Thursday, December 31, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Jan 1-3 2010

GUIDE TO THE NEW YEAR WEEKEND FLICKS
Here's Wishing Everyone a Happy New Year 2010

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT (sci-fi fantasy with John C. Reilly, Ken Watanabe, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia, Ray Stevenson, Patrick Fugit, Orlando Jones, Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek) Rating: * * (2 stars): Like the title suggests, this film about a boy running away to join the circus is freakish, disjointed and messy. It is the first of a vampire trilogy by Darren Shan but don't bet on a sequel.

b) HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE MORGANS? (romantic comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen and Elisabeth Moss) Rated * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Derivative tale of a Manhattan couple forced to slum it out in a small town in Wyoming under a witness protection programme. Grant's acting is irritating and Parker looks lost. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. AVATAR (sci-fi adventure with Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi) Rated * * * * (4 stars): A happy marriage of form and function, James Cameron has gone one up on his Titanic. The plot may be a bit derivative but the setting, in a futuristic and fictional planet of Pandora, is a visual feast. The action sequences, augmented by CGI and action-capture techniques, are mind-boggling. (Reviewed below)

2. SHERLOCK HOLMES (action adventure with Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly and William Hope) Rated * * * (3 stars): The world-famous detective gets a blockbuster-style makeover by Guy Ritchie in this robustly entertaining but irreverent rendition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes. (Reviewed below)

3. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (animated fantasy with Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Jenifer Lewis, Keith David and Oprah Winfrey) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's back to the old hand-drawn cartoons with this 'contemporary take' on the classic fairy-tale. We have to admit that this is what the folks at Disney do best.

4. STORM WARRIORS (martial arts fantasy with Aaron Kwok, Charlene Choi, Ekin Cheng, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam and Tang Yan) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like 2012, this Pang Brothers production is a CGI extravaganza for fans of the 1998 Storm Riders. The stunts and effects are impressive but they can also be confusing. (Reviewed below)

5. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL (animated comedy with Zachary Levi, David Cross, Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler and Anna Faris) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A sequel to the 2007 movie, this one offers more of the same stuff for the kids this holiday season. The special effects are spot-on, though.

My Top 10 Movies of 2009

HERE is my list of the Top 10 Movies of 2009 incorporating the movies shown in Kuala Lumpur. Avatar heads the list because it is the film that defines the next generation of movie-making, despite a derivative storyline.

In coming out with the list, I try to have as many genres as possible.

1. Avatar
2. Star Trek
3. Slumdog Millionaire
4. Inglourious Basterds
5. Departures (Japanese)
6. Michael Jackson's This Is It!
7. Red Cliff Pt 2
8. (500) Days Of Summer
9. Changeling
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Most Disappointing film of 2009:
Twilight Saga: New Moon

The Most Disgusting flick of the year:
Bruno

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? (romantic comedy)
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss, Seth Gilliam, Kim Shaw and David Call
Director: Marc Lawrence
Screenplay: Marc Lawrence
Time: 103 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

Sarah J. Parker and Hugh Grant as the Morgans

LET'S CUT TO THE CHASE: To enjoy some movies, you need to leave your brains at the door. For this one, however, you would wish you never entered the door. It is that bad!

WHAT IS IT ABOUT? Meryl and Paul Morgan (Sarah J. Parker and Hugh Grant) are a successful Manhattan couple, whose marriage is on the rocks. After dinner one night, they witness a brutal murder and become targets of a contract killer. The Feds, protecting their witnesses, whisk the Morgans from their beloved New York to a tiny town in Wyoming and a relationship that was on the rocks threatens to end completely in the Rockies - unless, in they can slow down the pace and rekindle the passion.

HITS & MISSES: Mostly misses. The story is unconvincing and writer-director Marc Lawrence does not seem eager to make the formulaic plot convincing. The comedy sucks - none of the lines are LOL-funny - and there is really no spark or screen chemistry between Parker and Grant. In fact, watching this rom-com makes us realise that the two have reached the end of their expiration dates as comedy stars. Grant's blinky-eyed gestures have been used to many times and are more irritating than charming, and Parker looks lost and miserable away from her Sex And The City haven.

