Monday, June 29, 2009

Optimus Takings For Transformers 2

JUNE 29, 2009 - Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen expectedly topped the US box-office with an estimated US$112 million takings in its first weekend (June 26-28), Boxofficemojo reports.

"Ravaging approximately 10,000 screens at 4,234 sites, Revenge of the Fallen logged the biggest June opening weekend ever as well as the highest-grossing non-holiday, non-Friday opening weekend, and it ranked seventh overall. Grossing US$201.2 million since its Wednesday debut, the picture scored the second-largest five-day start of all time behind The Dark Knight's US$203.8 million. The first Transformers' opening weekend came in at US$70.5 million, and it didn't cross US$200 million until its 12th day," Brandon Gray reports.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 B-O list for June 26-28, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend taking in USD, (Cumulative gross in USD) and week on chart.

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $112.0 million ($201.2 million) 1

2. The Proposal $18.5 million ($69.1 million) 2

3. The Hangover $17.2 million ($183.2 million) 4

4. Up $13.0 million ($250.2 million) 5

5. My Sister's Keeper $12.0 million ($12.0 million) 1

'No Way MJ Could Have Performed in London'

Biographer Unveils MJ's Health Woes

JUNE 29, 2009 - As fans mourned the death of Michael Jackson and revelled in his music, shocking stories of his last years began to emerge these past few days. Ian Halperin, who wrote a biography of MJ, said that there was no way he could have performed "one concert in London, let alone 50".

The concerts in London’s O2 Arena were an attempt to pay off MJ's huge debts estimated at £242million (RM1.3 billion).

Halperin wrote that MJ was suffering from a genetic disease called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency – the lack of a protein that can help protect the lungs.


"Michael was receiving regular injections of Alpha-1 antitrypsin derived from human plasma. The treatment is said to be remarkably effective and can enable the sufferer to lead a normal life.

"But the disease can cause respiratory problems and, in severe cases, emphysema. Could this be why Jackson had for years been wearing a surgical mask in public, to protect his lungs from the ravages of the disease? Or why, from time to time, he resorted to a wheelchair? (picture) When I returned to my source inside the Jackson camp for confirmation, he said: ‘Yeah, that’s what he’s got. He’s in bad shape. They’re worried that he might need a lung transplant but he may be too weak. Some days he can hardly see and he’s having a lot of trouble walking.’"

Halperin wrote that as the London concerts approached, something was clearly wrong. Jackson had vowed to travel to England at least eight weeks before his first shows, but he kept putting it off.

‘To be honest, I never thought Michael would set foot on a concert stage ever again,’ said one aide, choking back tears on the evening of his death. This was not only predictable, this was inevitable.’

On June 21, Jackson told my contact that he wanted to die. He said that he didn’t have what it would take to perform any more because he had lost his voice and dance moves.

‘It’s not working out,’ Jackson said. ‘I’m better off dead. I don’t have anywhere left to turn. I’m done.’

"Michael’s closest confidante told me just two hours after he died that ‘Michael was tired of living. He was a complete wreck for years and now he can finally be in a better place. People around him fed him drugs to keep him on their side. They should be held accountable.’

It is worth noting that the O2 Arena has the most sophisticated lip-synching technology in the world – a particular attraction for a singer who can no longer sing. Had, by some miracle, the concerts gone ahead, Jackson’s personal contribution could have been limited to just 13 minutes for each performance. The rest was to have been choreography and lights.

‘We knew it was a disaster waiting to happen,’ said one aide. ‘I don’t think anybody predicted it would actually kill him but nobody believed he would end up performing.’

Their doubts were underscored when Jackson collapsed during only his second rehearsal.

Read the Daily Mail report here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson's Death Upstages Fawcett's

JUNE 26, 2009 - Poor Farrah Fawcett. Even in death, she was upstaged - by the news of the demise of pop icon Michael Jackson yesterday. Fawcett, who suffered from cancer, died at St John’s Heath Center in Santa Monica. She was 62.

However, the world is shocked by news of Jackson's death, reportedly of heart attack, at 2.26pm PDT (5.26am Malaysian time) on arrival at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 50.

Fawcett was a pop culture pin-up girl whose hairstyle (picture) was emulated by millions of young women. Her poster sales broke records, making her an international sex symbol in the 1970s and 1980s. Fawcett rose to international fame as private investigator Jill Munroe in the TV series Charlie's Angels in 1976. Fawcett later appeared off-Broadway and in highly rated television movies in roles like The Burning Bed, Nazi Hunter, The Beate Klarsfeld Story, Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story and Margaret Bourke-White.

Her 1989 portrayal of convicted murderer Diane Downs in the miniseries Small Sacrifices earned her a second Emmy nomination and her sixth Golden Globe Award nomination.

King of Pop Jackson (left), who had lived as a recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on charges of child molestation, had been scheduled to launch a comeback tour from London, from July 13 until March 2010. He had been rehearsing for the past two months.

The shows for the 50 London concerts sold out within minutes of going on sale in March.

