Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tron: Legacy Preview - Let's Hope There's More


OCT 30, 2010 - The 3D preview footage of Tron: Legacy, presented to the media and fans last Thursday at GSC 1 Utama and elsewhere, basically does what it was supposed to do: stir up curiosity and excitement before its release in Malaysia on December 16.

The movie is directed by Joseph Kosinski

from the script by Steven Lisberger, Richard Jeffries, Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal, Eddy Kitsis, Adam Horowitz and Bill Wheeler.

The earlier part of the 23-minute 'trailer' is in 2D but when the 3-D footage comes on, it is visually stunning as we are introduced to the new hero Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) and the world of Tron, a computer programme. The 28-year difference in the time frame between the original Tron and this 'sequel' is easily explained away before we get right into the action that recalls that of Matrix.

A beautiful woman/line of code named Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who arrives to help Sam find his father Kevin (Jeff Bridges, playing the original film's central character) reminds us of Carrie Ann Moss's Trinity. However, compared to current CG films like Transformers, the tone is rather bland. Most of the sequences are drenched in dull blue - and then action is rather devoid of humour, very unlike a Disney movie. Geeky fanboys may lap up the nostalgia value, especially its hot bikes, but I expect more from a Christmas outing.

Let's hope there's something more hidden inside its gift wrap when Tron: Legacy opens.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Looks Like 'Conan' Won't Be Coming To Malaysia

OCT 29, 2010 - Stumbled on to some dope on the remake of Conan which is tentatively scheduled for release in the US on January 2011.

The film, directed by Marcus Nispel (of Texas Chainsaw Massacre), stars Jason Momoa as Conan, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman and Rachel Nichols. Location shooting started last March mainly in Bulgaria. According to sources this new movie will be more faithful to creator Robert E. Howard's original story than the Arnold Schwarzenegger films.

Basically, the plot deals with Conan the Cimmerian and his adventures across the continent of Hyboria on a quest to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village. Momoa, who is taking on the role made famous by Arnie Schwarzenegger, is a Hawaiian actor who starred in Stargate Atlantis.

From the trailer and stills (below), this remake has all the trappings of a B-movie - including lots of topless sequences. As such, it looks like it won't be coming to Malaysia.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - Oct 29 - 31, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) TAKERS (crime thriller with Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Jay Hernandez, Tip "T.I." Harris, Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen and Zoe Saldana) Rated * * * (3 stars): A taut and tensed crime thriller seen from both sides of L.A. law, this one reminds me of the Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs and its Hollywood remake The Departed. There isn't a lot of action or car chases for the action fan but the shoot-outs are filmed in such operatic slow-mo that it is like watching a music video. (Reviewed below)

b) LOVE CUTS (Singaporean drama with Zoe Tay, Kenny Ho, Allan Wu, Edwin Goh and Christy Yow) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Dealing with how breast cancer affects the lives of two women (Zoe Tay and Christy Yow) and their loved ones, Love Cuts works more like a documentary - or a public service message than a feature film. Despite a touching performance by Zoe Tay, the effort still lacks depth and polish.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. RED (action comedy with Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Helen Mirren, Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban and Ernest Borgnine) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like The Expendables, this reunion of Hollywood veterans, led by Willis, offers lightweight fun and a few laughs. That should be enough considering that the plot is from a DC Comics graphic novel - and Mirren still looks cute totting a gun. (Reviewed below)

2. HACHIKO (drama with Richard Gere, Sarah Roemer, Joan Allen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jason Alexander, Erick Avari, Robert Capron, Davenia McFadden and Kevin DeCoste) Rated * * * (3 stars): Based on a real-life Akita breed and a remake of the 1987 Japanese film, this tale of loyalty and devotion (that can only come from a canine friend) avoids shameless sentimentality. Instead director Lasse Hallstrom opts for realism - and this is what makes the story even more touching. At GSC International Screen (Reviewed below)

3. THE OTHER GUYS (cop comedy with Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Dwayne Johnson, Lindsay Sloane, Ray Stevenson and Steve Coogan) Rated * * * (3 stars): After a number of stinkers, it is clear that Farrell has found his comedy partner in Wahlberg. They are a riot here playing opposites to each other and chalking up another great odd-couple team. Director Adam McKay (Talledega Nights) keeps things offbeat and off-logic in a fun and flashy screwball comedy. (Reviewed below)

4. REIGN OF ASSASSINS (Mandarin swordplay thriller with Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo-Sung, Wang Xueqi, Barbie Hsu, Shawn Yue, Kelly Lin, Guo Xiaodong and Jiang Yiyan) Rated * * * (3 stars): It is not as compelling as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but for those who miss this kind of wire-fu and sword-fighting action (courtesy of John Woo), this should whet their appetite. The coy romance in the first half stalls the pace somewhat but it picks up appropriately later. (Reviewed below)

5. YOU AGAIN (comedy with Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Odette Yustman, Betty White, Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Christine Larkin and Patrick Duffy) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): "High school was a horror movie, this weekend is the sequel" - says one of the characters in this 'revenge comedy'. True enough, the comedy turns out to be more of a horror than rollicking fun because it wastes the talents of three generations of actresses.

6. LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks, Jean Smart, Melissa McCarthy and Majandra Delfino) Rating * * (2 stars): Heigl and Duhamel play two people who don't quite like each other but are forced to stay together to take care of their orphaned god-daughter. That's the 'life' of this movie as we know it because what follows is highly predictable, manipulative and derivative.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TAKERS - It Grabs You From Start To End

TAKERS (crime thriller)
Cast: Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Jay Hernandez, Tip "T.I." Harris, Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen and Zoe Saldana
Director: John Luessenhop
Script: Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, John Luessenhop and Avery Duff
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

TAKERS: Chris Brown, Michael Ealy, Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen and Paul Walker

PREAMBLE: Takers is a taut crime thriller that gives us both sides of the story - from the cops' as well as the robbers' points of view. This technique by director John Luessenhop may slow down the pace somewhat, but the background stories and sub-plots are tensed and riveting enough to keep plot build-up simmering till we get to the climax.

SYNOPSIS: The Takers are five bank robbers, John (Paul Walker), Gordon (Idris Elba), A.J. (Hayden Christensen) and brothers Jesse (Chris Brown) and Jake (Michael Ealy). They specialise in elaborate schemes that involve high pay-offs. The stakes go up when a former accomplice, Ghost (Tip 'T.I.' Harris), is released from prison and comes up with a plan for a heist on an armoured car. With a US$25 million loot up for grabs, the plan is too attractive to refuse even if they are suspicious of Ghost.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles detectives Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) and Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) are trying to track down the gang. However, with Internal Affairs breathing down Jack's neck, it looks like they may be taken off the case before he can make the bust.

HITS AND MISSES: Takers reminds me of the action in the Hong Kong classic, Infernal Affairs, or its 2006 Hollywood remake, The Departed. Its criss-crossing to and from both sides of the law provides engrossing insights into the main characters and help us to understand them, if not to root for them. Among the outstanding portrayals is Dillon's Jack Welles, a cop who is so engrossed in his work that he even foregoes his outing with his daughter to stakeout a suspect. His partner, Eddie, represents the more down-to-earth guy and they function well together.

The sequences of the gang's planning and exploits are more colourful in terms of action and eye candy, especially with Zoe Saldana (left, with Chris Brown) as a woman caught between to rivals. Saldana has only a few scenes here but she makes good use of them exuding sex appeal and mystery. Other complications on the side of the robbers involve Gordon's crack-head sister (played wonderfully by Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who is just out of rehab. There isn't a lot of action or car chases for the action fan but Luessenhop films the shoot-outs in such operatic slow-mo that it is like watching a music video.

THE LOWDOWN: It's riveting from start to finish.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2 Hits Horror High

OCT 25, 2010 - Paranormal Activity 2 delivered the highest-grossing opening weekend ever for a supernatural horror movie, while the other new supernaturally-themed entry, Hereafter, had a quieter launch. Overall business was up nearly 12 percent from the same weekend last year, when the first Paranormal Activity led.

Haunting approximately 4,500 screens at 3,216 locations, Paranormal Activity 2 drew an estimated US$41.5 million, topping The Grudge's US$39.1 million for supernatural supremacy in first weekend gross (though it ranked seventh in estimated attendance). The first Paranormal Activity opened nearly 13 months ago but had a slow roll-out into nationwide release.

After a week of limited play, Hereafter expanded nationwide, showing on close to 2,500 screens at 2,181 locations, and grossed an estimated US$12 million.
True to its content, Jackass 3-D fell flat in its second weekend, but, since its grosses have been at a high level, that still meant a solid estimated US$21.6 million.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Oct 22-24, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Paranormal Activity 2 (Paramount) $41.5 million ($41.5 million) 1

2. Jackass 3-D (Paramount) $21.6 million ($87.1 million) 2

3. Red (Summit) $15.0 million ($43.5 million) 2

4. Hereafter (Warner Bros.) $12.0 million ($12.3 million) 2

5. The Social Network (Sony / Columbia) $7.3 million ($72.9 million) 4

Friday, October 22, 2010

CRAYON - Colourful But Rough Around The Edges

CRAYON (drama)
Cast: Hon Kahoe, Ariff Faisal Abdullah, Adibah Noor and Joshry Adamme
Director: Dean A. Burhanuddin
Script: Dean A. Burhanuddin
Time: 85 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

From left: Hon Kahoe, Adibah Noor, Joshry Adamme and Ariff Faisal Abdullah,

PREAMBLE: "Life is rough around the edges, just like... CRAYON." That, ladies and gentlemen, is the rather apt tag line for this film - an effort that seems to be aimed partly at young children and partly at adolescents. Those in the know would tell you that these two segments of the movie market do not go well together - and that's what makes Crayon indecisive and 'rough around the edges' in terms of tone and box-office appeal.

For those eager for a slice of Malaysiana, however, there are a few funny moments, courtesy of the bubbly Adibah Noor...

SYNOPSIS: Adam Wan (Hon Kahoe) and Rafaat (Ariff Faisal Abdullah) are room-mates at a university in Singapore. Adam, a Chinese from Malaysia, is an Asean scholar, while Rafaat, a Singaporean Malay, is the typical computer nerd. As part of their course syllabus, they are required to volunteer for a social programme during their term holidays. The duo decide to be volunteer workers at an orphanage in the East Coast of peninsular Malaysia.

At the orphanage, they meet its kindly and jovial matron Mak Engku (Adibah Noor) and her multi-racial charges including the playful and lovable Afiq (Joshry Adamme). However, as they try their utmost to improve conditions at the home, certain forces are at work to destroy all that they and Mak Engku had worked for...

