Monday, August 31, 2009

'Final Destination' Tops US Weekend B-O

AUG 31, 2009 - It was a rare instance of two movies of the same genre going head-to-head, as the Final Destination and Halloween thriller franchises faced-off but neither was particularly scathed by the clash at the weekend US box-office. Final Destination topped the US weekend collection with an estimated US$28.3 million while Halloween 2 made an estimated US$17.4.

The Final Destination (pictured, right) opens in Malaysia on Thursday (Sept 3).

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that “Inglourious Basterds” was the top film at the international box office, bolstered by impressive staying power in key markets and No. 1 openings in a handful of new ones. All told, Quentin Tarantino’s World War II opus fought its way to US$19.4 million in 31 territories, raising its international gross to $59.1 million.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimate grosses for Aug 28-30, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. The Final Destination - $28.3 million ($28.3 million) 1

2. Inglourious Basterds - $20.0 million ($73.8 million) 2

3. Halloween 2 - $17.4 million ($17.4 million) 1

4. District 9 - $10.7 million ($90.8 million) 3

5. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - $8.0 million ($132.4 million) 4

(Figures courtesy of Boxofficemojo.com).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

WHERE GOT GHOST? - Neo Spoofs Local Beliefs

Directors Neo and Boo (centre & right) at a media conference in KL after the screening on Aug 26

WHERE GOT GHOST? (comedy in Hokkien and Mandarin)
Cast: Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Richard Low, Marcus Chin, John Cheng, Wang Lei, Tay Yin Yin and Tony Koh
Directors: Jack Neo and Boris Boo
Time: 106 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: Singapore's funnyman Jack Neo is back with a spoof on local beliefs of the supernatural in this three-in-one offering. This time around, he shares the directorial duties with sitcom writer Boris Boo. The three short stories, which are apparently the answers to the title's question, are: Roadside Got Ghost, Forest Got Ghost and House Got Ghost.

Despite the presence of Boo, this one is typical Jack Neo stuff - each with a moral at the end. There is also an awesome CGI-enhanced scene that helps to close the movie with a bang. I mention 'awesome' in relation to low-budget Asian standards, not Hollywood-type wizardry, of course.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The first segment, 'Roadside Got Ghost' (pic, above), deals with three swindlers who start a four-digit (4D) telephone gambling scam and charge the winners 20 per cent of their takings. Things get out of hand when they encounter competition and a vengeful spirit. 'Forest Got Ghost' is about two army reservists (John Cheng and Wang Lei) who take an illegal shortcut during jungle training - and end up in a nightmarish setting.

The third, 'House Got Ghost', is set during the lunar seventh month when hungry ghosts are supposed to roam the world of the living. Three siblings (played by 'usual suspects' Jack Neo, Mark Lee and Henry Thia) find themselves being 'visited' by their late mother's spirit and start blaming her for their financial woes. However, they learn the true meaning of ancestral blessing when they embark on a road trip and...

HITS & MISSES: Don't expect to be scared by these ghost stories. They are meant to be funny rather than scary. The first two segments appear like comedy sketches, especially Forest Got Ghost which features Tay Yin Yin as the strange woman that the hapless duo encounter in the Singapore jungle. This is where screenwriter Neo resorts to infantile gags and toilet jokes to keep the comedy going.

Richard Low and Marcus Chin stand out in the 'Roadside' segment, giving their roles a tongue-in-cheek treatment that helps to set the jovial mood for the show.

Of the three, the best is House Got Ghost (left), which is performed by Neo (left) and his regulars, Thia and Lee, in roles they are so familiar with. In fact the episode looks like an extension of last year's Money No Enough 2 in which veteran actress Lai Ming also played the mother. It is fitting that Neo and Boo end the movie with this one as the moral lesson will linger with the viewers as they leave the cinema.

THE LOWDOWN: Not one of Neo's best but still funny and watchable.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

MERDEKA WEEKEND PIC - Aug 28-31, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) VENGEANCE (crime thriller with Anthony Wong, Johnny Hallyday, Lam Suet, Lam Ka-tung, Maggie Siu, Simon Yam and Sylvie Testud) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): There is a cool style and rhythm in this J-To bullet ballet featuring French rocker Johnny Hallyday. Never mind the narrative, it is far-fetched. Just imagine an Asian-styled Tarantino flick. (Reviewed below)

b) MURDERER (crime thriller with Aaron Kwok, Cheung Sui-Fai, Chin Ka-Lok, Wong You Nam, Josie Ho, Chen Kuan Tai and Ning Chang) Rated * * (2 stars): The build-up is a bit like that of Memento or Seven, but when the plot is revealed, the cookie crumbles absolutely. (Reviewed below)

c) IMAGINE THAT (comedy with Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Yara Shahidi, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox and Martin Sheen) Rated * * (2 stars): Thankfully, Murphy has discarded his fat suit and the obscene over-the-top antics. However, what we have here is a lame and tame kiddie flick where he gets upstaged by a young Shahidi. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (fantasy action thriller with Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid and Rachel Nichols) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 out of 4 stars): Like Transformers, the movie is based on a Hasbro toy line but the action is even more intense and involving than 'Revenge Of The Fallen'. There is also a little love story embedded... (Reviewed below)