His lifetime record sales tally is believed to be around 750 million, which, added to the 13 Grammy Awards he received, makes him one of the most successful entertainers of all time. However, his accountants say Jackson leaves behind a mountain of debt, including a $200 million loan secured by his stake in the Beatles catalogue. Jackson owned the music in a joint venture with Sony Corp known as Sony/ATV.

May they rest in peace.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ICE AGE 3: A Must For The Family

ICE AGE 3: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (animated fantasy in 3D)
Voice cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah and Chris Wedge
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: We have learnt that the dinosaurs and the woolly mammals did not roam the Earth at the same time but if the scripters of Ice Age 3 suggest that they did, why quibble? They have always taken 'make-belief' to extraordinary and even bizarre levels and as long as this sequel is funny, fast-paced and fun, we should go along for the ride.

Indeed, with its visuals enhanced by Dolby 3D, this one is an exhilarating ride for the whole family.

THE SKINNY: While previous instalments centre around the family (or herd), this sequel adds the issue of motherhood to the fray. Woolly mammoth Manny (voice of Ray Romano) and his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) are expecting their first baby and Manny seems obsessed by it. Sabre-toothed tiger Diego (Dennis Leary) and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) react differently to the eagerly-waited arrival: Diego feels threatened and sets off alone, while Sid gets a huge dose of motherly instinct when he finds some dinosaur eggs and decides to hatch them himself.

The resulting births lead the clan off on a rescue-adventure to a land beneath the ice where dinosaurs still rule the world and a weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg aka Scott of Star Trek) is locked in an epic swashbuckling battle with an enormous prehistoric beast.

THE CRITIQUE: For those who find the original threesome (Manny, Sid and Diego) getting to be tiresome, the scripters have cleverly added the rascally one-eyed Buck as a tour guide of sorts into the land of dinosaurs. Voiced by Pegg with a heavy British accent, Buck makes good company and comic relief, providing gags about T-Rex being turned into a T-Rachel, et al. Indeed, Manny isn't much fun to start with, Diego is becoming a real sourpussy and Sid's hyperactive nature is bordering on irritating rather than funny. Yeah, we sorely need someone and some thing to Buck this trend and the weasel fits the bill. Also, an encounter with rampaging pterodactyls is as exciting and spectacular than any Star Wars battle you have seen - thanks to the 3D effects.

And then there is the acorn-chasing Scratt and his newfound love Scratte whose dalliances are accompanied by some cool songs like Lou Rawls' "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine". Movie-goers would have seen them in the trailer since the start iof this year - and their love story should be familiar by now.

THE LOWDOWN: A must-see for those with young children.

10 Best Picture Nominees for Oscar From Now On

JUNE 24, 2009 - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that there will be 10 nominees for the Best Picture category when nominations for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards are announced on February 2, 2010.

Academy president Sid Ganis said the move as a "return to the past" when AMPAS spread its list to 10 - and sometimes more - Best Picture nominees.

While the Academy hasn't nominated 10 films since 1943, momentum for the course correction grew out of this year's Oscar show. In their post-show review, they encouraged the Academy to consider opening up the Best Picture category, and the committee that reviewed the show recommended it to the board, which approved the change with no opposition.

The move came in the wake of the howls of outrage from fans of last year's "The Dark Knight," which earned eight nominations but didn't crack the Best Picture circle. Arguably, a wider field of nominees would have included that movie.

WEEKEND PIC - June 26 - 38, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (fantasy thriller with Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Matthew Marsden, Rainn Wilson, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro) Rated * * * (3 stars out of 4): This is the summer blockbuster of the year that has been drawing the crowds at every cineplex. It has more of what the fans want, never mind that it is still flawed and too long. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:


1. STATE OF PLAY (mystery drama with Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn and Helen Mirren) Rated: * * * (3 out of 4 stars): Adapted from a BBC series, this American version is a well-made film with compelling performances. (Reviewed below)

2) TERMINATOR SALVATION (sci-fi thriller with Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood and Common) Rated * * * (3 stars): This mix of Transformers and Mad Max will please action fans but Terminator dudes may feel short-changed. (Reviewed below)

3) DRAG ME TO HELL (suspense thriller with Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao and David Paymer) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars) This Sam Raimi thriller recalls his Evil Dead days but it is more yucky than scary with lots of gooey stuff being stuffed into Lohman's mouth. (Reviewed below)

4) LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (thriller with Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton, Martha MacIsaac and Riki Lindhome) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This remake of Wes Craven's 1972 flick ups the ante on graphic violence and blood and gore. Not for the squeamish. (Reviewed below)

5) DANCE, SUBARU! (dance drama in Japanese with Meisa Kuroki, Miku Sano, Yuta Haraoka, Kaori Momoi, Toshio Kakei and Ara) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Art-film biopic adapted from manga about the challenges facing a dancer. Nothing impressive but watchable. (Reviewed below)

6) BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (fantasy thriller with Gianna Jeon Ji-Hyun, Allison Miller, Liam Cunningham, Michael Byrne and Koyuki) Rated * * (2 stars): There are lots of slicing and slashing with 'Sassy Girl' Jeon playing the title character. But this gets boring very quickly and the triller feels anaemic and derivative. (Reviewed below)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Boost for Bullock at US Weekend B-O

SANDRA Bullock's career got a huge boost when The Proposal lead the US box-office last Father's Day weekend (June 19-21, 2009) opening at US$33.6 million. Comedy Year One had a disappointing first weekend, making the list at Number 4, while The Hangover is still strong in its third week.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 B-O list, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend taking in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart (figures courtesy of Boxofficemojo).

