Monday, March 29, 2010

CLASH OF THE TITANS - Mythical Monsters Show

CLASH OF THE TITANS (mythical adventure)
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen, Izabella Miko and Pete Postlethwaite
Directors: Louis Leterrier
Screenplay: Travis Beacham & Phil Hay
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

FATHER & SON: Worthington and Neeson as Perseus and Zeus

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Sitting through this movie, I get the feeling that the main reason for Louis Leterrier and company to do this remake of the 1981 Clash Of The Titans is just to flex its special effects muscle for 3D fans. A sort of Mythical Monsters Show. There is no attempt to 'add value' to the stories of the Olympian gods, or its characters.

And yes, they pay tribute to stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen by inserting his mechanical owl in a scene when Perseus and his warriors are preparing to set out to do battle with the monsters. The 1981 effort was Harryhausen's last movie.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is basically the story of Perseus (played by Avatar's Sam Worthington), the demi-god who is the bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson). It is Perseus' destiny to rescue the city of Argos from the vengeful wrath of Hades (Ralph Fiennes), god of the underworld, and his monster Kraken.

Teaming up with a small squad lead by Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), Perseus must giant scorpions, a hideous king turned slayer (Jason Flemyng as Acrisius), the snake-haired Medusa and finally the dreadful Kraken. Also on his side are his guardian angel Io (Gemma Aterthon, pic, right) and the flying horse Pegasus.

HITS & MISSES: As far as remakes go, this one seems content to just lay out the plot which is familiar to those who know the legend. The action on the screen may be in 3D (in selected cinemas) but the characters are mostly two-dimensional.

This is especially so of the council of Olympian gods which turned out looking like folks dressed in Halloween costumes mouthing lame lines. Even Neeson looks and sounds fake as the king of the gods.

The human warriors fare a little better - with the main theme being Perseus' insistence on being a man rather than the son of Zeus. The Mythical Monster Show, however, has its moments of grandeur and photorealism - and it recalls actions from films like Avatar, Star Wars and One Million Years BC. I remember feeling more involved in battle scenes from Harryhausen's Jason And The Argonauts than in this one.

THE LOWDOWN: This Clash looks like it's going to be a Flash in the Box-Office Pan.

'Dragon' Flies To Top Spot of US B-O

MARCH 29, 2010 - How To Train Your Dragon flew into the top spot ending the three-week reign of Alice in Wonderland which still managed to be strong enough to finish in second place. Produced by DreamWorks Animation, Dragon opened to an estimated US$43.3 million from 4,055 theatres for a sizzling US$10,678 average per location.

Raunchy comedy Hot Tub Time Machine soaked in third place with an opening weekend take of US$13.7 million, according to estimates.

Here is the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for March 26-28, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks) $43.3 million ($43.3 mil) 1

2. Alice in Wonderland (Buena Vista) $17.3 million ($293.1 mil) 4

3. Hot Tub Time Machine (MGM) $13.7 million ($13.7 mil) 1

4. The Bounty Hunter (Sony / Columbia) $12.4 million ($38.8 mil) 2

5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Fox) $10.0 million ($35.8 mil) 2

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Robin Hood' To Open Cannes FIlm Fest


MARCH 27, 2010 - Ridley Scott's Robin Hood has been picked to be the opening night film at 63rd Cannes Film Festival.

The opening night spot at Cannes is traditionally reserved for populist fare that opens in France later that week. Robin Hood is no exception: it will be released in France on the same day as its premiere, and worldwide two days later on May 14. The Cannes film fest opens on May 12 and ends on May 23.

Robin Hood stars Russell Crowe as England's famous wealth distributor in tights while Cate Blanchett plays Maid Marian. The title role was originally meant for Christian Bale while Sienna Miller was supposed to be his love interest. Other stars include Matthew Macfadyen as the Sherriff of Nottingham.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Korea the Big Winner at 4th Asian Film Awards

MARCH 26, 2010 - South Korean director Bong Joon-ho led his countrymen in six wins at the fourth Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong with the Best Film trophy for his thriller Mother.

The film, which tells a story of a mother's struggles to save her son from a murder accusation, also garnered Kim Hye-ja the award for Best Actress, and Bong and Park Eun-kyo the award for Best Screenwriter.

Malaysian Ng Meng Hui (pictured) won the 2010 AFA Best Newcomer award for her role in At the End of Daybreak, a South Korean co-production with Malaysia and Hong Kong that also garnered Wai Ying-hung the Best Supporting Actress prize.

Lu Chuan of China was named Best Director for his Nanjing massacre drama City of Life and Death, and the Best Actor award went to China's Wang Xueqi for Bodyguards and Assassins.

No prizes went to Japan this year, a letdown after Japanese films took home five AFA prizes in 2009.