And yes, the second half is reminiscent of City Slickers gags and those out-of-town films and here is where co-stars Sam Elliot and Mary Steenburgen strut their stuff as US Marshall Clay and Emma Wheeler, the salt-of-the-earth couple who must show our duo from the Big Apple the rough and rocky road back to romance.

THE LOWDOWN: Set against Avatar and Sherlock Holmes, do you really wanna hear about these Morgans?

Monday, December 28, 2009

'Avatar' Amassed US$623m Worldwide

DEC 28, 2009 - Avatar continued to dominate the box-office worldwide grossing US$623 million (RM2 billion) in its second weekend and propelling Fox International’s annual box-office to an industry-high US$2.263-billion with four days to go, overtaking Warner Bros’ US$2.24-billion record from 2007.

James Cameron's sci-fi epic grossed a stunning US$152 million overseas in its second weekend boosting the running total to US$405mil after 12 days in release. Combined with the US$212.3mil North American take, Avatar has amassed US$623.6mil worldwide.

In Malaysia, Avatar overtook Titanic to become the highest Fox release in history at RM10.8 million (US$3.19mil).

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

1. Avatar (Fox) $75.6 million ($212.3 million) 2

2. Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros) $62.4 million ($62.4 million) 1

3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Fox) $48.9 million ($75.1 million) 1

4. It's Complicated (Universal) $22.1 million ($22.1 million) 1

5. Up in the Air (Paramount) $11.2 million ($24.0 million) 4

Saturday, December 26, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Dec 25-27, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES
Wishing all visitors HAPPY HOLIDAYS and A Happy New Year

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) SHERLOCK HOLMES (action adventure with Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly and William Hope) Rated * * * (3 stars): The world-famous detective gets a blockbuster-style makeover by Guy Ritchie in this robust entertaining but irreverent rendition of Holmes. (Reviewed below)

b) ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL (animated comedy with Zachary Levi, David Cross, Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler and Anna Faris) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A sequel to the 2007 movie, this one offers more of the same stuff for the kids this holiday season. The special effects are spot-on, though.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. AVATAR (sci-fi adventure with Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi) Rated * * * * (4 stars out of 4): A happy marriage of form and function, James Cameron has gone one up on his Titanic. The plot may be a bit derivative but the setting, in a futuristic and fictional planet of Pandora, is a visual feast. The action sequences, augmented by CGI and action-capture techniques, are mind-boggling. Easily the Top 10 movies of 2009. (Reviewed below)

2. ZOMBIELAND (horror-comedy with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Bill Murray) Rated * * * (3 stars out of 4): This 'Thriller'-like comedy is funny and engaging with some bizarre touches and a few jolts. We can't help but like Harrelson who seems to be having a whacking fun time in this movie. (Reviewed below)

3. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (animated fantasy with Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Jenifer Lewis, Keith David and Oprah Winfrey) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's back to the old hand-drawn cartoons with this 'contemporary take' on the classic fairy-tale. We have to admit that this is what the folks at Disney do best.

4. STORM WARRIORS (martial arts fantasy with Aaron Kwok, Charlene Choi, Ekin Cheng, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam and Tang Yan) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like 2012, this Pang Brothers production is a CGI extravaganza for fans of the 1998 Storm Riders. The stunts and effects are impressive but they can also be confusing. (Reviewed below)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SHERLOCK HOLMES: Doyle Revised

SHERLOCK HOLMES (action/adventure)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly and William Hope
Director: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Lionel Wigram, based on Arthur Conan Doyle's character
Time: 134 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


LET'S SING A CHRISTMAS SONG (to the tune of Do You Hear What I Hear?):
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy, Do you hear what I hear?
A turn, a turn, Turning in his grave,
That's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
Yes, it's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Yup, considering what Hollywood has done to his iconic character Sherlock Holmes, creator Doyle must be turning in his grave.

WHAT HAVE THEY DONE? Well, Guy Ritchie and story scripter Lionel Wigram have rewritten the famous detective, adding brawns to his brain power and turning the intellectual eccentric into an action hero the likes of Indy Jones and Jason Bourne. Now, that's the Americanisation of a British legend if there ever was one.