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal

1. The Proposal $33,627,598 ($33,627,598) 1
2. The Hangover $26,753,473 ($152,817,015) 3
3. Up $23,492,677 ($226,268,932) 4
4. Year One $19,610,304 ($19,610,304) 1
5. Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 $12,034,899 ($44,067,224) 2


TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN - It's Bayhem Time!

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (fantasy thriller)
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Matthew Marsden, Rainn Wilson, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro
Director: Michael Bay
Time: 148 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: It's the Summer 'Bayhem' time again and director Michael Bay is giving us more of everything. A whole lot more, folks. This sequel is longer, louder, faster-paced and flashier. Bay sure takes care of the six-Cs of crazy action flicks: more clashes, chases and crashes, more comedy, carnage and cleavage.

Loaded with such dynamite, you can bet it is gonna 'explode' the box-office!

THE SKINNY: The alien Autobots and the US military have teamed up to form NEST, an elite unit dedicated to wiping out the Decepticons. However, after an incident involving a rogue robot disrupts the peace in Shanghai, it is clear that something sinister is heading for Earth: a diabolical entity known as ‘The Fallen’.

A hunt is on for a precious device that will destroy the Earth (in the first film it was the “all-spark”, here it’s “the matrix”) Optimus Prime seeks the help of our all-American hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), now a freshman in college, to save the world. Tagging along for the ride are Sam's girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox, below) and college mate Leo (Ramon Rodriguez).


HITS & MISSES: Like in the first movie, Bay and his scripters have kept the pace fast, the chicks hot and the intellectual level low. Sam's parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) are shown as near-nitwits - with White going over-the-top as an airhead ("I feel smarter already," she says, after getting a whiff of the air at Sam's college). Still, Dunn and White provide the much needed comic relief during the lull between the mayhem in the first half of the movie.

They are replaced by John Turturro (reprising his role as ex-Agent Simmons) in the second half which takes the action to the deserts of Egypt and Jordan. Indeed, the CGI effects are awesome, especially those of the robot attacks on an aircraft carrier, of little ball-bearings grouping together to form a snoop-robot - and 'bots that behave like horny dogs. Bay seems to have become so adept with manipulating the Transformer robots that some display emotion more realistically than the human stars. Why, the robots even get the laughs and sometimes I wonder if Bay had purposely 'directed' the 'bots to perform better than the human cast?

Scenes of the Autobots and the Decepticons fighting each other can be confusing, as there are times when we can't tell the good ones from the bad. Also, the repetitious mayhem gets tedious after too much of it. Bay should have reduced the metal-clashing sequences and make the film shorter at say, two hours. Indeed, too much of a good thing can be tiresome - even shots of Megan Fox's heaving cleavage that we get every time she is on camera.

THE LOWDOWN: Awesome feast for the eyes and ears but not for the mind.

Friday, June 19, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - June 19 - 21, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (thriller with Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton, Martha MacIsaac and Riki Lindhome) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This remake of Wes Craven's 1972 flick ups the ante on graphic violence and blood and gore. Not for the squeamish. (Reviewed below)

b) DANCE, SUBARU! (dance drama in Japanese with Meisa Kuroki, Miku Sano, Yuta Haraoka, Kaori Momoi, Toshio Kakei and Ara) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Art-film biopic type about the challenges facing a dancer. Nothing impressive about the dance moves but watchable, nonetheless. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. STATE OF PLAY (mystery drama with Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn and Helen Mirren) Rated: * * * (3 out of 4 stars): Adapted from a BBC series, this American version is a well-made film with compelling performances. (Reviewed below)

2) TERMINATOR SALVATION (sci-fi thriller with Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood and Common) Rated * * * (3stars): This mix of Transformers and Mad Max will please action fans but Terminator dudes may feel shortchanged. (Reviewed below)

3) MONSTERS Vs ALIENS (animated thriller with voices of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland, and Stephen Colbert) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's action-packed fun for the family even if it does not quite match up to The Incredibles and WALL-E. (Reviewed below)

4) HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE (Musical with Miley Cyrus, Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus and Emily Osment) Rating * * * (3 stars out of 4): A fun outing for the family with Miley in hip-hop and country mode.

