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, for the first time, whipping out his minute lightsabre to do battle with Darth Tyrannus, and little do we actually realize how agile this Jedi Master was! I enjoy lightsabre battles, and Attack of the Clones made up for whatever shortcomings it had.

As I sit in the darkened theatre tomorrow evening, I would have mixed feelings when the 20th Century Fox fanfare blares through the speakers. Here I am, watching probably the greatest episode since Empire Strikes Back, my "first" Star Wars movie (the one I remember as a kid), watching Obi-wan and Anakin do battle with each other with intense, watching Anakin Skywalker turn into a Sith machine, watching a film that held a lot of potential - the one that fans around the world had been waiting for, and given the positive vibes for the sneaks in trailer clips, I just can't wait.

It took 28 years to complete the saga (no, there would not be episodes 7 to 9), and I'm 29 this year. It feels as if I've been with Star Wars all my life, and vice versa, that Star Wars has been part of my life, accompanying a third of my mortal lifespan. George has already made public that there will be no more movies, though the franchise will live on, in various series - books, animation, probably live-action.

To George, live long and prosper. (Oops, wrong movie! And you're already prosperous!)

To the legions of Star Wars fans out there, the Force be with you, always.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Inside Deep Throat

This is not a porn movie. It is a documentary about an adult movie; not just any adult movie, but the one which you can answer "who's your daddy?" to. Deep Throat premiered in 1972, in an era of sexual awakening on film, where highlighting and building a film around that one sexual act is a novelty, bringing in an enormous Return On Investment (600 million revenue from a cost of 25K) for the filmmakers, who somehow never got rich from it, monetary and otherwise.

Inside Deep Throat brings us back to that era, exploring what was, and how this one film revolutionized the adult film industry in the USA. This documentary, narrated by Dennis Hopper, interviews both the filmmakers behind the scenes, as well as the lead actor. We only get to watch archived interviews of the lead actress "Linda Lovelace", as she has passed away in 2002 from a road accident. Nonetheless, from the footage, we can see her enjoying her 15 minutes of fame (infamy?), before transforming herself from sex siren to victim to feminist and back to fire one last salvo in Playboy magazine.

The interviews by the cast and crew are earnest, and at times comical, given their reminiscence of the role they had played in contributing to the industry. Even when they came up with the idea of revolving a film around one sex act, they weren't really convinced that it might pull off. In fact, given the government's crackdown on the film, which premiered in NY's Times Square, curiousity from the masses start to propel the film into its legendary status.

We're brought from pre-production all the way to film distribution, which had shady links with the Mob, to censorship, crackdown and prosecution. We also see the (negative?) impact that the film brought on to its filmmakers and cast - life isn't really a bed of roses given the film's huge box office success, and we wonder, did they become victims of their own success.

Viewers in Singapore would still not have the opportunity to see some "action" from Deep Throat, even with the R21 rating - you'll only get to see the safer portions of Deep Throat, and jarring cuts leave the rest to your imagination.

So for those who just want to know a bit more on the adult film industry (hey, I didn't know they had an equivalent of the Oscars!), discussion on censorship and freedom of speech, then you might want to consider this documentary. For those who want to leave your moral values intact, give this one a miss.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

[FAQ 1.1] A Nutshell Review

Q1: What is A Nutshell Review?
A1: The reviews contain my thoughts about movies I watched.

Q2: What is your objective in posting these reviews?
Q2: To share and help others who don't watch movies often, or have limited funds, to decide if a show is worth watching.

Q3: Your reviews do not have a rating system...
A3: I rarely do the Star Ratings thingy, which is pointless, as different genres call for a different way of appreciation. Read my thoughts, and if you feel that it's worth watching, do it.

Q4: OK, spill it, What's In It For You?
A4: To confirm my blog status as Singapore's #1 Movie Review Blog. I think I probably am right now, unless someone can point out to me somebody else who is consistently reviewing new movies and putting them online. I'll like to shake his/her hand.

Q5: Do you post reviews after watching VCDs, DVDs, pirated versions even?
A5: Never. I proudly base my review on theatrical releases, and watched on a big screen with the best sound system each theatre can offer. I feel that one does not do movies justice by watching it on a dinghy home theatre system, and one is insulting the film industry through watching a movie by pirated means.

Q6: Do you post spoilers?
A6: If I do, there will be adequate spoiler warnings. But so far, I have steered clear of posting the endings, twists, or details of storylines not known and cannot be referenced from the movie's trailers.

