Monday, May 31, 2010

'Sex' and 'Prince Of Persia' Overtaken by Shrek

MAY 31, 2010 - Jerry Bruckheimer's Prince Of Persia and Sex And The City 2 are overtaken by green ogre Shrek at the North American box-office over the Memorial Day weekend.

However, the Memorial Day weekend is shaping up to be the lowest-grossing in nine years and the slowest in at least 15 years in terms of estimated attendance. Overall business was down around 20 per cent from the same period last year. The simple reason for this is the movies themselves: an indifference-inspiring brew of tepid holdovers and non-event new releases.

Shrek Forever After won the weekend by default, not because it exhibited any particular strength. The animated sequel grossed an estimated US$43.3 million Friday-to-Sunday, off 39 per cent from its opening weekend.

Sex and the City 2 grossed an estimated US$32.1 million on approximately 6,100 screens at 3,445 locations, bringing its total to US$46.3 million since its Thursday debut. That's a huge step backwards from the first Sex and the City, which bagged US$57 million on its first weekend.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time mustered an estimated US$30.2 million on around 5,600 screens at 3,646 locations. That was far less than any Pirates of the Caribbean or Mummy movie.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for May 28 - 30, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Shrek Forever After (Paramount/Dreamworks) $43.3 million ($133.0 mil) 2

2. Sex In The City 2 (WB) $32.1 million ($46.3 mil) 1

3. Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time (BV) $30.1 million ($30.1 mil) 1

4. Iron Man 2 (Paramount) $16.0 million ($274.6 mil) 4

5. Robin Hood (UIP) $10.3 million ($83.0 million) 3

Sunday, May 30, 2010

'Easy Rider' Dennis Hopper Dies of Cancer

MAY 29, 2010 - 'Easy Rider' star Dennis Hopper is reported to have died at his home in Venice, California, today after a battle with prostrate cancer. He was 74.

Hopper (right) was last seen in public in March when he was honoured with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. He directed the 1969 counter-culture road movie Easy Rider, which he co-wrote with and starred alongside Peter Fonda. The pair were nominated for a best screenplay Academy Award.

Following a promising start to his career, Hopper developed a reputation as a rabble-rouser with a penchant for drink and drugs. He was reported to have rows with directors and fellow actors, including John Wayne on the set of True Grit (1969).

Hopper was 19 when he was cast in his first movie opposite none other than James Dean in the 1955 Rebel Without a Cause. Later, in 1956, he co-starred with Dean again in Giant. Hopper won critical acclaim and several awards for this role as Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986). He received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Hoosiers in 1986.

Hopper's is the second celebrity death this weekend - after TV star Gary Coleman (of Diff'rent Strokes) who died on Friday (May 28) at age 42 of brain hemorrhage.

Friday, May 28, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - May 28 - 30, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) PRINCE OF PERSIA: The Sands Of Time (fantasy adventure with Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and Alfred Molina) Rated * * * (3 stars): Typical Bruckheimer actioner with almost non-stop stunts and chases to satisfy the adrenalin addict. After milking the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, it is now the Sands Of Time videogame franchise and the going looks good. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1. SHREK FOREVER AFTER (animated comedy with Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Justin Timberlake, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Amy Sedaris) Rated * * * (3 stars): With the franchise going into its 'mid-life' crisis after three instalments, it is time for Shrek, Fiona and friends to live happily Forever After. This swan song is a fitting goodbye to the inhabitants of Far Far Away, with a story about Shrek being cast into an alternate world where his existence is threatened. (Reviewed below)

2. ROBIN HOOD (adventure reboot with Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like Batman, Iron Man and Superman, this origin movie starts a new series of Sherwood Forest tales. It is not the comedic adventures we know but one steeped in English history with Crowe playing Gladiator in tights. (Reviewed below)

3. IRON MAN 2 (fantasy action with Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau and Kate Mara) Rated * * * (3 stars): Downey Jr is back as Tony Stark/Iron Man in another action-packed instalment with Rourke as the menacing Whiplash. Not as fun as the first, and the CGI sequences look a bit deja vu but the grand prix mayhem stands out as the best action piece of the film. And yes, Johansson rocks as she provide some nifty fight scenes and eye candy. (Reviewed below)

4. LETTERS TO JULIET (love story with Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael García Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, Lidia Biondi and Daniel Baldock) Rating * * * (3 stars): An entertaining and engrossing romantic fantasy about an aspiring writer (Seyfried) helping to trace and reunite a pair of star-crossed lovers while she is in Verona. Of course, this sets off a chain of events that changes her life too.