Here is a list of the winners:


Best Film: Mother (South Korea) above

Best Director: Lu Chuan, City of Life and Death (China)

Best Actor: Wang Xueqi, Bodyguards and Assassins (Hong Kong/China)

Best Actress: Kim Hye-ja, Mother (South Korea)

Best Newcomer: Ng Meng Hui, At the End of Daybreak (Malaysia/Hong Kong/South Korea)

Best Supporting Actor: Nicholas Tse, Bodyguards and Assassins (Hong Kong/China)

Best Supporting Actor: Wai Ying-hung, At the End of Daybreak (Malaysia/Hong Kong/South Korea)

Best Screenwriter: Parl Eun-kyo, Bong Joon-ho, Mother (South Korea)

Best Cinematographer: Cao Yu, City of Life and Death (China)

Best Production Designer: Alain-Pascal Housiaux, Patrick Dechesne/Lee Tian-Jue, "Face" (Taiwan)

Best Composer: Lo Ta-Yu, Vengeance (Hong Kong)

Best Editor: Lee Chatametikool, Karaoke (Malaysia)

Best Visual Effects: Yi Zeon-hyoung, Thirst (South Korea)

Best Costume Designer: Christian Lacroix, Anne Dunsford, Wang Chia-Hui, Face (Taiwan)

Special Awards:

Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema -- Zhang Yimou

Asian Film Award for Lifetime Achievement -- Amitabh Bachchan

Asian Film Award for 2009's Top-Grossing Film Director -- John Woo

Thursday, March 25, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - March 26 - 28, 2010


YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

1. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (animated adventure with Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig and T.J. Miller) Rated * * * (3 stars): Somewhat the Viking version of Lilo & Stitch in 3D, this is a rousing adventure for the family during the school holidays. The graphics are great and the dragon flights exhilarating enough to send you into the mythical world. (Reviewed below)

2. GREEN ZONE (conspiracy thriller with Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs and Khalid Abdalla) Rating * * * (3 stars): A thinking man's movie with keen insights into the reasons for the Iraq war. Again Damon is back at his best in his familiar Bourne role although not as Bourne-like in his quest to seek out weapons of mass destruction.

3. ALICE IN WONDERLAND (fantasy adventure with Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Mia Wasikowska, Matt Lucas and Marton Csokas) Rating * * * (3 stars): This is Tim Burton's remake of the Lewis Carroll classic with his trademark opulence and weirdness. Nice eye candy but nothing spectacular though.

4. DAYBREAKERS (vampire thriller with Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas and Sam Neill) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): An Aussie version of the vampire genre, Daybreakers does not break any major rules of the vampire myths but the atmosphere and effects are catchy. It is just too bad that the narrative is rather dull and static. (Reviewed below)

5. EDGE OF DARKNESS (murder mystery with Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts, Peter Hermann, Denis O'Hare, Jay O. Sanders and Bojana Novakovic) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Gibson is back on the screen after a hiatus of eight years playing a role he does best - as a hot-headed cop like Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon. He is still watchable but his character here is so over-the-top in its Mad Max caricature that we don't feel for him. (Reviewed below)

6. FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (action thriller with John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Kasai Smutniak, Richard Durden, Melissa Mars, Amber Rose Revah and Farid Elouardi) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Luc Besson's actioner offers a high-voltage Travolta as a US Agent roughing up Paris but it is full of ridiculous action and lame lines. Thankfully, it has all the bang-bang stuff that action fans need. (Reviewed below)

7. THE LOVELY BONES (murder drama with Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan (pic, below), Michael Imperioli, Amanda Michalka and Nikki SooHoo) Rated * * (2 stars): It is a real pity that Peter Jackson's rendition of Alice Sebold's bestseller misses the mark. Production values are above par but Jackson seems too self-indulgent in portraying the novel's surrealistic aspects. (Reviewed below)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

IT'S COMPLICATED - A Guilty Pleasure

IT'S COMPLICATED (romantic comedy)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Hunter Parish and Zoe Kazan
Directors: Nancy Meyers
Screenplay: Nancy Meyers
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Baldwin and Streep in IT'S COMPLICATED

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? It's just as well that Nancy Meyers only makes a romantic comedy once in every three years. It gives us enough time to get over her current one and long for another. In 2000, she gave us kinky What Women Want; in 2003, it was the delicious Something's Gotta Give; in 2006 we had something a bit different in The Holiday; and last year, it's the indulgent It's Complicated.

It's just like spacing out binging on chocolates so that we don't feel too guilty over it. And trust me, watching this Nancy Meyers film, which borders on romantic fantasy, constitutes a guilty pleasure.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) is a successful restaurant owner, divorcee and mother of three grown-up children. Quite alone and fancy-free, she is at that stage in one's life when one is likely to start an affair. For Jane, she is about to have two simultaneously!

First off, a few drinks too many at a bar with Jake (Alec Baldwin) lands them in bed together, engaging in a steamy romp. What's so complicated about this little indiscretion is that Jake is Jane's ex-husband - and he is cheating on his young and hot-looking wife Agness (Lake Bell, right). What's more, he finds Jane so 'intoxicating' that he comes back for more!

The other 'suitor' is Jane's architect and contractor Adam (Steve Martin) who seems nice and earnest enough in trying to court the winsome Jane. What's complicated here is that Jake keeps coming in between them.

HITS & MISSES: Watching Streep in this movie reminds me of her chef in Julie & Julia. Streep being Streep is splendid - and so are most of the cast including Baldwin, Martin and John Krasinski. Baldwin surprises me by showing that he can get away with slapstick; Martin surprises me by showing that he doesn't need to go slapstick to be effective; and Krasinski manages to turn a minor role into a memorable one playing the fiance of Jane's eldest girl.

