Saturday, July 31, 2010

'Joshua Tapes' To Open on Sept 30 at GSC


JULY 31, 2010 - Fans of Baki Zainal, one of the stars of NTV7's Mr. Siao's Mandarin Class, will get to see him in an independent local feature film called The Joshua Tapes on September 30 showing exclusively at GSC cinemas.

The movie, shot in peninsular Malaysia in June 2008, is directed by Arivind Abraham and Benji Lim who also served as writer and cameraman.

The Joshua Tapes is about three young friends who set off on a road trip that takes them through the heartland of Malaysia. Riding on a Pajero, they journey to the scenic East Coast, hoping to take in the sights. However, as their journey takes a series of unexpected turns, their inner demons close in on them.

The bonds of friendship that hold the boys together will be tested to the breaking point, leading them down a road of self-discovery. The Joshua Tapes is a story of friendship, truth and redemption, and of how the search for these things sometimes hurt, but ultimately heals us all.

The movie also stars Baki as Reza, Phoon Chi Ho (of comedy trio, MACC a.k.a. Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians) as Ryan, Matthew Ho Tien Li as Ajeet, Alfred Loh as Joshua, and Grace Ng Fei Fen as Sam.

Co-director Abraham previously released S'kali in 2006 and has also directed a thriller called 5:13. Benji Lim was a co-director (with Bahir Yeusuff) of the 15Malaysia short film Meter that starred Khairy Jamaluddin.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - July 30 - Aug 1, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) SALT (spy thriller with Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alex Pettyfer, Gaius Charles, Victor Slezak, Daniel Olbrychski and Marion McCorry) Rated * * * (3 stars): Jolie gives a jolly good account of herself as a double/triple agent in this Cold War spy caper centred on the affiliations of her character. Expectedly, the plot has to be taken with more than the proverbial pinch of Salt but the Bourne-type action and the twists should go down well with Coke and popcorn. (Reviewed below)

b) MONGA (Taiwan gangster drama with Ethan Juan, Mark Chao, Ma Ju-lung, Ko Chia-yen, Rhydian Vaughan, Jason Wang, Tsai Chang-hsine, Huang Teng-hui, Chen Han-tien and Hsing Feng) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Touted as Taiwan's New Wave cinema, Monga deals with five young gangstas in a 'hood downtown. Its story is interesting but the film looks rather amateurish compared with similar Hong Kong efforts. The main attraction for Taiwanese is the cast of TV heartthrobs. They're not so attractive for others. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1. INCEPTION (sci-fi thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine and Lukas Haas) Rated * * * * (4 stars!): By now, it is impossible for one to escape reading or listening to people taking about Inception, Christopher Nolan's 'dream-travel' masterpiece. The tale is so intriguing and complex that it may take more than one viewing for one to appreciate its nuances and conceits. The special effects are top class and so are the performances and plot. (Reviewed below)

2. TOY STORY 3 (Computer animated comedy in 3D with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger and Estelle Harris) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): This is a winner of a comedy for both young and old right from start to finish. I had not expected it but Pixar has done it again with this highly creative and mischievous sequel greatly enhanced by 3D. Yup, it is fun and enchanting to be back with the toys again.

3. DESPICABLE ME (animated comedy with Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Julie Andrews, Danny R. McBride, Kristen Wiig and Jack McBrayer) Rating * * * (3 stars): With its tale about a villain named Gru, it's quite the opposite of The Incredibles but just as funny and fun. It represents the inaugural entry for Universal into the field of 3D CGI and will give Pixar a run for the money.

4. CHLOE (suspense thriller with Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Nina Dobrev, Max Thieriot, Meghan Heffern and Laura DeCarteret) Rated * * * (3 stars): Remade from the French film Natalie, Chloe may be remembered for the real-life tragedy Neeson suffered when his wife, Natasha Richardson, died after an accident and interrupted the filming schedule. It is also director Atom Ergoyan's rather titillating effort about a doctor (Moore) who hires an escort to seduce her husband (Neeson) to verify his fidelity. I watched this on DVD some time ago and expect some cuts in the screening here. (Reviewed below)

5. THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (fantasy thriller with Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Nicole Ehinger, Peyton List and Monica Bellucci) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This Disney cartoon, with its title from the 1940 Fantasia segment, is loud, noisy and largely uninspired. Still, the kiddie crowd may be enthralled by the cute special effects, in this tale about how a boy (Baruchel) is told he is apprentice to the magician Merlin's protege (Cage).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SALT - Goes Well With Coke & Popcorn

SALT (spy thriller)
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alex Pettyfer, Gaius Charles, Victor Slezak and Marion McCorry
Director: Phillip Noyce
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer and Brian Helgeland
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Schreiber, Ejiofor and Jolie in SALT

PREAMBLE:
Someone must have thrown some salt over the shoulder for this movie because it has been blessed with a bit of luck. One instance is the substitution of Angelina Jolie for Tom Cruise for its title character. This definitely gives the Cold War espionage caper more sex appeal - a sort of 'Jane Bourne' with boobs and high heels, prancing about Washington DC and New York City, trying to solve a complicated double-agent case.


