Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FAR CRY - A Slightly Better 'Bollshit'

FAR CRY (action/adventure)
Cast: Til Schweiger, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Natalia Avelon, Michael Paré, Craig Fairbrass, Udo Kier, Mike Dopud, Carrie Genzel and Anthony Bourdain
Director: Uwe Boll
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

Til Schweiger and Udo Kier in FAR CRY

PREAMBLE: First, the bad news: This is a Uwe Boll flick and if you have been an avid 'movie follower' you would know that he is reputed to be the 'worst director in the western world'.

The good news is: This 'Bollshit' isn't as bad as its predecessors, Bloodrayne and Alone In The Dark. You still need to leave your brains at the door and lower expectations, though. That way, you may laugh at the unintentional gags and bloopers.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Adapted from another videogame (of the same name), Far Cry deals has the over-used 'reluctant hero meets gutsy gal' plot. Ex-Special Forces commando Jack Carver (Til Schweiger) is a captain of a boat-for-hire operation. He is contented with drinking beer all day and napping on the job - until he is hired by reporter Valerie Cardinal (Emmanuelle Vaugier) to take her to a forbidden island to look for her uncle Max (Ralf Moeller).

She soon finds out that the isle is run by a mad scientist (Udo Kier) and his sexy sidekick (Natalia Avelon) experimenting on some bionic-soldier project. Jack reluctantly joins Valerie in her quest to rescue Max, almost singlehandedly going against an army of armed guards.

HITS & MISSES: The action sequences here are a bit better than Boll's previous films but still tacky enough to reveal fake weapons and badly choreographed stunts. Boll treats genre cliches like his own bright ideas. There are some funny scenes, both intended and unintended, and a few of them are provided by Chris Coppola playing Emilio the food delivery guy.

Acting by the cast of second-stringers is second rate, and of course, stinkers abound. The one that gets on my nerves most is having tough guy Jack repeatedly asking Val to rate his performance in bed - like an insecure schoolboy. This film has three screen-writers: Michael Roesch, Peter Scheerer and Masaji Takei. I wonder who was the one who came up with such idiotic crap. And then there's Schweiger's thick German accent playing an all-American hero like Jack Carver...

THE LOWDOWN: Now you roughly know the score. See it at your own risk or just enjoy playing the game.

Bruno Banned In Malaysia

SEPT 30, 2009 - It is official! Bernama has announced that the National Film Censorship Board has banned British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s raunchy comedy Bruno for being “oppressive to the cultural values of Malaysia.”

According to a statement from the Home Ministry, the film -- which stars Cohen as a gay Austrian fashionista -- contained sexually explicit scenes, vulgar language and nudity.

“The movie has also clearly infringed the sensitivity and beliefs of Christians by belittling the religion,” said the statement.

The statement added that the local distributor of the movie, Golden Screen Cinemas, was informed of the decision and reasons for the ban through a letter dated Aug 6.

This is one of the few times that I agree with our censors. Bruno is totally unfunny and it sucks big time (reviewed below).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Indon Clerics Oppose Plan to Hire Miyabi

SEPT 29, 2009 - As expected, Muslim leaders in Indonesia opposed plans by a production company to bring porn film star Maria Ozawa, 23, to play herself in the upcoming film, Menculik Miyabi (Kidnapping Miyabi).

It was reported that Indonesian Council of Ulama chairman Amidhan had slammed the choice of Ozawa (right), popularly known as Miyabi as a threat to the moral health of the country’s youth.

“Even if the film isn’t pornographic, it is very dangerous for our young people, particularly if they become fans of this porn actress and become curious enough to watch her films,” he said. “We have to be firm and not let rubbish into our country. This is about Indonesia’s reputation as the world’s most populous Muslim country."

Meanwhile, Singapore's Straits Times reported that Maxima Productions general manager Adi Sudiadi said they would stick to plans to include Ozawa in the film, which is about how a group of university students accidentally kidnap the starlet.

“We guarantee that Miyabi won’t be playing in a porn film here. We will bring her here not as a porn star, but purely for a comedy,” Sudiadi said. “Miyabi is well-known to Indonesians. We are expecting her to attract a lot of spectators here.

“We are also trying to fix Miyabi’s image by showing she can be more than just a porn star,” he said, adding that no final agreement had been reached with Ozawa to act in the film.

Well, even before the contract is signed, Miyabi has indeed created so much publicity for the movie. Miyabi starred in a Taiwanese slasher flick called Invitation Only which was released this year. If successful, she will join former smut stars like Marilyn Chambers, Traci Lords and compatriot Sora Aoi in crossing over to the mainstream.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Ticket Sell-Out for 'MJ This Is It' at Major Cities

SEPT 28, 2009 - Sony Pictures Entertainment announced that the first 24 hours of pre-sales for Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT has resulted in sell-out shows in cities throughout the world as fans secure the first tickets to the two-week, limited shows the highly-anticipated movie.