Of course, some of Meyers' attempts at being funny fail, especially when they involve the co-stars. Also, watching Streep and Baldwin going at it may seem weird to the younger audiences. It may be like watching their parents shamelessly going at it.

Meyers' atmosphere and sets are her staple - they seem to have come from a bunch of interior design magazines. Her films are always populated by upper-class snobs and here again we are 'asked' to believe that a man would want to court trouble with his 'hot' wife by going for an older woman.

THE LOWDOWN: A chick flick, but tolerable for older men.

Monday, March 22, 2010

'Alice' Still Strong On Third Weekend in US

MARCH 22, 2010 - Despite solid starts from Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Bounty Hunter, Alice in Wonderland held on to the top spot for the third weekend in a row, down 45 percent to an estimated $34.5 million.

Alice in Wonderland's $34.5 million weekend represents the sixth highest-grossing third weekend ever, and its total now sits at $265.8 million in 17 days. On Saturday, Alice surpassed Batman to become director Tim Burton's highest grossing movie ever, though Batman and several others still rank higher in terms of estimated attendance. Alice also topped 300 last Monday to become the highest-grossing March release ever.

Here is the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for March 19-21, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Alice in Wonderland (2010) (Buena Vista) $34.5 million ($265.8 million) 3

2. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (Fox) $21.8 million ($21.8 million) 1

3. Bounty Hunter (Sony) $21.0 ($21.0) 1

4. Repo Men (Universal) $6.1 ($6.1) 1

5. She's Out of My League (Paramount) $6.0 million ($19.6 million) 2

Friday, March 19, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - March 19 - 21, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (animated adventure with Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig and T.J. Miller) Rated * * * (3 stars): Somewhat the Viking version of Lilo & Stitch in 3D, this is a rousing adventure for the family during the school holidays. The graphics are great and the dragon flights exhilarating enough to send you into the mythical world. (Reviewed below)

b) DAYBREAKERS (vampire thriller with Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas and Sam Neill) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): An Aussie version of the vampire genre, Daybreakers does not break any major rules of the vampire myths but the atmosphere and effects are catchy. It is just too bad that the narrative is rather dull and static. (Reviewed below)

c) THE LOVELY BONES (murder drama with Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Imperioli, Amanda Michalka and Nikki SooHoo) Rated * * (2 stars): It is a real pity that Peter Jackson's rendition of Alice Sebold's bestseller misses the mark somewhat. Production values are above par but Jackson seems too self-indulgent in its effects in portraying the novel's surrealistic aspects. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1. GREEN ZONE (conspiracy thriller with Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs and Khalid Abdalla) Rating * * * (3 stars): A thinking man's movie with keen insights into the reasons for the Iraq war. Again Damon is back at his best in his familiar Bourne role although not as Bourne-like in his quest to seek out weapons of mass destruction.

2. ALICE IN WONDERLAND (fantasy adventure with Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Mia Wasikowska, Matt Lucas and Marton Csokas) Rating * * * (3 stars): This is Tim Burton's remake of the Lewis Carroll classic with his trademark opulence and weirdness. Nice eye candy but nothing spectacular though.

3. EDGE OF DARKNESS (murder mystery with Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts, Peter Hermann, Denis O'Hare, Jay O. Sanders and Bojana Novakovic) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Gibson is back on the screen after a hiatus of eight years playing a role he does best - as a hot-headed cop like Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon. He is still watchable but his character here is so over-the-top in its Mad Max caricature that we don't feel for him. (Reviewed below)

4. REMEMBER ME (romance drama with Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins, Pierce Brosnan) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Mediocre love story that seems to be banking on the bankability of Twilight heart-throb Pattinson who plays a rebellious youth at odds with his dad and the world. The ending is abrupt - hitting on a famous tragedy. (Reviewed below)

5. CONFUCIUS (biodrama with Chow Yun-Fat, Lu Yao, Zhou Xun and Chen Jian Bin) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The veteran Chow does a good impression of the ancient teacher and director Hu Mei serves up a rousing first half with political intrigues and war sequences. However, the film starts to go downhill in the second half, punctuated by a brief respite provided by the sexacious Zhou Xun. (Reviewed below)

6. FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (action thriller with John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Kasai Smutniak, Richard Durden, Melissa Mars, Amber Rose Revah and Farid Elouardi) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Luc Besson's actioner offers a high-voltage Travolta as a US Agent roughing up Paris but it is full of ridiculous action and lame lines. Thankfully, it has all the bang-bang stuff that action fans need. (Reviewed below)

7. UNDER THE MOUNTAIN (sci-fi fantasy with Tom Cameron, Matthew Chamberlain, Oliver Driver, Matt Gillanders, Sophie McBride, Chelsea McEwan-Miller, Sam Neill and Gareth Reeves) Rating: * * (2 stars): Based on the novel by Maurice Gee, this New Zealand production has all the genre cliches ever formulated. The plot about aliens vs Earthlings defies logic and even Sam Neill could not save it from its own banality.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

DAYBREAKERS - An Aussie' VampireLand'

DAYBREAKERS (vampire thriller)
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Vince Colosimo, Isabel Lucas and Sam Neill
Directors: Peter and Michael Spierig
Screenplay: Peter and Michael Spierig
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Hawke and Dafoe in DAYBREAKERS

PREAMBLE: It is rather obvious that Aussie siblings, Peter and Michael Spierig, had planned to make Daybreakers in the style of Zombieland, especially with its post-disaster landscape, social pecularities and touches of humour. Daybreakers is about a world dominated by vampires - and while the Spierigs have fashioned a fascinating vampire society and its 'infrastructure', its narrative seems to slip and stumble every now and then. It is technically brilliant but narratively dull.

