Thursday, January 29, 2009

CHANGELING: Another Jolie Good Role

CHANGELING (police drama)
Cast: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly and Amy Ryan
Director: Clint Eastwood
Time: 135 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: According to standard police procedure, no action will be taken in a missing person case until 24 hours have elapsed from the moment the person was discovered missing. The police have their reason for this but if you were a mother who had come home to find your nine-year-old boy missing, the 20-plus hours that you have to wait for the police to take action will probably be the longest and most traumatic hours of your life.

This was what happened to Christine Collins, a Los Angeles telephone supervisor circa 1928, who returned home from work one day to find her son Walter (Gattlin Griffith) missing. With Angelina Jolie playing Christine (above), we are taken through a gamut of raw and intense emotions that not only grip us throughout the movie but stay with us long after the film is over...

THE SKINNY: Written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Clint Eastwood in his customary
'lackadaisical' style, Changeling is based on a true story connected with the infamous Wineville Chicken Coop Murders which was one of the most horrifying criminal cases in Southern California during the Prohibition era.

The case of Christine's missing boy is pronounced solved by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) a few weeks later. However, the reunion of mother and son, which is held with the Press in attendance, turns out to be another harrowing experience for Christine: the boy is not Walter!

What follows is a nightmare for Christine who, at the insistence of Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), has to take a stranger into her home and live with the fact that the police are no longer looking for Walter. She finds a friend in the Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) who takes it upon himself to expose what he sees as the corruption of the LAPD under Chief James E. Davis (Colm Feore).

Told in parallel with Christine's story is an account of the investigations by Detective Lester Ybarra (Michael Kelly) into the Northcott Ranch in search of a Canadian boy who is in the US illegally. When the boy is taken into custody, his story not only opens the proverbial can of worms but also helped to change the way the LAPD operates.

THE CRITIQUE: In a way, Changeling is a parable of wronged innocence and abuse of power reminiscent of L.A. Confidential. As usual, Eastwood keeps his cards close to his chest, opening them one at a time to reveal new and different sides to his movie. Indeed, he seems to be trying to cover too much ground in this two-and-a-quarter hour film but we never get tired of his plot turns, the panoramic vistas of the American countrysides, or the detailed Twenties sets, especially its vintage cars and buses. Eastwood has also resisted the urge to dramatise the 'violent' scenes at the Northcott Ranch, leaving the atrocities to our imagination.

Of course, the main credit belongs to Jolie who, like in A Mighty Heart, plays a woman who is abruptly and agonisingly deprived of her loved one. Here, her performance is even more enthralling, sharing with us the pain and agony of a mother seemingly caught in a limbo. It is definitely an Oscar-worthy performance. The others, like Malkovich, Donovan and Kelly, also give a good account of themselves in rather demanding roles.

THE LOWDOWN: Changeling is compelling, both for Jolie's performance and Eastwood's helming.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Your Pick Of The CNY Flicks


YOUR GUIDE TO THE CHINESE NEW YEAR MOVIES

(here's wishing you a Happy and Entertaining Ox Year)

NEW This Week:

a. RED CLIFF 2
(war drama with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Chang Chen, Zhang Fengyi, Vicky Zhao and Lin Chi Ling) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 out of 4 stars): It is indeed worth the six-month wait for this final instalment to John Woo's war epic based on the Chronicles of The Three Kingdoms. The battle sequences, although a bit long, are breath-taking. (Reviewed below)


b. INKHEART (fantasy adventure with Brendan Fraser, Sienna Guillory, Andy Serkis, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren and Eliza Hope Bennett) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A rather by-the-book and CGI-filled rendition of Cornelia Funke's bestseller that would probably appeal to children more than adults. Despite the big names, the adventure is not as rousing as The Mummy series... (Reviewed below)

c. UNDERWORLD 3: RISE OF THE LYCANS (prequel with Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh and Kevin Grevioux) Rating * * (2 stars): This prequel into the origin of the Vampire-Werewolf war borrows from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and is rather ho-hum and cliched. Actionwise, it even falls short of its predecessors.

d. BRIDE WARS (sneak previews, comedy with Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Candice Bergen, Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt and Steve Howey) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This story about two Best Friends Forever turning Bitter Enemies Forever over a clash wedding date is exaggerated and silly. Nothing much to laugh at too. (Reviewed and pictured below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. IP MAN (Cantonese kungfu drama with Donnie Yen, ) Rated * * * (3 stars): This biopic on the grandmaster of Wing Chun kungfu and the tutor of the legendary Bruce Lee is nicely balanced with great martial arts action and an engaging narrative.


2. BEDTIME STORIES (fantasy comedy with Adam Sandler, Guy Pearce, Keri Russell, Lucy Lawless and Courteney Cox) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Sandler plays a handyman who finds his bedtime stories come to life. With a plot like that, it is slanted towards kiddie entertainment.
(Reviewed below)

3. THEY WAIT (horror thriller with Jamie King, Terry Chen, Colin Foo and Cheng Pei-pei) Rating * * 1/2 (out of 4): An East-meets-West Asian horror set during the Hungry Ghost Festival. There are some scary moments but the movie is too much of a muddle to be engaging.