2. UP (animated fantasy with Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Delroy Lindo and Jordan Nagai) Rating * * * (3 out of 4 stars): A captivating and engrossing odd-couple caper that will definitely entertain both the kids and adults. This cartoon is so universal that viewers will associate their friends and folks with the characters.

3. DISTRICT 9 (sci-fi thriller with Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Mandla Gaduka, William Allen Young, Vanessa Haywood, Kenneth Nkosi and Devlin Brown) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): This South African 'apartheid with aliens' film works like Cloverfield but it's special effects is top class. It is also a great feature debut for director Neill Blomkamp, a protege of Peter Jackson. (Reviewed below)

4. ORPHAN (psychological thriller with Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder and Jimmy Bennett) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Somewhat like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, this one is a long-drawn family affair until its climactic revelation or plot twist. Keep expectations low if you plan to catch this. (Reviewed below)

5. DANCE FLICK (comedy with Damon Wayans Jr., Craig Wayans, Shoshana Bush, Essence Atkins and Affion Crockett) Rating * * (2 stars): It's another Wayans Brothers spoof and you should know what to expect. Yeah, some hits and many misses.

6. I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER (romantic comedy with Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Andrea Savage, Samm Levine, Alan Ruck, Lauren Storm and Cynthia Stevenson) Rated * * (2 stars): Panettiere plays another gutsy cheerleader in this uninspired comedy written in the vein of American Graffiti. (Reviewed below)

MURDERER - Derivative and Disappointing

MURDERER (crime thriller in Cantonese/Mandarin)
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Cheung Sui-Fai, Chin Ka-Lok, Wong You Nam, Josie Ho, Chen Kuan Tai and Chang Chun-Ning
Director: Roy Chow Hin Yeung
Time: 120 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Aaron Kwok and Cheung Sui-Fai in MURDERER

PREAMBLE: Sitting through the first half of this crime thriller, an avid moviegoer would get a sense of deja vu. The viewer recalls popular movies like Seven, Primal Fear, Memento and later, Orphan (which is still playing in Malaysian cinemas).

However, when the plot is revealed, one would
feel hugely disappointed. The script is badly contrived and so full of holes that we feel cheated at having to sit through two hours for this piece of drivel.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The movie starts off promisingly with an intriguing premise: what if you are investigating a series of murders and all the evidence point to you as the culprit? Aaron Kwok's detective Ling, who is investing a serial killer that uses electric drill on his victims, is found unconscious on the seventh floor of an apartment building. On the ground below, his colleague Tai (Chen Kuan Tai) is critically injured after falling from one of the top floors of the building.

Ling, who suffers from amnesia after the 'attack', believes it is the work of the serial killer - but as he starts his own investigation into the incident, he is shocked to find that he may have been framed by the killer! What's more, he learns that his wife (Ning Chang, pictured) and five-year-old son are likely targets.

HITS & MISSES: The lame script aside, we have to admit that the build-up is rather tensed and suspenseful - thanks to Kwok and co-star Cheung Sui-Fai who plays his cop buddy 'Ghost'. Kwok gives his Detective Ling the requisite touch of outrage and paranoia that help to sustain our curiosity. Cheung, on the other hand, plays a man of reason and logic - until he is overwhelmed by them.

Ning Chang is solid as the long-suffering wife but it is Josie Ho (right) who livens things up as Minnie, Ling's younger sister who arrives from the States.

The movie collapses when the 'truth' is revealed. Director Roy Chow (who also wrote the screenplay with To Chi-Long) seems to have spent so much time on the build-up that he has to rush through the ending. Instead of explaining the plot (or mystery), he makes the ending more ridiculous, opening up lots of questions on the minds of viewers.

THE LOWDOWN: A very unfortunate debut for director Chow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Latest Michael Jackson This Is It Pix


Aug 26, 2009
- Here are two of Michael Jackson THIS IS IT pictures, courtesy of Sony Pictures.



Michael Jackson THIS IS IT will offer Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts that would have taken place beginning this summer in London’s O2 Arena.