THE SKINNY: It is 2019 and after a vampire plague has swept the world, everyone’s now a bloodsucker. The human population, after being hunted and 'farmed' for their blood, is getting extinct. There is hence a need to find an alternative source of 'blood' for the vampire population and this job falls on Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke).

His boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) is adamant not only about finding synthetic blood but also more sources of the genuine article for special clients. Edward's life changes when he runs into a small group of humans led by Audrey (Claudia Karvan) and a man who calls himself Elvis (Willem Dafoe). Edward agrees to help them, but has no idea what he's in for.

HITS & MISSES: Indeed, the vampire genre has come a long way since the days of Christopher Lee's mesmerising bloodsucker. Vampires have taken on new personalities - from cold and pale but sexy youths the likes of Robert Pattinson (in Twilight) to romantic hunks like Stephen Moyer's Bill Compton (in TV's True Blood). In Daybreakers, they are neither romantic nor scary and horrible blighters. They are just blood-hungry and dull.

This especially applies to Hawke's character whom the Spierigs rely on to advance the story but had not made much effort to develop his character. Thankfully, there is Dafoe to provide some humour and heroics, and Sam Neill who can always be relied on to provide the menace. Craven gives the movie its much needed feminine angle while Isabel Lucas brings some life and energy to the film as Bromley's daughter. Halfway through the movie, we get the feeling that there's so much more to Daybreakers than the Spierigs have developed here. It could have been an interesting TV series too.

THE LOWDOWN: Shot entirely in Australia, it boasts spectacular effects and cinematic artistry. Other than that, it is mostly old blood.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON - A Family Treat

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (animated adventure)
Cast: Voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig and T.J. Miller
Directors: Lorna Cook and David Soren
Screenplay: William Davies from the books by Cressida Cowell
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: It's the school holidays and this should be a welcome entry to the cinema fare for both the kids and their parents. Based on British author Cressida Cowell’s bestseller, How To Train Your Dragon is another fun and thrilling 3D adventure from Dreamworks, directed by the folks who gave us Lilo & Stitch.

THE SKINNY: Set in the mythical isle of Berk, this is about the adventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Jay Baruchel), the 11-year-old son of a Viking chieftain (Gerard Butler as Stoik), who must kill a dragon as a rite of passage. A group of 10 youths of the Hooligan tribe, are being led to perform their first military operation - to catch their own dragon. Those who are not able to catch and train a dragon are exiled from the tribe. This military operation has to be done by every Hooligan as a test known as The Dragon Initiation Programme.

Hiccup's world is turned upside down when he encounters a 'Night Fury' dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the dragons from an entirely different point of view.

HITS & MISSES: In many ways, this one has the same plot as Lilo & Stitch: A child adopts and then tames a lethal creature - and learns a whole deal about life from it. I particularly like the graphics of the ancient world of the Norsemen rendered spectacularly in 3D. There are also standard issue subplots that the young people can relate with - like Hiccup trying to win over his dad and gutsy tomboy Astrid (America Ferrera) while trying not embarrassing himself in front of other Viking teens. There is also an interesting lesson about aerodynamics involving a dragon's tail.

The cast are commendable too, with Baruchel turning on a suitably sympathetic role, and Ferrera rendering youthful charm and solid support. Anyway, those exhilarating high-flying dragon rides and battles - accompanied by a rousing music score by John Powell - are value enough for the price of the ticket.

THE LOWDOWN: The top choice for this school holiday period.

Monday, March 15, 2010

LOVELY BONES - Elegant But Disappointing

THE LOVELY BONES (murder drama)
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan (pic, below), Michael Imperioli, Amanda Michalka and Nikki SooHoo,
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Peter Jackson from the bestseller by Alice Sebold
Time: 132 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: I have not read Alice Sebold's novel but I can imagine how Peter Jackson can get carried by its narrative to the point of being self-indulgent. Yes, far from being as engaging as his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, The Lovely Bones hints of an artist gone daft, colouring the tale about a murdered teenager in hues of psychedelia. Yes, that and toying around with special effects...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? No spoilers here but 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is murdered by her neighbour George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) while returning home from school one day. She tells us all this at the start of the movie from her 'vantage' point in heaven where she watches as her father (Mark Wahlberg) and sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) become obsessed with finding her killer.

Meanwhile, her 'boyfriend' (Reece Ritchie) and a glum school friend (Carolyn Dando) grow closer, her mother (Rachel Weisz) drifts apart, and Harvey continues living his lonely life undetected...