5. THE BOUNTY HUNTER (Romantic comedy with Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Christine Baranski, Jason Sudeikis, Natalie Morales and Cathy Moriarty) Rated * * (2 stars): It is a one-gag movie that is not romantic, nor is it funny. However, to sustain viewer interest, director Andy Tennant throws in lots of action stunts and chases, and of course constant glimpses of Aniston's famous twin assets. (Reviewed below)

6. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (horror thriller with Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Lia D. Mortensen, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz and Clancy Brown) Rating * * (2 stars): Another series reboot but after so many sequels and a TV series, Freddy Krueger is not so much the villain but a victim of greed and exploitation. Leave this Nightmare alone.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brittany Murphy's Widower Found Dead


MAY 24, 2010 - Simon Monjack, widower of Brittany Murphy, was found dead at the home the couple once shared in the Hollywood Hills. The Los Angeles Police Department said Monjack was pronounced dead late Sunday night.

A 911 call was placed to come to the aid of Monjack at 9pm Sunday. Resuscitation efforts failed and Monjack died of cardiac arrest. Monjack had reportedly suffered a minor heart attack shortly before his wife's death.

Brittany Murphy died on December 20, 2009 from pneumonia, with other conditions contributing but not directly related to the immediate cause of death being iron deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication.

Picture: Simon and Brittany


PRINCE OF PERSIA: The Sands Of Time - Action Caper

PRINCE OF PERSIA: The Sands Of Time (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and Alfred Molina
Director: Mike Newell
Screenplay: Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Jordan Mechner and Boaz Yakin (from the 2003 videogame)
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Arterton and Gyllenhaal in PRINCE OF PERSIA

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL: Having milked the Pirates Of The Caribbean theme for all he can get, producer Jerry Bruckheimer is turning to the Arabian Nights-based vidgame as his new cash cow. Yeah, after what Pirates and Transformers did at the box-office, there can be no doubt that this Prince of Persia will work up a storm at the cineplexes.

Bruckheimer and director Mike Newell seem to be trying to raise the standard in CGI action sequences and stunts, as usual, without caring much for credibility or IQ.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: After being framed for the murder of the benevolent King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), adopted Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) escapes with Princess Tamina (Gemina Arterton) and a dagger that can 'rewind' time.

And no prizes for guessing that the baddies are also trying to get their hands on the dagger.

HITS & MISSES: The first thing that strikes me as odd about this movie is that the Arabian hero and heroine (Gyllenhaal and Arterton) speak with an English accent. Then after catching a few more minutes of the incredulous story, I cease to care about the accent or anything that resembles logic - and just join the flow of the adventure.

Newell, who has tried his hand on CGI magic with Harry Potter, makes everything look and feel fast and exciting. We wish he had done something about the convoluted plot, though. As the hero of the piece, Gyllenhaal is not as charming as Johnny Depp's Capt Jack Sparrow but he should be fine with the ladies in the audience in the macho department. Arterton's Brit accent makes her look out of place in the movie - but we soon warm up to her as the princess/priestess. However, as far as romance is concerned, there won't be much lust in the dust.

Ben Kingsley, as the villainous brother of the king, and Alfred Molina, as a conniving trader who runs ostrich races, help to provide colour and comic relief.

THE LOWDOWN: The start of another Bruckheimer blockbuster franchise.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Shrek 4 Tops US B-O at Weaker Opening

MAY 24, 2010 - Shrek Forever After opened far, far below the mighty starts of its predecessors, grossing an estimated US$71.3 million. Shrek the Third still holds the record for highest-grossing animated opening with US$121.6 million, followed by Shrek 2 at US$108 million and The Simpsons Movie at US$74 million. Shrek Forever After ranks fourth on that list, although, in terms of estimated attendance, it would barely make the Top 20.


The weekend's other new nationwide release, MacGruber, imploded with an estimated US$4.1 million at 2,551 sites, which was a fraction of Austin Powers and Undercover Brother and not much better than Delta Farce among past comparable May titles.

Here is the Top 6 North American B-O estimates for May 21 - 23, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank,
Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Shrek Forever After (Par/Dreamworks) $71.2 million ($71.2 mil) 1

2. Iron Man 2 (Paramount) $26.6 million ($251.6 mil) 3

3. Robin Hood (UIP) $18.7 million ($66.1 million) 2

4. Letters To Juliet (Summit) $9.1 million ($27.4 million) 2

5. Just Wright (Fox) $4.2 million ($14.6 million) 2

6. MacGruber (Uni) $4.1 million ($4.1 mil) 1

Thursday, May 20, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - May 21 - 23, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) SHREK FOREVER AFTER (animated comedy with Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Justin Timberlake, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Amy Sedaris) Rated * * * (3 stars): With the franchise going into its 'mid-life' crisis after three instalments, it is time for Shrek, Fiona and friends to live happily Forever After. This swan song is a fitting goodbye to the inhabitants of Far Far Away, with a story about Shrek being cast into an alternate world where his existence is threatened. (Reviewed below)



b) LETTERS TO JULIET (love story with Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael García Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, Lidia Biondi and Daniel Baldock) Rating * * * (3 stars): An entertaining and engrossing romantic fantasy about an aspiring writer (Seyfried) helping to trace and reunite a pair of star-crossed lovers while she is in Verona. Of course, this sets off a chain of events that changes her life too.