Q7: How often do the reviews posted?
A7: Each time I watch a movie screened in Singapore, I aim to post my thoughts within 24hrs. That's the challenge. Sometimes I view 2-3 (5 was my record) movies in a day, and it takes time to compose thoughts and post them online. I watch movies during sneak previews, to get the reviews out on time before the general release.

Q8: Where else do the reviews get posted?
A8: My pride is with IMDB.com and New York Times Online Edition. Others include my Friendster and MySpace bulletin boards, various online forums and magazines, and I run my own mailing list.

Q9: Are you getting paid for this?
A9: No, but you can send a donation my way to defray my movie watching cost :P

Q10: Have you ever dozed off while watching a movie?
A10: Yes, during the Hunt For Red October. Not that it was boring, but the seat I got played a big part. If you know me by now, you'll know about my idiosyncracy of seats in cinemas.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Jacket

Based on the trailer alone, The Jacket looks like a clone of Ashton Kutcher's The Butterfly Effect, with the protagonist able to transport himself through time in the hope of changing his past/present/future, only that the premise and effect is different - the "jacket" refers to a mental patient's straitjacket.

However, Jack Starks (Adrian Brody) is not criminally insane. Sure, he may have died once in Desert Storm, and miraculously survived, but circumstances a year later back home in a horrific homicide condemned him into an asylum.

The out of body experience in this film is never explained, no whys, no hows - it seems that it's due to the effect of a cocktail of drugs administered, together with the unorthodox and experimental practice of confining the patient in the morgue's dead-body closet (the claustrophobic effect sort of reminded me of Beatrix's in Kill Bill Vol 2, where she was buried alive in a coffin).

So Jack suddenly finds himself 15 years ahead in the year 2007, where he chances upon Kiera Knightley's Jackie Price, whom he once helped on that faithful day of the homicide (again, how he came to meet her is never explained - it just happens). After gaining her trust as a time-traveller / dead man "resurrected", she helps him in a journey to discover the events that led to his apparent death in the asylum, and at the same time falling in love with her good Samaritan, while he flits in and out of future time. Also, it seems he can only travel between the two time periods, and nothing beyond either, beyond his control.

As with all time-travelling films, there is always the paradox which one should never ever ponder (it's the huge plot holes exposed if you do) - what you know in the future, when applied in the present, surely will change the way the future is presented the next time you visit it, no? I think only the Back To The Future trilogy dealt with this paradox in a convincing manner, and shown on screen as well.

The 2 leads give convincing performances, as do the supporting cast of familiar faces like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kris Kristofferson as doctors in the asylum. My only gripe in the local screening was the unwelcome abrupt interruption (read: poor censor workmanship) of the love scene between Brody and Knightley.

The ending, like The Butterfly Effect, is your typical Hollywood cop-out ending, but something which I feel the audience would expect as they secretly root for the protagonist to emerge victorious. But again, given the many unexplained plot devices and an ending which still leaves you with ONE major question (probably up to your discretion), this is a film that could have been a time-travel classic, but turned into one of mediocrity.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Kingdom of Heaven in 2005 will be what Gladiator was in 2000. Ridley Scott has delivered a worthy follow up to his Oscar winner, which is also based on medieval times, with a central heroic character, and supporting casts of characters based on history.

The sets are as spectacular, instead of just Rome and the Collesuem, we have the Middle East and Jerusalem. The costumes are beautiful, from intricately remade Knights armour, to the desert garb of the Muslim warriors. The soundtrack is a mixture of sounds with middle eastern influences, but somehow pales in comparison with Gladiator and lacks a central theme.

Much is said about how the film portrays religion, given the sensitive subject of the Crusades, but I feel that Ridley has achieved a wonderful balance between how Christianity and Islam are portrayed. Both are given fair airtime on their ideologies, and the film tries to preach (pardon the pun) about tolerance, yet highlights the dangers of fanatical followers of both religions, of misguidance from men in search of worldly power.

Which Christianity took a beating - where senseless battles are waged in the name of Christ, where insensitivity breed contempt. Preists are cast in negative light and given lines like "convert to Islam, repent later" when all around seems lost. It is emphasized in the show that what matters is in your head and in your heart - that noble actions speak louder than mere empty and repetitive "praise the Lord" chants, as if that will protect you during Judgement Day.

Orlando Bloom plays Balian, a blacksmith who became a fugitive, but inherited land and army from his father, Godfrey, played by Liam Neeson. The film can be broadly categorized into 3 acts - the first in which Balian searches for his identity and new life in Jerusalem, the second in which the focus is on religion and politics of the time, and the last, the spectacular seige and war.

Bloom puts up a commendable performance, so to his detractors out there, you're in for a big surprise. Edward Norton had the difficult task of acting through a mask as leper King Baldwin, and I applaud Ridley's decision of casting real Muslim actors to learn from them.