HITS & MISSES: It would not be fair to dismiss The Lovely Bones as a total washout. The cast, including Ronan, Tucci and Wahlberg, are commendable, evoking strong emotions from the audience. Susan Sarandon provides the humour as the Salmon's granny who drinks and smokes like there's no tomorrow.

What sinks the movie - and sucks it down like the sinkhole of the narrative - is the frivilous way Jackson unravels the plot, alternating between presenting the film as a murder mystery and a supernatural retribution story. In the end, we get a serial-killer mystery, a teenage melodrama, a family tragedy and a celestial ghost story all rolled into one.

THE LOWDOWN: Muddled and disappointing.

Alice's Party Continues at US B-O

MARCH 15, 2010 - Alice in Wonderland continues its 'tea party' over the weekend, collecting US$62 million more. In a mere 10 days, Alice became the top-grossing film for the Burton-Depp team beating the US$206.5-mil of 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Political thriller Green Zone opened in second place grossing an estimated US$14.5-mil from 3,003 locations while Robert Pattinson's Remember Me takes fourth place with just an estimated US$8.3 million.

Here is the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for March 12-14, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. Alice in Wonderland (2010) (Buena Vista) $62.0 million ($208.6 million) 2

2. Green Zone (Universal) $14.5 million ($14.5 million) 1

3. She's Out of My League (Paramount) $9.6 million ($9.6 million) 1

4. Remember Me (Summit) $8.3 million ($8.3 million) 1

5. Shutter Island (Paramount) $8.1 million ($108 million) 4

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jack Neo Hits Out At 'Stone-Casters'


MARCH 13, 2010 - Singapore film-maker Jack Neo went on the offensive today and labelled his accusers 'stone-casters' for trying to get at him when he is down.

Since March 6, when news of his affair with model Wendy Chong, 22, broke out, Neo has been the subject of talk all over the island nation.

In an interview with The New Paper, Neo proclaimed: “I had only ONE affair, for which I am totally repentant and totally remorseful. As for the others who have surfaced to make all kinds of claims, I wonder what their motives are. Is it because they think I am down-and-out now that they can join in to cast stones at me?”

Neo was referring to recent media reports which claimed that he had 'harassed' as many as 10 other women in his life, including flings with a former acting student and a script-writer from Thailand.

Foyce Le Xuan, a former artiste of his entertainment group J-Team, had accused him of sexually harassing her by asking her to share “private” moments with him in a hotel room. When she rejected his advances, she found herself gradually being dropped from acting assignments and projects. She said he has forgiven him.

In his blog, Neo wrote: 'An extra-marital affair is a domestic matter and many people have told me that as long as my wife and family forgive me, it's enough and I need not care about anything else.

'But think about it. In the past 20 years, you grew up with my television and film work. You know me so well, care about me, trust me unreservedly and support me. How can I think of you as outsiders, too?'

So it is my wish too to be forgiven by you.'

REMEMBER ME - Pattinson Does James Dean

REMEMBER ME (romantic drama)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins and Pierce Brosnan
Director: Allen Coulter
Screenplay: Will Fetters
Time: 112 mins

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

De Ravin and Pattinson in REMEMBER ME

PREAMBLE: What is a love story without a personal tragedy or two to jerk the tears or tug the heart strings? Now, how about three?

The third tragedy, however, comes in the shock ending.

The thrust of the movie is obvious. It is a vehicle for Twlight heart-throb Robert Pattinson whose teen idol status seems bound to fill the cinemas at least in the first few weeks.

THE SKINNY (Spoiler alert!) The movie opens at a New York subway station in 1991 where we see a tragic event involving 11-year-old Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin). Fast-forward to 2001 introduces Tyler Hawkins (Pattinson), who is days short of his 22nd birthday. Tyler is shown as a disturbed and rebellious kid, having dark thoughts about his older brother, Michael, who committed suicide six years ago.

Tyler meets Ally through his room-mate Aidan (Tate Ellington) and they hit it off even though the boy has a history with Ally's cop father (Chris Cooper). Their romance also involves Tyler's adoring younger sister, Caroline (Ruby Jerins), and his dad (Pierce Brosnan) whom Tyler has an axe to grind. And just when we thought things are going to be all right for everybody...

HITS & MISSES: Much of the movie's problems has to do with the banal scripting by first-timer Will Fetters. The dialogue is pedestrian and the characters, especially Ellington's Aidan, seem contrived. Pattinson's impersonation of James Dean may be appealing to his teenage fans but he has the charm of a rich-and-spoilt street urchin. Adults in the audience may find his tantrums over-contrived.

The only portrayal that is endearing is Emile de Ravin whose chemistry with Pattinson can be sparkling at times. Brosnan and Lena Olin, as Tyler's parents, are mainly forgettable cameos. The ending will either blow your mind or leave you numbed with embarrassment.

THE LOWDOWN: Strictly a Pattinson vehicle.