The second is the recent real-life news of Russian spies found in the USA - lending credence to its plot that there are still Russian 'sleepers' trying to wreak havoc on America (as opposed to modern terrorist attacks, of course). The third is the choice of Phillip Noyce, who had helmed Tom Clancy's classics like and Clear And Present Danger and Patriot Games, as director. His experience with films about political intrigue is certainly welcome here.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Jolie is Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who interrogates a Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski as Orlov) who reveals that she (Salt) is in fact a Russian sleeper agent who will assassinate the President of Russia (Olek Krupa) during his upcoming visit to New York City. She worries that her husband (August Diehl) might be in danger and therefore doesn't want to wait around while her bosses work out whether or not she is guilty as charged. She breaks out of the CIA building and heads straight to NYC, where, we will discover, the truth about her affiliations and mission.

HITS & MISSES: Like the Bond and Bourne films, the 'one-woman-against-the-world' plot has to be taken with more than a proverbial pinch of salt. Still, Jolie has us rooting for her right from the start not just because of her gender but because she has the well-being of her German hubby and their pet dog at heart. Indeed, Jolie has developed a lot since her Lara Croft days - and she is surer of herself and her role as kick-ass agent. Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor support admirably as Salt's CIA boss and federal agent respectively.

The problem most people would have with Salt is its preposterous plot and twists that come with lots of plot holes. Throughout the movie we would be wondering how Jolie's character plays out - but the actions of her Evelyn Salt is not satisfactorily explained. Suffice it is to say that at 95 minutes, Salt gives enough taste and spice to an entertaining summer outing.

THE LOWDOWN: Salt goes pretty well with Coke and popcorn.

Monday, July 26, 2010

'Inception' Tops US Weekend B-O Again

JULY 26, 2010 - Sci-fi thriller Inception remains the most popular film in North America over the weekend. Angelina Jolie's new action pic Salt had to settle for second place but the spy thriller still generated a healthy opening.

Declining by a slim 31%, Inception topped the charts once again with an estimated US$43.5 million rocketing its 10-day tally to US$143.7M. It was the second lowest drop witnessed all year for a wide release in its sophomore frame and put the Leonardo DiCaprio hit on track to break the US$250 million mark and possibly the US$300 mil barrier as well. Playing in 3,792 theatres, including 197 IMAX sites, the mind-bending film averaged a muscular US$11,473.

Inception has an incredible road ahead of it. Word-of-mouth is amazing, repeat business is solid, competition over the coming weeks is not too fierce, and midweek sales have been enormous. It may even extend its streak to three weeks at Number One. The hold was especially impressive given the arrival of another star-driven action thriller in Salt.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for July 23-25, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Inception (WB) $43.3 million ($143.6 million) 2

2. Salt (Sony) $36.5 million ($36.5 mil) 1

3. Despicable Me (Universal) $24.1 million ($161.7 mil) 3

4. The Sorcerer's Apprentice (BV) $9.6 million ($42.6 million) 2

5. Toy Story 3 (BV) $9.0 million ($379.5 million) 6

Sunday, July 25, 2010

MONGA - A Surprise From Taiwan

MONGA (gangster drama in Mandarin & Hokkien)
Cast: Ethan Juan, Mark Chao, Ma Ju-lung, Ko Chia-yen, Rhydian Vaughan, Jason Wang, Tsai Chang-hsine, Huang Teng-hui, Chen Han-tien and Hsing Feng.
Director: Doze Nui
Screenplay: Tseng Li-ting and Doze Niu
Time: 145 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

THE GANG: Vaughan (second from left), Ethan Juan (centre) and Mark Chao (second from right)

PREAMBLE:
Released in February this year, the epic-styled Monga was a runaway hit in Taiwan, grossing US$1.6 million (RM5.2
mil) in its first week. Its success in Taiwan should be obvious. Besides the historical interest in its locale (the Wanhua district of Taipei), there is the attraction of its young and hot cast of TV stars like Ethan Juan, Mark Chao and the Tom Cruise lookalike, Rhydian Vaughan.

Needless to say, Monga's success gives fresh hope to starting a 'new wave' in Taiwan's film industry. Elsewhere, however, it has to compete with the more vibrant and better-made Hong Kong gangster efforts - and the differences and weaknesses may be glaring.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Set in the 80s, high school student Mosquito (Mark Chao) explains at the start that he became a gangster because of a chicken leg. The chicken leg was his lunch and when a bully snatched it away from him, the so-called Prince Gang, led by Dragon Lee (Vaughan) intervenes - and recruits him into the 'brotherhood of five' - with Monk (Ethan Juan), Monkey and A-Po. The boys get along reasonably well with their elders, the Temple Front triad led by Dragon's dad, Geta (Ma Ju-lung).

The gang's youthful skirmishes and street fights soon develop into a more sinister conflict when mainland gangsters like Gray Wolf (played by director Doze Nui himself) try to muscle into Monga with guns - considered cowardly weapons by the locals.