c) THE BOUNTY HUNTER (Romantic comedy with Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Christine Baranski, Jason Sudeikis, Natalie Morales and Cathy Moriarty) Rated * * (2 stars): It is a one-gag movie that is not romantic, nor is it funny. However, to sustain viewer interest, director Andy Tennant throws in lots of action stunts and chases, and of course constant glimpses of Aniston's famous twin assets. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. ROBIN HOOD (adventure reboot with Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like Batman, Iron Man and Superman, this origin movie starts a new series of Sherwood Forest tales. It is not the comedic adventures we know but one steeped in English history with Crowe playing Gladiator in tights. (Reviewed below)

2. IRON MAN 2 (fantasy action with Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau and Kate Mara) Rated * * * (3 stars): Downey Jr is back as Tony Stark/Iron Man in another action-packed instalment with Rourke as the menacing Whiplash. Not as fun as the first, and the CGI sequences look a bit deja vu but the grand prix mayhem stands out as the best action piece of the film. And yes, Johansson rocks as she provide some nifty fight scenes and eye candy. (Reviewed below)

3. MOTHER AND CHILD (drama with Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, David Morse, Amy Brenneman, Tatyana Ali, Carla Gallo, Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson) Rated * * * (3 stars): This ensemble effort about three women involved in child adoption should be the most appropriate film for moms and daughters to catch on Mother's Day this weekend. Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia has opted for a touch of reality instead of a feel-good ending. (Reviewed below)

4. CROSSING HENNESSY (romance drama in Cantonese with Jacky Cheung, Tang Wei, Paw Hee Ching, Andy On, Maggie Ho Yee Cheung, Danny Lee and Mimi Chu) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Directed by Ivy Ho as a realistic film about a matched-made couple, this one turns out rather mundane and boring. The scenes are shot in the famous Wan Chai area of HK but we don't get enough insights into its uniqueness either. (Reviewed below)

5. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (horror thriller with Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Lia D. Mortensen, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz and Clancy Brown) Rating * * (2 stars): Another series reboot but after so many sequels and a TV series, Freddy Krueger is not so much the villain but a victim of exploitation. Leave this Nightmare alone.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SHREK FOREVER AFTER - A Fitting Finale

SHREK FOREVER AFTER (animated comedy sequel, also in 3D)
Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Justin Timberlake, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Amy Sedaris
Director: Mike Mitchell
Screenplay: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: After almost a decade and four instalments of green ogre humour that is Shrek, it is time to wave goodbye to the franchise and move on. Shrek Forever After is planned as the final sequel and closes the series in 3D glory.

Well, it is about time too, since Shrek is suffering from midlife crisis both in its storyline and at the box-office.

THE SKINNY: At the opening, we find Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) in boring marital bliss, with his three adorable ogre kids. Shrek longs for the old days and after a nervous breakdown at a birthday party, he finds himself making a pact with the devil, or in this case, the vengeful Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who blames everyone for his miserable life.

Planning to make himself ruler of the land, he offers Shrek a day to re-live his life and the naïve ogre accepts. Stilskin chooses the day Shrek was born thrusting him back into a place that has no idea he ever existed. There he meets up with friends who claim they never knew him including Donkey (Eddie Murphy), now basically a chauffeur for the witches who serve Stiltskin's every need; and Puss ‘N Boots (Antonio Banderas), the once proud cat who has clearly let himself go.

Shrek soon discovers that he will soon cease to exist entirely unless he can score a magical kiss with Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who is now a freedom fighter for the Ogres and leading the resistance to Stiltskin.

HITS & MISSES: As usual, the best parts of the Shrek franchise are the sight gags, the clever little asides rooted in fairy-tale revisionism and the terrific vocal performances by Murphy and Banderas. We get all these here, thanks to scripters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke, and a 'sequel-prequel' plot that is impressively enhanced by 3D.

For me, it is always nice to see the popular Shrek characters back in action, particularly Banderas' Puss who (like all house pets we know) has been spoilt by the good life. Banderas is reportedly getting a Puss N Boots spin-off next year, so Shrek fans need not pine too much.

THE LOWDOWN: A really happy-after send-off for a hugely popular franchise.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Iron Man 2 Fights Off Robin Hood at US B-O

MAY 18, 2010 - Iron Man 2 fought off the challenge of 'newcomer' Robin Hood at the North American Box-Office, collecting US$52 million compared to the English archer's US$36 million.

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood attempted a gritty origin story, instead of a swashbuckler in the vein of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Another recent medieval movie, King Arthur, tried a new spin on a famous story, but was a bust, grossing only US$51.9 million in its entire run.

