Friday, July 31, 2009

Third Narnia Movie Starts Shooting in Queensland


JULY 31, 2009
- 20th Century Fox has announced that they have begun principal photography on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on location in Queensland, Australia, on July 27.


'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' is the third in the series of films based on the bestselling books by C.S. Lewis. The production, a joint venture between Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Walden Media, continues the franchise which commenced with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and its 2008 follow-up, Prince Caspian, whose combined global box-office gross topped US$1.2 billion (about RM4 billion).

Michael Apted (who helmed the 007 epic The World Is Not Enough, Gorillas in the Mist, and Coal Miner's Daughter) is directing the new Narnia venture, taking over from Andrew Adamson. Returning as the Pevensie children are Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skandar Keynes as Edmund. Ben Barnes reprises the role of Caspian. Cousin Eustace will be played by Will Poulter (Son of Rambow”).

The supporting cast includes several veterans of the Aussie film world, including Gary Sweet (Stingers), Bruce Spence (Road Warrior), Arthur Angel (Ghost Rider) and Kiwi native Shane Rangi, back for his third go-round in Lewis’ fantastical world (donning the guise of a Minotaur, as he did in the two previous films). Lending his vocal talents again to the project is Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) as the all-powerful ruler of Narnia, Aslan the Lion (above).

The Story: Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their pesky cousin Eustace Scrubb - find themselves swallowed into a painting and on to a fantastic Narnian ship headed for the very edges of the world. Joining forces once again with their royal friend Prince Caspian and the warrior mouse Reepicheep, they are whisked away on a mysterious mission to the Lone Islands, and beyond.

On this bewitching voyage that will test their hearts and spirits, the trio will face magical Dufflepuds, sinister slave traders, roaring dragons and enchanted merfolk. Only an entirely uncharted journey to Aslan's Country - a voyage of destiny and transformation for each of those aboard the Dawn Treader - can save Narnia, and all the astonishing creatures in it, from an unfathomable fate.


The movie production will take place entirely in Queensland, primarily at the Warner Roadshow Studio facility in Gold Coast, which houses the Southern Hemisphere’s largest water tank facility, crucial to the production’s needs. Filming will conclude in November, 2009, with a year-long post-production schedule leading to the film’s global release in December 2010.

WEEKEND PIC - July 31 - Aug 2, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:


a) THE PROPOSAL (romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Denis O'Hare and Malin Akerman) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A serviceable by-the-book rom-com that works on the strength of its cast, especially Bullock and Reynolds (pictured). Don't expect anything more, though. Reviewed below


b) THE GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (romantic comedy with Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Breckin Meyer, Robert Forster and Anne Archer) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Again McConaughey seems to ride rough-shod over the script adapted from Charls Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' as the modern anti-romantic Scrooge. A charmless effort. Reviewed below

c) COWEB (martial arts drama with Jiang Lu Xia, Kane Kosugi, Mike Moller, Sam Lee and Siu Fai Cheung) Rated * 1/2 (1.5 star): Mindless and utterly amateurish, this one is not only a lame effort but also taxing on our intellect and patience. It features a newcomer heroine (Jiang) who just can't act. Reviewed below

STILL GOING STRONG:


1) HARRY POTTER & THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
(fantasy adventure with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent and Maggie Smith) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): I wouldn't say this is the best HP instalment, but director David Yates does a serviceable job of it by dishing out delicious dollops of humour, awe, twists and surprises - and young love.
Reviewed below

2. PUBLIC ENEMIES (crime drama with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup and Stephen Lang) Rated * * * (3 out of 4): An engaging and sometimes fascinating story of 1930s bank robber John Dillinger and his girlfriend Billie Frechette, topped with a fine performance by Cotillard. Reviewed below

3. THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123
(hostage drama with Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli and James Gandolfini) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): An updated remake of the 1974 movie by Tony Scott, this one is a seat-gripper right from the start. Thanks to top class performances from Washington, Travolta and Gandolfini.
Reviewed below

4. ICE AGE 3: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (animated adventure with voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah and Chris Wedge) Rated * * * (3 stars): More fun and laughter with Manny and the gang, and of course, Scratt the squirrel, in this sequel which also introduces the rascally weasel Buck and the dinosaurs. Again, a family treat. Reviewed below

5. OBSESSED
(Psychological thriller with Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyoncé Knowles, Bruce McGill, Jerry O'Connell and Christine Lahti) Rated * * (2 stars): It looks like someone is trying to make another Fatal Attraction flick but it is such a lame attempt that it just plain sucks.
Reviewed below

6. LAND OF THE LOST (comedy with Will Ferrell, Danny R. McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone, Raymond Ochoa, Pollyanna McIntosh and Logan Manus) Rated * * (2 stars): Another remake, this time from a 70s TV series. However, unlike Pelham, this misguided effort really gets lost in the land of Trite, Mediocrity and Ridicule. Reviewed below

Thursday, July 30, 2009

THE PROPOSAL: By-The-Book Rom Com

THE PROPOSAL (romantic comedy)
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Denis O'Hare and Malin Akerman,
Director: Anne Fletcher
Time: 108 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: With a predictable premise and slurpy saccharine performances, viewers need time to warm up to The Proposal. Halfway through the film, however, it gets easier to absorb its brand of comedy and the laughs come naturally. It is nice to have Sandra Bullock back on the rom-com wagon - with Ryan Reynolds riding shotgun (both pictured above).