With a power struggle in the cards, conspiracies and betrayal follow. Will friendship triumph over greed and power?

HITS & MISSES: The coming-of-age story may seem cliched but it has enough twists and turns to sustain our interest. Director Niu has developed Mosquito's character (as a fatherless kid brought up by his hair-salon owner mother) well enough to get our sympathy even though some of the subplots may be rather incredible. A case in point is his platonic relationship with a young prostitute (Ko Chia-yen) that seems a bit badly contrived. Also, the camera work on the Monga locations looks good (at least to non-Taipeh residents) and the lapses into Hokkein dialect lend a touch of reality to the film (although it can be irritating to some).

What I dislike most about the movie is the slow and draggy narrative - with repetitious bonding scenes taking nearly two-and-a-half hours to unfold a story that should be familiar to fans of gang flicks about brotherhood and betrayal. Indeed, compared to Western and HK films, the action here is mighty tame. Acting-wise, Chao and Vaughan appear rather wooden but Juan provides a powerful account of himself. Niu is also convincing as the mysterious old flame of Mosquito's mother and newcomer to the district.

THE LOWDOWN: Promising but not compelling.

CHLOE - Egoyan's Soft-Porn

CHLOE (suspense drama)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Nina Dobrev, Max Thieriot and Meghan Heffern
Director: Atom Egoyan
Screenplay: Erin Cressida Wilson
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Seyfried and Moore in CHLOE

PREAMBLE:
There are two things to note about this 2009 release: That its filming was interrupted by the tragic death of Liam Neeson's wife Natasha Richardson (on March 19, 2009), and that it has some rather shocking scenes (of Julianne Moore and starlet Amanda Seyfried) which have been censored for screening in Malaysia.


On the first point, it was feared that the tragedy may have contributed to the seemingly abrupt ending of the movie, and on the second, I want to clarify that I watched the uncensored DVD in the US last year and found that the erotic sequences certainly helped to build the sexually-charged atmosphere of the plot.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Adapted from the French movie Natalie, its plot is about gynaecologist Dr Catherine Stewart (Moore) who suspects her husband David (Neeson), a professor of music, of having an affair with one of his students. She tests his fidelity by hiring social escort Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to seduce him and then report the details to her.

Although the couple and their 17-year-old son (Max Thieriot as Michael) appear to be the ideal family, their careers and raising a child have put strains on the marriage. Their relationship is suffering from loss of communication and Catherine's own insecurity about her age. However, her attempt to catch David at cheating on her turns out to be more that what she had bargained for...

HITS & MISSES: Director Atom Egoyan and scripter Erin Cressida Wilson have devised very credible characters in the Stewart family. Moore's busy doctor, and Neeson, as her flirtatious hubby, are representative of folks suffering from mid-life crises. A case in point is when Catherine makes a fuss about her son's girlfriend prancing about the house in her underwear. This, we learn, is more because of her jealousy (of the girl's youth) than of moral propriety.

Thieriot is also well portrayed as an estranged son seeking privacy and freedom from 'over-caring' parents.

My problem with the movie lies in the character of Chloe who remains too much of an enigma even though her actions are self-explained. With her sexy looks and self-confidence, she could have anyone she wants, both male and female. That's why the plot, especially the abrupt ending, seems to have been rushed and incomplete. It is no fault of Seyfried who seems to have made this role a breakthrough for her career.

THE LOWDOWN: If you are interested, get the (authentic) DVD.

Friday, July 23, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - July 23 - 25, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND FILMS

NEW THIS WEEK

a) CHLOE (suspense thriller with Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Nina Dobrev, Max Thieriot, Meghan Heffern and Laura DeCarteret) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Remade from the French film Natalie, Chloe may be remembered for the real-life tragedy Neeson suffered when his wife, Natasha Richardson, died after an accident and interrupted the filming schedule. It is also director Atom Ergoyan's rather tittilating effort about a doctor (Moore) who hires a 'social escort' to seduce her husband (Neeson) to verify his fidelity. I watched this on DVD some time ago. Expect some cuts in the screening in Malaysia. (Review pending)

b) THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (fantasy thriller with Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Nicole Ehinger, Peyton List and Monica Bellucci) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This Disney cartoon, with its title from the 1940 Fantasia segment, is loud, noisy and largely uninspired. Still, the kiddie crowd may be enthralled by the cute special effects, in this tale about how a boy is told he is apprentice to the magician Merlin's protege (Cage).

STILL GOING STRONG

1. INCEPTION (sci-fi thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine and Lukas Haas) Rated * * * * (4 stars!): By now, it is impossible for one to escape reading or listening to people taking about Inception, Christopher Nolan's 'dream-travel' masterpiece. The tale is so intriguing and complex that it may take more than one viewing for one to appreciate its nuances and conceits. The special effects are top class and so are the performances and plot. (Reviewed below)

2. TOY STORY 3 (Computer animated comedy in 3D with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger and Estelle Harris) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): This is a winner of a comedy for both young and old right from start to finish. I had not expected it but Pixar has done it again with this highly creative and mischievous sequel greatly enhanced by 3D. Yup, it is fun and enchanting to be back with the toys again.