Two romances, Letters to Juliet and Just Wright, counter-programmed Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood to make the list at No 3 and 4 respectively.

Here is the Top 5 North American B-O actuals for May 14 - 16, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Iron Man 2 (Paramount) $52.0 million ($211.2 mil) 2

2. Robin Hood (UIP) $36 million ($36 million) 1

3. Letters To Juliet (Summit) $13.5 million ($13.5 million) 1

4. Just Wright (Fox) $8.2 million ($8.2 million) 1

5. How To Train Your Dragon (Dreamworks) $5 million ($207.6 mil) 8.

(On a personal note, I have just arrived in Oklahoma, in the US, and will be blogging from here, Indiana and elsewhere for the next two months).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

'New Moon' Gets 8 MTV Movie Awards Nods

MAY 15, 2010 - Who says you have to act well to be nominated for an award? To get an MTV Movie Award nod, all you have to do is star in a hugely popular film.

Yes folks, the three leads from The Twilight Saga: New Moon and the sequel topped the MTV’s 2010 Movie Awards with eight nominations. Avatar and The Hangover came in second place with six nods each.

The vampire sequel made the Best Movie list, Best Actress (Kristen Stewart), Actor (Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner), Best Kiss, and the new category Global Superstar, which all three stars are up for against nominees Johnny Depp and Daniel Radcliffe.

The MTV Movie Awards debuted in 1992 and had made its reputation by poking fun at mainstream Hollywood films. It will air live at 8pm on MTV on June 6, 2010, hosted by funnyman Aziz Ansari from the NBC comedy Parks & Recreation.

Here are the nominations:

BEST MOVIE
Alice in Wonderland
Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hangover
The Twilight Saga: New Moon

BEST MALE PERFORMANCE
Channing Tatum, Dear John
Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Robert Pattinson, The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Taylor Lautner, The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Zac Efron, 17 Again

BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Amanda Seyfried, Dear John
Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Kristen Stewart, The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Zoe Saldana, Avatar

BEST VILLAIN
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Helena Bonham Carter, Alice In Wonderland
Ken Jeong, The Hangover
Stephen Lang, Avatar
Tom Felton, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE
Ben Stiller, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Bradley Cooper, The Hangover
Ryan Reynolds, The Proposal
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover

BEST FIGHT
Beyoncé Knowles vs. Ali Larter in Obsessed
Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber vs. Ryan Reynolds in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Logan Lerman vs. Jake Abel in Percy Jackson And The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Robert Downey Jr. vs. Mark Strong in Sherlock Holmes
Sam Worthington vs. Stephen Lang in Avatar

BEST KISS
Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in The Runaways
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal
Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner in Valentine's Day
Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington in Avatar

BEST BREAKOUT STAR
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Chris Pine, Star Trek
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Logan Lerman, Percy, Jackson And The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Quinton Aaron, The Blind Side
Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover

BEST WTF MOMENT
Betty White, feeling up the bride, in The Proposal
Bill Murray, as himself, in Zombieland
Isabel Lucas and her robot tongue, in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
Ken Jeong, booty call out of the box scene, in The Hangover
Megan Fox, projectile vomiting, in Jennifer's Body

BEST SCARED AS SH*T PERFORMANCE
Alison Lohman, Drag Me to Hell
Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer's Body
Jesse Eisenberg. Zombieland
Katie Featherston, Paranormal Activity
Sharlto Copley, District 9

BIGGEST BADASS STAR
Angelina Jolie
Channing Tatum
Chris Pine
Rain
Sam Worthington

GLOBAL SUPERSTAR
Daniel Radcliffe
Johnny Depp
Kristen Stewart
James Pattinson
Taylor Lautner

Friday, May 14, 2010

BOUNTY HUNTER - An Unromantic Farce

THE BOUNTY HUNTER (romantic comedy)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Christine Baranski, Jason Sudeikis, Natalie Morales, Cathy Moriarty, Daisy Tahan and Siobhan Fallon
Director: Andy Tennant
Screenplay: Sarah Thorp
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Butler and Aniston in THE BOUNTY HUNTER

PREAMBLE: Let me see. This movie is supposed to be a romantic comedy.

So what's so romantic about it? Well, if you deem handcuffing your loved one to the bed, zapping him with a taser-gun, and locking her in the trunk of the car as romantic gestures, then Bounty Hunter must be romantic.

What's so funny about it? The one joke here is that a Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler), an ex-New York City cop turned bounty hunter, gets to bring his ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston) in for violating bail bond. Milo finds this assignment the irony of his life - and he seems to be the only one laughing (as no one in the audience would).

Wait. This is also an action comedy with car chases, golf-cart crashes and even a trishaw number thrown in. But then this is supposed to be a rom-com, remember? So these action sequences are meant to augment the gags!