4. [REC] (suspense thriller in Spanish with Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Carlos Lasarte, Carlos Vicente and David Vert) Rated: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This is the original 2007 movie that inspired 'Quarantine', its Hollywood remake. Yes, its is as claustrophobic and as nausea-inducing as its remake, so be warned.
(Reviewed below)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Benjamin Button Leads Oscar Nominees

Romantic fantasy "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" led the Oscar contenders announced today (Thursday, Jan 22, 2009) with 13 nominations, among them Best Picture and acting honours for Brad Pitt (pictured below) and Taraji P. Henson, and a directing slot for David Fincher.


"Slumdog Millionaire" lived up to its rags-to-riches theme, coming in second with 10 nominations, including a directing spot for Danny Boyle and two of the three song slots.

As expected, Heath Ledger received a Supporting Actor nomination for "The Dark Knight" on the one-year anniversary of his death but the Batman movie was shut out from other top categories such as Best Picture and Director.

NOMINEES for the 81st Academy Awards

1. Best Picture:
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire."


2. Best Actor: Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor"); Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon"); Sean Penn ("Milk"); Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"); Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler").

3. Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, pic, ("Rachel Getting Married"); Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"); Melissa Leo (" Frozen River"); Meryl Streep ("Doubt"); Kate Winslet ("The Reader")

4. Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, "Milk"; Robert Downey Jr, "Tropic Thunder "; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"; Heath Ledger, " The Dark Knight"; Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road."


5. Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "Doubt"; Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"; Viola Davis, "Doubt"; Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler."

6. Best Director: David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"; Gus Van Sant, "Milk"; Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"; Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire. "


7. Best Foreign Film: "The Baader Meinhof Complex," Germany; "The Class," France; "Departures, " Japan; "Revanche," Austria; " Waltz With Bashir ," Israel.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; John Patrick Shanley , "Doubt"; Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"; David Hare, "The Reader"; Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."

9. Original Screenplay: Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"; Mike Leigh , "Happy-Go-Lucky"; Martin McDonagh, "In Bruges"; Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"; Andrew Stanton , Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, "WALL-E."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Bolt"; " Kung Fu Panda "; "WALL-E."

11. Art Direction: "Changeling," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "The Duchess," "Revolutionary Road."


12. Cinematography: "Changeling," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire."


13. Sound Mixing: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Slumdog Millionaire, " "WALL-E," "Wanted."


14. Sound Editing: "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man," "Slumdog Millionaire, " "WALL-E," "Wanted."

15. Original Score: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Alexandre Desplat; "Defiance," James Newton Howard; "Milk," Danny Elfman; "Slumdog Millionaire", A.R. Rahman; "WALL-E," Thomas Newman.


16. Original Song: "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E," Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman; " Jai Ho " from "Slumdog Millionaire, " A.R. Rahman and Gulzar; "O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire, " A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam.

17. Costume: "Australia" (left), "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Duchess," "Milk," "Revolutionary Road."

18. Documentary Feature: "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)," "Encounters at the End of the
World," "The Garden," "Man on Wire," " Trouble the Water ."

19. Documentary (Short Subject): "The Conscience of Nhem En," "The Final Inch," "Smile Pinki," "The Witness — From the Balcony of Room 306."


20. Film Editing: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Frost/Nixon, " "Milk," "Slumdog Millionaire. "


21. Make-up: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

22. Animated Short Film: "La Maison en Petits Cubes," "Lavatory — Lovestory," "Oktapodi," "Presto," "This Way Up."


23. Live Action Short Film: "Auf der Strecke (On the Line)," "Manon on the Asphalt," "New Boy," "The Pig," "Spielzeugland (Toyland)."


24. Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man."

INKHEART: Not Much Heart, Really

INKHEART (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Sienna Guillory, Andy Serkis, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren and Eliza Hope Bennett

Director: Iain Softley

Time: 132 mins

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


Mirren, Fraser and Bennett in 'INKHEART'

PREAMBLE: Based on the bestseller by Cornelia Funke, 'Inkheart' is a 'high concept' flick with lots of CGI wonders (mostly of legendary beasts) but very little heart. In other words, it does not make us root for any of the characters - and the action would probably thrill the younger children.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? 'Inkheart' is the first part of a fantasy trilogy on the adventures of 'book doctor' Mortimer 'Mo' Folchart (Brendan Fraser) and his 12-year-old daughter, Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett). Mo is a 'Silvertongue', a person with the rare ability to bring the characters in a book to life simply by reading the text aloud..

This 'gift' has turned out to be a curse as he it has caused him to lose his wife. However, the arrival of 'Dustfinger' (Paul Bettany) into Mo and Meggie's lives sets them off on a fantastic adventure in Italy that also involves Mo's Aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) and a megalomaniac named Capricorn (Andy Serkis), a character brought out from a book who now wants to rule the real world.


HITS AND MISSES: As far as the storyline is concerned, 'Inkheart' has enough going for it (and in it) to sustain our interest, especially that of impressionable kids. Bennett offers a fresh face to the movie and she will be well-liked by the youngsters in the audience. Another young hero is Rafi Gavron (as Farid) who provides the romantic interest for Meggie. Other big names in the cast (like Jim Broadbent as the writer of a novel) offer little to the movie except their names and British accent.