THE SKINNY: Canadian book editor Margaret Tate (Bullock) is such a tyrannical boss that she is nicknamed "Satan's Mistress". However, when an immigration crisis occurs, she persuades her assistant Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) into marrying her in order to maintain her visa status and avoid deportation from the US.

In order to fool the authorities, the pair take off to visit Andrew’s parents (Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson) in Alaska to announce their engagement - and throw an officious Immigration agent (Denis O'Hare) off the scent.

The rest is textbook rom-com stuff.

HITS & MISSES: Director Anne Fletcher (who gave us 27 Dresses) does an adequate job of telling the story, filming the scenic locales (with Massachusetts standing in for Alaska) and getting her money's worth of performances out of the cast. If you are looking for a sort of romance that will get the cockles of your heart warmed up, sorry, it's the wrong movie.

If you are looking for juicy plot twists or sentimental entanglements, sorry wrong movie. On the plus side, there are some funny moments, especially when the leads stumble into each other in states of undress; when Bullock gets to shake her buttocks in a nifty dance number; and in an amusing turnout by Betty White who gets all the good lines as Andrew's 80-year-old granny. The subplot with Malin Akerman as Andrew's old flame Gertrude is left underdeveloped. Thankfully, the main leads still manage to exude charm and keep us interested.

THE LOWDOWN: Mostly for die-hard romantics - and their happy-to-be-suffering-in-silence boyfriends.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

COWEB: Amateurish Martial Arts Actioner

COWEB (martial arts drama)
Cast: Jiang Lu Xia, Kane Kosugi, Mike Moller, Sam Lee and Siu Fai Cheung
Director: Xin Xin Xiong
Time: 100 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

Kane Kosugi and Jiang Lu Xia play top opponents in COWEB

PREAMBLE: To really enjoy most Hong Kong martial arts movies, one would need to leave one's brains at the door. For Coweb (or 'Zhang Wu Shuang'), however, I wouldn't even recommend going through the door. This effort, directed by newcomer Xin Xin Xiong takes movie-making down many notches beyond amateur - nothing in the movie makes any sense at all.

THE SKINNY: Nie Yiyi (Jiang Lu Xia) is a skilled martial arts exponent working as a security guard after her father's death. A childhood friend, Zhong Tien (Sam Lee), who works as a personal assistant to billionaire Mr He (Eddie Cheung), persuades Yiyi to become a bodyguard to Mr He's wife. Reluctantly Yiyi accepts and she takes her job very seriously.

When both her bosses are kidnapped by a gang of thugs at a restaurant, Yiyi blames herself for it and goes all out to trace the culprits. She is dissuaded from contacting the police by Zhong Tien - and the two follow dubious leads that involve kungfu duels at a disco, on top of bamboo scaffoldings, alleyways and bridges. Yiyi soon discovers that all her fights are being recorded on video by a gambling syndicate and streamed over the Internet for people to bet on. And yes, Coweb alludes to Combat Web!

HITS & MISSES: There are very few hits but a whole lot of misses. For one, director Xiong mistakes kungfu talent for acting talent and casts newcomer Jiang Lu Xia in such a demanding role. Going through the paces with just one or two expressions (like looking angry and angrier), she fails miserably of course. Jiang's claim to fame was showing off her martial arts skills on the Internet and competing on Jackie Chan's "The Disciple" TV series (a hunt for the next big Hong Kong kungfu star). She can fight but she can't act to save her life.

Next, the dialogue is appalling and you just can't believe the moronic stuff that the director allows to get into the movie. Xiong has one of the baddies go through a door cartoon-style with a cut-out hole; he has Jiang playing a bodyguard without any firearms or contact with the authorities; he portrays Yiyi as an utter idiot believing and following ridiculous leads and clues when the obvious could be seen a mile away; and no attempt is made to explain how the gambling scam works.

However, the most unforgivable flaw is the badly filmed martial arts action. Ever since Raging Bull in 1980, directors and cinematographers have learnt to dramatise the scenes with close-up and slow-motion shots, not to mention CGI-enhanced views to excite our senses. The action here is repetitive and boring, except for a brawl at the bamboo scaffoldings. It is obvious Xiong tries to imitate Jackie Chan's comic kungfu tricks but again, he fails miserably due to poor timing. Jiang is not good enough to carry the movie and Xiong has no idea how to direct a modern martial arts actioner.

THE LOWDOWN: After the initial curiosity over Jiang Lu Xia, this one will probably gather cobwebs at DVD stores.