Friday, March 12, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - March 12 - 14, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) GREEN ZONE (conspiracy thriller with Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs and Khalid Abdalla) Rating * * * (3 stars): A thinking man's movie with keen insights into the reasons for the Iraq war. Again Damon is back at his best in his familiar Bourne role although not as Bourne-like in his quest to seek out weapons of mass destruction.

b) EDGE OF DARKNESS (murder mystery with Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts, Peter Hermann, Denis O'Hare, Jay O. Sanders and Bojana Novakovic) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Gibson is back on the screen after a hiatus of eight years playing a role he does best - as a hot-headed cop like Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon. He is still watchable but his character here is so over-the-top in its Mad Max caricature that we don't feel for him. (Reviewed below)

c) REMEMBER ME (romance drama with Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins, Pierce Brosnan) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Mediocre love story that seems to be banking on the bankability of Twilight heart-throb Pattinson who plays a rebellious youth at odds with his dad and the world. The ending is abrupt - hitting on a famous tragedy. (Reviewed above)

d) UNDER THE MOUNTAIN
(sci-fi fantasy with Tom Cameron, Matthew Chamberlain, Oliver Driver, Matt Gillanders, Sophie McBride,
Chelsea McEwan-Miller, Sam Neill and Gareth Reeves) Rating: * * (2 stars): Based on the novel by Maurice Gee, this New Zealand production has all the genre cliches ever formulated. The plot about aliens vs Earthlings defies logic and even Sam Neill could not save it from its own banality.

STILL GOING STRONG

1. INVICTUS (sports drama with Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood, Robert Hobbs, Langley Kirkwood, Bonnie Henna and Grant Roberts) Rated * * * (3 stars): Director Clint Eastwood's account of Nelson Mandela's role in the World Cup rugby game offers interesting insights into the 'healing' and re-unification of South Africa after decades of apartheid. Also notable are the perfs of Freeman as Mandela and Damon as team captain. (Reviewed below)

2. NINE (musical with Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Stacy Ferguson and Elio Germano) Rated * * * (3 stars): Rob Marshall's reworking of Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2 is not as stirring and rousing as his Oscar-winning Chicago but there are a few entertaining set pieces here, provided by its gifted cast. The sexy numbers by Cruz and Hudson are worth the price of the ticket. (Reviewed below)

3. ALICE IN WONDERLAND (fantasy adventure with Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Mia Wasikowska, Matt Lucas and Marton Csokas) Rating * * * (3 stars): This is Tim Burton's remake of the Lewis Carroll classic with his trademark opulence and weirdness. Nice eye candy but nothing spectacular though.

4. CONFUCIUS (biodrama with Chow Yun-Fat, Lu Yao, Zhou Xun and Chen Jian Bin) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The veteran Chow does a good impression of the ancient teacher and director Hu Mei serves up a rousing first half with political intrigues and war sequences. However, the film starts to go downhill in the second half, punctuated by a brief respite provided by the sexacious Zhou Xun. (Reviewed below)

5. FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (action thriller with John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Kasai Smutniak, Richard Durden, Melissa Mars, Amber Rose Revah and Farid Elouardi) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Luc Besson's actioner offers a high-voltage Travolta as a US Agent roughing up Paris but it is full of ridiculous action and lame lines. Thankfully, it has all the bang-bang stuff that action fans need. (Reviewed below)

6. THE BOOK OF ELI (futuristic adventure with Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Beals, Ray Stevenson and Tom Waits) Rated * * (2 stars): Just another dose of apocalyptic doom and gloom with Washington as a latter-day prophet guarding a precious Book. Impressive atmosphere but the plot is too incredulous to be convincing. (Reviewed below)

EDGE OF DARKNESS - Gibson Maxes Out!

EDGE OF DARKNESS (police thriller)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts, Peter Hermann, Denis O'Hare, Jay O. Sanders and Bojana Novakovic
Director: Martin Campbell
Screenplay: William Monahan and Andrew Bovell, based on the BBC mini-series written by Troy Kennedy Martin
Time: 108 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: Those who have seen the trailer may be wondering why are we seeing Mad Max 'Mel Gibson' going after a Big Bad Company over the murder of his daughter. Isn't that so ancient as far as movie plots are concerned?

Well, it turns out that Edge Of Darkness is a remake of the 1985 BBC mini-series which Martin Campbell had directed. And of course, in trying to condense six hours of small-screen action into less than two for his movie, a lot of character development are lost and what we get is repetitive scenes of Gibson's cop doing what Gibson does best: bashing heads first and then ask questions.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? When Emma (Bojana Novakovic), the daughter of veteran Boston detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is killed in front of him, the police assume that he was the target. However, after probing deeper into the case - and knocking a few heads - Craven begins to suspect that it has to do with the shady businessman (Danny Huston) she was working for..

HITS & MISSES: If you have missed watching Gibson on the screen you will soon get your fill of him in his trademark Lethal Weapon role. Gibson has taken a hiatus from acting since the 2002 Shyamalan film Signs. Now he is back with a vengeance as the hot-headed cop (a'la Martin Riggs) with director Martin Campbell providing flashbacks of his good times with his daughter just to justify his over-the-top actions.
Campbell may be too involved with the production to see its flaws. The pacing is erratic and all through the movie, we are wondering if Craven really needs to be so brash. Campbell gave us two Bond movies, having ushered in Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. There are times when events are presented with such awkwardness that the film almost plays as a parody. However, the ending seems justified, capping Craven's motives. However a little finesse would not have been amiss.