HITS AND MISSES: The movie opens at a 'university campus' in Singapore where the characters of Adam and Rafaat are duly introduced. They are typical 'spoilt brats' who think that the rural areas of Malaysia are without water and electricity - and that toilets are located outside the building. First-time director Dean A. Burhanuddin (who also wrote the script) manages to wring a few jokes out of this popular misconception. The real fun starts when we meet Mak Engku, the home's owner and caregiver whose effervescent personality and zest for life hides her weakness at financial management. Adibah Noor is in her element at a role she can play in her sleep.

The concert scene

Not so for the other leads though. Hon (who appeared in Yasmin Ahmad's Talentime) and Faisal strain to evoke their college-buddy rapport and only manage to look convincing towards the end of the movie. Joshry is cute and sometimes steals the scene. The most juvenile - and annoying - performances come from two adults who play bouncers trying to get Mak Engku to sell her home. The cry-baby schtick by one of them can only be funny to kids under five and we wonder why director Dean sees it fit to repeat the 'gag'.

Another sequence that seems to have been written for the under-fives is the concert segment where the kids sing the kindergarten number "Ibu, ibu, engkau-lah ratu hatiku". A livelier choice of song (and dance) would have helped to give more meaning to the fund-raising concert aimed at lightening the pockets of the villagers. Also, the plot about corporate greed is cliched and rather predictable but it closes well enough, with its message of hope and charity ringing clearly.

THE LOWDOWN: Rough around the edges, but colourful.


'Hangover 2' Withdraws Mel Gibson Cameo Offer

OCT 22, 2010 - The Hangover was a raunchy and rowdy comedy but its cast and crew has revoked an offer to have Mel Gibson play a cameo in its sequel. Reuters reported that director Todd Phillips and film studio Warner Bros were ready to cast the Oscar-winning actor and director of Braveheart as a tattoo artist in The Hangover 2, but have now withdrawn the offer.

"I thought Mel would have been great in the movie and I had the full backing of (the studio)," Phillips said in a joint statement with Warner Bros. "But I realize film-making is a collaborative effort, and this decision ultimately did not have the full support of my entire cast and crew."

The Hangover 2 reunites Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha, who starred in the 2009 original in which the friends try to piece together events of a rowdy Las Vegas bachelor party and find their lost buddy. The movie raked in more than $467 million at global box offices.

No reason was given for the apparent rebellion against Gibson performing in the sequel, but it follows a scandal that has engulfed Gibson for months over audiotapes of phone calls in which he rants at his former girlfriend.

Gibson, who has remained silent in the face of months of damaging publicity, also offended Hollywood's Jewish community with an anti-Semitic tirade after a 2006 drunk driving arrest.

Los Angeles police are investigating Gibson, 54, on suspicion of domestic abuse against his ex-lover, Russian-born singer Oksana Grigorieva, with whom he has a one year-old daughter. Grigorieva, 40, is being investigated for possible extortion against Gibson. Neither have been charged.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CRAYON to Open in Los Angeles on Nov 4


OCT 22, 2010 - Local indie film CRAYON is arguably the first Malaysian movie to be released in Los Angeles, California, before opening in its country of origin. The movie is scheduled to open at Laemmle Theatres of L.A. on November 4 before its nationwide release in Malaysia a week later.

Its producer, Elis Anom Abdul Hamid (above, right), told the media at a screening at GSC 1 Utama last Tuesday (Oct 19) that a trailer of Crayon was put up on Facebook and Laemmle Theatres was keen on showing it. She said Laemmle Theatres slotted a week for the movie.

Laemmle Theatres is a family-run chain of arthouse theaters in the Los Angeles area. It was established in 1938 and is owned and operated by Robert Laemmle and his son Greg. It currently has its multiplex in eight locations all over Los Angeles showing arthouse films from all over the world. The showtimes for Crayon were not ready at the time of writing.


Crayon, directed by first-timer Dean A. Burhanuddin (second from left), is about two friends from a Singapore college finding out the meaning of friendship and unity when they become volunteers at an orphanage in the peninsula. It stars Adibah Noor (second from right), Hon Kahoe (left) and Ariff Faisal Abdullah (right).

WEEKEND PIC - Oct 22 - 24, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) RED (action comedy with Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Helen Mirren, Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban and Ernest Borgnine) Rated * * * (3 stars): Like The Expendables, this reunion of Hollywood veterans, led by Willis, offers lightweight fun and a few laughs. That should be enough considering that the plot is from a DC Comics graphic novel - and Mirren still looks cute totting a gun. (Reviewed below)

b) HACHIKO (drama with Richard Gere, Sarah Roemer, Joan Allen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jason Alexander, Erick Avari, Robert Capron, Davenia McFadden and Kevin DeCoste) Rated * * * (3 stars): Based on a real-life Akita breed and a remake of the 1987 Japanese film, this tale of loyalty and devotion (that can only come from a canine friend) avoids shameless sentimentality. Instead director Lasse Hallstrom opts for realism - and this is what makes the story even more touching. At GSC International Screen (Reviewed below)

c) YOU AGAIN (comedy with Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Odette Yustman, Betty White, Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Christine Larkin and Patrick Duffy) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): "High school was a horror movie, this weekend is the sequel" - says one of the characters in this 'revenge comedy'. True enough, the comedy turns out to be more of a horror than rollicking fun because it wastes the talents of three generations of actresses.

d) LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks, Jean Smart, Melissa McCarthy and Majandra Delfino) Rating * * (2 stars): Heigl and Duhamel play two people who don't quite like each other but are forced to stay together to take care of their orphaned god-daughter. That's the 'life' of this movie as we know it because what follows is highly predictable, manipulative and derivative.