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? From the title and what I have written above, you should know the premise.

HITS & MISSES: Daily News reporter Nicole skips court ostensibly to meet up with a snitch who may have some info on a 'suicide' case. This is flimsy motivation to kick start the main plot that screenwriter Sarah Thorp has packed with farcical action. She has also contrived some 'colourful' side gags: There is Stewart (Jason Sudekis of Saturday Night Live) who is so haplessly into Nicole that he nearly gets killed stalking her; and Christine Baranski plays Nicole's horny mother who wants a picture of Milo's bum. At the end of the movie, we are still unclear about the 'suicide' case that involved a cache of drugs and a suspected betrayal by a friend.

But then director Andy Tennant (of Hitch and Fool's Gold fame) must have figured that with the hunky Butler and sexy Aniston (whose cleavage is always part of her act) running around chasing each other, no one would bother about the plot or the storyline. The audience know how this Battle of the Exes is going to end anyway, so why bother filling in the details?

THE BOTTOM LINE: An unromantic farce.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - May 14 - 16, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) ROBIN HOOD (adventure reboot with Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like Batman, Iron Man and Superman, this origin movie starts a new series of Sherwood Forest tales. It is not the comedic adventures we know but one steeped in English history with Crowe playing Gladiator in tights. (Reviewed below)

b) CROSSING HENNESSY (romance drama in Cantonese with Jacky Cheung, Tang Wei, Paw Hee Ching, Andy On, Maggie Ho Yee Cheung, Danny Lee and Mimi Chu) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Directed by Ivy Ho as a realistic film about a matched-made copule, this one turns out rather mundane and boring. The scenes are shot in the famous Wan Chai area of HK but we don't get enough insights into its uniqueness either. (Reviewed below)

c) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (horror thriller with Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Lia D. Mortensen, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz and Clancy Brown) Rating * * (2 stars): Another series reboot but after so many sequels and a TV series, Freddy Krueger is not so much the villain but a victim of exploitation. Leave this Nightmare alone.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. IP MAN 2 (HK kungfu thriller with DOnnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung and Kent Cheng) Rating * * * (3 stars): This sequel comes with fantastically choreographed fighting scenes, especially the one between Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung (to reflect the two styles of Wing Chung versus Hung Ga Kuen). Again, it is not as impressive as the predecessor (the storyline of the sequel is a bit derivative) but still compelling for Ip Man fans.

2. IRON MAN 2 (fantasy action with Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau and Kate Mara) Rated * * * (3 stars): Downey Jr is back as Tony Stark/Iron Man in another action-packed instalment with Rourke as the menacing Whiplash. Not as fun as the first, and the CGI sequences look a bit deja vu but the grand prix mayhem stands out as the best action piece of the film. And yes, Johansson rocks as she provide some nifty fight scenes and eye candy. (Reviewed below)

3. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (comedy with Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Devon Bostick, Zachary Gordon and Alex Ferris) Rated * * * (3 stars): This 'journal' recounts the misadventures of 11-year-old Greg (Gordon) in middle school where he learns what it means to be popular and accepted by his peers. Funny at times, it should strike a chord with most preteens and their family. (Reviewed below)

4. MOTHER AND CHILD (drama with Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, David Morse, Amy Brenneman, Tatyana Ali, Carla Gallo, Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson) Rated * * * (3 stars): This ensemble effort about three women involved in child adoption should be the most appropriate film for moms and daughters to catch on Mother's Day this weekend. Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia has opted for a touch of reality instead of a feel-good ending. (Reviewed below)

5. THE LOSERS (action thriller with Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Chris Evans and Óscar Jaenada) Rated * * (2 stars): Like most comic-book adaptations, it's thick with testosterone-filled action but very low on logic. The plot, about a Special Ops team taking revenge after being betrayed by a power-hungry maniac, is derivative of all the espionage movies. (Reviewed below)

CROSSING HENNESSY - Upstaged by Subplots

CROSSING HENNESSY (love story)
Cast: Jacky Cheung, Tang Wei, Paw Hee Ching, Andy On, Maggie Ho Yee Cheung, Danny Lee and Mimi Chu
Director: Ivy Ho
Screenplay: Ivy Ho
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Jacky Cheung and Tang Wei in CROSSING HENNESSY

PREAMBLE: With Crossing Hennessy, writer-director Ivy Ho apparently aims at accomplishing two things: tell the love story between two people on opposite sides of Hennessy Road in a 'realistic light'; and provide a touch of nostalgia to the colourful Wan Chai area of Hong Kong which is to be 'dismantled' for an 'Urban Renewal' project.

She is only partly successful on both counts. What I felt at a morning media screening of this film was mostly boredom, excerbated by a few moments of delightful comedy provided by its secondary cast. A predictable tale with an abrupt ending.