Chronicling the months from April through June, 2009, the film is drawn from more than 100 hours of behind-the-scenes footage, featuring the late Jackson rehearsing a number of his songs for the show. Audiences will be given a privileged and private look at the singer, dancer, film-maker, architect, and genius as he creates and perfects his final show.

Michael Jackson THIS IS IT will be released exclusively for a special, limited weeks engagement worldwide, with the studio pushing up the debut of the film by two days, to Wednesday, Oct 28.

Due to the anticipated demand for this film, tickets for the two-week presentation will go on sale in most US cities beginning on Sunday, Sept 27.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

IMAGINE THAT - Murphy's 'Last Hurrah'?

IMAGINE THAT (fantasy comedy)
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Yara Shahidi, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox and Martin Sheen
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Time: 107 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Murphy and Yara Shahidi in IMAGINE THAT

PREAMBLE: We have heard of little children with imaginary friends that are often conjured up to keep them company, to help them get their parents' attention and get what they want. But have you heard of imaginary friends who give financial market tips? Imagine that??!!

Although the screenplay is not written by Eddie Murphy (it is scripted by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson), this one may be another nail in the coffin for Murphy's career as a comedian. Watching Murphy in this insipid role only confirms that he is a washout. (According to Boxofficemojo, Imagine That opened on June 12, 2009 and grossed US$17,183,000 worldwide as of Aug 20. It was produced at US$55 million.)

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Like Game Plan and almost every other kiddie comedy these days, it is about spending more time with one's kids and redefining the meaning of success. Here, we have Murphy playing Evan Danielson, a financial analyst at a Denver investment firm that is about to undergo a major restructuring.

Evan's boss (Ronny Cox) plans to sell the company to Dante D'Enzo (Martin Sheen) who wants to incorporate it into his business empire. To run the newly restructured unit, D'Enzo initiates a contest between Evan and his colleague/rival, Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church). Whoever impresses him the most will get the job.

Evan's situation is complicated by his seven-year old daughter, Olivia (Yara Shahidi), who is staying with
him for the week while her mother (Nicole Ari Parker) is engaged. Desperate for her father's attention, Olivia goes into her make-believe world and consults a group of princesses about how certain stocks and corporations will fare.

At first, Evan ignores her 'advice' but when
the predictions start coming true, he turns to the imaginary beings to help boost his career.

HITS & MISSES: I can't find anything I like about this movie except for the charming performance of Yara Shahidi. She steals the show whenever she is on-screen - and pulls the proverbial rug from under Murphy. Indeed, it is painful to see Murphy running all over the place looking for his daughter's security blanket.

Among the gags that kids under 10 may find funny is the one with Evan having to eat a pancake with oodles of ketchup and other sauces poured over it. And the year's most phoney performance has to be Church's attempts to play a 'native American'. Director Karey Kirkpatrick, making his live-action debut after 2006's Over the Hedge, must have targeted the movie for kids below 10.

THE LOWDOWN: Only for desperate parents trying to find a movie to take the kids to during this school holiday week.

VENGEANCE - Johnny To's Bullet Ballet

VENGEANCE (crime thriller)
Cast: Anthony Wong, Johnny Hallyday, Lam Suet, Lam Ka-tung, Maggie Siu, Simon Yam and Sylvie Testud
Director: Johnny To
Time: 107 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: Aimed apparently at the European market, Johnny To's Vengeance is a well-choreographed 'bullet ballet' rather than a crime thriller. With French rocker-turned-actor Johnny Hallyday (pic, above) in the cast, the movie should attract the French crowd, not to mention J-To's fans worldwide.

And in most Johnny To flicks, the narrative, or substance, is secondary to its style. It's art that counts more than action.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? A family, including two children, is brutally gunned down by three hired assassins in a Macau suburb. All are killed except the French wife, Irene (Sylvie Testud) who is seriously injured. Enter Costello (Hallyday), Irene's father from Paris, who swears revenge. The craggy-faced Costello, a chef who owns a restaurant in Paris, accidentally runs into a trio of hit men (Anthony Wong, Lam Suet and Lam Ka-Tung) and hires them to track down his daughter's assailants.

Of course, the quest for vengeance is not as simple as we would have thought. There are a number of (mostly improbable) twists up in J-To's sleeve and these are revealed as the plot unravels. Costello, it turns out, has a complicated past. He has a bullet in his brain and his memory is fading fast. That is why this is the first time we see a bunch of hit men allowing their photographs to be taken on Polaroid camera.

HITS & MISSES: J-To maintains a sense of wonder and curiosity throughout the first-half of the movie. Many elements of the plot do not make sense and coincidences abound. Still, we overlook these because J-To makes it clear that we are not to take the plot seriously. Indeed, the narrative is littered with humorous lines and crazy happenings.