Fans of Eva Green might be disappointed that the relationship between Balian and Queen Sibylla was played down to focus on the battles, but I feel it's a fair trade off.

Firstly, some of you might not like the quick-cut-MTV style editing in Gladiator's fight scenes, especially the close ups. This is repeated here though, in a blood splattering manner. The pan-out and general landscape sweeps are mindblowing, and will leave you wanting more. Think about the battles that you see Lord of The Rings Two Towers and Return of the King - the seige on Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith - Kingdom of Heaven delivers the equivalent, probably even better (without the fantasy elements). This is one medieval war movie whose battles will stick in your mind for some time.

The audience were the only disappointing experience for me - they were laughing at a dialogue near the end, where a "knight" asked who Balian was, and he answered "I'm the blacksmith", in which the "knight" answered "I'm the King". Laughter was abound in the theatre. I was like, HELL-O people! See that lion motif on his armour? That's Richard the Lionheart! D'uh! The Crusades didn't end there, it waged on...

What is Jerusalem worth? Nothing, everything. Watch this, and in my opinion, it has Oscar written all over it. Now to hit the library and research more on the subject!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Random Thoughts of a Happy Trooper


It's rare that I deviate and put up a non-review blog entry, but this happy trooper says that alphanumeric combination has a big part to play.

Some of you might be wondering why I would be in bliss with being able to buy 2 movie tickets - one for Kingdom of Heaven, the other for Revenge of the Sith. Yeah, I'm a simple man with simple pleasures in life, probably.

Got my Kingdom of Heaven ticket sneak preview ticket for tomorrow's screening, and it would end in time for me to get home to watch Denise Keller on tellee (yes, I'm watching this season's of Eye For A Guy *shocked*, but only because of the chick, and it is shown at a comfortable timeslot before The Amazing Race)

Same thing for Revenge of the Sith. Try getting a premiere ticket in the evening now - chances are zilch. Good thing there're advance screenings on the 18th just announced, and I've got my ticket for that! So there's no need for half/one day off/leave to watch Obi-wan Kenobi kick the crap outta Annie Skywalker. Natalie Portman, argh! she dies... hope Lucas got the decency to make her death beautiful.

Why H13 you might ask? Well, it's the seat number in the theatre for both shows - smack in the middle, right where I like it.

Good start to May I might add!

Here are some random postings I've made at some forums, for your reading pleasure, one on Orlando Bloom, the other on Fantastic Four...

To Orlando Bloom's outspoken detractors

1. you're probably a guy
2. and an ugly looking one at that
3. you dislike him because he's a pretty boy
4. with girls you like swooning all over him
5. and heck, he got a (Peter Jackson made) plum role in LOTR, the biggest trilogy of the century for any geek fan. Note that I said Peter Jackson made, cuz if you read the books, Legolas doesn't get as much "screentime" by Tolkien

If you're a girl
1. you're probably a feminist
2. who can't stand fellow females going ga-ga over some hot male
3. you have weird tastes (don't get started on the physical-appearance-doesn't-attract-you lie)

heh, always wanted to state that

think about it

So chill, just watch the show if you're
1. wanting to know more about the crusades (who cares about historical accuracy, go to the library and borrow a book if you must)
2. sucker for war cinematography
3. sucker for epics

I've got my ticket. Have you?

Just browsing through the thread... Fantastic Four might not appeal to most of you (I assume teeny boppers) as it's my father's generation

It's the first superhero team to be published.
Make that the first superheroes to be created by Stan Lee in the early 60s, even before Spidey and Hulk

It also smashes convention because from issue #1 - their identities are already known to NY City (in the comics of course). No identity issues, no secret identities to hide behind

Everyone knows Richard Reeds is Mr Fantastic, his fiance (then wife) is Sue Storm, her kid brother Johnny Storm's the Human Torch (my fav btw... FLAME ON!!), and Reeds' best friend and one time Sue's ex Ben Grimm as The Thing (the only one who's tragically mutated)

Since then, they've gone through many "rebirths" in the comics, but one thing that is central to the core of FF is the relationships between the characters - they always bicker! I hope they keep that core aspect in this film

And in my opinion, the weakness of FF's popularity is the villains - not as classic as spidey's, bat's, etc. In comics, it is actually the villains that make the heroes look good.

But I'm still game for a proper FF film (there was a lousy one which you can find somewhere in the online world - the company back then which bought the rights have to make something, or lose the rights, so they just put together C-rated actors with cheesy effects)

So, July 7th, anyone?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...