STILL GOING STRONG

1. THE OTHER GUYS (cop comedy with Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Dwayne Johnson, Lindsay Sloane, Ray Stevenson and Steve Coogan) Rated * * * (3 stars): After a number of stinkers, it is clear that Farrell has found his comedy partner in Wahlberg. They are a riot here playing opposites to each other and chalking up another great odd-couple team. Director Adam McKay (Talledega Nights) keeps things offbeat and off-logic in a fun and flashy screwball comedy. (Reviewed below)

2. REIGN OF ASSASSINS (Mandarin swordplay thriller with Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo-Sung, Wang Xueqi, Barbie Hsu, Shawn Yue, Kelly Lin, Guo Xiaodong and Jiang Yiyan) Rated * * * (3 stars): It is not as compelling as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but for those who miss this kind of wirefu and swordfighting action (courtesy of John Woo), this should whet their appetite. The coy romance in the first half stalls the pace somewhat but it picks up appropriately later. (Reviewed below)

3. BURIED (thriller by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes, starring Ryan Reynolds) Rated * * * (3 stars): Be warned that this movie is not for those who suffer from claustrophobia and depression. The whole film is shot 'inside' a wooden coffin and from the point of view of Paul Conroy, an American truck driver in Iraq who finds himself captured and buried under ground. Nope, this is not piece of entertainment. It is for those who want to experience one-and-a-half hours of sheer terror and helplessness. (Reviewed below)

4. SAMMY'S ADVENTURES: The Secret Passage (animated adventure in 3D with Isabelle Fuhrman, Tim Curry, Melanie Griffith, Jenny McCarthy, Kathy Griffin, Anthony Anderson, Stacy Keach, Ed Begley Jr and Billy Unger) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Without much of a plot and fast-paced action, this Belgian effort works a lot like a documentary on protecting our oceans and environment. The 3D effects are commendable - at least for young children at which the movie is targeted. (Reviewed below)

5. DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (comedy with Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Stephanie Szostak, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis, Lucy Punch, David Walliams and Ron Livingston) Rated * * (2 stars): Carrell gives a credible and even touching performance as a mentally-challenged guy invited to dinner so that he can be laughed at. But then it is incorrect to laugh at idiots who should be pitied, as suggested by the movie's moral compass. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

RED - Another Blast At The Past

RED (action comedy)
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Helen Mirren, Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban and Ernest Borgnine
Director: Robert Schwentke
Script: Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, from the DC Comics graphic novels by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Retired: Extremely Dangerous - Willis, Markovich and Mirren

WHAT? In their heydays, they have been their country's top operatives and assassins, carrying out covert missions that their government take great pains to hide. The things they did and the secrets they know make them a threat to some people - like ambitious politicians and corporate cheats. To these people, these former agents are classified "Retired: Extremely Dangerous" or RED!

WHO? We are talking about guys like ex-CIA agent Frank Morse (Bruce Willis who looks not a grey hair older than his Die Hard days); his colleague Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman); the fanatical Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich); former MI6 agent Victoria (Hellen Mirren) and ex-KGB boss Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox). Considering that they are based on DC Comics' graphic novels, you can expect over-the-top action and ridiculous visuals like a bullet meeting head-on with a rocket.

HITS & MISSES: Like The Expendables, this is another gathering of veteran action stars, fittingly led by Willis whose Frank Morse is courting a pension official named Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker, pictured, with Willis) over the phone. When Frank finds their lives in danger from CIA-sanctioned killers (led by a menacing Karl Urban), he has no choice but to kidnap her and go on the run all over the US of A. This, of course, is the start of a weird romance between Frank and Sarah that gradually changes from anger to respect, admiration and love.

The fact that director Robert Schwentke (who gave us Flightplan and The Time Traveller's Wife) documents their travels in fun-filled postcards helps to give the movie its light-hearted tone and texture. However, Red starts to get ludricrous before it cleans up its mess in the third act. Fans of Willis, Freeman and Mirren should just watch Red for the fun of seeing their idols back in action. The sight of Mirren being passionately courted by Cox and pumping out ammo from a machine-gun a'la Lara Croft should be worth the ticket.

THE LOWDOWN: Hollywood stars don't fade away any more, they get another blast at their past.

Monday, October 18, 2010

HACHIKO - A Tale of Devotion & Loyalty

HACHIKO (drama)
Cast: Richard Gere, Sarah Roemer, Joan Allen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jason Alexander, Erick Avari, Robert Capron, Davenia McFadden and Kevin DeCoste
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Script: Stephen P. Lindsay
Time: 92 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


PREAMBLE: This 2009 movie is based on a true 1920s story about a faithful Japanese Akita dog called Hachi. Adapted from the 1987 Japanese film Hachiko Monogatari (directed by Seijiro Koyama), the action is transposed from Shibuya, Japan, to a small New England town in the 1990s.