5) 17 AGAIN (fantasy comedy with Zac Efron, Leslie Mann (pictured), Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry and Melora Hardin) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Yeah, Efron rocks in this body-switch vehicle about getting a second chance at life. Jokes are mostly on character quirks, though. (Reviewed below)

6) DRAG ME TO HELL (suspense thriller with Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao and David Paymer) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars) This Sam Raimi thriller recalls his Evil Dead days but it is more yucky than scary with lots of gooey stuff being stuffed into Lohman's mouth. (Reviewed below)

7) FIGHTING (drama with Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, Brian J. White and Luis Guzmán) Rated * * (2 stars): A rather tame and sometimes lame story about an Alabama lad seeking his fortune in the underground fights circle of New York City. (Reviewed below)

8) BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (fantasy thriller with Gianna Jeon Ji-Hyun, Allison Miller, Liam Cunningham, Michael Byrne and Koyuki) Rated * * (2 stars): There are lots of slicing and slashing with 'Sassy Girl' Jeon playing the title character. But this gets boring very quickly and the thriller feels anaemic and derivative. (Reviewed below)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

DANCE, SUBARU! Sweet, But She's No Dancing Queen

DANCE, SUBARU! (Dance drama)
Cast: Meisa Kuroki, Sano Miku, Yuta Haraoka, Kaori Momoi, Toshio Kakei and Ara
Director: Lee Chi Ngai
Time: 113 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Sano Miku, Meisa Kuroki and Ara

PREAMBLE: Don't be put off by the fact that this movie is adapted from a Japanese manga written by Masahito Soda. On the other hand, don't expect too much of it either. The manga is reportedly about a young dancer's quest to combine ballet and breakdance - but you are not going to be floored by its dance moves, especially if you are a dance enthusiast yourself.

THE SKINNY: As children, Subaru and her twin brother Kazuma share a dream of dancing ballet together. This is not to be as Kazuma dies of a hereditary disease that has also killed their mother. Subaru, however, is determined to pursue that dream alone - and she sneaks into a cabaret to watch the dancers.

Subaru's enthusiasm is noticed by cabaret club owner and retired ballerina Madam Isuzu (Kaori Momoi) who trains and encourages her to dance. Meanwhile, she also takes lessons from the mother of her classmate Mana (Sani Miku) and even gets a nudge or two from a friend named Liz Park (Korean actress Ara) who also gets her involved in the world of break-dancing.

With so much going her way, Subaru nevertheless has obstacles: her demons, her health and her father who wants her to go to college. The crunch comes when Subaru has to audition in Shanghai for a scholarship.

HITS & MISSES: You don't have to be familiar with the ballet world to realise that the story is pure hokum! In real life, no one is going out of their way to get anyone to dance professionally and compete against oneself. Not even in the name of art!

However, director Lee Chi Ngai, who also wrote the screenplay, seems adept at warming up the movie to the audience, despite the wooden performance of lead star Kuroki. Indeed, Kuroki may be sexy and alluring but there is no chemistry whatsoever between her and her co-stars.

Among the cast, Ara is the most outstanding and easily steals the show from Kuroki. So does Momoi at various scenes. The cinematography by Takuro Ishizaka is first class, though.

THE LOWDOWN: Young and sweet, and only 17, but she's no Dancing Queen!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT: Pumped Up Violence

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (terror adventure)
Cast: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton, Martha MacIsaac, Riki Lindhome, Spencer Treat Clark, Aaron Paul and Joshua Cox
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Time: 99 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: This is a remake of the 1972 Wes Craven gut-wrenching feature (poster, right) about two hippie chicks who run into a bunch of the drug culture's scum-of-the-earth types that raped and brutalised them. Here the plot has been 'updated' and the graphic violence increased and enhanced to suit modern-day tastes.

For viewers in Malaysia, this can only mean one thing: The censorship board has also gotten into the act and slashed the movie accordingly.


THE SKINNY: The title refers to a remote house beside a lake where Mari (Sara Paxton) and her parents (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter, pictured) are spending the weekend. After meeting up with her friend Piage (Martha MacIsaac), they are kidnapped by a prison escapee and his gang and driven to the lake where the girls are attacked.

Later, left for dead in the wilderness, Mari's only hope is to make it back to her parents. However, her attackers unknowingly seek shelter at the one place she could be safe. When her family realises what has happened, they start making the three strangers curse the day they came to the "Last House on the Left."

HITS & MISSES: This is actually a remake of a remake because Craven's was a loose adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, translating from a medieval Swedish folk tale. Greek director Dennis Iliadis is aided by a credible cast who help to heighten tension and terror in the proceedings.

I am especially impressed by the subplot about the contrast between two fathers - played by Goldwyn and Garret Dillahunt. What I do not like is that the characters are allowed to engage in very stupid actions that mar the plausibility of the plot. Nymphettes Paxton and MacIsaac provide eye candy but many of their scenes have been 'exorcised'.

THE LOWDOWN: Pay a visit only if you can tolerate violent flicks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No Show for 'Year One' in Malaysia


JUNE 16, 2009 - A statement from Buena Vista Columbia Pictures (Disney side) has stated that its 'primitive' comedy, Year One, will not be released in Malaysia.