Rory Bruer, President of Worldwide Theatrical Distribution for Sony Picture Releasing said: “Michael Jackson’s fans all over the globe have enormous interest in this film and we can assure they will not be disappointed. This film delivers on everything they hope and expect to see. I think the initial sales activity we are seeing... underscores the unique nature of this film, which is a special celebration of Michael and his music.”

Advance ticket sale in Malaysia starts from 15th October.

'Meatballs' Still A Feast at US B-O

SEPT 28, 2009 - Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs topped the US weekend box-office again grossing an estimated US$24.6 million and lifting its total to a solid US$60 million in just 10 days. The movie will open in Malaysia on Oct 15.

The other new items on the menu, like Surrogates and Fame (2009) Pictured, didn't take off as well as expected. Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis, started its first weekend with an estimated US$15 million on about 3,600 screens at 2,951 sites, while dance flick Fame earned an estimated US$10 million on 3,400 screens at 3,096 sites.

Newcomer Pandorum opened the weekend at No 6 with US4.4 million while Jennifer's Body dropped to No 8 on its second week taking US3.5 million for a cumulative US$12.3 million.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimate grosses for Sept 25-27, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs $24.6 million ($60.0 million) 2

2. Surrogates $15.0 million ($15.0 million) 1

3. Fame (2009) $10.0 million ($10.0 million) 1

4. The Informant! $6.9 million ($21.0 million) 2

5. I Can Do Bad All By Myself $4.8 million ($44.5 million) 3

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barbie - A Star Is ABout To Be Born!


SEPT 22, 2009 - Look who's gonna become a movie star! Yeah, you must have read that Universal Pictures has made a deal with toymaker Mattel to build a live action film around its Barbie toy line. Just like the Transformers toys from Hasbro.

It's about time too, considering that Barbie is 50 years old. The Universal bosses feel that they have landed the queen of globally branded toy figures.

Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger said: “So many representations of Barbie frequent pop culture, but never before has she been brought to life in a motion picture. We’re grateful to Mattel for entrusting us with this extraordinary opportunity.”

Mark said the next step will be to canvas writers and decide a creative take for a family-friendly movie. Mark was one of several A-list producers who met with Mattel and Universal execs. Mark said he felt fortunate to get the job and said there is no shortage of plot possibilities, since Barbie has held more than 120 jobs over the years.

“Barbie may be the most popular girl in the world, and has always been a wonderfully aspirational figure, so we must do her proud,” Mark said.

Now we can only speculate which starlet will be picked to play Barbie. Megan Fox? Jessica Alba? Dakota Fanning?

WEEKEND PIC - Sept 25-27, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND FILMS

NEW THIS WEEK:


a) ACCIDENT (crime thriller with Louis Koo, Richie Jen, Michelle Ye, Lam Suet and Fung Shui-Fan) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): The story about a team of hired assassins led by a meticulous Louis Koo has no gunplay or kungfu fighting but it is thick with tension, intrigue and paranoia. There are also a few flaws that strain credibility in the second half but not bad enough to affect the overall entertainment. (Reviewed below)

b) A PERFECT GETAWAY (mystery thriller with Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Marley Shelton, Steve Zahn, Kiele Sanchez, Katie Chonacas and Chris Hemsworth) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): If not for the scenery, the first half of this adventure yarn is a big yawn. Instead of 'red herrings' we are thrown 'red snappers' in this 'big-reveal' flick about a pair of murderers among holidaying couples in Hawaii. And then there's the snipping by our censors. (Reviewed below)


STILL GOING STRONG:

1. THE UGLY TRUTH (romantic comedy with Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Cheryl Hines, Bonnie Somerville, Bree Turner and Eric Winter) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): It's derivative and predictable but also hilarious and fun. Also the teaming of Butler and Heigl sparkles with screen chemistry. (Reviewed below)

2. WHERE GOT GHOST? (Singaporean thriller-comedy with Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Richard Low, Marcus Chin, John Cheng, Wang Lei, Tay Yin Yin and Tony Koh) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Typical Jack Neo comedy about Singaporeans' belief in the supernatural. There are three shorts in this movie, with Neo saving the best for last. (Reviewed below)

3. G-FORCE (animated fantasy with voices of Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Jon Favreau, Penélope Cruz, Steve Buscemi and Tracy Morgan) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Basically an action flick for kids below 12, this furball fantasy about heroic guinea pigs boasts lots of stunts and explosive scenes. The plot is the usual rubbish but entertaining enough for little minds.

4. TSUNAMI AT HAEUNDAE (disaster thriller with Ha Ji-won, Park Joong-hoon and Sol Kyung-gu) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 out of 4 stars): Made at about US$10 million (RM35 million), this is South Korea's first blockbuster disaster flick. The big waves only come at the 45-minute mark, preceded by lots of human angle subplots. The effects are above par but not the narrative. Something to tide action fans till 2012?