Monday, July 27, 2009

G-Force Overtakes Harry Potter at US B-O

JULY 27, 2009 - The Harry Potter magic seems to have run out of steam as kiddie flick G-Force topped the US box-office chart last weekend, taking an estimated US$32.2 million against the boy magician's US$30 million.

However, it was generally a sombre weekend (July 24-26) and Boxofficemojo reports that business as a whole was down from last year for the third weekend in a row.

In third place is romantic comedy The Ugly Truth (starring Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl) doing a decent US$27 million in its first weekend.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimated grosses for July 24-26, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart.

1. G-Force $32.2 million ($32.2 million) 1

2. Harry Potter And the Half-Blood Prince $30 million ($221.8 million) 2

3. The Ugly Truth $27 million ($27.0 million) 1

4. Orphan $12.8 million ($12.8 million) 1

5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs $8.2 million ($171.3 million) 4

GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST: Charmless Effort

THE GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (romantic comedy)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Robert Forster, Anne Archer, Emma Stone and Olga Maliouk
Director: Mark Waters
Time: 100 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: As the title suggests, this rom-com borrows the framework from Charle Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and fleshes it with a tale about Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey, above, with Jenniffer Garner), a die-hard womaniser. However, the writing is rather messy and it is even short of romance and comedy.

THE SKINNY: Connor is a celebrity photographer who loves freedom, fun and women - in that order. A committed bachelor who thinks nothing of breaking up with three women on a conference call, Connor makes mockery of romance and marriage. On the eve of his brother Paul's (Breckin Meyer) wedding, Connor tries to hit onot only on one of the bridesmaids but also the bride's divorced mother (Anne Archer).

Just when it looks like Connor may ruin the wedding, he is visited by the spirit of his uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) who warns him that he is about to encounter the ghosts of his former jilted girlfriends. He is taken on an odyssey through his failed relationships, past, present and future. Among them is Jenny (Jennifer Garner), the one woman he may truly love, who happens to be part of the wedding party.

THE REVIEW: This 'Dickens rehash' is not a total wreck. There are some interesting moments, especially in the flashbacks to the teenage Connor (Logan Miller) being shown the ropes by his Uncle Wayne. However, the amusement level slides when we get glimpses of Ghosts 2 and 3, showing Connor how shallow he is and how awful his future will be. These come with awful scenes of the wedding weekend falling apart, accompanied by the continual shrieking of the would-be bride (Lacey Chabert). The ending is hardly surprising.

I put the blame partly on McConaughey whose Connor is supposed to exude charm despite his obnoxious behaviour. However, McConaughey not only lacks the charm factor, he is absolutely soul-less. Garner is likable in the limited role as Connor's 'old flame'. Archer has an effective scene in which she lets Connor go on and on about how he'd like to "take her upstairs" but it is Douglas who manages to steal the show as the suave, old school Don Juan who teaches Connor that the only way to mend a broken heart is by continually breaking new ones..

THE LOWDOWN: Mark this as another charmless McConaughey flick after Fool's Gold.

Farewell, Yasmin Ahmad

JULY 27, 2009 - This is to put on record the passing of Malaysia's top film-maker, Yasmin Ahmad, on July 25, 2009. Yasmin, born on July 1, 1958, was a multi-award winning film director, writer and scriptwriter. She became well-known to the international cinema world with her critically acclaimed movies about the quirks of Malaysian life, Sepet (2004), Gubra (2006), Mukhsin (2007), Muallaf (2008) and Talentime (2009).

She was also the executive creative director at Leo Burnett Kuala Lumpur. Her television commercials and films are known their humour, wit and love stories that transcend cultural barriers.

Personally, I know her as a warm person whose casual jokes hide her seriousness about things close to her heart. She always had time for others, especially young film-makers and writers, many of whom worshipped her. She will always be a shining example to all in the advertising and film industry.

May she rest in peace.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - July 24 - 26, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (hostage drama with Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli and James Gandolfini) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): An updated remake of the 1974 movie by Tony Scott, this one is a seat-gripper right from the start. Thanks to top class performances from Washington, Travolta and Gandolfini. (Reviewed below)

b) LAND OF THE LOST (comedy with Will Ferrell, Danny R. McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone, Raymond Ochoa, Pollyanna McIntosh and Logan Manus) Rated * * (2 stars): Another remake, this time from a 70s TV series. However, unlike Pelham, this misguided effort really gets lost in the land of Trite, Mediocrity and Ridicule. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1) HARRY POTTER & THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (fantasy adventure with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent and Maggie Smith) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): I wouldn't say this is the best HP instalment, but director David Yates does a serviceable job of it by dishing out delicious dollops of humour, awe, twists and surprises - and young love. (Reviewed below)

2. PUBLIC ENEMIES (crime drama with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup and Stephen Lang) Rated * * * (3 out of 4): An engaging and sometimes fascinating story of 1930s bank robber John Dillinger and his girlfriend Billie Frechette, topped with a fine performance by Cotillard. (Reviewed below)

