Sunday, 26 June 2011
Recently my friend has requested me to check out a highly-controversial local movie called GADOH (literally translated as "fight"), which was produced back in 2009. What's particularly interest me is that GADOH is banned for public screenings in local theaters by FINAS (or "National Film Development Corporation Malaysia", the central government agency for the local film industry) because of its taboo subject regarding about racism. On several occasions, there are times where FINAS has employed the police force to shut down private screenings. However, GADOH did end up premiering at the HELP University College Teaterrette on 22 May 2009. And thanks to my friend's recommendation, I managed to chance upon this banned movie via online and decided to watch it. First of all, I would like to applaud KOMAS, which is a Malaysian human rights organization, as well as the directing duo of Brenda Danker and Namron, for being daring enough to break the taboo within the confines of the Malaysian filmmaking system. No doubt GADOH is a fascinating but heavily flawed local movie worth checking out for. More on that later.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Invasion movie about a small group of people battling against otherworldly creatures is nothing new. Writer-director Joe Cornish's feature debut ATTACK THE BLOCK is one of those typical genre movies. But let me tell you this -- it's a bloody good genre movie. Not great, but satisfying just enough.
Monday, 20 June 2011
The history behind the making of GREEN LANTERN goes way back to 1997 when Warner Bros. once approached director Kevin Smith to script the movie but he rejected the offer. Flash forward a decade later (in 2007), Greg Berlanti signed to direct the movie and co-wrote it with comic book writers Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim. But a year later, Berlanti is forced to leave the director's chair when Warner Bros. enlisted him to THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU and he was subsequently replaced by Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE). Warner Bros. has certainly putting this movie such a high hope since the studio is eagerly looking for the next moneymaking franchise after the HARRY POTTER series completed its chapter this coming July 2011. With a combined budget of production and marketing cost as high as $300 million for a comic book movie that has little fanfare in the eye of mainstream point-of-view, it's certainly a huge gamble. Now here's the question: is the long-gestating GREEN LANTERN worth all the anticipation? Well, it's sad to say that this movie is another summer's biggest disappointment of the year since last May's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGERS TIDE. So what really goes wrong? More on that later.
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Wei Yangshen (Hiro Hayama) is an egotistic wealthy scholar first caught in love at first sight with a noble family's prized daughter Tie Yuxiang (Leni Lan). He marries her and both of them enjoying their happiness together, except for one shortcoming -- their sex life are dull especially Yangshen's peculiar problem of sustaining longevity. Yangshen feels frustrated and sets out to seek carnal pleasure elsewhere, while leaving his lonely wife at home. Then one day he travels to the Pavilion of Ultimate Bliss at the clifftop where the notorious Prince of Ning (Tony Ho) keeps his treasures. The place also housed an orgy of the most experienced and beautiful women in the land. Prince of Ning has subsequently admired Yangshen's expertise on genuine art and allows him to hang out at his place. Yangshen's immediate first sexual encounter is Ruizhu (Saori Hara), who uses acupuncture to increase Yangshen's stamina. However, that is the only time where Yangshen gets to prolong his sexual activity. He becomes a subject of laughter when Ning and the rest of the nubile beauties ridicule him for his tiny private part. Soon he seeks help from the Elder of Bliss (Vonnie Lui), a sex expert who recommends him to seek a couple of quack doctors, lead by Dique (Tin Kai Man) for a penis transplant. Yangshen is required to have his tiny private part chopped off and replaced the one from a horse. But like the original version, a series of amusing mishaps happen when the quack doctors' hungry dog bites off his severed tiny private part, while the horse penis is accidentally crushed by Dique's wheelchair. Luckily Yangshen has a quick replacement with the one from a lesser animal -- which is a donkey! After equipped himself with a new private part, he is now able to prove himself a worthy sexual encounter among the countless beauties inside the Pavilion of Ultimate Bliss. But little does he know that Ning has a secret grudge against him and everything is actually part of his sinister plan to teach him a deadly lesson.