5. GAMER (sci-fi action thriller with Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Alison Lohman, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews and John Leguizamo) Rating: * * (2 stars): This futuristic Gladiator-game story, reminiscent of Death Race (2008), is high on butts, boobs and bullets but low on everything else. Its shaky camera scenes are a put-off and it is mainly for joystick-jockeys.
Bold

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ACCIDENT - Taut but Flawed Thriller

ACCIDENT (Crime thriller in Cantonese)
Cast: Louis Koo, Richie Jen, Michelle Ye, Lam Suet and Fung Shui-Fan
Director: Cheang Pou-Soi
Time: 89 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Louis Koo and Richie Jen in ACCIDENT

PREAMBLE: Fresh from the Toronto International Film Festival 2009, this Johnny To-produced movie has all the marks of an art-house flick. It has no gunplay, no kungfu duels and not much in terms of fast-paced action. It is, however, thick with tension, intrigue and paranoia.

All these will probably work out to a short theatrical run, attended by art film lovers and Johnny To fans.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Accident offers up a 'new' kind of assasins for hire. Led by The Brain (Louis Koo), the four-member hit team choreographs intricate accidents on their targets. Since the deaths will invariably be classified by police as a freak accident ("death by misadventure"), they are off the authorities' radar. Indeed, the Brain is meticulous in his planning and his nameless partners, Uncle (Fung Shui-Fan), Fatty (Lam Suet) and Woman (Michelle Ye, pictured right with Koo) are experts in their own fields.

However, when one of the 'accidents' goes terribly wrong, Brain suspects that someone is trying to kill him - and he sets his sights on Fong (Richie Jen), an insurance agent who happens to be on the accident scene.

HITS & MISSES: Directed by Cheang Pou-Soi, Accident is a highly absorbing and engrossing crime thriller, especially in the first half. Here, we are fascinated by how the 'accidents' are planned and carried out, by the eccentricities of the individual members and, especially, the paranoia of Koo's character. With each sequence, Cheang manages to draw us deeper and deeper into his web of meticulous intrigue that seems to leave nothing to chance.

Things start to fall apart in the second half when Cheang transforms the movie into a psychological thriller - with the perpetrator believing that he has become the target. His fear and quest for revenge make him careless (scribbling plans on the ceiling) and callous, suspicious of even his own members. The movie's credibility starts to strain and what could have been a masterpiece is flawed.

THE LOWDOWN: Looks like another Asian movie that Hollywood can recycle and remake!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Porn Star Maria Ozawa To Star in Indon Film

SEPT 22, 2009 - The Jakarta Post has reported that an Indonesian film company is in talks to get Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa (right) to star in its movie.

The paper said recently that production house Maxima Pictures is negotiating to cast the 23-year-old X-movie sensation in Menculik Miyabi (Kidnapping Miyabi), a story of a man so obsessed with Miyabi that he plans to kidnap her. And you guessed it: 'Miyabi' is Maria Ozawa's 'stage name'.

And lest readers let their imagination run wild with the news, JP clarified that Ozawa will not be doing what she is famous for in the film. Her presence is thus mainly to excite male cinema-goers at the box-office, we can surmise.

Ozawa's pan-Asian looks is a result of her Japanese mother and French-Canadian father. She rose to global stardom and Internet sensation when she started appearing in porn in 2005. Ozawa claimed she had her first sexual experience at the age of 13, and learned the "48 sexual positions" from a book she bought.

"It's not easy to invite her here and we have to pay her a lot to star in the movie," a spokesman for Maxima Pictures said.

Click here for a sample of Ozawa's acting.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BRUNO - It Sucks Big Time

BRUNO (comedy, viewed on DVD)
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten, Alice Evans, Trishelle Cannatella, Sandra Seeling, Ben Youcef, Alexander von Roon, Candice Cunningham and Tom Yi
Director: Larry Charles
Time: 81 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: After the 2006 jackass comedy that was Borat, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (above) and director Larry Charles figured that they can top it with Bruno, another scatterbrain gutter-comedy that is more of a turn-off than entertainment, and more disgusting than funny. As expected, it tries to push the boundary of offensiveness in movie-making but only manages to break through the borders of utter stupidity.

Where Borat shocked us in terms of comic audacity, Bruno is an exercise in phony buffoonery. It's just as well that it is banned in Malaysia.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? After being thrown out of the fashion world in Austria and sacked from his TV show, fashion reporter Brüno (Cohen) goes to Los Angeles to reinvent himself and become a famous gay star and "the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler." He is followed to the US by Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), his ex-assistant's lovestruck assistant.