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

4. ICE AGE 3: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (animated adventure with voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah and Chris Wedge) Rated * * * (3 stars): More fun and laughter with Manny and the gang, and of course, Scratt the squirrel, in this sequel which also introduces the rascally weasel Buck and the dinosaurs. Again, a family treat. (Reviewed below)

5. OBSESSED (Psychological thriller with Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyoncé Knowles, Bruce McGill, Jerry O'Connell and Christine Lahti) Rated * * (2 stars): It looks like someone is trying to make another Fatal Attraction flick but it is such a lame attempt that it just plain sucks. (Reviewed below)

6. KAMBAKKHT ISHQ (Bollywood rom-com with Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora, Kiron Kher, Javed Jaffrey and Vindu Dara Singh) Rated * * (2 stars): Typical and uninspired love story about a stuntman and model with special guest appearances by Sly Stallone and Denise Richards. It also boast a hit, Om Mangalam, but it is basically ho-hum. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123: A Thriller Ride

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (hostage drama)
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli and James Gandolfini
Director: Tony Scott
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: This is the second remake of the 1974 New York subway hostage drama (of the same title) - and director Tony Scott has done a first class job. (The first remake was a made-for-TV version in 1998).

Scott, working on a script by Brian Helgeland, has resisted the temptation to transform the

psychological thriller, into an action film. Instead, he updates the events to a modern day (post 9/11) setting and piles up on the tension and suspense.

The result is a movie that will keep our butts on the edge of the seat and our palms wet with anxiety...

THE SKINNY: As soon as the movie starts, we are plunged right into the action. An ordinary day of New York City subway dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is thrown into chaos when a socialpath who calls himself Ryder (John Travolta, pictured), takes over subway train Pelham 123. He is aided by his gang of three (Luis Guzmán, Victor Gojcaj, Robert Vataj), and is holding 18 passengers and the 'motor man' hostage.

He demands US$10 million (it was US$1 million in the 1974 film) from the city of NY in 60 minutes or he'll start killing the hostages one-by-one. The authorities bring in hostage negotiator Lt Camonetti (John Turturro) to help out - and the mayor, played with gusto by James Gandolfini, rushes to the station to oversee the situation. Soon, besides the tension of the hostage-taking, we also get to see how personal secrets and conflicts play out.

HITS & MISSES: Unlike in the 1974 movie (which starred Robert Shaw and Walter Matthau in the Ryder-Garber roles), Scott's version is more about the relationship that develops between the two. They have more in common than meets the eye - and this is revealed as negotiations continue. Travolta and Washington prove their mettle in their performances. Travolta's Ryder is smart, efficient and calculating, and despite being the perpetrator, we can't help but admire Ryder's wit and determination.

Washington is compelling as a man caught in a crisis - and director Scott cleverly throws in domestic scenes of Walter speaking to his wife on the phone to enhance the mundane-ness and humanity of the situation. Unlike his comical role in Transformers, Turturro's Camonetti is a level-headed guy who knows the ropes. And of course, there's the delectable Gandolfini who happens to get all the best lines.

Movie buffs would note that the ending has been changed to allow Washington to get into the action. I like it and the fact that scripter Helgeland seems to have done a lot of research in coming up with this screenplay.

THE LOWDOWN: Book a ticket if you want a heart-pounding ride.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter Charms Worldwide B-O

JULY 20, 2009 - Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince set a new opening record of US$396.7 million (RM1,388 million), a clear sign that the lucrative franchise has lost none of its magic.

The sixth entry in the fantasy franchise earned US$159.7 million in the United States and Canada, the sixth-biggest opening for a five-day period, distributor Warner Bros Pictures said yesterday.


The international component stands at US$237 million from 84 markets, also setting a new record. The old record was held by "Spider-Man 3" in 2007 when its global bow of US$381.7 million included foreign sales of US$230.5 million.

Meanwhile, Boxofficemojo reports that the HR sequel topped the US box office last weekend with an estimated US$79.5 million.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimated grosses for July 17-19, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart.

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $79.5 million ($159.7 million) 1

2. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs $17.7 million ($152.0 million) 3

3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $13.8 million ($363.9 million) 4

4. Bruno $8.4 million ($49.6 million) 2

5. The Hangover $8.3 million ($235.9 million) 7

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter Film Whips Up New B-O Record

JULY 17, 2009 - Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince collected US$104 million (RM368 million) at worldwide box offices on its first full day of release, setting a record, the Warner Bros studio said yesterday.

The movie, the sixth in the series based on the books by JK Rowling, grossed US$45.85 million at the box office internationally and US$58.18 in North America on Wednesday, Warner Bros said. Those figures include a record US$22.2 million at midnight showings in the US.