J-To's regulars, Wong and the two Lams, understand the producer-director's style and they deliver performances that seem to be moving to a 'rhythm'. Hallyday reminds us of spaghetti western star Lee Van Cleef and an older version of Alain Delon (who, incidentally, dropped out of the film earlier). And although Hallyday's acting is 'wooden', he is still the centre of attention in this effort that seems to borrow a few ideas from Memento. Simon Yam has a few scenes as a mob boss while Michelle Ye is commanding as a 'beach mom' with seven children under her care.

The climactic showdown, shot in a vast waste paper dump, looks more like a paintball game than a serious gunplay - with red 'paint' splashed all over the shooters. Played to an appropriate music score, it is cool MTV stuff. And then there is the trademark J-To 'food for thought' for the audience: "What good is revenge when you cannot remember any of it?"

THE LOWDOWN: An Asian-styled Tarantino shoot-'em-up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tarantino's Basterds Tops US Weekend B-O

AUG 24, 2009 - Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds topped the US box-office this weekend with an estimated US$37.6 million (RM131.6 million).

According to studio estimates published by Reuters, the film sold a total of US$65.1 million (RM227.9 million) worth of tickets in North America and 22 foreign territories, a promising start after the disappointment of Tarantino's previous effort, Death Proof, two years ago. In the US and Canada, the US$37.6 million tally surpassed his previous best opening of US$25.1 million for Kill Bill Vol. 2 in 2004. The majority of critics liked the movie, with many giving it four out of four stars.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O grosses for Aug 21-23, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. Inglourious Basterds $37.6 million ($37.6 million) 1

2. District 9 $18.9 million ($73.5 million) 2

3. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra $12.5 million ($120.5 million) 3

4. The Time Traveler's Wife $10.0 million ($37.4 million) 2

5. Julie & Julia $9.0 million ($59.3 million) 3

Friday, August 21, 2009

'Michael Jackson This Is It' To Open Oct 28


August 20, 2009 - Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment announced today that Michael Jackson THIS IS IT will be released exclusively for a special, limited, weeks engagement worldwide, with the studio pushing up the debut of the film by two days, to Wednesday, October 28th.

Due to the anticipated demand for this film, tickets for the two-week presentation will go on sale in most US cities beginning on Sunday, September 27th.

Separately, the producers of Michael Jackson THIS IS IT announced that Kenny Ortega has been set to direct the motion picture. The film is being produced with the full support of The Estate of Michael Jackson.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Aug 21-23, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) UP (animated fantasy with Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Delroy Lindo and Jordan Nagai) Rating * * * (3 out of 4 stars): A captivating and engrossing odd-couple caper that will definitely entertain both the kids and adults. This cartoon is so universal that viewers will associate their friends and folks with the characters. Also in 3D at selected cinemas.

b) ORPHAN (psychological thriller with Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder and Jimmy Bennett) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Somewhat like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, this one is a long-drawn family affair until its climactic revelation or plot twist. Keep expectations low if you plan to catch this. (Reviewed below)

c) DANCE FLICK (comedy with Damon Wayans Jr., Craig Wayans, Shoshana Bush, Essence Atkins and Affion Crockett) Rating * * (2 stars): It's another Wayans Brothers spoof and you should know what to expect. Yeah, some hits, many misses but nothing spectacular.

d) I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER (romantic comedy with Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Andrea Savage, Samm Levine, Alan Ruck, Lauren Storm and Cynthia Stevenson) Rated * * (2 stars): Panettiere plays another gutsy cheerleader in this uninspired comedy written in the vein of American Graffiti. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (fantasy action thriller with Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid and Rachel Nichols) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 out of 4 stars): Like Transformers, the movie is based on a Hasbro toy line but the action is even more intense and involving than 'Revenge Of The Fallen'. There is also a little love story embedded... (Reviewed below)

2. DISTRICT 9 (sci-fi thriller with Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Mandla Gaduka, William Allen Young, Vanessa Haywood, Kenneth Nkosi and Devlin Brown) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): This South African 'apartheid with aliens' film works like Cloverfield but it's special effects is top class. It is also a great feature debut for director Neill Blomkamp, a protege of Peter Jackson. (Reviewed below)

3. 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. Don't expect anything more, though. (Reviewed below)

4. 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 Charles Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' as the modern anti-romantic Scrooge. A charmless effort. (Reviewed below)