In the language of cinema, there are two types of bad movies -- one that falls on the "so bad it's good" category, and another one is reeked of a rotten egg. Among the latter misfortune falls on DUNE. Based on a beloved sci-fi novel of the same name by the legendary Frank Herbert, this highly-anticipated big screen adaptation is a complete mess of an epic proportion. What's more, this is supposed to be a highly-ambitious effort for director David Lynch, who was up to that time considered one of the most promising avant-garde filmmakers in Hollywood especially after he made the cult classic ERASERHEAD (1977) and the critically-acclaimed mainstream effort THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980). But his following effort on DUNE is a polar opposite altogether.
Paranormal investigator! Werewolves! Vampires! Zombies! It's a mix of detective story and monster movie styled in a film noir template. And it's also based on Italian's Tiziano Sclavi's beloved 25-year-old comic book fantasy series. At the first glance, DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT looks like an exciting genre mishmash. I mean, why not? But unfortunately, this Hollywood version is a gigantic hoot. In fact it's such a hoot that fans and critics have furiously trashed the movie for betraying its source material when it opened on the Italian territory back on March 2011.
Monday, 13 June 2011
When the teaser of SUPER 8 was first arrived a year ago, (everyone) were anticipating and debating about the nature of the movie. And yet producer Steven Spielberg and director J.J. Abrams have done a great job on keeping their much-secretive movie as vague as possible. No doubt their marketing strategy had easily made SUPER 8 as one of the most anticipated summer movies of the year. Then again, such strategy can be a risky choice as well, particularly if the movie turns out to be a completely bogus cinematic experience in the end (read: M. Night Shyamalan's THE HAPPENING). Luckily there's no such thing happens in SUPER 8, except that it isn't a great cinematic masterpiece one might expect in the first place, given the combined talents of J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg involved here.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
A forbidden love triangle set in a historical backdrop. First thing that immediately comes to mind is TITANIC (1997). And that's the similarity you will find in Francis Lawrence's WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. Instead of a backdrop set in the ill-fated Titanic ship, the movie is set against a Depression-era traveling circus backdrop. Instead of a love triangle involves Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), Rose (Kate Winslet) and Caledon 'Cal' Hockley (Billy Zane), we have Jacob (Robert Pattinson), Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) and August (Christoph Waltz). Comparisons aside, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is a beautifully-filmed classic romance drama that evokes the Hollywood of yesteryears. Except that the supposedly central attraction of the love triangle setup is very predictable and formulaic.
Saturday, 11 June 2011
Farid Kamil's action comedy KONGSI is certainly one of the most heavily-anticipated local movies of the year. In fact, the movie is so popular that it made a record-breaking RM1.1 million during the first day of the showing. Impressive box-office aside, as the real question is: Does KONGSI really lives up to the massive hype after all? I've got one word for you, and it's nonsense.
Part heist genre, part romance, part screwball comedy and part quirky drama, Malcolm Venville's HENRY'S CRIME looks like a kaleidoscope of entertaining cinematic romp. What's more, the movie has even got a catchy tagline you can't afford to miss: "If you've done the time, do the crime". Sounds good, but wait... it's all smokes and mirrors. Instead what you get here instead is a heavily misguided movie that tries hard to be all of the above, and ends up tumbling apart.
Thursday, 9 June 2011
Monday, 6 June 2011
When comes to action movie made in Thailand, what you'll get is a bone-crunching martial arts that will knocked your senses out. Not surprisingly, this is what you'll get in Panna Rittikrai’s BKO: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT. Panna Rittikrai is of course the action guru and co-director of Tony Jaa's ONG BAK 2 (2008) and is first and foremost a strictly martial art extravaganza. Anything beyond that -- namely plot and characters -- are totally out of the question. Take your pick.