THE SKINNY: Loy (Jacky Cheung) is a 40-something bachelor who still lives with his mother (Paw Hee Ching) and works at her electrical appliance retail shop on one side of Hennessy Road of Hong Kong island. On the other side, Oi Lin (Tang Wei) works at her uncle's shop selling sanitary hardware. Loy and Oi Lin are being matched for marriage by their elders and are forced to go on a date. They do so reluctantly, as each already has someone on the side.

Oi Lin is in love with Xu (Andy On), a hot-head convicted for assaulting someone; and Loy is being wooed by his ex-girlfriend (Maggie Cheung Ho Hee) who has just divorced her husband. Are the two really meant for each other - or just two folks passing by the same road?

HITS & MISSES: In trying to present the love story in its 'realistic' and genuine light, we get mundane scenes of everyday life - inside shops, homes and rooms - with nothing inventive or creative to grab our wandering attention. And believe me, after so many of such 'nothing happens' scenes, your mind will start to wander. Jacky Cheung's performance is up to par, portraying a sleepy-head with low self-esteem and no passion for romance. Tang Wei, however, appears wooden here, quite unlike her femme fatale role in her last film, Lust, Caution. The two leads are not only devoid of screen chemistry, they are upstaged by the supporting cast and subplots.

Indeed, veterans Danny Lee, Paw Hee Ching (pictured) and Zhu Mimi provide laughs and lots of local humour with a romantic triangle subplot while Gill Mohindepaul Singh and Lowell Lo are involved in supernatural and dream sequences as a mysterious waiter and Loy's late father respectively. Ekin Cheng also makes a brief appearance, ostensibly to excite the audience.

As a swan song of sorts to Wan Chai district, Crossing Hennessy does little to evoke the history or provide insights to the famous district. Ivy Ho has written many commendable films (the 2002 July Rhapsody and 2005 Divergence spring to mind) but displays nothing outstanding or memorable as director of this sophomore effort (after Claustrophobia of 2008).

THE LOWDOWN: Mainly for diehard romantics.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Men In Black 3 for May 2012 in 3D

MAY 10, 2010 - Columbia Pictures has announced that Men in Black III will be released in 3D on May 25, 2012.

Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the first two instalments of the blockbuster franchise, will direct the film from a screenplay by Etan Cohen, based on the comic book by Lowell Cunningham. Steven Spielberg is set to executive produce.


Deals are set for Will Smith, Sonnenfeld and the producing team to return to the blockbuster franchise with the intent to begin production this fall and the studio is in advanced negotiations with Tommy Lee Jones to reprise his role as Agent Kay. Josh Brolin is also in talks to star as a young Agent Kay. (Pic above: Smith & Jones)

Jeff Blake, Chairman of Sony Pictures Worldwide Marketing and Distribution said: “Sony's summer of 2012 will get off to a red hot start with an incredible new 3D adventure for the Men in Black. We couldn't be more excited that the original filmmaking team responsible for the first two worldwide hits is reuniting for this third installment. We love where the story is taking Agents Jay and Kay and know this new chapter will deliver a fresh fun twist for fans of the franchise while also introducing the Men in Black to a whole new generation of moviegoers.”

The first two MiB films, released in 1997 and 2002, went on to become two of the most successful films in Columbia Pictures history, taking in more than US$1 billion combined worldwide. The first film in the franchise won an Academy Award for Best Makeup and was nominated for two other Oscars.

Iron Man 2 Tops US B-O at US$133m


MAY 10, 2010 - Striking with an estimated US$133.6 million in a blazing start to the summer movie season, Iron Man 2 shot past the debut of the first Iron Man, which kicked off with US$98.6 million on the same weekend in 2008. The sequel also rocketed to fifth place among the highest-grossing opening weekends of all time, slotting behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's US$135.6 million launch.

Elsewhere, the list for the rest remains like that of the previous weekend.

Here is the Top 6 North American B-O estimates for May 7 - 9, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. Iron Man 2 (Paramount) $133.6 million ($133.6 mil) 1

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (WB) $9.1 million ($48.5 million) 2

3. How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks) $6.7 million ($201.0 mil) 7

4. Date Night (Fox) $5.3 million ($80.8 million) 5

5. The Back-Up Plan (CBS) $4.3 million ($29.4 million) 3

6. Furry Vengeance (Sum) $4.0 million ($11.6 million) 2

Sunday, May 09, 2010

ROBIN HOOD - 'Gladiator' in Nottingham

ROBIN HOOD (swashbuckling adventure)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Time: 145 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: Forget everything you know about Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Sherwood Forest. Wipe away images of those Men In Tights robbing the rich and helping the poor, the pretty damsel Maid Marion, Little John and the dastardly
Sheriff of Nottingham. The legend of Robin the Hood gets an overhaul by Ridley Scott and writer Brian Helgeland - and you can hardly recognise the structure of the legend until you get to the end of the movie.