Lasse Hallstrom's Hachiko is not as riotously funny or overly sentimental as Marley And Me but its tale of unflinching loyalty still tugs at the heart-strings, especially for dog-lovers. Today, a bronze statue of Hachi sits at his waiting spot outside the Shibuya station as a permanent reminder of his devotion and love.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It is 2007 and 11-year-old Ronnie (Kevin Decoste) walks up to the front of the class to talk about his hero - his grandfather's dog Hachi. He tells how his grandpa, Parker Wilson (Richard Gere, pictures) finds a lost puppy at the train station and had no choice but to take him home. Parker, a music professor, and his wife Cate (Joan Allen) hope that someone would claim the dog. However, Cate let her hubby keep Hachi (named after the Japanese figure 'eight' on its dog-tag) when she sees how attached he is to the dog.

And so the tale of Parker and Hachi continues, with the dog waiting for his master's return at the station every day. Hachi's loyalty and devotion soon become the talk of the (fictitious) town of Bedridge and he becomes a celebrity.

HITS & MISSES: The Akita breed, renowned for its regal and dignified demeanour, is a favourite of the Japanese royal house. It does not 'fetch' and Hallstrom makes this very clear to his audience. And of course, with the movie centred on the pooch, the canine stars steal the show. Hachi is played by a number of dogs (from Shiba Inu puppies of different sizes to three Akitas) and they are all highly expressive. Hallstrom also offers some scenes in black-and-white doggie vision - as the points-of-view of Hachi.

Still, with familiar faces like Jason Alexander (as the station's ticket agent) and Erick Avari as a hotdog vendor, Hachi gets solid support. Without the funny doggie capers, most kids in the audience may find Hachiko boring - but then the film is based on a real-life story about a no-nonsense pooch.

THE LOWDOWN: Hallstrom, who made My Life As A Dog in 1985, seems to have come full circle in this story about a real dog.

Finally, The Hobbit Gets Green Light To Film

OCT 18, 2010 - Reuters has reported that Warner Bros. has given the green light to start filming two movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, ending months of speculation over whether it would finally be made into a Hollywood movie.

Peter Jackson, who directed Lord of the Rings trilogy that features some of the same characters as The Hobbit, will direct the new movie which begins production in February, Warner Bros. said.

Jackson co-wrote the screenplays with Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and director Guillermo del Toro.

"Exploring Tolkien's Middle-earth goes way beyond a normal film-making experience," Jackson said in a statement. "It's an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty and drama. We're looking forward to re-entering this wondrous world with Gandalf and Bilbo."

The movie, a co-production of Warner Bros., its New Line Cinema division and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, had been stalled in pre-production for months as MGM fell on hard financial times. Originally del Toro had been picked to direct and Jackson to produce, but the delays caused del Toro to drop out in May and move on to other projects.

Warner Bros. and MGM have reached a deal allowing MGM to cover its half of the production, estimated to cost a total $500 million, which includes the costs of shooting in 3D, sources told show-business newspaper The Hollywood Reporter.

Jackass 3D Tops US Weekend B-O

OCT 11, 2010 - Jackass 3-D topped the weekend box-office, boasting the biggest-grossing opening weekend that a fall (Sept-Oct) movie has ever seen. It more than doubled the debut of the solid Red. The holdovers were unphased by Jackass's bluster, contributing to a busy weekend by mid-October standards.

Storming approximately 4,600 screens at 3,081 locations, Jackass 3-D raked in an estimated US$50 million, exceeding Scary Movie 3's US$48.1 million for the Fall opening record. It also blew away the debuts of the previous Jackass movies: the first one took in US$22.8 million at 2,509 sites, while Jackass: Number Two pulled in US$29 million at 3,059 sites.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Oct 15-17, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Jackass 3-D (Paramount) $50.0 million ($50.0 million) 1

2. Red (Summit) $22.5 million ($22.5 million) 1

3. The Social Network (Sony / Columbia) $11.0 million ($63.1 million) 3

4. Secretariat (Buena Vista) $9.5 million ($27.5 million) 2

5. Life as We Know It (Warner Bros.) $9.2 million ($28.9 million) 2

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - Oct 15 - 17, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) THE OTHER GUYS (cop comedy with Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Dwayne Johnson, Lindsay Sloane, Ray Stevenson and Steve Coogan) Rated * * * (3 stars): After a number of stinkers, it is clear that Farrell has found his comedy partner in Wahlberg. They are a riot here playing opposites to each other and chalking up another hilarious odd-couple team. Director Adam McKay (Talledega Nights) keeps things offbeat and off-logic in a fun and flashy screwball comedy. (Reviewed below)

b) REIGN OF ASSASSINS (Mandarin swordplay thriller with Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo-Sung, Wang Xueqi, Barbie Hsu, Shawn Yue, Kelly Lin, Guo Xiaodong and Jiang Yiyan) Rated * * * (3 stars): It is not as compelling as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but for those who miss this kind of wirefu and swordfighting action (courtesy of John Woo), this should whet their appetite. The coy romance in the first half stalls the pace somewhat but it picks up appropriately later. (Reviewed below)

c) BURIED (thriller by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes, starring Ryan Reynolds) Rated * * * (3 stars): Be warned that this movie is not for those who suffer from claustrophobia and depression. The whole film is shot 'inside' a wooden coffin and from the point of view of Paul Conroy, an American truck driver in Iraq who finds himself captured and buried under ground. Nope, this is not piece of entertainment for all. It is for those who want to experience one-and-a-half hours of sheer terror and helplessness. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1. DETECTIVE DEE (mystery thriller in Cantonese with Andy Lau, Li Bingbing, Carina Lau, Deng Chao, Richard Ng, Teddy Robin, Lu Yao and Tony Leung Ka-Fai) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): Veteran HK director Tsui Hark is back with a vengeance with this epic rendition of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee tales. The effects are eye-popping, as expected, but what's pleasantly surprising is that Tsui Hark has managed to get his narrative under control, giving us a spectacular treat that would make the recent Sherlock Holmes look like the work of amateurs. (Reviewed below)