However, instead of hiking across America to woo Pamela Anderson like Borat, Brüno makes a brief stop in the Middle East as part of a plan to stop the troubles there. Bruno's attempts at acquiring fame includes making a sex tape, adopting an African baby and recording a charity song.

HITS & MISSES: I can take offensive scenes as much as the next guy but most of the sequences and subplots of Bruno are so badly contrived that it appears moronic and phony. Most of them are painful to watch and not even funny. As in Borat, Bruno's pranks are an expose of people's latent prejudices. However, while the previous film got away with this 'dumb-ass' act, Bruno does not. We can accept Borat's naivety because he is from a small village in Kazakhstan. Bruno is from Austria where there should be no excuse for such narcissistic behaviour and infantile mentality.

Still, the comedy works best when it 'attacks' Hollywood celebs like Paula Abdul and Harrison Ford. There was also a footage of La Toya Jackson in the 'Mexicans-as-furniture' scene but it was removed following the death of her brother Michael. Another eye-opener is the segment where parents of toddlers agree to put their kids through all sorts of nonsense in order to get them accepted for Bruno's project.

The rest of the gags, like the talking penis, anal sex and simulated rimming scenes, suck big time.

THE LOWDOWN: From Borat, the creativity-challenged Cohen takes us to Brutally Boring.

Major Emmy Primetime Award Winners

SEPT 21, 2009 - Here is a list of the major winners at the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards yesterday:


Drama Series: Mad Men, AMC (cast pictured above).

Comedy Series: 30 Rock, NBC.

Actor, Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad, AMC.

Actress, Drama Series: Glenn Close, Damages, FX Networks.

Actor, Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock, NBC.

Actress, Comedy Series: Toni Collette, United States of Tara, Showtime.

Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Michael Emerson, Lost, ABC.

Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Cherry Jones (pictured, right), 24, Fox.

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men, CBS.

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies, ABC.

Miniseries: Little Dorrit, PBS.

Made-for-TV Movie: Grey Gardens, HBO.

Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm, HBO.

Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens, HBO.

Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Ken Howard, Grey Gardens, HBO.

Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Saddam, HBO.

Directing for a Comedy Series: The Office: Stress Relief, Jeff Blitz, NBC.

Directing for a Drama Series: ER: And in the End, Rod Holcomb, NBC.

Directing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: American Idol: Show 833 (Final Three), Bruce Gowers, Fox.

Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special: Little Dorrit: Part 1, Dearbhla Walsh, PBS.

Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Comedy Central.

Reality-Competition Programme: The Amazing Race, CBS.

'Meatballs' Tops US Weekend B-O

SEPT 21, 2009 - Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs topped the US weekend box-office grossing an estimated US$30.1 million. Sony's 3D animated family comedy was adapted from the popular 1978 children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett. Despite schools being back in session, the film still was able to draw kids and their parents to the multiplexes. The movie is scheduled to open in Malaysia on Oct 15.

The Informant! came in second with US$10.5 million, according to studio estimates. That was slightly better than expected for the Warner Bros. comedy, which stars Matt Damon as a whistle blower. Last week's topper, Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, saw a 57 percent drop for Lionsgate. It still earned US$10 million, at third place.

Jennifer Aniston's Love Happens (Universal) came in at No 4 with US$8.5 million, suggesting that audiences may be tiring of the actress in romantic comedies. It's her third film this year. Coming in a distant fifth was Jennifer's Body, the R-rated horror film written by Diablo Cody, the scribe of Juno fame. It earned just US$6.8 million for 20th Century Fox. The film is viewed as a test of its star, Megan Fox, to headline a movie.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimate grosses for Sept 11-13, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs $30.1 million ($30.1 million) 1

2. The Informant! $10.5 million ($10.5 million) 1

3. I Can Do Bad All By Myself $10.1 million ($37.9 million) 2

4. Love Happens $8.5 million ($8.5 million) 1

5. Jennifer's Body $6.8 million ($6.8 million) 1

(Studio estimated figures courtesy of Boxofficemojo.com).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

HARI RAYA WEEKEND PIC - Sept 18-20, 2009

GUIDE TO THE HARI RAYA WEEKEND FILMS
(Wishing all Readers Selamat Hari Raya!)

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) TSUNAMI AT HAEUNDAE (disaster thriller with Ha Ji-won, Park Joong-hoon and Sol Kyung-gu) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 out of 4 stars): Made at about US$10 million (RM35 million), this is South Korea's first blockbuster disaster flick. The big waves only come at the 45-minute mark, preceded by lots of human angle subplots. The effects are above par but not the narrative. Something to tide action fans till 2012?

b) G-FORCE (animated fantasy with voices of Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Jon Favreau, Penélope Cruz, Steve Buscemi and Tracy Morgan) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Basically an action flick for kids below 12, this fur-ball fantasy (about heroic guinea pigs, a mole and a fly trying to save the world) boasts lots of stunts and explosive scenes. The plot is the usual rubbish concoction but entertaining enough for little minds.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. 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.