“We owe this record-breaking opening to the remarkable fans who have stood by us and who stood in line to be among the first to see ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,’” Warner Bros President and Chief Operating Officer Alan Horn said in a statement.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - July 17 - 19, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) HARRY POTTER & THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (fantasy adventure with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent and Maggie Smith) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): I wouldn't say this is the best HP instalment, but director David Yates does a serviceable job of it by dishing out delicious dollops of humour, awe, twists and surprises - and young love. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. PUBLIC ENEMIES (crime drama with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup and Stephen Lang) Rated * * * (3 out of 4): An engaging and sometimes fascinating story of 1930s bank robber John Dillinger and his girlfriend Billie Frechette, topped with a fine performance by Cotillard. (Reviewed below)

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

3. ICE AGE 3: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (animated adventure with voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah and Chris Wedge) Rated * * * (3 stars): More fun and laughter with Manny and the gang, and of course, Scratt the squirrel, in this sequel which also introduces the rascally weasel Buck and the dinosaurs. Again, a family treat. (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. OBSESSED (Psychological thriller with Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyoncé Knowles, Bruce McGill, Jerry O'Connell and Christine Lahti) Rated * * (2 stars): It looks like someone is trying to make another Fatal Attraction flick but it is such a lame attempt that it just plain sucks. (Reviewed below)

6. KAMBAKKHT ISHQ (Bollywood rom-com with Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora, Kiron Kher, Javed Jaffrey and Vindu Dara Singh) Rated * * (2 stars): Typical and uninspired love story about a stuntman and model with special guest appearances by Sly Stallone and Denise Richards. It also boast a hit, Om Mangalam, but it is basically ho-hum. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LAND OF THE LOST: Thrill-less Ride

LAND OF THE LOST (sci-fi adventure)
Cast: Will Ferrell, Danny R. McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone, Raymond Ochoa, Pollyanna McIntosh, Logan Manus, Michael Papajohn and Shane Baumel
Director: Brad Silberling
Time: 93 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny R. McBride and Jorma Taccone in Land Of The Lost

PREAMBLE: When the distributors provide breakfast and an opening speech at media screenings, you can be sure it is either a big blockbuster or to ease reviewers into a turkey. Since Land Of The Lost is no summer biggie by any stretch of the imagination, we can only surmise that the breakfast was a PR job and true enough, in the speech by an official of UIP, we were told that this being a Will Ferrell movie, we shoud "leave our brains at the door" in order to enjoy the movie.

Yes, Land Of The Lost is that kind of movie! Keep your expectations low and you will be all right.

THE SKINNY: This film is adapted from a 1970s children’s TV series produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. Its 'hero' is Dr Rick Marshall (Farrell), a 'quantum paleontologist' who has built a machine that will allow him to manipulate tachyons and travel through time and into alternate dimensions. Encouraged by his research assistant (Anna Friel as Holly) from Cambridge, England, he puts the finishing touches to the machine and they get sucked into an alternate dimension together with a park ride tour guide named Will Stanton (Danny McBride).

The rest of the show is about how the trio survive in the land of the lost where dinosaurs and idiotic alien creatures roam. And yes, they meet up with a half-human primate named Chaka (Jorma Taccone) who helps to provide some of the laughs.

HITS & MISSES: According to those in the know, the Seventies TV series was famous for its tacky special effects and childish aliens. This movie, directed by Brad Silberling, maintains its cheesy effects and childish creatures. Also, there is no attempt to hike the intellectual level up a few notches. It remains a low-brow remake and not even a spoof of the series. Why, there isn't even a real attempt at building up romantic overtures between Farrell and Friel.

Among the cast, Friel is the only one who generates some sense of awe in this 'Jurassic Park-ride' without the thrills. Ferrell just goes through the paces of his circus clown routine.

THE LOWDOWN: Dumb flicks now has a new name: Land Of The Lost!

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE - Good Build-Up

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane
Director: David Yates
Time: 153 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: It is the sixth year at Hogwarts for Harry, Hermoine and Ron - and it's no longer kids' stuff now. Besides sorcery, magic and Quiddich, they must also grapple with their raging hormones and growing attraction in the opposite sex.

These adolescent romances (read: puppy love), plus a well-planted kiss somewhere in the movie, should help to sell this sequel - and give it an advantage over its predecessors. Of course, it is pretty obvious that director David Yates has been going all out to please Harry Potter fans by being as faithful to J.K. Rowling's book as possible - and he has done a great job of it.

THE SKINNY: Voldemort is tightening his grip on power and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) suspects that dangers may lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort's defences and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), whom he believes holds the key to uncovering a major mystery about a student .

Meanwhile, Harry, the Chosen One, finds himself drawn to Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), sister of his best friend Ron (Rupert Grint) who, in turn is besotted by Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), or is it the delectable Romilda Vane (Anna Shaffer)? Hermione (Emma Watson), meanwhile, simmers with jealousy but is determined not to show her feelings. Love and romance may be in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.

HITS & MISSES: Inevitably, the main cast are still a major draw, and while Radcliffe has lost his boyish charm, he has become a more confident actor. Grint still gets the laughs, but it is Watson (pictured right) who has matured enough to become the most watchable star of the show. Inevitably, she will be winning more fans at the movie's premieres. While the previous instalments featured fascinating 'critters', this one teems with nubile youngsters that should excite even the 'Twilight' crowd.