Played by the immensely likeable Robert Downey Jr, Holmes is depicted as a boxer, brawler and slob. His relationship with Dr Watson (Jude Law) is a lot more than just professional: they are cohabitating! But wait a minute, before you get ideas, let me say that Watson has a fiancee in Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly) and he is moving out of their Baker Street flat. There's even a love interest for the legendary detective in Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), touted as "the only woman to have bested Holmes".

The plot? Holmes and Watson track down Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), an aristocrat who appears to have 'risen fron the dead' after being hanged for the murders of five women via some kind of dark arts ceremony. Watson has supervised Blackwood's hanging himself and proclaimed the villain dead. However, as Blackwood has predicted, "Death is only the beginning," and he is now bent on world domination!

HITS AND MISSES? One feather in director Ritchie's cap here is his creation of a Victorian London via location work and CGI rendering. Londoners would be fascinated by it, especially the exciting climax on the girders of a half-built Tower Bridge.

Another feather on said cap is Ritchie's rendition of the Holmes-Watson relationship, spiced up with banter and bickering instead of the stiff-upper-lip friendship we have been accustomed to. Indeed, the Downey Jr-Law partnership is a riot, with McAdams (pictured, with Downey Jr) adding a touch of feminine vile, eye candy and mystery.

On the downside, the plot and its pacing can be a bit messy with Ritchie trying to cramp everything in. McAdams' Adler, for example, flits in and out of the plot seemingly at random, and her role is not properly integrated into the rest of the story. She is apparently being 'held back' for the inevitable sequel. Still, this makeover of a British institution looks set to rekindle interest in the legendary detective - courtesy of American tinkering and recycling.

THE LOWDOWN: Aw come on, Doyle may be turning in his grave but new fans are being born at the box-office.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Avatar Tops World Box-office

DEC 21, 2009 - Avatar recorded the sixth highest day-and-date launch in history as Fox International’s epic adventure grossed an estimated US$159.2m from 106 markets.

Combined with the US$73m North American debut, James Cameron’s film has amassed $232.2m worldwide in its first weekend and should see Fox International past the $2bn mark soon. Fox International will become the second company this year after Sony Pictures Releasing International to achieve the feat and only the sixth in history to do so.

Fox sources said based on early market-by-market analysis this was the highest non-franchise, non-sequel launch ever recorded. In the company’s widest launch to date Avatar played on 14,461 screens, of which an industry record 3,671 showed the film in 3D. Avatar’s launch had long been regarded as a litmus test for the format and results were encouraging as 3D accounted for roughly 25% of the total screen count and brought in 56% of the gross. Theatre owners charge a premium on 3D tickets.

Here is the rest of the Top 5 US B-O estimate grosses for Dec 18-20, 2009 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Avatar (Fox) $73.0 million ($73.0 mil) 1

2. The Princess and the Frog (Buena Vista) $12.2 million ($44.8 mil) 4

3. The Blind Side (Warner Bros) $10.0 million ($164.7 mil) 5

4. Did You Hear About the Morgans? (Sony) $7 million ($7 mil) 1

5. Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit) $4.4 million ($274.6 mil) 5

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brittany Murphy Dies of Heart Attack at 32

DEC 20, 2009 - Actress Brittany Murphy, 32, best known for Clueless, 8 Mile and Sin City, died early this morning in Los Angeles, according to reports on TMZ.com.

The website reports that the actress went into full cardiac arrest and could not be revived. It was her mother who discovered her unconscious in the shower. When paramedics arrived just after 8 am, they immediately began administering CPR and rushed her to nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

The NY Daily News reported that Murphy became a household name among teens in 1995 as the sidekick in Clueless who went from awkward wall flower to snotty hottie. She underwent a transformation from a plump brunette to a skinny blonde whose ample cleavage landed her in Maxim's 100 hottest women in 2003. After appearing underweight in the last few years, rumours swirled about drug use and plastic surgery.

Ashton Kutcher, her co-star in Just Married and close friend, posted on Twitter:
"2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany's family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon."