The movie, directed by Harold Ramis and starring Jack Black and Michael Cera (pictured above) as a couple of lazy hunter-gatherers, is opening in the States this Friday (June 19). No reason was given for the no-show but my bet is that it would have too many censorship cuts.

Year One is touted to be similar to Monty Python's Life of Brian and it spoofs the stories of the Bible, and has lots of poop and fart jokes, among other things. Check out the trailer here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - June 12 - 14, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) STATE OF PLAY (mystery drama with Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn and Helen Mirren) Rated: * * * (3 out of 4 stars): Adapted from a BBC series, this American version is a well-made film with compelling performances. (Reviewed below) (Pic above: Crowe and McAdams)

b) DRAG ME TO HELL (suspense thriller with Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao and David Paymer) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars) This Sam Raimi thriller recalls his Evil Dead days but it is more yucky than scary with lots of gooey stuff being stuffed into Lohman's mouth. (Reviewed below).

c) BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (fantasy thriller with Gianna Jeon Ji-Hyun, Allison Miller, Liam Cunningham, Michael Byrne and Koyuki) Rated * * (2 stars): There are lots of slicing and slashing with 'Sassy Girl' Jeon playing the title character. But this gets boring very quickly and the triller feels anaemic and derivative. (Reviewed below).

STILL GOING STRONG:

1) TERMINATOR SALVATION (sci-fi thriller with Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood and Common) Rated * * * (3stars): This mix of Transformers and Mad Max will please action fans but Terminator dudes may feel shortchanged. (Reviewed below).

2) MONSTERS Vs ALIENS (animated thriller with voices of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland, and Stephen Colbert) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's action-packed fun for the family even if it does not quite match up to The Incredibles and WALL-E. (Reviewed below).

3) HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE (Musical with Miley Cyrus, Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus and Emily Osment) Rating * * * (3 stars out of 4): A fun outing for the family with Miley in hip-hop and country mode.

4) THE BROTHERS BLOOM (comedy adventure with Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Nora Zehetner and Robbie Coltrane) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A 'lazy' con men caper about two brothers trying to fleece an heiress. The movie is upstaged by Weisz. (Reviewed below).

5) 17 AGAIN (fantasy comedy with Zac Efron, Leslie Mann (pictured), Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry and Melora Hardin) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Yeah, Efron rocks in this body-switch vehicle about getting a second chance at life. Jokes are mostly on character quirks, though. (Reviewed below).

6) FIGHTING (drama with Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, Brian J. White and Luis Guzmán) Rated * * (2 stars): A rather tame and sometimes lame story about an Alabama lad seeking his fortune in the underground fights circle of New York City. (Reviewed below).

DRAG ME TO HELL - More Yucky Than Scary

DRAG ME TO HELL (suspense thriller)
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer and Adriana Barraza
Director: Sam Raimi
Time: 99 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: In Drag Me To Hell, Sam Raimi returns to his 'Evil Dead' roots - or the realm of the schlocky shocker. The catchword here is 'return' for if you expect to see some magical transformation after those Spidey movies, you will be disappointed.

As the title suggests, Drag Me To Hell is a plain and simple suspense thriller with a touch more of the yucky stuff than the gory or scary.

THE SKINNY: Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is an ambitious loan officer with an LA bank who is vying for a promotion with another colleague. Her chances look great until an old gypsy (Lorna Raver as Mrs Ganush) arrives at the bank to beg for an extension on her home loan. Should Christine follow her instincts and give the old woman a break? Or should she deny the extension to impress her boss (David Paymer)?

Christine's choice makes the old woman to put a powerful curse her, transforming her life into a living hell. Haunted by an evil spirit and misunderstood by a skeptical boyfriend (Justin Long as Clay Dalton), she seeks the aid of seer Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) to save her soul from eternal damnation. To help Christine return her life to normal, the psychic sets her on a frantic course to reverse the spell. Soon she must face the unthinkable: how far will she go to break free of the curse?

HITS & MISSES: One aspect of the plot that should interest the viewer is that involving the mortgage crisis that is the centre of our economic woes. We understand Mrs Ganush's problem as well as Christine's need to fight back.

However, this is one of the most yucky movies I have seen in a long time as Raimi revels in sequences of flies, phlegm and whatnot being transferred from one mouth to another. And then of course, there is the overloud 'noisetrack' and incessant bumping up of its volume to scare us. The exorcism scenes are rather lame compared to those of the previous outings. However, I like the twist at the ending. That's something you don't see coming.

THE LOWDOWN: Watchable but not on a full stomach.

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE - Anaemic Effort

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (fantasy thriller)
Cast: Gianna Jeon Ji-Hyun, Allison Miller, Liam Cunningham, Michael Byrne, Koyuki and Larry Lamb
Director: Chris Nahon
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: Step aside, Blade; move over, Buffy. Make way for Saya, the latest vampire-slayer from Japan. Played by South Korea's Jeon Ji-Hyun with a perpetual pout and sullen face, Saya disposes of her blood-sucking prey with just one swipe of her samurai sword.