Unlike the previous five movies, The Half-Blood Prince is more languorous (and sometimes draggy) in its narrative and lighter in its action. This is because it is the anxiety-ridden prelude to Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort in the next book. The mood is further darkened by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel although two fiery set pieces — the Death Eaters’ attack on the Weasley home and Harry and Dumbledore’s scary cave excursion — set our adrenaline pumping.

Those unfamiliar with the Harry Potter series may feel a bit let down by the ending. The movie could also have been trimmed to make it more compact. As it is, Yates has skipped some interesting parts of the book. We will have to wait for the two-parter conclusion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (scheduled for 2010 and 2011) to enjoy the big confrontation.

THE LOWDOWN: A bit drawn-out but a good sequel and build-up to the climactic Deathly Hallows.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

'Bruno' is Top Charmer at US Weekend B-O


JULY 14, 2009 - Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno strutted to the top of the US Box-office last weekend (July 10-12, 2009) with US$30.6 million at approximately 3,400 screens at 2,756 venues, Boxofficemojo reports.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was second, doing US$27.6 million in its second weekend.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O grosses for July 10-12, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart.


1 Bruno $30,619,130 ($30,619,130) 1

2 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs $27,607,497 ($119,680,193) 2

3 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $24,213,875 ($339,221,800) 3

4 Public Enemies $13,794,240 ($66,221,110) 2

5 The Proposal $10,603,884 ($113,861,076) 4


For the full list, check here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - July 10 - 12, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) PUBLIC ENEMIES (crime drama with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup and Stephen Lang) Rated * * * (3 out of 4): An engaging and sometimes fascinating story of 1930s bank robber John Dillinger and his girlfriend Billie Frechette, topped with a fine performance by Cotillard. (Reviewed below)

b) OBSESSED (Psychological thriller with Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyoncé Knowles, Bruce McGill, Jerry O'Connell and Christine Lahti) Rated * * (2 stars): It looks like someone is trying to make another Fatal Attraction flick but it is such a lame attempt that it just plain sucks. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (fantasy thriller with Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Matthew Marsden, Rainn Wilson, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro) Rated * * * (3 stars): This is the summer blockbuster of the year that has been drawing record box-office crowds. It has more of what the fans want - clashes, crashes, comedy conflict and cleavage - never mind that it is still flawed and goes on for too long. (Reviewed below)

2. ICE AGE 3: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (animated adventure with voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah and Chris Wedge) Rated * * * (3 stars): More fun and laughter with Manny and the gang, and of course, Scratt the squirrel, in this sequel which also introduces the rascally weasel Buck and the dinosaurs. Again, a family treat. (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. KAMBAKKHT ISHQ (Bollywood rom-com with Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor ( pictured above), Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora, Kiron Kher, Javed Jaffrey and Vindu Dara Singh) Rated * * (2 stars): Typical and uninspired love story about a stuntman and model with special guest appearances by Sly Stallone and Denise Richards. It also boasts a hit, Om Mangalam, but as a rom-com, it is basically ho-hum. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Michael Jackson's Casket Taken to Memorial

Audience weep as Paris Pays Tribute to Her Dad

Paris at the memorial (Reuterspic)

JULY 8, 2009 - Michael Jackson's casket was taken into the Staples Center where fans and family held a memorial for the late King Of Pop, CNN reports.

Inside the Staples Center arena, Jackson's body lay at the foot of the stage in a closed, rose-draped, bronze casket. His brothers, who served as pallbearers, wore single white sequined gloves, a tribute to Jackson's signature look. Singers and sports celebrities took the stage and shared what Jackson meant to them. Between them, the performers have 40 Grammy awards -- a fitting tribute to a man who alone earned 13 in his lifetime.

Yesterday morning began with a half-hour gathering for several hundred family and friends inside a chapel at the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn cemetery. Jackson's casket -- embellished with 14-karat gold plate handles, a velvet-lined interior and a reported price tag upward of US$20,000 -- was then placed in a hearse for the 10-mile trip to the arena.

The motorcade of black limousines and sports utility vehicles to the arena was accompanied by police cruisers and motorcycles, which shut down freeway ramps and caused a miles-long traffic backup. Three thousand police officers, almost one-third of the Los Angeles police force, were on hand to ensure the Jackson events proceeded smoothly.

Pic: MJ and his three children

Singer Smokey Robinson set the tone for the event when he read a heartfelt letter from Diana Ross. Ross, a long-time friend that Jackson named as alternate guardian to his children in his will, explained in her letter why she was not there:

"I am trying to find closure. I want you to know that even though I am not there at the Staples Center, I am there in my heart. I have decided to pause and be silent. This feels right for me. Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life in a way that I can't seem to find words to express."

She then added: "Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need me."