2. THE SWITCH (romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Caroline Dhavernas, Bryce Robinson and Thomas Robinson) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): After The Back-Up Plan, here's another artificial insemination comedy about paternity plans gone awry. The first half is interesting and promising but with a highly predictable plot, deja vu sets in during the second half. (Reviewed below)

3. SAMMY'S ADVENTURES: The Secret Passage (animated adventure in 3D with Isabelle Fuhrman, Tim Curry, Melanie Griffith, Jenny McCarthy, Kathy Griffin, Anthony Anderson, Stacy Keach, Ed Begley Jr and Billy Unger) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Without much of a plot and fast-paced action, this Belgian effort works a lot like a documentary on protecting our oceans and environment. The 3D effects are commendable - at least for young children at which the movie is targeted. (Reviewed below)

4. DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (comedy with Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Stephanie Szostak, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis, Lucy Punch, David Walliams and Ron Livingston) Rated * * (2 stars): Carrell gives a credible and even touching performance as a mentally-challenged guy invited to dinner so that he can be laughed at. But then it is incorrect to laugh at idiots who should be pitied, as suggested by the movie's moral compass. (Reviewed below)

5. EAT PRAY LOVE (romantic drama with Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup and Javier Bardem) Rated * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Highly indulgent and sometimes repugnant, this adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller turns out to be more of a travelogue and food guide than a romance drama. Roberts' charms notwithstanding, the lead character is rather detestable in the way she uses men and spits them out. Sorry guys, but you gotta think of a good excuse for the girlfriend/missus to escape this ordeal. (Reviewed below)

BURIED - One-and-a-half Hours of Sheer Terror

BURIED (mystery thriller)
Cast: Ryan Reynolds (pictured)
Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Script: Chris Sparling
Time: 94 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)


WARNING: Movie-goers should be warned that the entire movie is shot within the confines of a coffin and those who suffer from claustrophobia may find the film disturbing. However, those who enjoy being suspended in a Kafkaesque state of trauma and terror, they are in for a treat.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a truck driver working for an American company in Iraq, circa 2006. His convoy is attacked and he is knocked out and captured. When he awakens, he finds himself trapped within a wooden coffin buried under the ground. In the box, Paul has a lighter, a working cell phone and a torchlight.

Everything is draining away fast, including battery life, lighter fuel and his air supply. His only hope is to use the phone to contact someone - anyone - who may help him...

HITS & MISSES: There are many times when we find ourselves looking at a dark blank screen, listening out for some sound that may indicate something that is happening. This heightens the sense of hopelessness and terror as we slowly grasp what is happening to Paul. With the whole movie shot inside the coffin and from Paul's point of view, camera angles are limited but Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes makes good use of the tight spaces to reduce monotony. Cort├ęs and crew are reported to have used seven coffins in the shoot, one of which allowed the camera to spin 360 degrees. They employ a nerve-wrecking sound design that intensifies the whisper of sand seeping through cracks in the lid.

Cortes builds up the tension, offers hopes of rescue to provide a little relief - and then plies on more terror. Reynolds is solid in this one-man show that sees him increasingly stressed, with beads of sweat and sand running down his face as Paul explores every means of escape or rescue. Through his rantings, pleas and expletives, we also get to learn of his character and family background.

THE LOWDOWN: Those interested should catch Buried in the cinema as the effects will be definitely lost on the smaller TV screen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

THE OTHER GUYS - Odd 'Cop-ple' Fun

THE OTHER GUYS (comedy)
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Dwayne Johnson, Lindsay Sloane, Ray Stevenson and Steve Coogan
Director: Adam McKay
Script: Adam McKay and Chris Henchy
Time: 107 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Farrell and Wahlberg as Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz respectively

PREAMBLE: Will Farrell has been in a number of stinkers recently, like Step Brothers, Semi-Pro, Land of the Lost and Blades of Glory. In these, he seemed to be dogged by a string of bad scripts and lame casting.

Well, his luck has turned around with The Other Guys. Farrell's trademark gullibility and cluelessness has found a perfect foil in co-star Mark Wahlberg. In Wahlberg, he has odd-couple chemistry and the so-called 'bromantic' sparks to keep us in stitches.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? There are cop heroes of New York City like Detective Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) who would think nothing of smashing up cars and buildings just to nab a bunch of drug dealers. They cause millions in damage just to retrieve a few hundred bucks' worth of dope. However, they are the cops the mayor pin ribbons on and reporters write about.

And then there are the Other Guys like police accountant Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and his partner, Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) two pencil-pushing law enforcers who are the laughing stock of the precinct. Allen is too chicken to go out in the field but Terry, who has a history of shooting some celebrity, just can't wait to get back in action. When they 'stumble' into some big-time fraud involving billionaire David Ershon (Steve Coogan), they go all out to investigate.