3. DESPICABLE ME (animated comedy with Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Julie Andrews, Danny R. McBride, Kristen Wiig and Jack McBrayer) Rating * * * (3 stars): With its tale about a villain named Gru, it's quite the opposite of The Incredibles but just as funny and fun. It represents the inaugural entry for Universal into the field of 3D CGI and will give Pixar a run for the money.

4. THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (romantic fantasy with Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone and Dakota Fanning) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This third instalment is a great improvement on New Moon with better performances and more action but for non-Twilight fans like me, the triangle love story is getting tiresome and silly. It would have helped if Stewart had made Bella more credible and sympathetic to the audience but she is just not up to it. (Reviewed below)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

RIP Benjamin McKay

Pse Note: Funeral on Sunday, July 25, 10am

JULY 22, 2010
- Australian lecturer and film reviewer Benjamin McKay passed away recently. The Malay Mail reported yesterday that when he did not show up for work at Monash University last Monday, some friends visited his condominium at Pantai Panorama, Bangsar South, and found him dead on the kitchen floor.


The body was taken to University Malaya Medical Centre for a post-mortem and it was that learnt McKay, 46, had died of a heart attack.

McKay wrote many articles on the independent film industry. He had publications like Independent Cinemas in Contemporary Southeast Asia; Auteur-ing Malaysia: Yasmin Ahmad and Dreamed Communities, and Reclaiming History: the politics of memory in trauma in the films of Amir Muhammad.

A wake will be held on Friday, July 23, from 6pm to midnight at the Xiao En Bereavement Centre, No. 1, Jalan Kuari, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. The funeral will be on Sunday, July 25, at 10am at the same venue. Those attending have been requested to come in bright colours, not the sombre black.

May he rest in peace.

Emily Mortimer joins Scorsese's Hugo Cabret Cast

JULY 22, 2010 - British-born Emily Mortimer (City Island, pictured) and Golden Globe nominee Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) have joined the ensemble cast of Martin Scorsese’s adventure film Hugo Cabret shooting now in London.

The live action 3-D film, based on Brian Selznick’s New York Times best-seller The Invention of Hugo Cabret, stars Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfied and Chloë Moretz. It is written by John Logan and produced by Scorsese, Graham King, Tim Headington and Johnny Depp.

Hugo Cabret, Scorsese’s first film shot in 3D, tells the tale of an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. When Hugo encounters a broken machine, an eccentric girl, and the cold, reserved man who runs the toy shop, he is caught up in a magical, mysterious adventure that could put all of his secrets in jeopardy.

Emily Mortimer reunites with Scorsese in Hugo Cabret having appeared in the director’s hit thriller Shutter Island. Mortimer’s recent films include City Island, Harry Brown, Transsiberian, Lars and the Real Girl, Redbelt, The Pink Panther and its sequel, and Woody Allen’s Match Point.

She next stars opposite Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel in My Idiot Brother, a comedy to be directed Jesse Peretz.

Stuhlbarg next co-stars as organized crime boss Arnold Rothstein in the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot and HBO series "Boardwalk Empire." He first worked with Scorsese on "The Key to Reserva," a short homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Stuhlbarg's film credits also include the title role in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man (Golden Globe, London Film Critics Circle awards nominations) as well as Body of Lies and "The Grey Zone." A classically trained stage actor, he received a Tony Award nomination and Drama Desk Award for his performance in Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, staged by John Crowley.


Also appearing in Hugo Cabret’s all-star cast are Academy Award nominee Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes), Ray Winstone (London Boulevard), Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings), Helen McCrory (The Special Relationship), Frances de la Tour (Alice In Wonderland), and Richard Griffiths (The History Boys).

Hugo Cabret re-teams Scorsese, King, and Logan, all of whom worked together on The Aviator. It also reunites Scorsese with several of his long-time collaborators, including director of photography Robert Richardson (Shutter Island, Inglourious Basterds), production designer Dante Ferretti (Shutter Island, Sweeney Todd), costume designer Sandy Powell (Shutter Island, The Young Victoria), and editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Shutter Island, The Departed), all multiple-time Oscar winners, as well as casting director Ellen Lewis (The Departed, The Aviator).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'Inception' Tops US Weekend B-O


JULY 20, 2010 - Christopher Nolan's Inception made a dreamy debut over the weekend, extracting US$62.8 million on approximately 7,100 screens at 3,792 locations. Overall weekend business was further buttressed by the continued strength of Despicable Me and other holdovers plus the mediocre launch of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, leading to an 11 percent increase over the same time frame last year, when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince dominated.

Inception marked another commercial coup for writer-director Nolan following the record-breaking The Dark Knight, and it delivered the biggest opening of Leonardo DiCaprio's career, exceeding Shutter Island.