If you should think that this is comical and cliched, it is because Blood: The Last Vampire is adapted from the Japanese anime movie series that started in 2000 and spawned manga (comics), novels, videogames and this live-action feature.

THE SKINNY: Saya, a half-vampire, half-human hybrid, is the hitwoman for the Council, a secret government organisation with 'men in black' operatives. Saya, who is actually centuries old, masquerades as a teenage student to infiltrate an American Air Force base in Japan where the demons are believed to be hiding.

At the base, she saves the commandant's daughter Alice (Allison Miller) from the blood-suckers - and the two girls team up to look for Saya's nemesis, Onigen (played by Koyuki), who is believed to have killed Saya's father.

HITS & MISSES: The opening scene, where Saya cuts slices a man into two in a Tokyo subway train, sets the tone for the rest of the show: emotionless, uninvolving and pretentious. That man was a suspected demon - and for the rest of the movie, we get lots of them to provide prolonged chases, slow-mo fights and clashes, and fodder for Saya's katana (sword).

Jeon, who is billed as Gianna here, is wasted here. Her charms and talent, seen abundantly in My Sassy Girl, is untapped here as she wears just a few expressions to play Saya. Ditto that for Koyuki (of The Last Samurai) who only has a cameo, and Yasuaki Kurata who plays Kato, Saya's guardian and trainer.

What works in the anime original may not work in live-action. Director Chris Nahon seems to be translating the action from the cartoon version to live without any character development. Also, some of his slow-mo sequences may seem cool at first, but after repetitious scenes, they get boring. Indeed, after half-an-hour of this flick, you will feel bored and restless.

THE LOWDOWN: Anaemic effort.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

STATE OF PLAY: Another Gem To Crowe About

STATE OF PLAY (mystery drama)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn, Helen Mirren and Jeff Daniels
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: This movie is adapted from a 2003 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) mini-series which was set in London. For this remake, screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray have not only set the drama in Washington DC, they have also updated the State Of Play with the current state of newspapers in the 21st Century.

Their prognosis is dismal: With the blogs on the Internet, the days of the printed press are numbered, if you don't already know that.

Mirren, McAdams and Crowe in State Of Play

THE SKINNY: The movie opens with two seemingly unconnected deaths: A drug-addict snatch thief is shot dead in an alley; and the chief researcher (Maria Thayer as Sonia Baker) of a Congressman is mysteriously killed in a subway accident. When it is discovered that the Congressman is Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), who is chairman of a committee reviewing a proposal to 'outsource' homeland security, the media dig deeper and learn that he is having an affair with Sonia.

Enter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), a reporter at the Washington Globe. McAffrey, who happens to be a college buddy of Collins and his wife Anne (Robin Wright), is investigating the homicide of the snatch thief when clues lead him to believe that the two cases are connected. Backed by his editor, Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren), and partnered with blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), Cal believes that he has uncovered a massive corporate conspiracy perpetrated by a firm called Pointcorp to get the Government contract. As expected, Cal and Della find their lives at risk as they probe deeper and deeper into the story...

HITS & MISSES: It is evident that director Kevin Macdonald (of The Last King Of Scotland fame) has done a good job of condensing the six-hour TV series into a two-hour feature - without losing the main plot ingredients. Macdonald plunges us right into the 'conspiracy' and keeps us interested and rivetted by unravelling bits of juicy info throughout the first two acts. Like, is Cal compromising his professional integrity by discussing the story with Collins and his wife?

Like, when Cal pleads for the story to be held back, is he jeopardising his paper? One thing is clear: the big name cast is first rate and they give the movie the credibility and the zest it needs. Journalists in the audience would understand when Mirren, as the pressured editor, proclaims: “The real story is the sinking of this newspaper! The new owners are interested in sales, not discretion!”

Crowe is cool and comfortable as the scruffy reporter while McAdams is cute and gutsy as his foil. They have chemistry too. Jason Bateman has a minor role as a sleazy middle-man.

THE LOWDOWN: Just the treat for fans of conspiracy theories.

Check out the BBC mini-series trailer:



Friday, June 05, 2009

'Kill Bill' Carradine's Death A Suicide?


JUNE 5, 2009 - It simply boggles the mind to accept the death of Kill Bill star David Carradine as suicide - as proposed by Thai police.

Carradine was found dead in a hotel room closet with a rope tied to his neck and genitals, Thai police said yesterday, adding that his death may have been caused by accidental suffocation.
They should probe into what made him do that 'rope trick'.

The 72-year-old actor's body was discovered in his luxury suite at Bangkok's Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel. Police initially said they suspected suicide, but Carradine's associates had questioned that theory.


Carradine, best known for the 1970s TV series "Kung Fu," had flown to Thailand last week to work on a film titled "Stretch".