Meanwhile, MJ's 11-year-old daughter Paris got the crowd weeping when she gave her speech. "Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," said Paris Katherine Jackson, the second of his three children.

Agencies reported that millions all over the world are tuning in to watch the memorial today. Read the details here.

PUBLIC ENEMIES - It's the Mann, Not the Myth!

PUBLIC ENEMIES (crime drama)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup and Stephen Lang
Director: Michael Mann
Time: 140 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: As far as gangster movies go, few can match the 1967 Bonnie And Clyde, but Michael Mann's Public Enemies comes close. With the flamboyant Johnny Depp and the enchanting Marion Cottillard in the lead cast, Mann immerses us into the turbulent Thirties and keeps us enthralled and even fascinated...


THE SKINNY: Public Enemies is adapted from Bryan Burrough's book of the same name. The movie opens in 1933 with Dillinger's escape from a prison in Lima. At that point in time, Dillinger (Depp) has become one of America's most renowned gangsters and his bank robberies made the headlines.

It is in Chicago that Dillinger meets coat-check girl Billie Frechette (Cottillard, pictured above) and tells her straight away what he does for a living: "I rob banks!" She is attracted by his candid honesty and charm, they fall in love and he vows to protect her. Meanwhile, Dillinger has become an obsession for FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and he appoints the no-nonsense agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) as the head of the Chicago office tasked with tracking down Dillinger. Purvis' initial efforts are bloody and ineffective, but he learns from his mistakes and pleads with Hoover for permission to hire a group of hardened Texas Rangers like Charles Winstead (Stephen Lang).

THE CRITIQUE: I like the way director Mann shows the man instead of the myth - and the reality instead of sentimentality. There is nothing here about John Dillinger's childhood, his psychology, his sexuality, his famous charm, or his Robin Hood legend. Mann shows Dillinger as an efficient but violent robber, driven by his own sense of values like being loyal to his men and his girl - and not robbing the bank's customers.

I also like Mann's detailed depiction of the Thirties era, sometimes shot on hand-held camera and screened in sepia hues. I read that Mann shot the scene of the famous jailbreak with the fake gun at the original Crown Point jail. He shot in the Little Bohemia Lodge in the same room that Dillinger used, and Depp is costumed in clothes to match those the bank robber left behind!

As expected, Depp delivers a compelling Dillinger whom we sympathise with despite the fact that he is a criminal and a killer. Bale's performance is okay - portraying a stereotyped role of the determined lawman. However, his character is too thinly-drawn for him to be able to do much beyond grimacing and looking serious. The show-stealer is Oscar-winner Cottillard whose supporting role makes Dillinger more of a hero than Depp does. This lady really knows how to play 'the blues'.

THE LOWDOWN: A nice change from the summer's bang-bang fantasy blockbusters.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Transformers 2 Tops US Weekend B-O List

JULY 6, 2009 - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen managed to edge out 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' at the US Independence Day weekend box office (July 3-5, 2009) collecting US$42.3 million compared with Ice Age's US$41.7 million, Boxofficemojo reports.

However, Reuters reported that Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was clearly the top pick on a worldwide basis. It earned US$148 million from 101 foreign markets. Including its North American tally of US$67.5 million since opening last Wednesday, the global total stands at US$215.5 million.

Paramount's "Transformers" sequel earned US$55 million from 62 markets during its second weekend, taking the foreign haul to US$298 million. The global total stands at US$591 million, taking the robot sequel past Columbia Pictures' Angels & Demons (US$474 million) to become the biggest film of the year.

Public Enemies opened its first weekend at No 3, doing US$25.2 million.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O for July 3-5, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart.

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $42.3 million ($293.3 million) 2

2. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs $41.7 million ($66.7 million) 1

3. Public Enemies $25.2 million ($40.1 million) 1

4. The Proposal $12.8 million ($94.3 million) 3

5. The Hangover $11.2 million ($205.0 million) 5

OBSESSED: It's No 'Fatal Attraction', It Just Sucks

OBSESSED (psychological thriller)
Cast: Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyoncé Knowles, Bruce McGill, Jerry O'Connell and Christine Lahti
Director: Steve Shill
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

RESTROOM SCENE: Idris Elba and Ali Larter in Obsessed

PREAMBLE: If Obsessed is meant to be a remake of Fatal Attraction, it is not only needless but also an utterly lame move. Its three main stars, Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter and Idris Elba, may fan the curiosity of their fans but as a psychological thriller, the movie sucks.

THE SKINNY: Investment banker Derek Charles (Elba) is happily married to Sharon (Knowles) and they have a son. At the office, Derek meets Lisa (Larter of TV's Heroes), a newly-hired temp working as his assistant. Lisa flirts with Derek and matters come to a head during the office Christmas party when she comes on to him. Amazingly, he rejects her.

Lisa, however, won't take 'no' for an answer. She makes further attempts to seduce Derek, culminating in Derek finding her naked in his hotel room in an apparent suicide attempt. Evidently, Derek needs help to shake off his female stalker and you can guess who she is.