Despicable Me dipped 42 percent to US$32.8 million. That lifted its total to US$118.4 million in 10 days, leap-frogging past The Last Airbender's US$115.1 million 17-day haul in the process. Airbender dropped to No 7 on the list.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O actual grosses for July 16 - 18, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Inception (WB) $62.7 million ($62.7 million) 1

2. Despicable Me (Universal) $32.8 million ($118.4 mil) 2

3. The Sorcerer's Apprentice (BV) $17.6 million ($24.7 million) 1

4. Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit) $13.4 ($264 million) 3

5. Toy Story 3 (BV) $11.9 million ($362.9 million) 5

Thursday, July 15, 2010

INCEPTION - Nolan's Best Yet

INCEPTION (sci-fi thriller)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine and Lukas Haas
Writer-Director: Christopher Nolan
Time: 148 mins
Rating: * * * * (out of 4!)

One of the gravity-defying dream-trips in INCEPTION

PREAMBLE: I normally hate it when a movie is so complex and complicated that it demands a second or third viewing. However, Christopher Nolan's Inception is so fascinatingly original and compelling that I wouldn't mind multiple viewings knowing that I will be getting a deeper understanding of the movie each time.

Indeed, Inception stands out from the summer fare that we are getting these days. Its 'dream-trip' conceit is as bold as The Matrix and it grips you so intellectually and emotionally that you will be talking about it long after the movie. And why not, the idea had been cooking in Nolan's head for eight years and it was thanks to the global success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight that Nolan managed to get funding for this mega-budget film.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Inception is basically a 'heist' flick about a special ops team led by Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) that infiltrates peoples' minds to extract the darkest secrets from their subconscious. In this film, however, Dom is hired by a Japanese businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform an 'inception', planting an idea so deep in the subconscious of rival CEO Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) that he believes he had thought of it himself.

Watanabe and Cotillard

Dom's team includes his second-in-command Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt); an architectural prodigy named Ariadne (Ellen Page of Juno), a thief named Eames (Tom Hardy), and chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao). Among the obstacles to the mission is that Dom is haunted by 'appearances' of his late wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), who shows up now and again, messing up his mind.

HITS & MISSES: Much of the first hour is spent on laying out this sci-fi idea to the audience. As we observe an extraction that fails and Dom's recruitment of his new team around the world, the movie lays out all the hows, whys and what-the-hells behind 'extractions'. Even then, it is difficult to grasp these fanciful conceits and plot turns at the first sitting. That's why we may need multiple viewings.

Cotillard and DiCaprio

And they will be worth it because Nolan has so many eye-popping and mind-boggling dream sequences (shot in six countries) spread out in the film. Indeed, here CGI gimmicks are used to enliven and enhance the plot - and not the other way around. Among them are the scenes of a hotel corridor rolling in another; zero-gravity fights in hallways, roads and buildings folding up like a book and cliffs collapsing into oceans. Also, Nolan explores the ramifications of 'collective unconscious', like, what it can mean to share someone else's dreams, and how two or more people can meet in a dream and in reality with different results.


Heading the cast, DiCaprio provides another top class performance, well-aided by Cotillard who infuses beauty and mystique into the proceedings. Page provides the 'Watson' equivalent to the proceedings and helps us understand what's going on. Michael Caine has a cameo as Dom's dad while Pete Postlethwaite plays Fischer's dying father.

THE LOWDOWN: Arguably, this is Nolan's best effort yet and it is bound to generate lots of buzz in the media. Get 'Incepted' and don't be left out of the loop.

Monday, July 12, 2010

'Despicable Me' Tops US Weekend B-O

JULY 12, 2010 - Gru and his army of Minions manage to dominate the North American Box-Office, taking Despicable Me to the top of the weekend list, grossing an estimated US$60 million. The other new release Predators was far behind, although it still performed admirably compared to past entries in the franchise.

Holdovers The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Toy Story 3 continued to play well, while The Last Airbender had a considerable drop-off.

Here is the list of the Top 5 North American B-O estimates for July 9 - 11, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Despicable Me (Universal) $60.1 million ($60.1 mil) 1

2. Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit) $33.4 ($237 million) 2

3. Predators (Fox) $25.3 million ($25.3 million) 1

4. Toy Story 3 (Buena Vista) $22.0 million ($340.2 million) 4

5. The Last Airbender (Paramount) $17.1 ($100.2 mil) 2

Friday, July 09, 2010

Avatar: Special Edition To Open on Aug 26

JULY 9, 2010 - Twentieth Century Fox and James Cameron have announced that AVATAR: SPECIAL EDITION will be released in Malaysia cinemas on August 26 in a limited engagement and exclusively in Digital 3D.

This version of Cameron’s ground-breaking epic will include more than eight minutes of new footage. Since – and largely as of result of -- AVATAR’s release last December, the number of available digital 3D screens has exploded, and moviegoers who missed experiencing the film in 3D will now have that opportunity.

Cameron said: "Audiences repeatedly told me they wanted more of Pandora, and wished they could have stayed there longer. So we’re making that possible. The Special Edition will be exclusively in 3D, and will have eight minutes of never before seen footage, including new creatures and action scenes. Whether you already love the movie, or you've never seen it, with this Special Edition, you'll be seeing it like never before."