HITS & MISSES: Playing it as a goofball and screwball action comedy, writer-director Adam McKay (of Talladega Nights) forsakes logic and realism for for the laughs. Indeed, right from the start, when Jackson and The Rock Johnson poke fun at their own screen personae, the fun keeps piling up. Farrell's cop Allen is cowardly and nerdy, but he attracts the hot chicks and has a lusciously well-stacked wife in Eva Mendes (pictured) - a fact that puzzles Terry. The other guys of The Other Guys - like Michael Keaton, Coogan and Ray Stevenson - have surprisingly well-developed roles. Keaton plays the police captain who unwittingly quotes TLC's lyrics and moonlights at a department store while Stevenson (of TV's Rome fame) plays an Aussie tough-guy.

Of course, not all jokes hit their target but there are more hits than misses. These include the Allen-Terry version of 'good cop, bad cop' and Allen's college alter-ego as a pimp named Gator. Wahlberg is not really a comedian but his hot-tempered Terry 'bounces' off Ferrell so well that we look forward to more of their pairing.

THE LOWDOWN: One of the best odd 'cop-ple' comedies in a long time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rhys Ifans To Play The Baddie in 'Spider-Man'

OCT 12, 2010 - Rhys Ifans (pic) is playing the villain in the next Spider-Man movie, Sony Pictures announced yesterday. However, Sony won't reveal which character he'll be.

Sony Pictures announced that Ifans, widely known as a comic actor in such films as Hugh Grant's Notting Hill, will be the baddie in the superhero adventure due out on July 3, 2012. Whoever he winds up playing, Ifans will be up against Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, the ordinary youth transformed by the bite of a mutant spider into the web-slinging superhero. Sony recently said the Emma Stone will play Gwen Stacy, Pete Parker's romantic interest.

"What sets the Spider-Man villains apart is the complexity of their relationships with Peter Parker," said Marc Webb who is directing the new Spider-Man. "Rhys' incredible ability to embody both warmth and rage makes him the ideal choice for this character."

Sony picked Welsh actor Ifans, 43, after executives saw his performance in the studio's upcoming Shakespeare historical thriller Anonymous. Ifans plays Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, who some scholars theorize was the actual author of Shakespeare's plays and poems.

REIGN OF ASSASSINS - Mainly Wire-fu Thrills

REIGN OF ASSASSINS (kungfu thriller in Mandarin)
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo-Sung, Wang Xueqi, Barbie Hsu, Shawn Yue, Kelly Lin, Guo Xiaodong and Jiang Yiyan
Directors: Su Chao-Pin, John Woo
Script: Su Chao-Pin
Time: 117 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

COY COURTSHIP: Jung Woo-Sung and Michelle Yeoh

PREAMBLE: Fans of Chinese swords play who long for more Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon action would probably whet their appetite with Reign Of Assassins, a pan-Asian reworking of Hollywood's Mr & Mrs Smith, incorporating 'modern' themes of 'plastic surgery' and rudimentary courier service.

The thrills and action seem to stall at the end of the first half but they pick up in the second, unveiling a number of interesting twists with wire-fu and smoke-and-fire power.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The movie opens with Drizzle (played by a ravishing Kelly Lin) opting out of the Dark Stone gang of assassins led by Wheel King (Wang Xueqi). She is tired of all that killing and longs for a quiet life. After undergoing facial surgery (involving parasitic insects), she transforms into Zeng Jing (Michelle Yeoh) who rents a house in the city to sell clothes. Soon, she is courted by a local messenger boy named Jiang Ah-Sheng (Korean star Jung Woo-sung) and they marry.

Of course, there will be no happily-after as Wheel King and his gang of assassins - Lei Bin (Shawn Yue), the Magician (Leon Dai) and Zhan Qing (Barbie Hsu) - track down Zeng Jing in their bid to find the magical remains of a revered monk.

HITS & MISSES: There are some beautifully-choreographed balletic action in the first half which centres on the Zeng Jing-Ah Sheng courtship. However, this is where the lull permeates as the romance lacks the requisite sparks. Somehow, the lovers opt to act coy during their meetings in the rain - and it falls on Barbie Hsu's nymphomaniac Zhan Qing (left) to liven up the proceedings. Zhan Qing drops her clothes every so often (but no nude scenes) in her attempt to get what she wants.

The action picks up in the second half where all the action and plot twists unfold. John Woo, who directs the action sequences, employs lots of wire-fu and fantasy elements to provide some spectacular visuals. However, these are too manipulative to make us feel that there is any danger involved. I had thought that Wang Xueqi is wasted in his role as chief assassin but Taiwan writer-director Su Chao-pin has a few tricks up his sleeve for him. In the end, Wang's character turns up to be the most interesting, overshadowing even Michelle's performance. Reign Of Assassins will be reworked for Western audiences but I don't see it triumphing over Ang Lee's 2000 Crouching Tiger epic.

THE LOWDOWN: Should be quite a hit with kungfu fans.

Monday, October 11, 2010

'Social Network' Leads Weekend US B-O Again

OCT 11, 2010 - Facebook drama, The Social Network, lead the US box office again over the weekend, while new releases Life as We Know It and Secretariat had decent starts and My Soul to Take didn't take. Overall business was off 15 percent from the same weekend last year when Couples Retreat opened.