THE LOWDOWN: Just the film for Gibson's fans.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

High Drama At Jack Neo Media Conference

MARCH 11, 2010 - A media conference held by Singapore film-maker Jack Neo to apologise for his sexual indiscretions turned into high drama when his wife collapsed just as she was leaving the room.

A tearful Neo and his wife, Irene Kng, were at the Scorpio East building in Singapore where Neo admitted his wrongdoing and begged the media to let him off.

"It's all my fault and it has nothing to do with anybody else," Neo said in Mandarin about his affair with 22-year-old model Wendy Chong who starred in his latest movie. "Today, I feel that I am very lucky because my wife has forgiven me. My wife has endured what many women cannot, and even forgave me."

His wife, who spoke for about a minute, reiterated her love for Neo and their family. "I have only one thing to say. Because I love Jack Neo, because I love this marriage. I love my family. I am already very hurt, please let me off," she said before breaking down in sobs.

On their way out she collapsed and had to be helped along by her husband and some friends in the entertainment circle. At one point, Neo shouted at the crowd to leave them alone. This was followed by shouts at the media people by Neo's friends and actors.

Those present included his close friend Mark Lee, A-Nan, Shen Wei Jun, Tay Yin Yin and Wang Lei.

You can catch the video here. Some of Neo's fans had commented that the 'show' was staged.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

US$116mil Tea Party For 'Alice'

MARCH 9, 2010 - Alice in Wonderland had a US$116.1 million tea party over the weekend, shattering records for the time of year. That's more in just three days than the total gross of any other 2010 release. Alice's start made the highest-grossing March weekend ever: overall business boomed 69 percent over the same timeframe last year, when Watchmen debuted.

To hit US$116.1 million out-of-the-gate, Alice in Wonderland benefited from a combination of factors, including the involvement of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, who are among Hollywood's few bankable name talents.

The last two weekends' top movie, Shutter Island, is still strong, collecting US$13.2 million and increasing its total to US$95.8 million in 17 days. As for Avatar, it is still in the Top Five after 12 weeks, never mind if it failed to win major Oscars.

Here is the Top 5 North American B-O grosses for Mar 5-7, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Alice in Wonderland (Buena Vista) $116.1 million ($116.1 million) 1

2. Brooklyn's Finest (Overture Films) $13.3 million ($13.3 million) 1

3. Shutter Island (Paramount) $13.2 million ($95.8 million) 3

4. Cop Out (Warner Bros.) $9.2 million ($32.5 million) 2

5. Avatar (Fox) $8.1 million ($720.6 million) 12

Monday, March 08, 2010

No Surprises At Oscar Nite


MARCH 8, 2010 - If you have been following this year's movie awards, you should not be surprised by the results of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.

Sci-fi epic blockbuster Avatar is virtually snubbed (with two technical awards) while The Hurt Locker gets six of the best, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Sandra Bullock makes history for being the first actress to win the Razzie for Worst Actress and the Oscar for Best Actress all in one weekend!

Here are the Oscar winners:

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker (pictured)

Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)

Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo'Nique (Precious)

Animated Feature: Up

Art Direction: Avatar

Cinematography: Avatar

Costume Design: The Young Victoria

Directing: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

Documentary Feature: The Cove

Documentary Short: Music by Prudence

Film Editing: Bob Murawski and Chris Innis (The Hurt Locker)

Foreign Language Film: The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)
Directed by Juan José Campanella of Argentina

Make-up: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow (Star Trek)

Music (Original Score): Up by Michael Giacchino

Music (Original Song):"The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)"
Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Short Animated Film: Logorama

Short Film (Live Action): The New Tenants

Sound Editing: Paul N.J. Ottosson (The Hurt Locker)

Sound Mixing: Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett (The Hurt Locker)

Visual Effects: Avatar (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones)

Adapted Screenplay: Precious screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher

Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker by Mark Boal

Bullock Accepts Worst Actress Razzie

MARCH 7, 2010 - Proving what a sport she really is, Sandra Bullock accepted the Razzie award for Worst Actress of 2009 for her performance in All About Steve - just one day before she’s favoured to win an Oscar.

Bullock is the odds-on favourite to win the Best Actress Oscar. No one has ever won a Razzie and an Oscar the same year.

Bullock plays a socially awkward creator of newspaper crosswords who falls in love and stalks a cameraman (Bradley Cooper) in All About Steve. Organisers of the Razzies, an annual event that began in 1980 to spoof the Oscars, also named Bullock and Cooper the worst screen couple of 2009.