He followed that with a second twit: "see you on the other side kid."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Avatar' Collects US$3.5m at Midnight Launch

DEC 18, 2009 - Right out of the gate, James Cameron's Avatar is galloping at a steady and promising pace, collecting US$3.537 million at approximately 2,000 sites in North America at its midnight launch yesterday.


The midnight figure, according to Boxofficemojo.com, is really nothing to shout about considering that two of this year's sequels, The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince collected US$26.3 million and US$22.2 million respectively at their midnight launch. However, these sequels have a huge fan base unlike Avatar which has no predecessor.

If history is anything to go by, Cameron's films thrive on the 'long haul'. His 'Titanic' grossed US$8.7 million on its opening day, the equivalent of US$14 million adjusted for ticket price inflation. That was a blockbuster kick-off in those days, but it, of course, had legendary longevity as well, ultimately becoming the highest-grossing movie ever at US$600.8 million.

Titanic had repeat audiences - some watching the movie three or four times - and from the looks of it, Avatar too will have repeat viewership. The state-of-the-art motion-capture techniques and the magical wonders of its moon, Pandora, are bound to bring viewers and fans back to the cineplex.

No one dared to confirm but Avatar is rumoured to cost a bomb - anything between US$250 million to US$300 million. Cameron, in an interview with a movie magazine, said he is not bothered about the cost or its gross. For him it is getting his dream project out in the market - and for that we salute him.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Harry Potter Sequel Tops 2009 Worldwide B-O


DEC 18, 2009 - With the CGI sci-fi epic Avatar making
waves but yet to make a box-office impact, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince is tops at the worldwide box office so far this year, taking US$929.4 million (RM3.1 billion).

Here is the list of the Worldwide Top 10 up to Dec 13, 2009 compiled by Screen Daily.

1. Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince - US$929.4 million.
2. Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs - US$878.8 million.
3. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen - US$833.2 million.
4. Up - US$662.3 million.
5. 2012 - US$638.6 million.
6. New Moon US$561.4 million.
7. Angels & Demons US$485.9 million.
8. The Hangover - US$459.4 million.
9. Night At The Museum 2 - US$412.3 million.
10. Star Trek - US$385.4 million.

'Basterds' Gets Oscar Boost from SAG Nods


DEC 18, 2009 - Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' gets a boost from the 16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations but the critics' favourite, 'Up In The Air', is left up in the air in the Ensemble (cast) category although it has three nominations - for George Clooney as Best Actor and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for Best Supporting Actress.

The CGI-heavy 'Avatar', however, is spurned by the guild because of the limited screen time of the real-life performers.


The nods for these awards are decided by 2,100 members of the 100,000-strong guild and they have a track record for predicting the eventual Oscar acting nominees. With 10 Best Picture Oscar nominees this year, it seems almost certain that all of these SAG ensemble contenders will make the cut. While "Up in the Air" earned three individual SAG acting nods, it failed to make the final five for the ensemble award.

The motion picture nominations are:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Nine
Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire

Lead male:

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up In The Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Lead female:

Sandra Bullock (pic), The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Supporting male:

Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz (pic), Inglourious Basterds

Supporting female:

Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up In The Air
Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air
Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
Mo’nique, Precious: Based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire

WEEKEND PIC - Dec 18 - 20, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) AVATAR (sci-fi adventure with Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi) Rated * * * * (4 stars out of 4): A happy marriage of form and function, James Cameron has gone one up on his Titanic. The plot may be a bit derivative but the setting, in a futuristic and fictional planet of Pandora, is a visual feast. The action sequences, augmented by CGI and action-capture techniques, are mind-boggling especially in 3D (at selected cineplexes). Easily the Top 10 movies of 2009. (Reviewed below)

b) BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS (political drama with Donnie Yen, Fan Bingbing, Leon Lai, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka-Fai) Not reviewed: From the buzz on the Internet, don't expect anyting like Donnie Yen's Ip Man-type of action. It leans more towards historical and political drama rather than kungfu action.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. ZOMBIELAND (horror-comedy with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Bill Murray) Rated * * * (3 stars out of 4): This 'Thriller'-like comedy is funny and engaging with some bizarre touches and a few jolts. We can't help but like Harrelson who seems to be having a whacking fun time in this movie. (Reviewed below)

2. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (animated fantasy with Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Jenifer Lewis, Keith David and Oprah Winfrey) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's back to the old hand-drawn cartoons with this 'contemporary take' on the classic fairy-tale. We have to admit that this is what the folks at Disney do best.