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 UGLY TRUTH (romantic comedy with Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Cheryl Hines, Bonnie Somerville, Bree Turner and Eric Winter) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): It's derivative and predictable but also hilarious and fun. Also the teaming of Butler and Heigl sparkles with screen chemistry. (Reviewed below)

4. WHERE GOT GHOST? (Singaporean thriller-comedy with Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Richard Low, Marcus Chin, John Cheng, Wang Lei, Tay Yin Yin and Tony Koh) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Typical Jack Neo comedy about Singaporeans' belief in the supernatural. There are three shorts in this movie, with Neo saving the best for last. (Reviewed below)

5. GAMER (sci-fi action thriller with Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Alison Lohman, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews and John Leguizamo) Rating: * * (2 stars): This futuristic Gladiator-game story, reminiscent of Death Race (2008), is high on butts, boobs and bullets but low on everything else. Its shaky camera scenes are a put-off and it is mainly for joystick-jockeys.

6. FINAL DESTINATION (horror thriller with Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Haley Webb, Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella and Mykelti Williamson) Rated * * (2 stars): This fourth instalment features more ways for its characters to get killed and "rest in pieces'. Unimaginative and trite. Mostly for fans of blood and gore. (Reviewed below)

7. 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)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

5:13 - Tensed Atmospheric Thriller

5:13 (psychological thriller)
Cast: Samantha Tan, Iki Putra and Chua Su-Ann
Director: Arivind Abraham
Time: 85 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Iki Putra and Samantha Tan in 5:13

PREAMBLE: After his 2006 feature debut, 'S'kali', indie director Arivind Abraham tries his hand at the horror genre with 5:13, a title that specifically denotes 5:13am as well as a wink to the May 13 racial riots in Malaysia in 1969. Apparently, Abraham and co-writer Keith Leong got their inspiration from a massive blackout in Malaysia in 1996 - and let their imagination run wild with it.

You are not likely to find deranged killers, zombies, werewolves or vampires on the rampage here, but visions of these horrors will play furtively on your mind as you spend one pre-dawn morning with Vivien at her home in suburban Malaysia.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Vivien (Samantha Tan, pictured) awakes on the night of her wedding anniversary to find herself alone. Richard, her journalist husband, is apparently still at work. However, what is disturbing her is that an emergency broadcast on the radio refers to disturbances and chaos all over the country - and the whole neighbourhood is engulfed in a blackout. The phone line is also dead.

All Vivien knows about Richard's whereabouts is that he is at some village chasing a story about a bomoh (witch doctor) and she suspects that there is some connection between the two. As the night wears on, she is startled by strange noises and weird screams. And then, out of the blue, her husband's best friend Ashad (Iki Putra) comes to visit, bearing a strange message from Richard on his phone. Vivian and Ash's conversations give us an inkling into their triangle relationship as well as reopen deep wounds between them. Soon, as the situation outside seems to worsen, Vivien and Ash learn that what you trust can hurt you.

HITS & MISSES: One thing we can all appreciate about Abraham's direction is that he does not rely on cheap thrills like sudden loud noises or creaking doors to jolt us. Instead, he carefully shapes the mood and atmosphere so that we can scare ourselves. The whole movie is shot (by Luke Yerbury) in minimal lighting, heightening our sense of dread and foreboding. As we accompany Viv and Ash at the semi-furnished house, we keep expecting demons and other untold evil to break through the door and wreak havoc.

Abraham, a keen 'student' of M. Night Shyamalan's films, also works on our curiosity. Vivian, apparently, is suffering from some debilitating ailment and needs constant medication, while Ash has some sinister deeds hidden in his closet. Can these problems be all in her mind? Will Ash reveal himself as someone or something else?

However, Abraham's grip on the audience is tenuous at best. He loses us because his pacing lapses. After working up our fear and foreboding, he turns to a scene in which the 'trapped' couple plays Monopoly! If that is meant to be 'comic relief' (or tension relief), it fails to work on the audience because they are still trying to SEE what is going on (it's an electricity blackout, remember?).

I don't have any issues with the performances of the leads who are newcomers. Iki Putra acquits himself nicely as the mysterious old flame while Samantha Tan has us rooting for her as the damsel in distress. However, it is a good thing that Abraham included subtitles as some of Tan's dialogue are inaudible.

THE LOWDOWN: A promising sophomore effort. (Read the S'kali review here).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A PERFECT GETAWAY - Trouble In Paradise

A PERFECT GETAWAY (mystery thriller)
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Marley Shelton, Steve Zahn, Kiele Sanchez, Katie Chonacas, Chris Hemsworth, Dale Dickey, Wendy Braun and Tory Kittles
Director: David Twohy
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Jovovich and Zahn in A PERFECT GETAWAY

PREAMBLE: This is a murder mystery set in the idyllic paradise of Hawaii - yeah, a tale about how Eden can turn into Hell just by throwing a killer couple into the fray. Writer-director David Twohy seems overly concerned about the 'big twist' in his story - and he throws 'red snappers' (his version of red herrings) along the way.