However, with many characters running around the scenic Italian locations while the screenplay struggles to establish the rules of its fantasy premise, 'Inkheart' is a bit of a mess to contemplate. Examples are text stains on the skin of characters imperfectly summoned by a stuttering silvertongue (which makes no sense), and a Rapunzel summoned to the real world more for her 'celebrity' status than anything else.


THE LOWDOWN: A forgettable flick with lots of 'Ink' but not much 'heart'.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

RED CLIFF Part 2: John Woo's Master Stroke

RED CLIFF Part 2 (war drama)
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Chang Chen, Zhang Fengyi, Vicky Zhao and Lin Chi Ling

Director: John Woo

Time: 132 mins

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)



PREAMBLE: While waiting for 'Red Cliff Part 2' to start, I was thinking to myself that it had better be good, so as to make it worth the six-month wait for this second and final instalment. And I got the answer right from the first few sequences - this one is a winner and I was bowled over right from the start. Indeed, John Woo was right, you can't tell that classic war story (based on historical records of "The Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms" rather than the novel, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms") in just two or three hours.

I had found 'Part One' rather slow and disaffecting (read the review here). However, that was just the build-up to this great epic battle - and I should have been a bit more patient.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After a series of flashbacks into Part One, director John Woo reconnects the audience with the story, from the 'football' sequence. From there, we learn the significance of the homing pigeons, get a whiff of biological warfare and conventional espionage. Yes, as the final instalment heats up, the stakes get much higher for Commander Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) and strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who must go against the odds to confront the Han Prime Minister Cao Cao's (Zhang Fengyi) 800,000-strong army in a naval-cum-land battle.


Woo dramatises the tactics - and mistakes - of both sides, and even throws in a few twists and an unlikely love story between Princess Sun ShangXiang (Vicky Zhao) and an enemy officer. This may be stretching logic a bit but it offers the much needed distraction and comic relief to the proceedings.


HITS AND MISSES: 'Red Cliff Part 2' offers one of the most gruelling and epic-styled land and sea battle sequences I have ever seen in a Chinese movie. Woo had made use of China's national soldiers as extras and the logistics involved is mind-boggling. Still, the battle sequences are rather draggy and repetitive - Woo's indulgence, given the pains he had taken to set up these sequences.


As mentioned before, Part Two completes the build-up of not only the plot but also the characters. If Lin Chi Ling's role seems like an eye-candy one in the first part, her Xiao Qiao acquits herself well in a subplot about sacrificing herself to give her husband Zhou Yu a vital advantage. Woo plays the segment as if it were Sun Tsu's 'Art of War' game, taking into account elements like fengshui, the opponent's habits, wind direction and weather. It there is a lesson to be learnt from this, it is 'Don't accept offers of tea before a battle.'


THE LOWDOWN: A seat-gripper of a movie for the Chinese New Year holidays.

Monday, January 19, 2009

'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' Tops US Weekend B-O List

HERE is a list of the Top Five movies at the US Box-Office last weekend, with their takings estimates, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.com.


WEEKEND TOP 5 STUDIO ESTIMATES, JANUARY 16-18, 2009

Rank. Movie Title (Distributor)
Weekend Gross
Theatres | Total Gross | Week #


1. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony / Columbia) $33.8 million
3,144 | $33.8 million | 1


2. Gran Torino
(Warner Bros.)
$22.2 million
2,972 | $73.2 million | 6


3. My Bloody Valentine 3-D
(Lionsgate)
$21.9 million
2,534 | $21.9 million | 1


4. Notorious
(2009) (Fox Searchlight)
$21.5 million
1,638 | $21.5 million | 1


5. Hotel for Dogs (Paramount (DreamWorks)) $17.7 million
3,271 | $17.7 million | 1

Friday, January 16, 2009

BRIDE WARS: Two Weddings & A Brawl

BRIDE WARS (comedy)
Cast: Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Candice Bergen, Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt and Steve Howey

Director: Gary Winick

Time: 90 mins

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)



PREAMBLE: Coming so close after 'Rachel Getting Married', we can't help but compare Anne Hathaway's performance in that movie with 'Bride Wars'. The former provided so much scope for Hathaway to display her talents whereas the script of 'Bride Wars' is so vacuous that it is like a walk in the park for her and co-star Kate Hudson. After 'Rachel Getting Married', this one can only be a trip downhill for Hathaway.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Hudson and Hathaway play Liv and Emma (pictured), childhood best friends who made a vow to be maid-of-honour at each other's wedding, to be a June bride and get married at the Plaza of Manhattan. Liv is a hotshot lawyer and Emma is an overworked schoolteacher. Soon, a series of events happens: their fiances propose just about the same week, they both book the Plaza and have the same famous wedding planner (Candice Bergen as Marion) - and lo and behold, Marion's assistant screws up and they are both scheduled to wed on the same day!

The simple and logical solution to the problem is of course, have a double wedding, but no, the
scripters would not have it and so we have the two Brides At War.