3. STORM WARRIORS (martial arts fantasy with Aaron Kwok, Charlene Choi, Ekin Cheng, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam and Tang Yan) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like 2012, this Pang Brothers production is a CGI extravaganza for fans of the 1998 Storm Riders. The stunts and effects are impressive but they can also be confusing. (Reviewed below)

4. LOVE HAPPENS (comedy'drama with Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart, Anne Marie DeLuise, Martin Sheen, Sasha Alexander, Dan Fogler and Judy Greer) Rated * * (2 stars): Weak rom-com sans romance or comedy about a self-help guru and a quirky florist. Love doesn't really happen here but sh*t does. (Reviewed below)

5. COUPLES RETREAT (Comedy with Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Kali Hawk, and Jean Reno) Rated * * (2 stars): A vacation movie sans the fun and frolic, this is actually a predictable couples therapy flick involving four pairs on an idyllic tropical island run by a French marriage therapist. Notable for its bad acting especially from Reno and poor scripting. (Reviewed below)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

AVATAR - Cameron Outdoes 'Titanic'

AVATAR (sci-fi adventure)
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, CCH Pounder, Joel Moore, Laz Alonso and Wes Studi
Director: James Cameron
Screenplay: James Cameron
Time: 160 mins
Rating: * * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: Twelve years ago, film-maker James Cameron took a simple love story and put it in a real-life historical setting - that of a tragic world famous ocean liner. The movie, Titanic, caught the imagination of the world and became a box-office classic.

Now, Cameron is basically doing the same thing - setting a love story in a fictitious moon in a futuristic era. The result is an even more fantastic and spectacular movie. Avatar, which took Cameron 15 years to make, is a magical marriage of form and function, of storytelling and CGI effects. It is one of the most expensive and complex films he had ever made. And for me, it is his best yet - and it definitely looks set to break more box-office records.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The word 'avatar' is derived from the Sanskrit 'avatara', meaning 'incarnation' or 'manifestation'. However, in this movie, it refers to a sci-fi hybrid being that combines human DNA with that of natives of a distant moon - the Na'vi tribes of Pandora.

It is the year 2154 and humans need to travel light years to Pandora to mine a precious mineral called unobtanium that will help save their planet from ecological disaster. In a bid for a more humanitarian approach, scientist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) plans to send avatars to Pandora to persuade the Na'vis to allow the US forces to exploit their land.

Enter Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a wheelchair-bound ex-Marine who replaces his dead twin brother as avatar! Thrown into a strange world and without any training, Jake gets stranded on Pandora and is rescued by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, pictured left with Worthington), a Na'vi princess who takes him under her wing and teaches him the traditions of her nature and culture. Indeed, they fall in love and open the proverbial Pandora's box of troubles...

HITS & MISSES: Unlike most sci-fi action films that kicks off with a slam-bang opening and then punctuate the screen with more mayhem every 20 minutes or so, Cameron's Avatar eases us into its new world using the classic three-act format. The first introduces us to the toxic atmosphere of Pandora, the survival techniques and Cameron's arsenal of warships and human-controlled metal suits that amplify movements. Reminiscent of his Aliens, this should excite action fans.

The most fascinating is the second act where Jake's avatar learns the language and the ways of the Na'vi - recalling American tribal films like A Man Called Horse and Dances With Wolves, but on a grander scale. Here, Cameron takes us into the wonders of Pandora where the flora, fauna and the tribal people exist in idyllic harmony. Yes, Avatar is a lesson on preserving and fighting for one's environment. The natives here may be blue but the movie is as 'green' as it can get.