The Oscar and Golden Globe winning epic is the highest grossing film of all time, taking in over US$2.7 billion in worldwide box office. It is also the top-selling Blu-ray disc of all time. Director James Cameron takes audiences to a spectacular world beyond imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization.

Avatar delivers a fully immersive cinematic experience of a new kind, where the revolutionary technology invented to make the film disappears into the emotion of the characters and the epic nature of the story.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - July 9 - 11, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) DESPICABLE ME (animated comedy with Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Julie Andrews, Danny R. McBride, Kristen Wiig and Jack McBrayer) Rating * * * (3 stars): With its tale about a super villain named Gru (voiced by Carell), the story is quite the opposite of The Incredibles but just as wacky and fun. It represents the inaugural entry for Universal into the field of 3D CGI and will give Pixar a run for the money.

b) THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (romantic fantasy with Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone and Dakota Fanning) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This third movie is a great improvement on New Moon with better performances and more action but for non-Twilight fans like me, the triangle love story is getting tiresome and silly. It would have helped if Stewart had made Bella more credible and sympathetic to the audience but she is just not up to it. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1) TOY STORY 3 (Computer animated comedy in 3D with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger and Estelle Harris) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): This is a winner of a comedy for both young and old right from start to finish. I had not expected it but Pixar has done it again with this highly creative and mischievous sequel greatly enhanced by 3D. Yup, it is fun and enchanting to be back with the toys again.

2. THE KARATE KID (kungfu drama with Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Han Wenwen and Wang Zhenwei) Rated * * * (3 stars): Consider this remake as a warm-hearted but lightweight tribute to Jackie Chan and you will enjoy the movie which sort of updates the original, taking the venue to China and showing kungfu instead of karate. Jaden Smith may not act like a pro but he still has his boyish Happyness charm that clicks well with Jackie's. (Reviewed below)

3. KNIGHT AND DAY (action thriller with Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Maggie Grace, Peter Sarsgaard, Marc Blucas, Paul Dano and Viola Davis) Rated * * * (3 stars): Spiced with more action than reason , this is somewhat like a Mission: Impossible caper and Vanilla Sky put together. It is a typical summer action flick but with lots of bubbly screen chemistry from Cruise and Diaz. (Reviewed below)

4. THE BACK-UP PLAN (romantic comedy with Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Noureen DeWulf, Donal Logue, Melissa McCarthy, Harold Gould, Jennifer Elise Cox and Linda Lavin) Rated * * (2 stars): This one looks like a one-joke movie that loses its direction right from the start - and has to resort to irrelevant and ill-contrived measures to get the laughs. J-Lo looks fetching but she cannot carry the comedy and we lose interest in her halfway through the show. (Reviewed below)

5. SEX AND THE CITY 2 (Comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Mario Cantone and Willie Garson) Rated * * (2 stars): The first impression I got from watching this sequel is that the cast has aged so much since the first movie. Then I realised that even the comedy and gags are repetitive and dated. It was like watching an episode of the Pre-Golden Girls. And to make things worse, it is dragged to almost two-and-a-half hours long. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Porn star Pledges Blowjobs If Netherlands Win

JULY 7, 2010 - The Huffington Post reported that Dutch porn star Bobbi Eden (right) wrote on Twitter that she "will give a BJ (blowjob) to all my followers" if the Netherlands wins the (World Cup) soccer tournament this weekend.

Having vanquished Uruguay in the semifinals, the Netherlands are just one win away from potentially triggering an oral sex extravaganza. According to the bizarre tweet, several fellow actresses could join the the festivities. Eden currently has more than 23,000 followers. She also tweeted that "details on how to collect your Blow Job will be given on Monday after the World Cup finals."

Eden is not the first woman to make an erotic oath during the 2010 World Cup. Gorgeous lingerie model Larissa Riquelme promised to run naked through the streets of Paraguay if her team won the tournament. When the Paraguayans were eliminated in the quarterfinals, it seemed that the South American beauty's vow would not be realized. However, Riquelme has decided to run nude after all, as a "present" to Paraguay's soccer players.

For details, check out http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23teamBJ

TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE - Less Anaemic Than New Moon

TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (romantic fantasy)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz and Dakota Fanning
Director: David Slade
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg
Time: 124 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Lautner, Stewart and Pattinson

PREAMBLE: I'll get right to the point: Eclipse is a better movie than the disaster that was New Moon and the introductory Twilight. The performances, especially that of protagonist Kristen Stewart, have improved somewhat, and there is more action and tension, making Part Three less anaemic that its predecessors.

But Eclipse is far from being the epic romance hit that it strives to be. At the core of the movie is the love triangle (or messy romantic tangle) among Bella Swan (Stewart), Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and this is where the problem lies. As the centre of the triangle, and indeed the whole movie, Stewart is emotionally vapid and detached. Those who have read the book may read more in her portrayal, but she fails to get our sympathy and, worse, we don't feel that she is really in any danger - except from her own self.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT? Edward proposes to Bella but she is hesitant, apparently still thinking of Jacob who believes he is the one for her. Besides this soap opera (devised by author Stephenie Meyer), we are told that Bella's life is in danger and she is in need of much protection, ostensibly against an army of 'newborn vampires' sent by the vengeful Victoria (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard). Victoria wants revenge on the Cullens and Bella for the death her lover James (in the first film).