There are some nude bathing scenes but these are sanitized by Malaysian censors.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are newlyweds on their honeymoon in Hawaii. Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez, pic below, left) are unmarried adventurers looking for one more destination to add to their resume, and Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton) are hitch-hiking types who are uncharacteristically crude and rude.

The three couples are on the mountain trail when news filters down about the bloody murders of two newlyweds honeymooning in Hawaii. Cliff and Cydney are freaked out by the news, and they suspect Nick and Gina and Kale and Cleo. Nick's Special Ops background and his skills with weapons make him suspicious, and Kale's bad-boy disposition makes everyone uneasy.

Now guess which couple is the culprit!

HITS & MISSES: Nothing much happens by way of plot development until we get to two-thirds of the movie. After that, it is a frantic rush to tie-up the loose ends and consolidate the action and tension. Twohy hides key clues and details from viewers until after the surprise is revealed. You won't enjoy the movie if you feel cheated that the director has purposely led us astray.

Cast-wise, I have no complaints. Zahn and Jovovich are credible as 'geeky' types who need to be persuaded to take risks; Shelton and Hemsworth fit the bill as the 'unsociable' couple while Sanchez (of TV's Lost) is watchable in all her scenes. Also, Twohy seems to be more concerned with Jovovich's acting than her 'body language' but it is Olyphant who holds our attention and curiosity. The cinematography of the landscapes and locales is top class.

THE LOWDOWN: Mainly for mystery thriller fans.

RIP Patrick Sawyze (1952 - 2009)


SEPT 15, 2009
- Actor Patrick Swayze died yesterday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.


Swayze, an actor and dancer who cemented his status as sex symbol with Demi Moore in the 1990 romance drama, Ghost, died at his home near Los Angeles. His most iconic role was as a dance instructor in Dirty Dancing (1987). He was listed by People magazine as its "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1991.

“Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months,” publicist Annett Wolf said in a statement yesterday.

Swayze was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease, in January 2008. At that time the cancer had already spread to his liver but he fought the disease and had treatment with an experimental drug. Meanwhile, he filmed a new detective series for television called “The Beast” in which he played the gruelling lead role. The series was broadcast on Astro in Malaysia.


Swayze leaves behind his wife, Lisa Niemi (pictured with him at the Oscar Awards in 1989), whom he married on June 12, 1975. The couple first met in 1970 when Swayze was 18 years old. Niemi, 14 years old at the time, was taking dance lessons from Swayze's mother. Swayze and Niemi had no children.

Monday, September 14, 2009

'I Can Do Bad' Tops US Weekend B-O

SEPT 14, 2009 - 'Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself' topped the US box-office last weekend with an estimated US$24.0 million (RM84 million). Coming in at a disappointing second is the animated fantasy 9 which only did an estimated US$15.3 million during the slow weekend.

The Final Destination still hogs the Top 5 spot, while other openers included teen thriller Sorority Row which came in at No. 6 with an estimated US$5.2 million; and murder thriller Whiteout collecting US$5.1 million at Seventh place.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimate grosses for Sept 11-13, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name, Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. I Can Do Bad All By Myself $24.0 million ($24.0 mil) 1

2. 9 $10.9 million ($15.3 million) 1

3. Inglourious Basterds $6.5 million ($104.3 million) 4

4. All About Steve $5.8 million ($21.8 million) 2

5. The Final Destination $5.5 million ($58.3 million) 3

MJ's This Is It Trailer Out Now!

Sept 14, 2009: Michael Jackson's This Is It online concert trailer is out now, promising visuals and stunts never seen before. To say the trailer is 'real cool' doesn't quite describe it. Makes me wonder how MJ could have done this just weeks before his death.

Catch it here.

The movie will be released on Oct 28 (Oct 29 in Malaysia) for two weeks only and advance tickets will be on sale on Oct 15, 2009.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paris Hilton Immortalised in Oxford Dicky!

SEPT 12, 2009: Read this report from Reuters and had a good laugh over it. I quote below, plus a reaction from The Sun newspaper of UK:

SYDNEY, Sept 12 – Words of wisdom from Paris Hilton are to be immortalised alongside remarks by some of the greatest thinkers of all time in the latest edition of the Oxford Book of Quotations – and she reckons it’s “so cool.”

Hilton, the socialite turned reality TV star and retailing phenomenon, is listed in the latest version of the 65-year-old dictionary, released this week, alongside the likes of Confucius, Oscar Wilde and Stephen Hawking.

Her contribution? “Dress cute wherever you go, life is too short to blend in.”