Yup, folks, like The Dark Knight, Iron Manand others, this is another origin movie that sees director Scott teaming up again
with Russell Crowe 10 years after Gladiator!


THE SKINNY: Helgeland's tale deals with the adventures of Robin Longstride (Crowe), an archer in the Crusading army of Richard the Lionheart, long before he is known to all and sundry as Robin Hood. During a battle against the French, Robin learns of the 'death' of King Richard and sees it as an opportunity to flee from the army. On his way back to England, he chances upon the critically injured Sir Robert of Loxley (Douglas Hodge) and promises the dying knight that he will take a sword back to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow).

At Sir Walter's home near Nottingham, Robin meets Robert's faithful widow Marion (Cate Blanchett) and accepts Sir Walter's proposal to masquerade as Robert, his 'prodigal son'. This means getting involved with the Loxleys' problems like over-taxation by the town's sheriff (Matthew Macfadyen) and helping to protect them from pillaging attacks by King John's emissary Godfrey (Mark Strong).

HITS & MISSES: Early reports about the script suggested that Robin was supposed to be a villain and the Sheriff of Nottingham the hero. This proved to be false because Scott seeks to be faithful to history in this reimagining of the English folklore (mostly told in ballads). Indeed, Scott spends a lot of time on the political intrigues of King John's (Oscar Isaac) court involving Godfrey, William Marshall (William Hurt) and the Queen, painting a realistic and vibrant portrait of 12th Century England. In fact some of the scenes remind me of the TV series, The Tudors, which had a handful of the same co-stars. And that beach landing sequence is definitely reminiscent of the World War Two landings at Normandy!

Anyway, with Crowe and Blanchett (pictured) in the lead, we can always expect powerful performances and rousing scenes of battles and romance. Even though Blanchett's Marion is no maiden, it is easy to root for her because she is as feisty as she is pretty and very handy with a bow and arrow. As for Crowe, it is easy to dismiss his performance as Gladiator Maximus in Nottingham but that may not be accurate. What I had wished for was for more humour than those provided by Mark Addy's Frair Tuck and Scott Grimes' Will Scarlet.

THE LOWDOWN: Robin Hood stands among the great origin stories like The Dark Knight and Iron Man and we look forward to its sequel.

Friday, May 07, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - May 7 - 9, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (comedy with Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Devon Bostick, Zachary Gordon and Alex Ferris) Rated * * * (3 stars): This 'journal' recounts the misadventures of 11-year-old Greg (Gordon) in middle school where he learns what it means to be popular and accepted by his peers. Filled with kiddie humour, it should strike a chord with most preteens and their family. (Reviewed below)

b) MOTHER AND CHILD (drama with Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, David Morse, Amy Brenneman, Tatyana Ali, Carla Gallo, Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson) Rated * * * (3 stars): This ensemble effort about three women involved in child adoption should be the most appropriate film for moms and daughters to catch on Mother's Day this weekend. Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia has opted for a touch of reality instead of a feel-good ending. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1. IP MAN 2 (HK kungfu thriller with DOnnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung and Kent Cheng) Rating * * * (3 stars): If you have been missing out on Chinese martial arts action, this is where you can whet your appetite. The sequel comes with fantastically choreographed fighting scenes, especially the one between Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung (to reflect the two styles of Wing Chung versus Hung Ga Kuen). Again, it is not as impressive as the predecessor (the storyline of the sequel is a bit derivative) but still compelling for Ip Man fans.

2. IRON MAN 2 (fantasy action with Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau and Kate Mara) Rated * * * (3 stars): Downey Jr is back as Tony Stark/Iron Man in another action-packed instalment with Rourke as the menacing Whiplash. Not as fun as the first, and the CGI sequences look a bit deja vu but the grand prix mayhem stands out as the best action piece of the film. And yes, Johansson rocks as she provide some nifty fight scenes and eye candy. (Reviewed below)

3. KICK-ASS (comedy spoof with Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Charles Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage and Tamer Hassan) Rated * * * (3 stars): It's both a comedy adventure as well as a spoof on costumed superheroes that one New York student named Dave decides to become. There are some cool moments, like when Hit Girl does her stuff, but the movie is uneven at best. (Reviewed below)

4. ICE KACANG PUPPY LOVE (local love story with Nicholas Teo (Ah Niu), Angelica Lee, Penny, Victor Wong, Gary Chaw, Fish Leong, Chan Kwok-kwan) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A simple yet engaging local drama with interesting locations, especially in Penang. Except for Lee, the cast looks amateurish but a brave and promising effort on the whole by director Ah Niu.