5. ALIENS IN THE ATTIC (fantasy comedy with Ashley Tisdale, Robert Hoffman, Kevin Nealon, Tim Meadows, Austin Robert Butler, Doris Roberts, Gillian Vigman, Carter Jenkins, Ashley Boettcher, Henri Young and Regan Young) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): If District 9 is an alien film for the adult action fan, this one is for kids below 9. It has High School Musical alumni Tisdale in bikini and pesky gremlin-type aliens in combat with a bunch of children. (Reviewed below)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ORPHAN - Not For The Discerning Viewer

ORPHAN (psychological thriller)
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder and Jimmy Bennett
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Time: 120 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Farmiga and Fuhrman in ORPHAN

PREAMBLE: Throughout the first hour of Orphan, I was in a state of disbelief. How could the film-makers work with such an implausible, low-IQ and bizarre plot? Then I stopped thinking about the movie as boredom crept in. However, when the big revelation presented itself near the end, it begged analysis - but instead of explaining the events of the earlier part, it makes the whole movie even more stupid.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Suburban couple Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) are looking for a third child following the stillborn death of a daughter. Kate has a history of problems with alcohol abuse, but she seems to be in control now. The couple's deaf daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer), is eager for a sister, while their son, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), is less enthusiastic.

Kate and John visit an orphanage and fall in love with Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a bright, articulate, and polite nine-year old. At first, she seems to be a wonderful addition to the family, learning sign language to communicate with Max, sharing Kate's love of music, and bonding with John. However, when she's picked on by the pupils at school, a darker aspect of her personality begins to emerge.

HITS & MISSES: The first 30 minutes of Orphan are rather dry, consisting of mundane stuff with nary a scare or laughter. Kate had problems with alcohol and John had some sexual indiscretions. Big deal, that's about half of America! The adoption of Esther is done with such expediency that it is like adopting a pet cat.

However, Fuhrman's Esther manages to generate enough curiosity to take us to its first 'bizarre happening' - which puts the movie in its 18-PL level. As the bizarre happenings continue, credulity is strained and we start to question the plot. Like, can Kate and John be so obtuse and not notice the body language of Max and Daniel when they are 'under threat'? The main cast - Farmiga, Sarsgaard, Fuhrman, Engineer and Bennett - are good, though, and they help to make this movie more interesting than it really is. I am especially fond of little Aryana Engineer who reminds me of young Dakota Fanning and Drew Barrymore (in E.T.).

THE LOWDOWN: It's watchable if you are not bothered about logic and credibility.

'District 9' tops US Weekend B-O

AUG, 18, 2009 - District 9' topped the US box-office this weekend with US$37.4 million, Boxofficemojo reports. The Time Traveller's Wife, another sci-fi effort, grossed US$18.6 million in its first weekend.

District 9 was made at less than US$30 million, a modest budget by Hollywood standards. The film was buoyed by rave reviews and a promotional blitz at the recent Comic-Con comic book convention, which fuelled strong pre-release interest among sci-fi fans.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O grosses for Aug 14-16, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. District 9 $37.4 million ($37.4 million) 1

2. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra $22.3 million ($98.8 million) 2

3. Time Traveler's Wife $18.6 million ($18.6 million) 1

4. Julie & Julia $12.1 million ($43.3 million) 2

5. G-Force $6.9 million ($99.0 million) 4

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER: Good Cast, Bad Script

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER (romantic comedy)
Cast: Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Andrea Savage, Samm Levine, Alan Ruck, Lauren Storm and Cynthia Stevenson
Director: Chris Columbus
Time: 102 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? "Save the cheerleader, (you) save the world." This is the famous line from TV's Heroes in which Hayden Panettiere plays the cheerleader Claire Bennett. In I Love You Beth Cooper, she again plays a cheerleader but this time around, it is her cheerleader who has the task of saving the movie.

Well, it was a good try but the script is too far gone even for an experienced young star like Panettiere.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It's graduation day for the senior class of Buffalo Grove High School. In his speech, valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) not only professes his love for head cheerleader, Beth Cooper (Panettiere) but also takes the opportunity to insult her boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts). The result: Beth starts to notice Denis and even agrees to go to his 'party' while Kevin just wants to kill him.

The rest of the movie is about how Denis and his bet buddy Rich (Jack T. Carpenter) meet and 'team up' with Beth and her two best friends, Cammy (Lauren London) and Treece (Lauren Storm) and how they try to avoid Kevin when he launches an attack on Denis' house. Oh yes, their misadventures for the night include breaking into the school for some fun in the showers, trying their hand at cow-tipping, gatecrashing the most popular party in town, and spending time in a cabin in the woods. Of course, Beth and Denis also discover things about their feelings for each other.