Hilton, 28, was delighted to be featured in the book which is a renowned list of memorable sayings. “So cool that I have a quote in the dictionary,” she wrote on her Twitter page.

Another new entry in the seventh edition of the Oxford University Press publication is Sarah Palin. The former vice-presidential candidate makes the cut for her most famous quip: “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick.”

More than 20,000 new quotations have been added to the dictionary including President Barack Obama for saying: “The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.”

Others came from the likes of British author Terry Pratchett -- using an “embuggerance” to describe his Alzheimer’s – and from author Fay Weldon: “Guilt is to motherhood as grapes are to wine.” – Reuters

As Hilton enters the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, one of her biggest quoting vehicles – the UK Sun newspaper – has provided 12 of her best.

1. "I don't want to be known as the Hilton heiress, because I didn't do anything for that."

2. Paris on her career choices: "First I wanted to be a veterinarian. And then I realised you had to give them shots to put them to sleep, so I decided I'd just buy a bunch of animals and have them in my house instead."

3. On her fame: "There's nobody in the world like me. I think every decade has an iconic blonde, like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana and, right now, I'm that icon."

4. Paris on her technique on the red carpet: "I don't really think, I just walk."

5. "All British people have plain names, and that works pretty well over there."

6. "This is Earth. Isn't it hot?"

7. "What's a soup kitchen?"

8. About the US chain store: "Wal-Mart... do they like make walls there?"

9. "One of my heroes has always been Barbie. She may not do anything, but she always looks amazing doing it."

10. "Whatever I write in e-mail, it doesn't mean anything. It is just words I write."

11. When asked if she fancied Tony Blair in 2006: "Who? Oh yeah... he's like your president? I don't know what he looks like."

12. "Kabbalah helps you confront your fears. If a girl borrowed my clothes and never gave them back, and I saw her wearing them months later, I would confront her."


Listen! Can you hear Confucius turning in his grave?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Sept 11-13, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) THE UGLY TRUTH (romantic comedy with Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Cheryl Hines, Bonnie Somerville, Bree Turner and Eric Winter) Rated * * * (3 out of 4 stars): It's derivative and predictable but also hilarious and fun. Also the teaming of Butler and Heigl sparkles with screen chemistry. (Reviewed below)

b) WHERE GOT GHOST? (Singaporean thriller-comedy with Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Richard Low, Marcus Chin, John Cheng, Wang Lei, Tay Yin Yin and Tony Koh) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Typical Jack Neo comedy about Singaporeans' belief in 4D lottery and the supernatural. There are three shorts in this movie, with Neo saving the best for last. (Reviewed below)

c) GAMER (sci-fi action thriller with Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Alison Lohman, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews and John Leguizamo) Rating: * * (2 stars): This futuristic Gladiator-game story, reminiscent of Death Race (2008), is high on butts, boobs and bullets but low on everything else. Its shaky camera scenes are a put-off and it is mainly for joystick-jockeys. (Pic below: Valletta and Butler)


STILL GOING STRONG:

1. UP (animated fantasy with Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Delroy Lindo and Jordan Nagai) Rating * * * (3 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.

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 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. VENGEANCE (crime thriller with Anthony Wong, Johnny Hallyday, Lam Suet, Lam Ka-tung, Maggie Siu, Simon Yam and Sylvie Testud) Rated * * * (3 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)

4. ASHES OF TIME REDUX (1994 action fantasy revival starring Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Brigitte Lin and Charlie Yeung) Rated * * * (out of 4): Re-edited version of Wong Kar Wai's classic, mainly for fans of Wong and Leslie Cheung. A nostalgic trip.

5. 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)

6. FINAL DESTINATION (horror thriller with Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Haley Webb, Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella and Mykelti Williamson) Rated * * (2 stars): This fourth instalment features more ways for its characters to get killed and "rest in pieces'. Unimaginative and trite. Mostly for fans of blood and gore. (Reviewed below)

7. 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)

8. 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)

Monday, September 07, 2009

THE UGLY TRUTH - Is That Heigl Sparkles!

THE UGLY TRUTH (romantic comedy)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Cheryl Hines, Bonnie Somerville, Bree Turner, Eric Winter, Vicki Lewis and Holly Weber
Director: Robert Luketic
Time: 96 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: Just when we thought that there wouldn't be a more hilarious scene than that of Meg Ryan's 'orgasm' scene in the cafeteria' in When Harry Met Sally, Katherine Heigl comes along and tips the apple cart...

But first, let's get to the ugly truths about this rom-com: 1. It is utterly predictable (just like most rom-coms); 2. It steals scenes and ideas from classics like When Harry Met Sally and Cyrano De Bergerac; 3. It is crude and gross; and 4. It got my better half and me laughing more than the average rom-com.

And just on that Ugly Truth No 4, it has my vote of Three Stars!