HITS AND MISSES: Apparently, the writers' main aim is to explore ways in which Hudson and
Hathaway can play tricks on each other and derail each other's plans. To their credit, they explore a number of wedding-planning routines and squeeze out some gags from them but most of them seem contrived. They do not provide enough depth to the plot other than showing how the BFFs (best friends forever) and turn into BEFs (bitter enemies forever).

Actingwise, Hudson and Hathaway display great screen chemistry and they should help to attract the ladies crowd to what is basically a 'ladies' film' which make the men, especially the would-be grooms, look like idiots.

THE LOWDOWN: With so many recent movies about weddings (“Enchanted,” “The Heartbreak Kid,”
“Sex and the City,” “Mamma Mia!,” “27 Dresses” and “Made of Honor”), can we give this one a miss?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Jan 16-18, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

1. JUNO (2007 drama with Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Allison Janney) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): It is two years too late but this movie, written by ex-stripper Diablo Cody is still a worthwhile comedy about teenage pregnancy. Charming acting by Ellen Page. (Check the Review in my February 2008 blog).

2. IP MAN (Cantonese kungfu drama with Donnie Yen, ) Rated * * * (3 stars): This biopic on the grandmaster of Wing Chun kungfu and the tutor of the legendary Bruce Lee is nicely balanced with great martial arts action and an engaging narrative.

3. BEDTIME STORIES (fantasy comedy with Adam Sandler, Guy Pearce, Keri Russell, Lucy Lawless and Courteney Cox) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Sandler plays a handyman who finds his bedtime stories come to life. With a plot like that, it is slanted towards kiddie entertainment. (Reviewed below)


4. AUSTRALIA (romantic adventure with Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Bryan Brown, Brandon Walters and David Wenham) Rated * * 1/2 (out of 4): It is not the epic love story to move you but it has enough substance to keep you interested. Good show by Kidman, Jackman and young Brandon Walters. (Reviewed below)


5. THEY WAIT (horror thriller with Jamie King, Terry Chen, Colin Foo and Cheng Pei-pei) Rating * * 1/2 (out of 4): An East-meets-West Asian horror set during the Hungry Ghost Festival. There are some scary moments but the movie is too much of a muddle to be engaging.

6. [REC] (suspense thriller in Spanish with Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Carlos Lasarte, Carlos Vicente and David Vert) Rated: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This is the original 2007 movie that inspired 'Quarantine', its Hollywood remake. Yes, its is as claustrophobic and as nausea-inducing as its remake. (Reviewed below)

7. LADY COP AND PAPA CROOK (crime thriller with Sammi Cheng, Eason Chan, Michelle Ye, Chapman To and Kate Tsui) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The big deal is that Sammi is back after a hiatus of three years. However, this flick won't put her at the top of the pop star pile any time soon. (Reviewed below)


8. OUTLANDER (fantasy adventure with Jack Huston, James Caviezel, Ron Perlman and Sophia Myles) Rating * * (2 stars): An outlandish fantasy, set in the Viking era, that incorporates dragons and alien predators. It will make you wonder at the ridiculous lengths film-makers will go to make cinema fodder.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bedtime Stories Top at Malaysian Weekend B-O

ADAM Sandler's 'Bedtime Stories' continued its nap at the No 1 spot at the Malaysian Box-office last weekend (Jan 8-11, 2009). 'Ip Man', meanwhile, holds strong at No 2.

Here is the rest of the Top 10 B-O list, in terms of rank, Movie name, weekend taking, (cumulative gross) and week on chart.

1. Bedtime Stories RM846,000 (RM4.0 mil) 2nd wk


2. Ip Man RM253,000 (RM4.9 mil) 4


3. Outlander RM222,000 (RM677,000) 2


4. Yes Man RM199,000 (RM2.76 mil) 4


5. Lady Cop & Papa Crook RM176,000 (RM649,000) 2


6. The Spirit RM132,800 (RM2.2 mil) 3


7. Histeria RM124,000 (RM3.1 mil) 5


8. Four Christmases RM101,000 (RM307,800) 2


9. Australia RM99,300 (RM910,000) 3


10. Diary of the Dead RM52,900 (RM524,800) 3

[REC] - Spanish 'Cloverfield'

[REC] (horror thriller in Spanish)
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Carlos Lasarte, Carlos Vicente and David Vert
Directors: Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza
Time: 78 mins

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: EVER since the 'Blair Witch Project' mined gold at the box-office, we have been getting a steady stream of horror movies shot with hand-held cameras. This 2007 Spanish effort is a bit weird for viewers in Malaysia because it preceeds 'Quarantine', a Hollywood remake of [REC]. So if you have seen the former, this one will just be 'academic' - and a chance to brush up on your Spanish. And be warned: The jerky camera movements can make you nauseous.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? TV reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco) and cameraman Pablo are videotaping the
routine at a fire department routine for a reality show when firemen Manu (Ferran Terraza) and Alex (David Vert) get a call about a woman locked in her apartment. Things get weird when officers the woman starts gnawing her would-be rescuers.

HITS AND MISSES: Among the supporting cast we have Carlos Vicente as a doctor and Carlos
Lasarte as a gay man. As more characters fall victim to the disease, we get more of the frantic action we find in 'Cloverfield' and 'Diary Of The Dead'.