The final act, of course, is the fast-paced battle between human marauders, with their high-tech weapons, and the natives, armed mostly with bows and arrows. By then, Cameron has acclimatised us with the Pandoran world so well that we are familiar with every creature and feature. The battle choreography, backed by James Horner's music, is both engaging and mind-boggling, the action-capture sequences are perfect and every scene of the Pandoran world looks stunning. I really don't care if Cameron's subplots are not original. The fact is that he manages to immerse viewers into the movie and the 160 minutes fly by so fast that we long for more of them.

THE LOWDOWN: Avatar is a must-see film, easily one of the Top 10 movies of 2009!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Up In The Air' Tops Golden Globes Nods

DEC 15, 2009 - Jason Reitman's 'Up In The Air' tops the 67th Golden Globe nominations announced by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association early today with six nods, followed by Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, Rob Marshall’s and James Cameron’s NineAvatar getting four each.

Among the nominations, Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock are nominated twice for acting awards. Streep dominates the musical or comedy category with It’s Complicated and Julie & Julia, while Bullock has her best ever year with a musical or comedy nod for The Proposal and dramatic recognition for The Blind Side.

Among the men, Matt Damon gets two nominations – one for best comedy or musical actor for The Informant! and the other as supporting actor for Invictus alongside the favourite Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.

Here is a list of the major nods:

Best Picture – Drama
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire
Up In The Air

Best Picture - Musical or comedy
500 days Of Summer
The Hangover
It’s Complicated!
Julie & Julia
Nine

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Clint Eastwood, Invictus
Jason Reitman, Up In The Air
Quentin Taratino, Inglourious Basterds

Best animated feature
Coraline
Fantastic Mr Fox
Up
Cloudy With A chance Of Meatballs
The Princess And The Frog

Best Actor in a Drama
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up In The Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Tobey Maguire, Brothers

Best actress in a drama
Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria (right)
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Precious (below)

Best performance by an Actor in a musical or comedy
Matt Damon, The Informant!
Daniel Day Lewis, Nine
Robert Downey Jr, Sherlock Holmes
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days Of Summer
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man

Best performance by an Actress in a musical or comedy
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
Marion Cottillard, Nine
Julia Roberts, Duplicity
Meryl Streep, It’s Complicated
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Best supporting actor
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up In The Air
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’Nique, Precious
Julianne Moore, A Single Man

Best Foreign Film
Broken Embraces
The White Ribbon
The Maid
A Prophet
Baaria

Best screenplay - Motion Picture
District 9, Neil Blomkap, Terri Tatchell
The Hurt Locker, Mark Boal
Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino
It’s Complicated, Nancy Meyers
Up In The Air, Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner

Best original song - Motion Picure
The Weary Kind, T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham (Crazy Heart)
I Want To Come Home, Paul McCartney, (Everybody’s Fine)
Cinema Italiano, Maury Yeston, Nine
Winter, U2, Bono (Brothers)
I Will See You, James Horner, Simon Franglen, Kuk Harrell (Avatar)

Best original score - Motion Picture
The Informant!, Marvin Hamlisch
Up, Michael Giacchino
Where The Wild Things Are, Carter Burwell, Karen Orzolek
Avatar, James Horner
A Single Man, Abel Korzeniowski

Best Television Series - Drama
Big Love (HBO)
Dexter (Showtime)
House (Fox)
Mad Men (AMC)
True Blood (HBO)

Best Performance By An Actress In a TV Series - Drama
Glenn Close, Damages
January Jones, Mad Men
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Anna Paquin, True Blood
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Best Performance By An Actor In a TV Series - Drama
Simon Baker, The Mentalist
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
Bill Paxton, Big Love

Best Television Series - Comedy of Musical
30 Rock (NBC)
Entourage (HBO)
Glee (Fox)
Modern Family (ABC)
The Office (NBC)

Best Performance By An Actress In a TV Series - Comedy or Musical
Toni Collette, United States Of Tara
Courteney Cox, Cougar Town
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Lea Michele, Glee

Best Performance By An Actor In a TV Series - Comedy or Musical
Alec Bladwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
David Duchovny, Californication
Thomas Jane, Hung
Matthew Morrison, Glee