And guess what? Not only the vampires of the town of Forks team up to protect her, but the werewolves, led by Jacob, also volunteer to take part in the battle against Victoria's minions. And yes, there's the Volturi, led by Jane (Dakota Fanning), that does nothing much other than watch and talk in riddles.

HITS & MISSES: It is understandable that director David Slade tries his utmost to please the legions of Twilight fans in the audience - the screaming young girls who swoon at every kiss between Edward and Bella, delight in the sight of a shirtless Lautner (pic), and get excited over stolen embraces between Bella and Jacob. Those who are not Twilight fans, however, would be wondering what sort of tramp Bella is, wanting to have her (beef) cake and eat it? She just reminds us of the spoilt brat who courts trouble wherever she goes.

Still, Spade conjures some rivetting moments out of the love tangle: I like the well-written tent scene where Edward has to give in to Jacob for the sake of Bella; the graduation speech by Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick; and Billy Burke's Charlie who agonises over his daughter's romantic exploits. Also, we laugh when we hear Edward asking if Jacob even owns a shirt.

The blood-sucking and conversion sequences, and the battle scenes (against the newborns) are nothing to shout about. They only seem to offer a balance between action and the dialogue sequences, although we would be wondering what happens to the clothes when the native boys become wolves. Fanning and most of the additional cast are wasted. With many such shows around, the vampire-werewolf novelty of the Twilight franchise is wearing off.

THE LOWDOWN: An improved version but not that compelling a sequel.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Eclipse Tops US Independence Day Weekend

JULY 5, 2010 - Showing at a record 4,468 locations (but far from a record screen count), Twilight Saga: Eclipse drew less over the three-day weekend than it did on its first day: an estimated US$66 million. That ranked as the third highest-grossing Independence Day opening weekend ever, behind Spider-Man 2's US$88.2 million and Transformers' US$70.5 million.

The top weekends for this holiday tend to be muted mostly due to the movies burning off some demand with weekday debuts, and Eclipse was no different, giving it the appearance of paling in comparison to The Twilight Saga: New Moon's US$142.8 million first weekend and even the first Twilight's US$69.6 million.

Summit's weekend exit polling indicated that 65 percent of the Eclipse audience was female, and 55 percent was 21 years of age and older. That's more male and older than that for New Moon, which was 80 percent female and 50 percent under 21, but New Moon's first weekend included its opening day, when the series' young female devotees were in maximum force.

The Last Airbender harnessed an estimated US$40.5 million at 3,169 locations over the three-day weekend. With Monday, its four-day weekend was an estimated $53.2 milion, bringing its five-day start to $70.5 million. That stood as writer-director M. Night Shyamlan's third highest-grossing opening behind Signs and The Village. The adaptation of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender apparently had a significant built-in fan base, because the picture's marketing did little to capture the uninitiated, besides showing off the movie's fantastical action and special effects.

Here is the Top 6 North American B-O estimates for July 2 - 4, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.


1. Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit) $69,000,000 ($161 million) 1

2. The Last Airbender (Paramount) $40,525,000 ($56.8 mil) 1

3. Toy Story 3 (Buena Vista) $30.1 million ($289.0 million) 3

4. Grown Ups (Sony/Columbia) $19.1 million ($77.6 mil) 2

5. Knight & Day (Fox) $10. million ($45.7 million) 2

6. The Karate Kid (Sony/Columbia) $8.1 million ($151.6 million) 3

Sunday, July 04, 2010

'Eclipse' Takes An Expected Dip on Thursday

JULY 1, 2010 - Twilight Saga: Eclipse raked in US$24.2 million on Thursday July 1 to lead the daily box office, while The Last Airbender blew into second with an estimated US$16.35 million first day gross.

Eclipse scored the second highest-grossing non-opening Thursday ever, behind Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen's $29.1 million, despite plummeting 65 percent from its massive $68.5 million Wednesday opening. Its two-day tally stands at a mighty $92.7 million, trailing New Moon's $115 million though flying much higher than the first Twilight's $57.3 million.

After such a fevered opening day, an extreme drop-off was to be expected for Eclipse. After all, New Moon's second day was a Saturday, and it still fell 42 percent. Eclipse's decline, though, was the steepest on record coming off of a Wednesday opening. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which previously held the Wednesday opening record with $62 million, fell 53 percent at the same point.

Playing on approximately 4,600 screens at 3,169 locations or considerably less than Eclipse's estimated 8,200 screens at 4,416 locations, The Last Airbender notched the fifth highest-grossing Thursday opening of all time, though it was far behind fourth place Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's US$25 million and was a fraction of the last two Star Wars movies.