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Abby Richter (Heigl) is a Sacramento TV show producer whose search for Mr Right has left her hopelessly single. She's in for a rude awakening when her bosses team her with Mike Chadway (Gerald Butler), a crude and down-to-earth TV personality who promises to spill the ugly truth on what makes men and women tick.

Predictably, Abby and Mike start off like cats and dogs. However, when Mike uses his caveman wisdom to help her to win the heart of her hunky and handsome neighbour Colin (Eric Winter), her regard for him changes from contempt to respect and...

HITS & MISSES: After Knocked Up and 27 Dresses, 'Dr Izzie Stevens' Heigl proves she has enough talent and experience to headline any romantic comedy. Here, her partnership with 'King Leonidas' Butler appears to be a casting coup because their screen chemistry sizzles.

As the uptight
control freak Abby, Heigl has the women viewers eating out of her hand. Throw in Butler as the loutish know-it-all, the comedy gets the men's attention. Together, they make the comedy sparkle with romantic overtures and sexual innuendoes - and make us overlook the movie's predictability and its derivativeness.

It also helps a lot that director Robert Luketic (of Legally Blonde fame) keeps the pace fast and hot - and the mood light and fun.

THE LOWDOWN: You see The Ugly Truth for the laughs, not the story.

Final Destination Tops US Weekend B-O Again

SEPT 7, 2009 - The Final Destination shrugged off three newcomers last weekend to retain its top spot for the second weekend in a row. The sequel, bolstered by 3D showings, added an estimated US$12.4 million to its nearly $50 million take. Although it is supposed to be the final film in the series, New Line and Warner will have a hard time pulling the plug on the Destination films.

Mike Judge's All About Steve with Sandra Bullock, and Gamer with Gerard Butler, all felt the sting of the US Labor Day Weekend. All About Steve was the only new film to crack US$10 million, a far cry from Bullock's The Proposal in July.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimate grosses for Sept 4-6, 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 $12.4 million ($47.6 million) 2

2. All About Steve $11.2 million ($11.2 million) 1

3. Inglourious Basterds $10.8 million ($91.0 million) 3

4. Gamer $9.0 million ($9.0 million) 1

5. District 9 $7.0 million ($101.3 million) 4

(Studio estimated figures courtesy of Boxofficemojo.com).

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Summer 2009 Breaks Record For Highest US Gross

SEPT 5, 2009 - For the US, it's the highest-grossing summer on record.

- Summer 2009’s total gross stands at over US$4.2 billion through Sept. 3, the highest ever. It is the third summer in a row to exceed US$4 billion.

- In terms of estimated attendance, however, Summer 2009 was no record breaker. Summer 2002 is still tops on this front, followed by 1999, 2003, 2004, 2007, 1998 and 2001.

- While no movie was as monumental as ‘The Dark Knight’ from last year, ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ is on the verge of hitting US$400 million and ranks as the 9th highest-grossing picture of all time.

- The ‘Transformers’ sequel and many other movies were in line with reasonable expectations, but the breakout success of Summer 2009 was ‘The Hangover.’ With US$270.7 million and counting, the ribald comedy became the highest-grossing picture of its sub-genre and has nearly matched the final tally of ‘There’s Something About Mary’ adjusted for ticket price inflation. The ‘Star Trek’ re-launch also excelled by becoming the top picture of its franchise, adjusted for ticket price inflation.

- The comedy genre ran the gamut from the successes of ‘The Hangover’ and ‘The Proposal’ to the season’s bigger failures: ‘Land of the Lost,’ ‘Year One,’ ‘Bruno’ and ‘Funny People.’ The industry had high hopes based on these movies’ high profile release dates, but many may have been blinded by the big name talent involved: each picture was fundamentally flawed in terms of audience appeal, mining material that has disappointed time and again in the past.

Here are the Top-Grossing Movies of Summer 2009 (as of Sept. 3) in terms of Rank. Movie Title (Distributor) / Total Gross in Millions

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Paramount) / US$399.6

2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros.) / US$295.1

3. Up (Disney) / US$289.9

4. The Hangover (Warner Bros.) / US$270.7

5. Star Trek (Paramount) / US$256.8

Friday, September 04, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Sept 4-6, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:


a) ASHES OF TIME REDUX (1994 action fantasy revival starring Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Brigitte Lin and Charlie Yeung) Rated * * * (out of 4): Re-edited version of Wong Kar Wai's classic, mainly for fans of Wong and Leslie Cheung (pic). A nostalgic trip.

b) FINAL DESTINATION (horror thriller with Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Haley Webb, Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella and Mykelti Williamson) Rated * * (2 stars): This fourth instalment features more ways for its characters to get killed and "rest in pieces'. Unimaginative and trite. Mostly for fans of blood and gore. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. 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.

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. 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)

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. 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)

6. 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)

7. 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)