Boasting the smallest percentage second weekend decline of any No. 1 movie this year, The Social Network pulled in an estimated US$15.5 million, increasing its sum to US$46.1 million in 10 days. Its 31 percent dip was also the lowest of the weekend among nationwide holdovers, and it held better than 21 among past similar titles, though that picture still had better attendance.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Oct 8-10, 2010 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. The Social Network (Sony/Columbia) $15.5 million ($46.0 mil) 2

2. Life As We Know It (WB) $14.6 million ($14.6 mil) 1

3. Secretariat (BV) $12.6 million ($12.6 mil) 1

4. Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'Hoole (WB) $7.0 million ($39.4 mil) 3

5. My Soul To Take (Universal) $6.9 million ($6.9 mil) 1

Saturday, October 09, 2010

No 3D Magic for Harry Potter Flick

OCT 9, 2010 - Warner Bros has announced that it has abandoned plans to convert the next Harry Potter movie to 3-D, bringing mixed reactions from box office watchers and fans of the multi-billion-dollar blockbuster franchise.

The studio said it was unable to produce a 3-D version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I in time for its release on November 19.

The movie will be presented only in conventional 2-D and in Imax theatres, but the second instalment, due to be released in July 2011, is still set to be released in 2-D and 3-D.

"Despite everyone's best efforts, we were unable to convert the film in its entirety and meet the highest standards of quality," Warner Bros said in a statement.

The six previously released Harry Potter movies, based on the best-selling novels by author J.K. Rowling, have raked in an estimated $5.4 billion at the worldwide box office. (Report by Reuters)

Friday, October 08, 2010

WEEKEND PIC - Oct 8 - 10, 2010

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) THE SWITCH (romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Caroline Dhavernas, Bryce Robinson and Thomas Robinson) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): After The Back-Up Plan, here's another artificial insemination comedy about paternity plans gone awry. The first half is interesting and promising but with a highly predictable plot, deja vu sets in during the second half. (Reviewed below)

b) SAMMY'S ADVENTURES: The Secret Passage (animated adventure in 3D with Isabelle Fuhrman, Tim Curry, Melanie Griffith, Jenny McCarthy, Kathy Griffin, Anthony Anderson, Stacy Keach, Ed Begley Jr and Billy Unger) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Without much of a plot and fast-paced action, this Belgian effort works a lot like a documentary on protecting our oceans and environment. The 3D effects are commendable - at least for young children at which the movie is targeted. (Reviewed below)

c) DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (comedy with Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Stephanie Szostak, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis, Lucy Punch, David Williams and Ron Livingston) Rated * * (2 stars): Carrell gives a credible and even touching performance as a mentally-challenged guy invited to dinner so that he can be laughed at. But then it is incorrect to laugh at idiots who should be pitied, as suggested by the movie's moral compass. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG

1. DETECTIVE DEE (mystery thriller in Cantonese with Andy Lau, Li Bingbing, Carina Lau, Deng Chao, Richard Ng, Teddy Robin, Lu Yao and Tony Leung Ka-Fai) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): Veteran HK director Tsui Hark is back with a vengeance with this epic rendition of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee tales. The effects are eye-popping, as expected, but what's pleasantly surprising is that Tsui Hark has managed to get his narrative under control, giving us a spectacular treat that would make the recent Sherlock Holmes look like the work of amateurs. (Reviewed below)

2. WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (drama sequel with Shia LaBeouf, Michael Douglas, Carey Mulligan, Charlie Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Josh Brolin, Vanessa Ferlito, Frank Langella and Natalie Morales) Rated * * * (3 stars): Oliver Stone updates his tales about Greed on Wall Street in this sequel which has Gordon Gekko (Douglas) released from prison and engaging in another round of wheeling-and-dealing, especially involving his estranged daughter (Mulligan) and her boyfriend (LaBeouf). The business intrigues aren't new but there are some riveting performances and emotional subplots. (Reviewed below)

3. ALPHA AND OMEGA (animated rom-com in 3D with Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci, Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper, Larry Miller, Eric Price, Chris Carmack and Vicki Lewis) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A passable kiddie cartoon ostensibly rendered in 3D (which is the trend these days) but also easily forgettable. However, the voice cast shine in a script that is rather unfunny and uninspired.

4. THE JOSHUA TAPES (local indy drama with Baki Zainal, Matthew Ho Tien Li, Phoon Chi Ho, Alfred Loh and Grace Ng Fei Fen) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Made by the gang who gave us S'kali, this buddy flick also deals with a bunch of guys out on a road trip to the peninsular west coast. It is definitely an improvement on S'kali - and even looks like its sequel of sorts. Shown at GSC's International Screens (Reviewed below)

5. CHARLIE ST CLOUD (romantic drama with Zac Efron, Amanda Crew, Donal Logue, Charlie Tahan, Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta) Rated * * (2 stars): Strictly a vehicle for Efron to show off his abs and pecs, this movie about a guy who also sees dead people loses our interest midway. Looks like director Burr Steers, who directed Efron in 17 Again, is out of his league with this emotionally-demanding script. (Reviewed below)

6. EAT PRAY LOVE (romantic drama with Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup and Javier Bardem) Rated * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Highly indulgent and sometimes repugnant, this adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller turns out to be more of a travelogue and food guide than a romance drama. Roberts' charms notwithstanding, the lead character is rather detestable in the way she uses men and spits them out. Sorry guys, but you gotta think of a good excuse for the girlfriend/missus to escape this ordeal. (Reviewed below)