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made For Television
Georgia O’Keeffe (Lifetime Television)
Grey Gardens (HBO)
Into The Storm (HBO)
Little Dorrit (PBS)
Take Chance (HBO)

Best Performance By An Actress In A Mini-Series or Made For TV Movie
Joan Allen, Georgia O’ Keeffe
Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens
Anna Paquin, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler
Sigourney Weaver, Prayers For Bobby

Best Performance By An Actor In A Mini-Series Or Made For TV Movie
Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance
Kenneth Branagh, Wallender: One Step Behind
Chiwetel Ejiorfor, Endgame
Brendan Gleeson, Into The Storm
Jeremy Irons, Georgia O’Keeffe

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Series, Mini-Series or Made For TV Movie
Jane Adams, Hung
Rose Byrne, Damages
Jane Lynch, Glee
Janet McTeer, Into The Storm
Chloe Sevigny, Big Love

Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In a Series, Mini-Series Or Made For TV Movie
Michael Emerson, Lost
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
William Hurt, Damages
John Lithgow, Dexter
Jeremy Piven, Entourage

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Princess And The Frog' Leaps to Top of US Weekend B-O

DEC 14, 2009 - After expanding to more screens nationwide over the weekend, The Princess and the Frog leaps to the top of the US Box-office chart, doing an astounding estimated US$25 million in its third weekend.

The Blind Side, meanwhile, is still strong in its fourth weekend, collecting an estimated US$15.5 million ahead of new release Invictus, Clint Eastwood's latest Oscar contender with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Freeman plays Nelson Mandela circa 1995 in the film directed by Eastwood.

On the home front, Storm Warriors is expectedly making waves at the Malaysian Box-office while moviegoers await the opening of James Cameron's Avatar on Dec 17. Advance tickets for the epic adventure are on sale now.

On a personal note, I am now blogging from Bloomington, Indiana, USA, while on vacation till Feb 5, 2010. Please stay in touch.

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

1. The Princess and the Frog (Buena Vista) $25 million ($27.9 mil) 3

2. The Blind Side (Warner Bros) $15.5 million ($150.2 mil) 4

3. Invictus (Warner Bros) $9.1 million ($9.1 mil) 1

4. Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit) $8.0 million ($267.4 mil) 4

5. A Christmas Carol (Buena Vista) $6.9 million ($124.5 mil) 6

Thursday, December 10, 2009

WEEKEND PIC - Dec 11 - 13, 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:

a) ZOMBIELAND (horror-comedy with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Bill Murray) Rated * * * (3 stars out of 4): This 'Thriller'-like comedy is funny and engaging with some bizarre touches and a few jolts. We can't help but like Harrelson who seems to be having a whacking fun time in this movie. (Reviewed below)

b) STORM WARRIORS (martial arts fantasy with Aaron Kwok, Charlene Choi, Ekin Cheng, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam and Tang Yan) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like 2012, this Pang Brothers production is a CGI extravaganza for fans of the 1998 Storm Riders. The stunts and effects are impressive but they can also be confusing and draggy. (Reviewed below)


c) THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (animated fantasy with Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Jenifer Lewis, Keith David and Oprah Winfrey) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's back to the old hand-drawn cartoons with this 'contemporary take' on the classic fairy-tale. We have to admit that this is what the folks at Disney do best.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON (romance sequel with Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed and Kellan Lutz) Rated * * (2 stars): A clear example of how hype and star-cult frenzy can transform a franchise from one of novelty to exploitation. Under the direction of Chris Weitz, New Moon is just skinflick for teen girls. (Reviewed below)

2. LOVE HAPPENS (comedy'drama with Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart, Anne Marie DeLuise, Martin Sheen, Sasha Alexander, Dan Fogler and Judy Greer) Rated * * (2 stars): Weak rom-com sans romance or comedy about a self-help guru and a quirky florist. Love doesn't really happen here but sh*t does. (Reviewed below)

3. COUPLES RETREAT (Comedy with Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Kali Hawk, and Jean Reno) Rated * * (2 stars): A vacation movie sans the fun and frolic, this is actually a predictable couples therapy flick involving four pairs on an idyllic tropical island run by a French marriage therapist. Notable for its bad acting especially from Reno and poor scripting. (Reviewed below)