HITS & MISSES: This one seems like it is trying to be an updated version of American Graffiti but director Chris Columbus squanders much of its footage on over-the-top gags and teenage pranks and brawls instead of developing the characters and relationships. When he finally gets to the 'point' almost the end of the movie, it is a case of too little too late as we have lost patience.

Indeed, the movie seems to be suffering from schizophrenia - trying to be kosher enough for the PG-13 rating and yet testing the limits with teasing nudity and sex gags. It ends up being another graduation night romp flick.

Panettiere, however, manages to flesh out a personality from a lame script. Her Beth Cooper is the image of the hot girl at school that every boy dreams about; the reckless one who tests the boundaries; but a very uncertain and scared girl underneath. Rust too is solid as the geek, and Carpenter gets some laughs as the movie quotes-expert. Now, if only the script is up to standard...

THE LOWDOWN: Hayden is cool, the movie is not.

Friday, August 14, 2009

WEEKEND PIC Aug 14 - 16, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) DISTRICT 9 (sci-fi thriller with Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Mandla Gaduka, William Allen Young, Vanessa Haywood, Kenneth Nkosi and Devlin Brown) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): This South African 'apartheid with aliens' film works like Cloverfield but it's special effects is top class. It is also a great feature debut for director Neill Blomkamp, a protege of Peter Jackson. (Reviewed below)

b) ALIENS IN THE ATTIC (fantasy comedy with Ashley Tisdale, Robert Hoffman, Kevin Nealon, Tim Meadows, Austin Robert Butler, Doris Roberts, Gillian Vigman, Carter Jenkins, Ashley Boettcher, Henri Young and Regan Young) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): If District 9 is an alien film for the adult action fan, this one is for kids below 9. It has High School Musical alumni Tisdale in bikini and pesky gremlin-type aliens in combat with a bunch of children. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (fantasy action thriller with Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid and Rachel Nichols) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 out of 4 stars): Like Transformers, the movie is based on a Hasbro toy line but the action is even more intense and involving than 'Revenge Of The Fallen'. There is also a little love story embedded... (Reviewed below)

2. OVERHEARD (cop drama with Lau Ching Wan, Daniel Wu, Louis Koo, Zhang Jinghu) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): From Felix Chong and Alan Mak (the guys who wrote Infernal Affairs) we have another gripping drama about how three cops probing into insider trading allow themselves to succumb to their own greed. Informative as well as captivating.

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. 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. Don't expect anythimng more, though. (Reviewed below)

5. 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)

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)

7. 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)

DISTRICT 9: Aliens In Jo'Berg

DISTRICT 9 (sci-fi thriller)
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Mandla Gaduka, William Allen Young, Vanessa Haywood, Kenneth Nkosi and Devlin Brown
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Time: 116 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Shot docudrama-style and mostly with hand-held cameras, District 9 is reminiscent of Cloverfield and Quarantine. However, it is not
as nausea-inducing as the two predecessors and its computer-generated effects of the alien creatures are marvellous. The second part of the film is packed with Mad Max and Transformers-type action.

Well, the premise is a bit far-fetched but it is easy to go along with the flow once you suspend disbelief. Coincidentally, there are two alien movies opening in KL this week - Aliens In The Attic for the kids, and this one for the action-loving adults.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? 'District 9' is a huge slum in Johannesburg, South Africa, where a large group of aliens have been confined for over 20 years when their spaceship mysteriously 'parked' above the city. The insect-like aliens are given the nickname 'prawns' because of their bottom-feeding habits. As the nations of the world debate on what to do with the extra-terrestrials, a company named Multi-National United (MNU) is tasked with evacuating the 'prawns' out of District 9 to a much more controlled area called District 10.

The man put in charge of this op is Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley). As he leads his troops into the ghetto to evict the aliens, he finds something that not only proves crucial to his bosses but will change his live forever...

HITS & MISSES: District 9 is the feature debut by South African film-maker Neill Blomkamp and his message about apartheid is obvious, with the segregated aliens behaving more like pathetic refugees than hostile invaders. Blomkamp, a protege of Peter Jackson (who produced this movie), keeps his 'cards' close to his chest, divulging one fascinating twist at a time. Except for Wikus, none of the other characters is properly developed and the movie's villains are more cartoonish than evil. His non-professional cast, including Copley, helps to heighten realism and promote the sense of TV-live recording.

The special effects, especially the shots of the mothership hovering over Johannesburg, and blasts from various weapons to the CGI rendering of the creatures, are first class. There are flaws, though. The manhunt for Wikus by MNU is badly contrived, the part played by the Nigerian gangsters at the D9 slums is not properly explained and the IQ levels of the aliens seem contradictory and confusing.