Sunday, 5 June 2011
The first KUNG FU PANDA (2008) is a refreshing if formulaic animated feature that mixes kung fu element and Jack Black's iconic performance as the chubby panda, Po. The animated feature turned out to be a hugely successful in box-office, raking in $215 million in the U.S. alone and a whopping $631 million in worldwide grosses. Not only that, it also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature (which eventually went to Pixar's WALL-E). So naturally, it is inevitable that the studio greenlit a sequel in attempt to replicate the success of the first movie. Well, Dreamworks Animation has done that successfully when they made an equally successful sequel in SHREK 2 (2004), but not so for KUNG FU PANDA 2. It's really hard to believe but it's true: KUNG FU PANDA 2 suffers from the typical "sequelities" syndrome while lacking most of the charms and wits previously found in the first movie. Let's just say everything are more of the same.
When you think of Dreamworks Animation, all their recent animated features such as the one you find in SHREK series as well as 2004's SHARK TALE are smack of endless pop-culture references. So once in a while, it's quite refreshing the studio manages to carve out something witty and sincere without being mostly juvenile. The result is KUNG FU PANDA, a formulaic but charming fable about an out-of-shape panda with an eating disorder goes from zero-to-hero of becoming a kung fu master.
Nowadays, rarely has mainstream Hong Kong romantic comedy makes me sit up and take notice. I remember the last time that impressed me the most was that Johnnie To's hugely-popular NEEDING YOU, which starred Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng. The year was 2000, and that was 11 years ago. But upon seeing Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai return to the romantic comedy genre after years of exploring crime genre, there's a glimmer of hope I might expect that impression again. And I have to tell you this... it's certainly unexpected to find out that their first romantic comedy, DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART, which aims for Mainland China market, is a hugely entertaining movie about a girl stuck between two lovesick guys. Movies about love triangle are nothing new here, but Johnnie To and his regular Milkyway crew manage to spin the oft-seen tale with a refreshing twist. Now who says that creativity can't excel for such commercially-produced romantic comedy?
Expect the unexpected. Given the fact that director Joe Wright is best known for making period dramas including PRIDE & PREJUDICE (2005) and ATONEMENT (2007), it's quite a radical departure to see him explore into modern action thriller territory called HANNA. In fact, HANNA has been garnered a lot of buzz even before its release: Seth Lochhead and David Farr's screenplay was listed on both 2006 and 2009 as the best unproduced screenplays of the year, with notable directors like Danny Boyle (127 HOURS) and Alfonso Cuaron (CHILDREN OF MEN) reportedly have been circling the project before Joe Wright takes over. On the surface, HANNA is a unique take of the usual espionage thriller you often expected from mainstream Hollywood release. Think THE BOURNE IDENTITY plays out with arthouse sensibility, styled in a grim and modern fairy tale-like structure in the vein of Brothers Grimm, and you'll get the picture what HANNA has to offer here. HANNA is certainly something fresh out of the norm, but it's also the kind of movie that never quite reaches the full potential. Let's just say it's a mixed result.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Once upon a time, the X-MEN movies used to be a highly potential franchise. Thanks to back-to-back success of 2000's X-MEN and 2003's X2: X-MEN UNITED, you can say that director Bryan Singer has single-handedly re-established the comic-book genre into something to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the franchise quickly turned sour with the arrival of 2006's X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (which was single-handedly ruined by director Brett Ratner, who replaced Singer after he opted to do SUPERMAN RETURNS instead). Then came X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE in 2009, which continues to disappoint even further. So hope is naturally high when Twentieth Century Fox has finally grow a brain and smart enough to hire director Matthew Vaughn (KICK-ASS) to reboot the franchise back to square one. The good news is, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is marginally better than those ill-fated X-MEN: THE LAST STAND and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE combined together. But the bad news is, this highly-anticipated prequel isn't as good as one might hoped for. First class entertainment? Not close enough, but somewhere in between.