Like in 'Quarantine', [REC] has a perky and vivacious Velasco as the lead and she is more well-endowed (in more ways than the obvious) than Jennifer Carpenter in 'Quarantine'. Too bad, the directors make no effort to develop their characters or to make them more than just zombie fodder.


THE LOWDOWN: Go for it if you enjoy shaky movies.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Farrell Springs a Surprise at Golden Globes Night

AS expected, the late Heath Ledger wins Best Supporting Actor for 'Dark Knight' and it is nice to see Kate Winslet triumphing over Meryl Streep for a change and taking home two awards (for 'Revolutionary Road' and 'The Reader').

However, it is a big surprise seeing Colin Farrell (right) being picked Best Actor for Musical or Comedy. Must have been the easiest win for an actor just brooding in front of the camera.
I have seen 'John Adams' on TV and I think it deserves the four awards it gets.

The biggest 'loser' must be 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' (nominated for Best Picture, Drama, Best Director [David Fincher] and Best Actor [Brad Pitt]) but went away with nothing.

Here are the winners at the 66th Golden Globe Awards:

MOTION PICTURES:


—Picture, Drama: "Slumdog Millionaire."

—Picture, Musical or Comedy: "Vicky Christina Barcelona."


—Actor, Drama: Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler."


—Actress, Drama: Kate Winslet, "Revolutionary Road."


—Director: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire."


—Actor, Musical or Comedy: Colin Farrell, "In Bruges."


—Actress, Musical or Comedy: Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky."


—Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight."


—Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, "The Reader."


—Foreign Language Film: "Waltz With Bashir."


—Animated Film: "Wall-E."

—Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."


—Original Score: A.R. Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire."


—Original Song: "The Wrestler" (performed by Bruce Springsteen, written by Bruce Springsteen)

TELEVISION:

—Series, Drama: "Mad Men."

—Actor, Drama: Gabriel Byrne, "In Treatment."


—Actress, Drama: Anna Paquin, "True Blood."


—Series, Musical or Comedy: "30 Rock."

—Actor, Musical or Comedy: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock."

—Actress, Musical or Comedy: Tina Fey, "30 Rock."


—Miniseries or Movie: "John Adams."


—Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Laura Linney, "John Adams."


—Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Paul Giammatti, "John Adams."


—Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Laura Dern, "Recount."


—Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Tom Wilkinson, "John Adams."

- Cecil B. DeMille Award: Steven Spielberg.

HVO: 'Taken', 'Traitor', and 'Seeing Other People'

HOME VIDEO OPTIONS - DVD reviews

TAKEN (DVD 2008, action thriller)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries and Holly Valance
Director: Pierre Morel

Time: 91 mins

Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5/4 stars)


AT an age when he should be playing granddads, Liam Neeson (pic) takes on the role of an action hero!
All we can say is "Eatcha hear out, Harrison Ford!"

Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a retired CIA operative who moves to Los Angeles in a bid to to piece
together his broken family. His wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) has left him and remarried a millionaire (Xander Berkeley) and he’s all but a stranger to his 17 year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). He finds the only way to reconnect with her and make peace with his ex-wife is to go against his better judgment and allow for Kim to travel to France with her girlfriend Amanda (Katie Cassidy).

However, shortly after landing in Paris, Kim and her friend are kidnapped by Albanians to be sold as
sexual playthings to the fabulously rich and the insanely powerful. Now, Daddy must use all the smarts he has to rescue his girl from the baddies - even if it includes taking Paris apart!

Yeah, this is a 'Rambo-in-Paris' caper that should appeal to all the parents watching the DVD. A bit of the proverbial salt is recommended to buy all that gungho stuff our aged hero does in this somewhat fantasy action flick. Still, we just gotta cheer for the 50-plus Neeson, especially the way he handles the stunts.

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TRAITOR
(DVD 2008, spy thriller)

Cast: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Neal McDonough, Jeff Daniels, Said Taghmaoui and Archie Panjabi
Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
(based on a story by Steve Martin and Nachmanoff)
Time: 115 mins

Rating: * * * (3 stars out of 4)

THOSE who have been disappointed with the star-studded 'Lions For Lambs' will find this one fulfulling where action on the War on Terror is concerned. The story is rivetting and intelligent, and there are enough twists and expose to keep us enthralled.

'Traitor' is about Samir Horn (Don Cheadle), a Sudanese who witnesses his father being blown up by a car bomb. Years later, he is captured by FBI agents (Guy Pearce and Neal McDonough) wile trying to deliver detonators in Yemen. Who is this Samir? A terrorist, a spy, or undercover agent?
When we discover who he really is, the action turns to a seat-gripping attempt by the 'good guys' to stop a terrorist attack on US soil.

Cheadle does a credible job of fleshing out Samir both as a devout Muslim and a man with a mission. There is also a bit of love interest - in the form of a pretty woman played by Archie Panjabi. The ending is a little too neat, but another surprise awaits us in the credits: the story is co-written by comedian Steve Martin together with director Nachmanoff!