Last Airbender's Thursday included around US$3 million from its midnight launch, which was the largest midnight start of the summer for a non-sequel. - Report by Boxofficemojo.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Andrew Garfield Picked As the Next Spider-Man

JULY 1, 2010 - Sony Pictures has announced that actor Andrew Garfield (pic, right) has been chosen to portray Peter Parker in its Spider-Man reboot that will open on July 3, 2012.

The new film will begin production in early December, directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay by
James Vanderbilt. Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad will produce the film from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.

The confirmation culminates what has been one of the most eagerly anticipated casting announcements in recent memory. Bloggers, pop culture speculators, and fans have pored over every conceivable online rumour in an attempt to discover the identity of the next actor to play Peter Parker. Garfield will immediately begin preparing for the coveted role.

Andrew Russell Garfield (born in Los Angeles, 20 August 1983) has appeared in radio, theatre, film, and television. He is known for his roles in the 2007 films Lions for Lambs and Boy A (for which he won the BAFTA for Best Actor in 2008). He also appeared in 2009's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and The Other Boleyn Girl.

On selecting Garfield, director Webb commented: “Though his name may be new to many, those who know this young actor’s work understand his extraordinary talents. He has a rare combination of intelligence, wit, and humanity. Mark my words, you will love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.”

All I can say is that he will have a tough time filling Tobey Maguire's shoes as the new web-spinner.

WEEKEND PIC - July 2 - 4, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) THE BACK-UP PLAN (romantic comedy with Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Noureen DeWulf, Donal Logue, Melissa McCarthy, Harold Gould, Jennifer Elise Cox and Linda Lavin) Rated * * (2 stars): This one looks like a one-joke movie that loses its direction right from the start - and has to resort to irrelevent and ill-contrived measures to get the laughs. J-Lo looks fetching but she cannot carry the comedy and we lose interest in her halfway through the show. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1) TOY STORY 3 (Computer animated comedy in 3D with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger and Estelle Harris) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): This is a winner of a comedy for both young and old right from start to finish. I had not expected it but Pixar has done it again with this highly creative and mischievous sequel greatly enhanced by 3D. Yup, it is fun and enchanting to be back with the toys again.

2. THE KARATE KID (kungfu drama with Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Han Wenwen and Wang Zhenwei) Rated * * * (3 stars): Consider this remake as a warm-hearted but lightweight tribute to Jackie Chan and you will enjoy the movie which sort of updates the original, taking the venue to China and showing kungfu instead of karate. Jaden Smith may not act like a pro but he still has his boyish Happyness charm that clicks well with Jackie's. (Reviewed below)

3. KNIGHT AND DAY (action thriller with Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Maggie Grace, Peter Sarsgaard, Marc Blucas, Paul Dano and Viola Davis) Rated * * * (3 stars): Spiced with more action than reason, this is somewhat like a Mission: Impossible caper and Vanilla Sky put together. It is a typical summer action flick but with bubbly screen chemistry from Cruise and Diaz. (Reviewed below)

4. SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE (romantic comedy with Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, Lindsay Sloane, Krysten Ritter, Mike Vogel, Geoff Stults, Nate Torrence and Hayes MacArthur) Rating * * * (3 stars): A raunchy and sometimes funny rom-com for the young crowd - once they accept the conceit that a girl rated 10 (Eve) can go for a 5-rated guy (Baruchel). The comedy is uneven and vulgar but it has characters we can really root for.

5. THE A-TEAM (action drama with Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Maury Sterling, Gerald McRaney) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): As can be expected, this one is a loud, mindless and uninspired adaptation of the TV series (that was also loud and mindless). After an initial hurrah, the A-Team is likely to go into C-minus territory at the box-office.

6. SEX AND THE CITY 2 (Comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Mario Cantone and Willie Garson) Rated * * (2 stars): The first impression I got from watching this sequel is that the cast has aged so much since the first movie. Then I realised that even the comedy and gags are repetitive and dated. It was like watching an episode of the Pre-Golden Girls. And to make things worse, it is dragged to almost two-and-a-half hours long. (Reviewed below)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Twilight Saga: Eclipse Breaks Midnight B-O Record

JULY 1, 2010 - Twilight Saga: Eclipse broke the box-office record with its midnight launch, grossing over US$30 million (RM96 million) at more than 4,000 cineplexes. That surpassed Twilight Saga: New Moon's previous benchmark of US$26.3 million. Included in Eclipse's sum was a new IMAX midnight milestone of over US$1 million at 192 venues, topping Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen's $959,000.

Additionally, the first Twilight and New Moon were re-issued as a one-off, pre-Eclipse double-feature on Thursday night at 2,037 theatres and they made US$2.4 million. Previously, Twilight took in US$1.3 million in its re-issue the night before New Moon's opening.

Casting the widest opening net ever, Eclipse bit into a whopping 4,416 locations on Wednesday while more cinemas are expected to be added on Friday.

Iron Man 2 previously held that title with 4,380 locations, while Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince holds the overall record for highest location count ever at 4,455. Eclipse's count includes 193 IMAX venues, which is just shy of Shrek Forever After's 194 record. Eclipse's overall screen count, though, is estimated at 7,600, which is far from a new high. - Courtesy of Boxofficemojo