4. NINJA ASSASSIN (actioner with Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune, Sho Kosugi, Guido Foehrweisser, Stephen Marcus, Randall Duk Kim and Sung Kang) Rated * * (2 stars): Typical no-brainer Ninja flick featuring pop singer Rain as its main attraction and gory slice-em-up violence as the highlights. The novelty fades soon enough after watching Rain act and tolerating Kosugi's inane lines. (Reviewed below)

STORM WARRIORS - A CGI Extravaganza

STORM WARRIORS (martial arts fantasy)
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Charlene Choi, Ekin Cheng, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam and Tang Yan
Director: Oxide and Danny Pang
Time: 112 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Aaron Kwok and Charlene Choi in STORM WARRIORS

PREAMBLE: This visual feast inspired by comic-book writer Ma Wing Shing's 'Fung Wan' series is arguably the most highly anticipated Asian movie of the year. Although some may see this as a sequel to the successful Storm Riders (of 1998), Storm Warriors boasts a new storyline involving the same heroes with Aaron Kwok and Cheng Ekin reprising their roles as Striding Cloud and Whispering Wind respectively.

However, the big buzz of the industry is the helming of the film by the Brothers Pang, the maverick duo who gave the world such hits as The Eye and Bangkok Dangerous (both Asian and Hollywood versions). Danny Pang was also involved with The Storm Riders as its co-editor.

THE SKINNY: The story arc is derived from the Death Battle comic book in which the evil Japanese warlord, Lord Godless (Simon Yam), wants to get his hands on the magical Dragon Bones so that he can rule China unimpeded and unchallenged. Godless manages to capture the Emperor (Patrick Tam) and imprisons his warriors. Among the prisoners are Cloud (Kwok) and the elder statesman Nameless (Kenny Ho). Later, Wind (Cheng) comes to the rescue and the trio is badly wounded.

Meanwhile, the heroes seek the help of the venerable Lord Wicked (Kenny Wong Tak Bun) who advises Wind to take the 'evil path' to master the martial arts skills he needs to save his nation from Godless and his son, Heart (Nicholas Tse). This 'Evil Wind' saga presents another subplot that is pursued in the second half of the movie.

THE REVIEW: Just like the CGI-laden 2012, the Pang Brothers make no bones about Storm Warriors being anything but an expansive and expensive computer-effects extravaganza. Towards this end, the effects and stunts, backed by choral voices and thundering drumbeats, are fantastic and sometimes even breath-taking. The film-makers seem so proud of the fantasy-action pieces that they keep on repeating them, showing them in slow-motion and from different angles and close-ups. This drags the fighting sequences on a bit, making them lose whatever sense of urgency or danger they may have generated.

However, the usual weaknesses of the Brothers Pang remain unresolved. The characters lack emotional depth, the story flow is rather confusing, and the dialogue can be rather lame. Attempts at comedy flop too especially when Lam Suet's Piggy King turns out to be underused. Still, the female supports, Charlene Choi (as Wind's love interest, Second Dream) and Tang Yan (as Cloud's aide's aide Chu Chu, pictured above) are a welcome balance to offset the male-macho leanings of the plot.

THE LOWDOWN: Should delight CGI action fans.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Free Screening of thriller '5:13'

DEC 7, 2009 - Perantauan Pictures/Befour Film are holding a special screening and Q & A session of their latest offering, 5:13, on Thursday, Dec 17, 2009 at HELP University College Main Campus in Pusat Bandar Damansara, KL, at 8pm.

The screening, organised by Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia, is free to the public.

The psychological thriller, directed by Arivind Abraham, is inspired by the real-life events of the 1996 nationwide blackout in Malaysia. 5:13 deals with two individuals in a desperate fight against paranoia, terror and eventually each other as they struggle to face growing, inexplicable threats from the outside while being deprived of all information and communication.


It stars Samantha Tan and Iki Putra (above), and featuring Priscilla Patrick as herself.

Check out the review here.