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SEEING OTHER PEOPLE
(DVD, 2004 production, comedy)

Cast: Jay Mohr, Julianne Nicholson, Josh Charles, Lauren Graham, Andy Richter and Helen Slater

Director: Wally Wolodarsky

Time: 90 mins

Rating: * * * (3 stars)


THIS comedy starts off with a rather down-to-earth proposition: engaged yuppie couple (Jay Mohr and Julianne Nicholson) decide they should 'screw around' with other people before they commit to each other when they get married. Alice came to this decision when she and her sister and Claire (Graham) catch a guest and a waiter doing the nasty during a party.

At first, Ed is uncomfortable
with the idea of someone mucking around with his fiancee, but when she insists, he soon 'gets into the action' and human nature takes over.

The movie benefits from a good cast. Mohr typifies the confused American male while Nicholson reminds us of a woman who wants the cake and eat it. There is chemistry between the two. Graham and Bryan Cranston play a couple whose marriage is already on the rocks - as a reflection of what Ed and Alice's relationship may be like if they were to long for 'forbidden fruit' when they are married. What's more, the movie is both funny and engaging.

Friday, January 09, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Jan 9-11, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES


NEW This Week:


a. THEY WAIT (horror thriller with Jamie King, Terry Chen, Colin Foo and Cheng Pei-pei) Rating * * 1/2 (out of 4): An East-meets-West Asian horror set during the Hungry Ghost Festival. There are some scary moments but the movie is too much of a muddle to be engaging.

STILL GOING STRONG:


1. JUNO (2007 drama with Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Allison Janney) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): It is two years too late but this movie, written by ex-stripper Diablo Cody is still a worthwhile comedy about teenage pregnancy. Prepare to be charmed by Ellen Page. (Reviewed in my February 2008 blog).


2. IP MAN (Cantonese kungfu drama with Donnie Yen, ) Rated * * * (3 stars): This biopic on the grandmaster of Wing Chun kungfu and the tutor of the legendary Bruce Lee is nicely balanced with great martial arts action and an engaging narrative.

3. YES MAN (comedy with Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby and Terence Stamp) Rated * * * (3 stars): This comedy plays out better when it goes into romantic comedy mode with Carrey and Deschanel displaying good screen chemistry. Otherwise, a bit uneven. (Reviewed below)


4. AUSTRALIA (romantic adventure with Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Bryan Brown, Brandon Walters and David Wenham) Rated * * 1/2 (out of 4): It is not the epic love story to move you but it has enough substance to keep you interested. Good show by Kidman, Jackman and young Brandon Walters. (Reviewed below)


5. FOUR CHRISTMASES (comedy with Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Chenoweth, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): There are some fun moments in this uneven comedy about a couple forced to spend Christmas with their divorced parents. However, yuletide season is over... (Reviewed below)

6. BEDTIME STORIES (fantasy comedy with Adam Sandler, Guy Pearce, Keri Russell, Lucy Lawless and Courteney Cox) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Sandler plays a handyman who finds his bedtime stories come to life. With a plot like that, it is slanted towards kiddie entertainment. (Reviewed below)

7. LADY COP AND PAPA CROOK (crime thriller with Sammi Cheng, Eason Chan, Michelle Ye, Chapman To and Kate Tsui) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The big deal is that Sammi is back after a hiatus of three years. howver, this flick won't put her at the top of the pop star pile.
(Reviewed below)

8. OUTLANDER (fantasy adventure with Jack Huston, James Caviezel, Ron Perlman and Sophia Myles) Rating * * (2 stars): An outlandish fantasy, set in the Viking era, that incorporates dragons and alien predators. It will make you wonder at the ridiculous lengths film-makers will go to make cinema fodder.


9. THE SPIRIT (comic book recreation starring Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson) Rating * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Comic book writer Frank Miller's debut directorial effort proves one thing: that he could not flesh out his characters to give them the third dimension. Unlike 'Sin City' (which Miller co-directed with Robert Rodriguez), everything here is flat. SPLATT!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Top 10 Box-Office Films of 2008

IMDB has released its list of the 25 Top Box-office movies of 2008. Titled 'Box Office Power: The Top 25 Movies of 2008', the 25 films all grossed more than US$100 million last year. As expected, 'The Dark Knight' tops the list, with 'Iron Man' and 'Indy Jones' making up the Top 3.

Here is a list of the Top 10 Box-Office Movies of 2008.

1. THE DARK KNIGHT - US$530.9 million

2. IRON MAN - US$318.3 million

3. INDIANA JONES and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull - US$317 million

4. HANCOCK - US$227.9 million

5. WALL-E - US$223.8 million

6. KUNGFU PANDA - US$215 million

7. MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA - US$174.9 million

8. TWILIGHT - US$169.9 million

9. QUANTUM OF SOLACE - US$164.3 million

10. HORTON HEARS A WHO! - US$154.5 million

'Dark Knight' Tops At People's Choice Awards

CALL it a tribute to the late Heath Ledger or whatever, but "The Dark Knight" won every trophy it was nominated for yesterday at the 35th annual fan-favourite CBS ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

The Batman flick won five awards, including favourite cast, superhero, action movie and on-screen matchup for Christian Bale's Batman and the late Ledger's Joker.