WEEKEND PIC - June 5 - 7, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE (Musical with Miley Cyrus, Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus and Emily Osment) Rating * * * (3 stars out of 4): A fun outing for the family with Miley in hip-hop and country mode.

b) THE BROTHERS BLOOM (comedy adventure with Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Nora Zehetner and Robbie Coltrane) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Con men caper about two brothers trying to fleece an heiress. The movie is upstaged by Weisz. (Reviewed below)

c) 17 AGAIN (fantasy comedy with Zac Efron, Leslie Mann (pictured), Thomas Lennon, Michelle
Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry and Melora Hardin) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Yeah, Efron rocks in this body-switch vehicle about getting a second chance at life. Jokes are mostly on character quirks, though. (Reviewed below)

d) FIGHTING (drama with Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, Brian J. White and Luis Guzmán) Rated * * (2 stars): A rather tame and sometimes lame story about an Alabama lad seeking his fortune in the underground fights circle of New York City. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1) TERMINATOR SALVATION (sci-fi thriller with Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood and Common) Rated * * * (3stars): This mix of Transformers and Mad Max will please action fans but Terminator dudes may feel shortchanged. (Reviewed below)

2) MONSTERS Vs ALIENS (animated thriller with voices of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland, and Stephen Colbert) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's action-packed fun for the family even if it does not quite match up to The Incredibles and WALL-E. (Reviewed below)

3. ANGELS & DEMONS (mystery thriller with Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Armin Mueller-Stahl) Rated: * * * (3 out of 4 stars): Director Ron Howard has learned from his mistakes in The Da Vinci Code and has made a much better 'sequel'. He has also made a few changes from Dan Brown's book, resulting in a tighter movie. (Reviewed below)

4. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2 (fantasy comedy with Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Luke Wilson, Jonah Hill and Christopher Guest) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars out of 4): We get more of the same CGI stuff in this sequel that has the action shifted to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. The plot and the dialogue are pedestrian and lame. (Reviewed below)

5. I CORRUPT ALL COPS (cop drama with Eason Chan, Wong Jing, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Anthony Wong, Alex Fong, Bowie Lam, Wong Jing, Liu Yang and Kate Tsui) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Titled with the acronym ICAC (HK's anti-corruption commission), many would regard this one as the most ambitious of Wong Jing's works. At last, Wong Jing has come out with an entertaining movie that does not insult our intelligence. (Reviewed below)

FIGHTING: Lame And Tame

FIGHTING (drama)
Cast: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, Brian J. White, Luis Guzmán, Roger Guenveur Smith, Angelic Zambrana and Anthony DeSando
Writer-Director: Dito Montiel
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Tatum and White in FIGHTING

PREAMBLE: The title and the trailer can be misleading. They give the impression that this movie is about a killer of a street fighter who must risk his life for love, honour and survival. Or something like The Fight Club, perhaps.

Well, after watching this tame and sometimes lame flick, let's say that 'Brawling' would be more appropriate...

THE SKINNY: Playing almost the same type of character as in dance flick Step Up (2006), Channing Tatum is Shawn MacArthur, a small-town boy from Alabama who has come to New York City to start a new life. He makes a living selling counterfeit goods on the streets, and gets involved in brawls.

Shawn's luck changes when con artist Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) introduces him to the bare-knuckle underground fighting circuit where rich folks bet on the amateur fighters. Almost overnight, Shawn becomes a star brawler, taking down professional boxers and ruthless fighters.

He meets a pretty waitress named Zulay (Zulay Henao) and falls for her but if Shawn ever hopes to escape the dark world in which he's found himself, he must face the toughest fight of his life..

HITS & MISSES: All would have been forgiven if the fight scenes were realistic and intensive. However, most of these sequences look phoney and uninspired. The movie's plot contrivances are blatantly obvious: Besides the romantic interest, the movie is badly in need of a villain - and viola, we have Evan Hailey (Brian J. White), an old rival from high school who has such a bad history with Shawn that they have to slug it out as per the demands of the script.

To be fair, the love story between Shawn and Zulay is compelling enough as Tatum and Henao display chemistry. But then this is not a love story. As expected, Howard gives another memorable performance as the smooth-talking Harvey. In fact, his Harvey becomes such an enigma that we expect to see some dark side of him bursting out. Alas, like the rest of the film, there are no such surprises.

THE LOWDOWN: Not worth the trouble.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

17 AGAIN: Zac Efron Holds Court

17 AGAIN (fantasy comedy)
Cast: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann (pictured), Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry, Melora Hardin, Jim Gaffigan and Sterling Knight
Director: Burr Steers (from a script by Jason Filardi)
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: Unless you are a tween or teenage schoolgirl, you don't wanna watch 17 Again during these school holidays. Trust me. You are going to find the cineplex hall full of highly-excitable young girls and they are gonna scream, shriek and swoon whenever Zac Efron appears.

So unless you are also a fan of Efron, or a boyfriend of a girl who's a fan of Efron (in which case, you have my sympathy), you would wanna stay away from this movie until it is safe...