Blomkamp, however, maintains a frantic pace that keeps us on the edge of our seats much of the time.

THE LOWDOWN: Catch it if you like Cloverfield and Blair Witch Project.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ALIENS IN THE ATTIC - Gremlin Attack

ALIENS IN THE ATTIC (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Ashley Tisdale, Robert Hoffman, Kevin Nealon, Tim Meadows, Austin Robert Butler, Doris Roberts, Gillian Vigman, Carter Jenkins, Ashley Boettcher, Henri Young and Regan Young
Director: John Schultz
Time: 86 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Unless you are under 10 years old, don't expect to be frightened by the aliens in this 'Attic'. They look more like neutered Gremlins - and they are more cute than scary or menacing. As for the movie, it tries to target the 'family' audience but I don't expect any self-respecting teenager would want to be caught watching this 'kiddie flick' - despite the presence of High School Musical hottie Ashley Tisdale.

However, those with young kids may enjoy accompanying their young 'uns - and see them having fun.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It all starts as a meteor shower rockets across the galaxy. Four glowing pods hiding behind the meteors suddenly turn towards planet Earth and lands in a house in rural Michigan where the Pearson families are on vacation. Soon, the children, led by Tom (Carter Jenkins), must fight off four knee-high extraterrestrials, the advance party of an impending alien invasion.

For some reason, Tom refuses to tell his parents (Kevin Nealon, Gillian Vigman) about the alien attack, making this 'war' a secret kids-versus-ET face-off. This plot contrivance allows the scripters to throw in all sorts of childish gags and stunts. The aliens' most potent (and potentially funny) weapon is a brain-implant dart gun that allows them to control humans with a device that resembles a videogame controller. One of its targets is Ricky (Robert Hoffman), the hapless boyfriend of Bethany (Tisdale), the eldest of the Pearson siblings.

HITS & MISSES: One thing I like about this effort directed by John Schultz is that the movie has no pretence about being anything other than goofy entertainment. The best laughs it can offer is having Hoffman doing puppet stunts while being 'controlled' by one of the kids. And then there is also Doris Roberts (of Everybody Loves Raymond fame) showing off her ninja skills in a mid-air duel.

Jenkins is watchable as the closet geek who learns that being good at maths has its advantages, and Ashley Boettcher (pictured) is likeable as Hannah the requisite cutie-pie who 'converts' one of the aliens. The other adult stars, like Tim Meadows (as the sheriff) and Nealon, have poorly-written supporting roles.

THE BOTTOM-LINE: A see-and-forget flick.

Monday, August 10, 2009

'G.I. Joe' Makes A Big Hit At Box-Offices Worldwide


AUG, 10, 2009 - As expected, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra topped the US box office last weekend with an estimated US$56.2 million (RM196 million). Worldwide, it sold about US$100.3 million (RM351.1 million) worth of tickets, distributor Paramount Pictures said yesterday.

The three-day take of US$56.2 million from the United States and Canada ranks as the fourth-highest August opening ever, and comes after the US$175 million special effects movie was besieged by bad press for months.

Reuters reports that the foreign component of US$44.1 million — from 35 markets comprising 75 per cent of international sales — was led by South Korea (US$5.6 million). The film opened at No. 1 in two countries not exactly favourable to American militarism, China (US$4.8 million) and Russia (US$4.6 million).

Julie & Julia came in second in the US with less than half of G.I. Joe's takings.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimated grosses for Aug 7-9, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra $56.2 million ($56.2 million) 1

2. Julie & Julia $20.1 million ($20.1 million) 1

3. G-Force $9.8 million ($86.1 million) 3

4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $8.9 million ($273.8 million) 4

5. Funny People $7.9 million ($40.4 million) 2

Friday, August 07, 2009

Film-maker John Hughes Dies at 59

AUG 7, 2009 - Film-maker John Hughes, who gave us such teen hits as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Home Alone, died yesterday, a spokesperson said. He was 59.

Hughes died of a heart attack during a morning walk in Manhattan. He was reportedly in New York to visit family. Hughes' comedies helped to make stars out of Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and other young performers. He also wrote the phenomenally popular Home Alone, which made Macaulay Culkin a sensation as the 8-year-old accidentally abandoned by his family, and wrote or directed such hits as National Lampoon's Vacation, Pretty in Pink, Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Uncle Buck.

Others who got their breaks from Hughes included John Cusack (Sixteen Candles), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Steve Carell (Curly Sue) and Lili Taylor (She's Having a Baby).

Hughes withdrew from Hollywood in the past decade to work on a farm in northern Illinois and to support independent arts, his spokesman said.