Here is a list of winners at the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards:


Favourite Movie: "The Dark Knight"

Family movie: "WALL-E"


Action movie: "The Dark Knight"


Comedy movie: "27 Dresses"


Drama movie: "The Secret Life of Bees"


Independent movie: "The Secret Life of Bees"


Favourite cast: "The Dark Knight"


Male movie star: Will Smith


Leading man: Brad Pitt


Male action star: Will Smith


Female movie star: Reese Witherspoon


Leading lady: Kate Hudson


Female action star: Angelina Jolie


On-screen matchup: Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"


Superhero: Christian Bale as Batman, "The Dark Knight"


TV drama: "House"


TV comedy: "Two and a Half Men"


TV animated comedy: "The Simpsons"


Sci-fi/fantasy show: "Heroes"


Reality show: "Dancing With the Stars"


Game show: "Deal or No Deal"


Male TV star: Hugh Laurie


Female TV star: Christina Applegate


Talk show host: Ellen DeGeneres


Scene-stealing guest star: Robin Williams, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"


TV drama diva: Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Johnson, "The Closer"


New TV comedy: "Gary Unmarried"


New TV drama: "The Mentalist"


Male singer: Chris Brown


Female singer: Carrie Underwood


Group: Rascal Flatts


R&B song: Alicia Keys, "No One"


Pop song: Katy Perry, "I Kissed a Girl"


Rock song: Kid Rock, "All Summer Long"


Country song: Carrie Underwood, "Last Name"


Hip-hop song: Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, "Low"


Combined forces: Jordin Sparks featuring Chris Brown, "No Air"


Song from a soundtrack: "Mamma Mia" from "Mamma Mia!"


Funny male star: Adam Sandler


Funny female star: Tina Fey


Star under 35: Carrie Underwood

(Source: AP)

Zhang Ziyi 'Caught' Topless By Papparazi

One of the pix of Zhang and Aviv Nevo

CHINESE superstar Zhang Ziyi has become a hot traffic item on the Internet ever since she was caught topless by paparazzi with her Israeli boyfriend Aviv “Vivi” Nevo, 43, in St Barts, French West Indies, last weekend.

The photo scandal of the actress smooching on the exclusive and private beach got her fans to clamour the Chinese authorities to crackdown on 'porn' on the Internet. Some close-minded fans also called for her to be blacklisted.

Her expose comes a year after the Edison Chen photo scandal, when the Hong Kong-based actor's collection of intimate shots with various actresses and celebrities shook the Chinese entertainment industry last January. However, the Zhang Ziyi photos are not as explicit and obscene as last year's.

It is considered natural for guests to go topless while sunbathing on St Barts beach - and most people see this as an invasion of privacy by a Los Angeles-based papparazi.


Ziyi announced last July that she will marry Nevo, a media capitalist and movie producer, this year.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

BEDTIME STORIES: Hoo-humm

BEDTIME STORIES (fantasy comedy)
Cast: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Richard Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Lucy Lawless, Courteney Cox and Jonathan Pryce

Directors: Adam Shankman

Time: 99 mins

Rating: * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: This is one of a few family comedies that Adam Sandler has made, the other notable one being 'Click'. However, 'Bedtime Stories' is not going to endear him to children or their parents. The elaborate sets and cool special effects aside, this one is so full of infantile gags and lame writing that even children will find it crappy.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Sandler is Skeeter Bronson, a handyman who has dreams of running the hotel his father used to own. When he is called upon to babysit his sister’s (Courteny Cox) kids for a week, the bedtime stories he tells them take a twist when the lines injected by the kids start come true the next day. Skeeter, of course, tries to capitalise on this but...

HITS AND MISSES:
'Bedtime Stories' serves up four fantasy tales - a medieval gladiator-type adventure, a Western, an action/romance, and a space caper - all of which have silly, cliched endings. There are some promising moments in the plot but it's downright dispiriting to see director Shankman squander them away with such a banal interpretation.

'Bedtime Stories' could have been magical, if only Sandler had not made his Skeeter such an annoying ass. (Imagine turning a spray-can on himself and crying out in pain just to get a giggle?)
Another annoyance is the CGI guinea pig named Bugsy who serves no real purpose except to provide the ill-conceived 'cute factor' for kids.

THE LOWDOWN:
Sandler's dopey persona (as the no-talent guy who makes it just because he is funny and lucky) seems to be wearing thin - and now even the kids will know it!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pat Hingle Dies At 84

VETERAN actor Pat Hingle (right), who played Commissioner Gordon in several Batman movies in the 1990s, has died. He was 84.

A family friend said Hingle died of blood cancer at his home in Carolina Beach, N.C., USA, shortly after 10 p.m. last Saturday.

Hingle's career in movies and television spanned six decades, and he was also nominated for a Tony Award in 1958. Hingle's last movie was 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,' which was released in 2006.

Martin Patterson Hingle was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of Marvin Louise (née Patterson), a schoolteacher and musician, and Clarence Martin Hingle, a building contractor. He enlisted in the U.S
. Navy in December 1941, dropping out of the University of Texas. He served on the destroyer USS Marshall during World War II. He returned to the University of Texas after the war and earned a degree in radio broadcasting.

Hingle, with Julie Condra in 'Road To Redemption'

Marley and 7 Others Keep US B-O rankings

AFTER an encouraging start last weekend, 'Marley And Me' held on to the top spot in the US box-office. The other Top 8 movies on last week's list also held on to their positions in a week that saw no big movie openings in the US.