5. THE LOSERS (action thriller with Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Chris Evans and Óscar Jaenada) Rated * * (2 star): Like most comic-book adaptations, it's thick with testosterone-filled action but very low on logic. The plot, about a Special Ops team taking revenge after being betrayed by a power-hungry maniac, is derivative of all the espionage movies. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

MOTHER AND CHILD - Mother's Day Treat

MOTHER AND CHILD (drama)
Cast: Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, David Morse, Amy Brenneman, Tatyana Ali, Carla Gallo, Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Rodrigo García
Screenplay: Rodrigo García
Time: 123 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Jackson and Watts in MOTHER AND CHILD

PREAMBLE: This film seems to be the only fitting Mother's Day treat for those planning to celebrate with their moms at the cineplex. Male action fans may find it a bit slow and dragging but moms and daughters are likely enjoy the drama, especially the ensemble effort by Annette Bening and Naomi Watts.

THE SKINNY: Mother And Child is about three women involved in or affected by child adoption. Karen (Bening) is a grumpy spinster who lives in L.A. with her ailing mother (Eileen Ryan). Her mood and attitude towards life is affected by her obsession about the baby she gave up for adoption 37 years ago.

Elizabeth (Watts) is a successful lawyer who also lives in L.A. Her taste in men is questionable, not unlike Karen's. While Elizabeth beds her neighbour and her boss (Samuel L. Jackson), Karen finds solace in an old flame (David Morse) and is pursued by a co-worker (Jimmy Smits). However, Elizabeth, who was given for adoption as a newborn, ponders about her natural mother but is reluctant to look for her.

The third woman is Lucy (Kerry Washington) who desperately wants to adopt a baby and start a family with her hubby Joseph (David Ramsey).

HITS & MISSES: Mother And Child, written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, is structured like the award-winning Crash and Babel (which was directed by its executive producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu). Like the two films, this one works slowly up to a crescendo where the three 'subplots' come together, seemingly in a collision course.

However, the primary attraction of this effort is the ensemble cast, most of whom play against type and providing a sense of everyday realism. Bening, whose lines are loaded with bad attitude, is the most impressive.

THE LOWDOWN: A great bonding flick for mothers and daughters.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID - Preteen Hijinks

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (comedy)
Cast: Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Devon Bostick, Zachary Gordon and Alex Ferris
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Screenplay: Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, based on the novel by Jeff Kinney
Time: 93 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Grayson Russell, Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron in Diary of a Wimpy Kid

PREAMBLE: There have been countless comedies about the trials and tribulations of college kids. Now it is the turn of middle school children (or preteens) - as seen from the eyes of novelist-cartoonist Jeff Kinney. Adapted from his bestseller of the same title, the movie recounts the (mis)adventures of its protagonist, 11-year-old Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon).

Like the books, the movie targets young children who will relate well to Greg but adults, especially parents, may also find it interesting, if not funny.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Greg documents his first year of middle school in his journal (not diary, he insists), taking note of the social anxieties and identity crises that pop up in that strange environment called school. At home, he has to contend with his mother (Rachael Harris), a distracted dad (Steve Zahn), a nasty older brother (Devon Bostick as Rodrick) and a toddler brother Manny, who all provide moments of predictable comedy.

The main plot involves Greg’s relationship with his best pal, Rowley (Robert Capron), a tubby, cheery fellow whom Greg rejects for not being cool enough. As for his relationship with girls, it is more of an intrusion into his life than a welcomed distraction.

HITS & MISSES: Staying rather faithful to the 2007 'novel-in-cartoons', director Thor Freudenthal (who gave us Hotel For Dogs) has no problem getting the audience to root for Greg especially when Gordon portrays him as a cute and rather small-sized victim of girls and school bullies.

Youngsters in the audience may also relate to the recurring subplot of a dropped slice of cheese in the playground which provide a yukky 'urban legend' of sorts for the kids. It is to his benefit that Freudenthal keeps the comedy simple and superficial for the preteens who will form the majority of his viewers. Those who are used to rowdier and saucier comedy may find this Diary rather childish and tame.

THE LOWDOWN: A fun treat with cool insights into the world of the preteens.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Freddy Krueger Slashes US B-O

MAY 3, 2010 - Freddy Krueger is the top menace of the North American box office chart with his ninth cinematic outing in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. It grossed an estimated US$32.2 million at No. 1. This perch is shaky considering Iron Man 2's opening in the US this Friday.

Elsewhere, new release Furry Vengeance opened the weekend at an estimated US$6.5 million at No. 5 spot.

Here is the Top 5 North American B-O estimates for April 30 - May 2, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (WB) $32.2 million ($32.2 million) 1

2. How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks) $10.8 million ($192.3 million) 6

3. Date Night (Fox) $7.6 million ($73.6 million) 4

4. The Back-Up Plan (CBS) $7.2 million ($22.9 million) 2

5. Furry Vengeance (Sum) $6.5 million ($6.5 million) 1