Here is the list of 2009 Razzie winners:

Worst Picture: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Worst Actor: The Jonas Brothers (Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience)

Worst Actress: Sandra Bullock (All About Steve)

Worst Supporting Actor: Billy Ray Cyrus (Hannah Montana: The Movie)

Worst Supporting Actress: Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra)

Worst Screen Couple: Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper (All About Steve)

Worst Screenplay: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Worst Director: Michael Bay (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)

Worst Remake/rip-off or Sequel: Land of the Lost

Friday, March 05, 2010

NINE - Still A Crowd-Pleaser

NINE (musical)
Cast: Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Stacy Ferguson, Martina Stella and Elio Germano
Director: Rob Marshall
Screenplay: Michael Tolkin and Anthony Mingella
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Nicole Kidman and Daniel Day-Lewis

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? With its cast of Oscar-winning stars and such huge names, who can resist this extravaganza, especially during Oscar season? However, Rob Marshall 're-imagining' of Frederico Fellinni's 8 1/2 is not as rousing and feet-tapping as his Oscar-winning Chicago, but this 'homage of sorts to Fellini' is worth the watch.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The celebrated and pompous film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is hit by writer's block. He struggles with his unwritten script for his comeback film called Italia. Looking for inspiration, he turns to his mistress (Penelope Cruz as Carla), his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his muse (Nicole Kidman as Claudia), his costume designer and confidante (Judi Dench as Lilli) and his childhood memories (especially of his mother, played by Sophia Loren) to solve his crisis.

REVIEW: Nine boasts 10 song-and-dance numbers, three of which are created specifically for the movie. All are solos, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard getting two each while the other six stars have one each. Although some of the songs advance the plot, some seem to have written to give its star a chance to sing and dance. This is especially true of Kate Hudson's Stephanie, whose "Cinema Italiano" is not in the Broadway production.

The most sexy and delectable is Cruz's seductive dream number (pictured right), while Fergie's "Be Italian," is also energetic and catchy. Too often, the narrative portions of Nine feel like bridges to move from one song to the next. It is a surprise to find that Hudson is so musically-inclined but the best songs are by Cotillard, the award-winning ingenue from La Vie En Rose.

The most disappointing is Kidman's number. There are also some awkward moments, but since we can root for Day-Lewis and his strong performance as the protagonist (based on Fellini, perhaps), we can overlook these and just enjoy the set pieces.

THE LOWDOWN: Definitely a crowd-pleaser.

WEEKEND PIC - March 5 - 7, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) INVICTUS (sports drama with Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood, Robert Hobbs, Langley Kirkwood, Bonnie Henna and Grant Roberts) Rated * * * (3 stars): Director Clint Eastwood's account of Nelson Mandela's role in the World Cup rugby game offers interesting insights into the 'healing' and re-unification of South Africa after decades of apartheid. Also notable are the perfs of Freeman as Mandela and Damon as team captain. (Reviewed below)

b) NINE (musical with Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Stacy Ferguson and Elio Germano) Rated * * * (3 stars): Rob Marshall's reworking of Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2 is not as stirring and rousing as his Oscar-winning Chicago but there are a few entertaining set pieces here, provided by its gifted cast. The sexy numbers by Cruz and Hudson are worth the price of the ticket. (Reviewed Above)

c) ALICE IN WONDERLAND (fantasy adventure with Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Mia Wasikowska, Matt Lucas and Marton Csokas) Rating * * * (3 stars): This is Tim Burton's remake of the Lewis Carroll classic with his trademark opulence and weirdness. Nice eye candy but nothing spectacular to excite the audience, though.

d) CONFUCIUS (biodrama with Chow Yun-Fat, Lu Yao, Zhou Xun and Chen Jian Bin) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The veteran Chow does a good impression of the ancient teacher and director Hu Mei serves up a rousing first half with political intrigues and war sequences. However, the film starts to go downhill in the second half, punctuated by a brief respite provided by the sexacious Zhou Xun. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1. 14 BLADES (martial arts fantasy with Donnie Yen, Vicky Zhao Wei, Kate Tsui, Wu Chun and Qi Yuwu) Rating * * * (3 stars): Daniel Lee is not much of a story teller but he has made a crowd-pleaser of a kungfu actioner. There are many impressive fight sequences, including one in which Kate Tsui does a mid-air striptease duel. Oh yes, there is also a nice love story and some wonderful locales and costumes.

2. PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: The Lightning Thief (fantasy adventure with Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Catherine Keener, Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd, Steve Coogan and Rosario Dawson) Rating * * * (3 stars): Made in the style of the Harry Potter fantasy, this 'pilot' effort about a demi-god kid getting involved in an Olympian conflict is entertaining enough but not outstanding. The CGI is great though, especially of Medusa, played by Thurman.

3. VALENTINE'S DAY (romantic comedy with Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, et al) Rated * * * (3 stars): Just like the day itself, this ensemble film is cliched, predictable and uneven. But then who can deny it makes a great date movie for courting couples and fans of the two Taylors? (Reviewed below)

4. FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (action thriller with John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Kasai Smutniak, Richard Durden, Melissa Mars, Amber Rose Revah and Farid Elouardi) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Luc Besson's actioner offers a high-voltage Travolta as a US Agent roughing up Paris but it is full of ridiculous action and lame lines. Thankfully, it has all the bang-bang stuff that action fans need. (Reviewed below)

5. THE BOOK OF ELI (futuristic adventure with Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Beals, Ray Stevenson and Tom Waits) Rated * * (2 stars): Just another dose of apocalyptic doom and gloom with Washington as a latter-day prophet guarding a precious Book. Impressive atmosphere but the plot is too incredulous to be convincing. (Reviewed below)