THE SKINNY: 17 Again, 18 Again! Freaky Friday, Big. They all have this freak-out transformation plot where the protags experience role reversals or get another chance to be young again. Here, 37-year-old Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) is magically transformed to an age where he can look like Zac Efron, play basketball shirtless and generally make amends to his socially awkward son Alex (Sterling Knight) and hormone-driven daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg).

Oh yes, Mike is on the verge of a bitter divorce from college sweetheart Scarlet (Allison Miller and later Leslie Mann) and somehow, as a teenage hunk, he manages to see his wife in a new rose-coloured light!

HITS & MISSES: Let's face it, this movie is all about heart-throb Efron - and director Burr Steers makes no bones about this. He has the Prince Charming from High School Musical holding court at basketball games, jiving with luscious cheerleaders and wooing and dancing with co-star Mann.

And if that's not enough, scripter Jason Filardi has also written in a 'resident jester' in the form of Thomas Lennon as Ned Gold, Mike's filthy-rich high school buddy who does all the moronic kid's stuff just so that Efron's character would look sane and respectable beside him. Lennon, of course, makes good use of this Golden opportunity to show off his comedic skills, supported by Melora Hardin as the school principal.

Okay, okay. 17 Again is also about second chances and paying more attention to the kids and blah, blah, blah.

THE LOWDOWN: Yup, a kind-of respectable 'coming of age' vehicle for Efron.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

THE BROTHERS BLOOM: Too Smug For Its Own Good

THE BROTHERS BLOOM (conman adventure)
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Nora Zehetner, Robbie Coltrane and Maximilian Schell
Writer-Director: Rian Johnson
Time: 108 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Ruffalo, Brody and Kikuchi as the con team

PREAMBLE: Nobody likes a smart ass or a smug movie. We will tolerate them if they are really smart and interesting. However, when they try to be smart and interesting but fall flat on their ass doing so, it becomes an exercise in self-indulgence.

This is what The Brothers Bloom, directed by Rian Johnson of Brick fame, is guilty of. Unless you love noir comedy and travelogue films, don't get involve.

THE SKINNY: Orphaned at a young age, Bloom and his older brother Stephen have drifted from one foster home to another. They, however, have always depended on each other, conning their school mates of their cash. Stephen concocts intricate stories that Bloom plays out.

Years later, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) is still searching for the perfect con, the one where "everyone gets what they want." Meanwhile, Bloom (Adrien Brody) yearns for "an unwritten life" - a real adventure that's not dreamed up by his older brother.

Eager to retire, Bloom agrees to one last grand scam with Stephen and his Japanese associate nicknamed Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi). He insinuates himself into the life of Penelope (Rachel Weisz), an eccentric New Jersey heiress, so that they can con of of her wealth. But as the four travel from Athens to Prague to Mexico to St. Petersburg, Penelope becomes addicted to Bloom and the illicit thrills. Soon Bloom begins to wonder if his brother has devised the most dangerous con of his life.

THE CRITIQUE: The Brothers Bloom benefits from an interesting cast, especially Weisz and Brody. As the loony and lonely Penelope, Weisz steals the show with her klutzy driving, sparkling eyes and poor-rich-girl demeanour. Brody is likable as the brooding Bloom who wants to lead a normal life; and Kikuchi must have had a lot of fun playing the explosives-expert Bang Bang - in another almost silent role since Babel.

Con-man movies are best when they con the audience. However, this one does not get us 'involved' in the game - unlike Ocean's Eleven and The Sting. Most of the comedy comes from the foibles of the characters, not from the plot machinations. And like Bloom, we too get tired of the 'encores' - the repeat cons that Stephen tries to pull off.

THE LOWDOWN: The Brothers Bloom is nice to look at but difficult to like.

Monday, June 01, 2009

'Vampire' Wins 5 MTV Movie Awards

Slumdog Millionaire Snubbed

JUNE 1, 2009 - Vampire movie Twilight won five categories at the MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, but it was an unscripted stunt involving Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen and singer Eminem that stole the show hosted by Saturday Night Live comedian Andy Samberg.


Fans voted Twilight for Best Movie, Best Kiss, Best Female Performance (Kristen Stewart), Best Male Breakthrough Performance (Robert Pattinson) and Best Fight awards. Viewers also had a sneak preview of the movie's forthcoming sequel New Moon.

Heath Ledger won the award for Best Villain, adding to the slew of trophies awarded to the "Dark Knight" actor after his death in January 2008.

Slumdog Millionaire," which won eight Oscars in February, had six MTV Movie awards nominations but came away empty-handed. This goes to show how the MTV Awards voting is so dominated by youngsters, especially girls.

The outrageous Cohen, promoting his movie Bruno in which he plays a gay Austrian fashionista, brought the house down. Sweeping high above the studio on a harness, Cohen hit an obstacle, spun down toward the audience and landed face down in the lap of Eminem, exposing his naked bottom to millions of viewers watching the awards show live on television.

For me, the most 'painful' moment was watching Keifer Sutherland 'going emotional' while paying tribute to Ben Stiller, recipient of the MTV Generation Award. Catch the video clips here.