HITS & MISSES: If Glenn Close was scary as the woman scorned in Fatal Attraction, Ali Larter is just plain implausible and impossible here. With her looks, Lisa could have any man she wishes and nothing in the script could justify her obsession with Derek. And except for the elevator scene, Lisa does not come on to the audience as sexy and desirable, she is just slutty. Her advances to Derek are not seduction, they are sexual assaults.

Indeed, Obsessed is so badly written (by David Loughery) that the characters appear more like caricatures - and that's no fault of the cast. Of course, halfway through the movie, it gets obvious what director Steve Shill and Loughery are trying to do. Obsessed is about pitting Beyonce in a free-for-all catfight against Larter. Everything in the script leads up to it and if they had wrestled in mud, we would not be surprised.

THE LOWDOWN: Don't be tempted by this Illogical Obsession.

Friday, July 03, 2009

KAMBAKKHT ISHQ: Usual Bollywood Camp

KAMBAKKHT ISHQ (Romantic comedy in Hindi)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora, Kiron Kher, Javed Jaffrey, Vindu Dara Singh with special appearances by Denise Richards, Sylvester Stallone and Brandon Routh.
Director: Sabbir Khan
Time: 138 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: Gosh, I thought that they had buried movies about the 'battle of the sexes' and 'swashbuckling stuntmen' way back in the 20th Century. And yet, here it is, all exhumed, reanimated and outfitted with Hollywood bling-bling the likes of Sly Stallone, Denise Richards and Brandon Routh - and called 'Kambakkht Ishq'. The title is derived from the popular number, 'Kambakkht Ishq' from Ram Gopal Varma's film, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya.

Directed by Sabbir Khan, Kambakkht Ishq is loud, crude, cliched, campy and utterly predictable. And if you are curious about the (advertised) roles of its Hollywood supporting stars, let's say that their parts are so cheesy, you can open a pastry shop with them. Imagine a geriatric Stallone reprising his Rambo role and you will know what I mean.

THE SKINNY: The movie is a remake of the 2002 Tamil film Pammal K. Sambandam. It is about a 'super' Indian stuntman in Hollywood (Akshay Kumar as Viraj Shergill) who meets an Indian supermodel (Kareena Kapoor as Simrita Rai) at his brother's (Aftab Shivdasani as Lucky) wedding in church. Both the leads, who do not believe in love, are unhappy about the marriage of Lucky and Simrita's sister Kamini (Amrita Arora) and the battle lines are drawn at the wedding reception where we see the movie's most dazzlingly choreographed number that ends in a tasteless and farcical brawl.

Yeah, Viraj and Sim hate each other. In Bollywood terms, it means they are gonna do lots of idiotic things before they finally realise that they love each other right from the get-go.

HITS & MISSES: The first half is more tolerable than the second. Sabbir Khan loads the first hour with action-packed stunt sequences and dance numbers that take us from Hollywood to Italy. Then he has to take such a long time to render the outcome of the 'battle of the sexes' plot which everyone in the audience already knows. And if that is not bad enough, Sabbir Khan also does recaps of his scenes - in case we missed them or forget them!

The director also could not resist crude American Pie gags like having the protag fart in the face of a bride, having the heroine curse like a sailor; and going over-the-top with an 'anal search' scene. Character development is minimal, and the cast are unimpressive, with the age-old device of having the 'hero' supported by a clownish aide (in the form of Vindu Dara Singh). And whose idea was it to have Viraj undergo open abdomen surgery without anaesthesia?

Of the stars, Kareena shines brightest in a lazily-written role.

THE LOWDOWN: Yeah, how low can one go in a film that has Akshay Kumar stoop to touch Sly's feet?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Veteran Actor Karl Malden Dies At 97

JULY 2, 2009 - Veteran actor Karl Malden died at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles yesterday (July 1, 2009) at 97. He is believed to have died of natural causes.

Karl Malden (born Mladen George Sekulovich on March 22, 1912) was an American actor. In a career that spanned over seven decades, he featured in classic Marlon Brando films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront (pictured) and One-Eyed Jacks.

Among other notable film roles are Archie Lee Meighan in Baby Doll, Zebulon Prescott in How the West Was Won and General Omar Bradley in Patton. His best-known role was on television as Lt. Mike Stone on the 1970s crime drama, The Streets of San Francisco.

A funeral service will be held for Malden in the next 3–4 weeks.

WEEKEND PIC - July 3 - 5, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) ICE AGE 3: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (animated adventure with voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah and Chris Wedge) Rated * * * (3 stars out of 4): More fun and laughter with Manny and the gang, and of course, Scratt the squirrel, in this sequel which also introduces the rascally weasel Buck and the dinosaurs. Again, a family treat. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. 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 record box-office crowds. It has more of what the fans want, never mind that it is still flawed and goes on for too long. (Reviewed below)

2. 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)

3. 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)

4. 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)

5. 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)

6. 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 but watchable. (Reviewed below)

7. 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)