WEEKEND PIC - Aug 7 - 9, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a. G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (fantasy action thriller with Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid and Rachel Nichols) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 out of 4 stars): Like Transformers, the movie is based on a Hasbro toy line but the action is even more intense and involving than 'Revenge Of The Fallen' and Terminator: Salvation. It has all the escapist thrills and gadgets you would want in an action film, plus a little love story thrown in. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. OVERHEARD (cop drama with Lau Ching Wan, Daniel Wu, Louis Koo, Zhang Jinghu) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): From Felix Chong and Alan Mak (the guys who wrote Infernal Affairs) we have another gripping crime drama about how three cops probing into insider trading allow themselves to succumb to their own greed. Informative as well as captivating.

2. 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)

3. 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. Don't expect anything more, though. (Reviewed below)

4. 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)

5. 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)

6. 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)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA - Thrills From Start To End

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (fantasy action thriller)
Cast: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Byung Hun Lee, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid and Rachel Nichols
Director: Stephen Sommers
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

The JOES: Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Saïd Taghmaoui, Rachel Nichols and Marlon Wayans

PREAMBLE: After the Transformers, it's G.I. Joe for more crazy summer action. Like the Transformers, G.I. Joe (or Action Force) was also a brand of Hasbro toys featuring all kinds of combat figures and high-tech vehicles that fire a young boy's imagination. At the height of its popularity in the 1980s, the Action Force brand spawned a cartoon series, a Marvel comic and even an animated movie before fading away in the early 1990s.

Now it is set to rival Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen at the box-office. I am not well acquainted with Action Force toys but I was totally immersed in the action right after the opening flashback. For those who have played with G.I. Joe toys as kids, this is definitely the chance to relive their wildest action fantasies...

THE SKINNY: MARS Corporation, led by the dastardly James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), has developed a 'nanomite' bomb that contains greenish 'bionic mites' capable of 'eating' metal and demolishing structures and vehicles in seconds. You can imagine that anyone who has the nanomite bomb will be able to control the world - which is what McCullen is trying to do with a secret organisation known as Cobra.

Sent out to get the bomb are the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun, picture) and trying to stop them are the elite G.I. Joe team led by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). Leading members of the Joes team are Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui). They are later joined by US Special Forces members, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) who provide the movie with its love story, romantic interests and comic relief, not to mention fast-paced action and thrills.

HITS & MISSES: Indeed, director Stephen Sommers and his scripters (Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett) seem obsessed with wanting to throw in everything from James Bond-type action, villains, underwater sets and romance to Star Wars battles, weapons and awe-inspiring gadgets. Sommers spares no expense in getting the stunts and scenes he wants and most of them are 'real cool'. Still, he takes time to provide the 'backgrounds' of the major characters, albeit in flashbacks so that they do not 'clash' with the main action and storyflow.

In the Transformers movies, the battle sequences are often blurred and confusing when we have trouble differentiating the good and bad robots. There is no such problem here. The chases and fight/stunt sequences are so spectacular and breath-taking - one of the most mind-boggling action pieces I have seen this summer. This especially applies to the Paris street chase sequence which has the Joes in accelerator suits hot on the heels of the Baroness in a reinforced Hummer.

Usually in action movies like this, the performances take a backseat. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the chemistry between Tatum and Miller, and between Wayans and Nichols. Yeah, in the midst of all that zapping, clashing and crashing, Sommers wants us to know that 'the heart still goes on'. And of course, he ends with an intriguing narrative hook - provided by a subplot involving Zartan (played by Arnold Vosloo).

THE LOWDOWN: It has its flaws but this is an adrenaline-spiked 'Government-Issue' thrill ride from start to end.

Monday, August 03, 2009

'Funny People' Tops US Weekend B-O

JULY 27, 2009 - It was a dismal weekend at the US box-office with 'Funny People' collecting just an estimated US$23.4 million. It was reportedly the worst opening for an Adam Sandler film at the North American box-office in almost five years.

This makes it one of the lowest starts for a No. 1 movie since Jim Carrey’s Yes Man launched with US$18.3 million last December. Sandler plays a comedian diagnosed with a fatal blood disease who then tries to break up a marriage.


The Harry Potter sequel, The Half-Blood Prince, came in second but G-Force seemed to have lost power, settling at Number 3. Now, it is looking as if summer is finally over at the cinema - unless G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra can liven things up again.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimated grosses for July 31- Aug 2, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Funny People $23.4 million ($23.4 million) 1

2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $17.7 million ($255.5 million) 3

3. G-Force $17.1 million ($66.5 million) 2

4. The Ugly Truth $13.0 million ($54.5 million) 2

5. Aliens in the Attic $7.8 million ($7.8 million) 1