Here are the Jan 2-4, 2009 figures, according to rank, (previous rank), weekend taking, cumulative gross, week on chart:

1 (1) Marley And Me US$24,263,763 US$106,664,046 2nd wk


2 (2) Bedtime Stories US$20,501,339 US$85,539,168 2nd wk


3 (3) Curious Case of Benjamin Button US$18,691,248 US$79,297,086 2nd wk


4 (4) Valkyrie US$14,094,617 US$60,743,921 2nd wk


5 (5) Yes Man US$13,910,477 US$79,507,388 3rd wk


6 (6) Seven Pounds US$10,068,518 US$60,147,298 3rd wk


7 (7) Tale of Despereaux US$6,939,295 US$43,661,775 3rd wk


8 (8) Day the Earth Stood Still US$5,049,698 US$74,424,256 4th wk


9 (10) Doubt US$5,000,893 US$18,705,481 4th wk


10 (13) Slumdog Millionaire US$4,690,769 US$28,676,598 8th wk

Source: Boxofficemojo.com


Friday, January 02, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Jan 2 - 4, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW This Week:

a) JUNO (2007 drama with Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Allison Janney) Rated * * * 1/2 (out of 4): It is two years too late but this movie, written by ex-stripper Diablo Cody is still a worthwhile comedy about teenage pregnancy. Charming acting by Ellen Page. (Review in my February 2008 blog).


b) FOUR CHRISTMASES (comedy with Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Chenoweth, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): There are some fun moments in this uneven comedy about a couple forced to spend Christmas with their divorced parents. However, Yuletide season is over... (Reviewed below)

c) BEDTIME STORIES (fantasy comedy with Adam Sandler, Guy Pearce, Keri Russell, Lucy Lawless and Courteney Cox) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Sandler plays a handyman who finds his bedtime stories come to life. With a plot like that, it is slanted towards kiddie entertainment. (pic above)

d) LADY COP AND PAPA CROOK (crime thriller with Sammi Cheng, Eason Chan, Michelle Ye, Chapman To and Kate Tsui) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The big deal is that Sammi is back after a hiatus of three years. However, this flick won't put her at the top of the pop star pile. (Reviewed below)

e) OUTLANDER (fantasy adventure with Jack Huston, James Caviezel, Ron Perlman and Sophia Myles) Rating * * (2 stars): An outlandish fantasy, set in the Viking era, that incorporates dragons and alien predators. It will make you wonder at the ridiculous lengths film-makers will go to make cinema fodder.

STILL GOING STRONG:


1. IP MAN (Cantonese kungfu drama with Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung) Rated * * * (3 stars): This biopic on the grandmaster of Wing Chun kungfu and the tutor of the legendary Bruce Lee is nicely balanced with great martial arts action and an engaging narrative.


2. YES MAN (comedy with Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby and Terence Stamp) Rated * * * (3 stars): This comedy plays out better when it goes into romantic comedy mode with Carrey and Deschanel displaying good screen chemistry. Otherwise, a bit uneven. (Reviewed below)

3. AUSTRALIA (romantic adventure with Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Bryan Brown, Brandon Walters and David Wenham) Rated * * 1/2 (out of 4): It is not the epic love story to move you but it has enough substance to keep you interested. Good show by Kidman, Jackman and young Brandon Walters. (Reviewed below)


4. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (sci-fi remake starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith and Kathy Bates) Rated * * (2 stars): A rather bland remake of the 1951 Robert Wise classic that is big on CGI effects but low on substance. (Reviewed below)


5. THE SPIRIT (comic book recreation starring Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson) Rating * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Comic book writer Frank Miller's debut directorial effort proves one thing: that he could not flesh out his characters to give them the third dimension. Unlike 'Sin City' (which Miller co-directed with Robert Rodirguez), everything here is flat. SPLATT!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

'IP MAN' Tops Local B-O For Second Weekend

'Australia' Opens at Disappointing 6th Place!

DONNIE YEN's kungfu film, 'Ip Man' (pictured below), topped the local box-office again last weekend (Dec 25-28, 2008) and collected RM1.115 million at 65 screens for a cumulative gross of RM3.09 million over two weeks. The biopic on Bruce Lee's martial arts master, Yip Man, collected RM1.28 million in its opening weekend (Dec 18-20).



'The Spirit' did RM979,000 last weekend at second position, while 'Yes Man' made RM571,000 at third place. The big surprise, at least for me, is how badly Australia' did in its opening weekend, losing out to even holdover, 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' (in its third week).

Here is the rest of the line-up and last weekend's collection:


4. Bedtime Stories made RM564,000 in its sneak previews;

5. Day The Earth Stood Still - RM326,000 in its 3rd week;


6. Australia - RM320,000 in its opening weekend;


7. Beverly Hills Chihuahua - RM244,000 in its 2nd week;


8. Cicakman 2 - RM180,000 in its 3rd week;


9. Diary of The Dead - RM173,000 in opening weekend;


10. Bolt - RM146,000 in its 4th week.

(Source: Boxoficemojo.com)