Thursday, March 31, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - April 1 - 3, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART (romantic comedy with Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Gao Yuan-yuan, Lam Suet and Terence Yin) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Cute is the operative word here and this rom-com is all about meeting cute and acting cute - all for almost two hours as we see the female protagonist (Gao as Cheng Zixin) string along two hapless men in a love triangle. The situations in the plot are rather contrived but we do get involved because the three leads are charming enough to sustain our interest. A good date movie. (Reviewed below)

b) JUST GO WITH IT (romantic comedy with Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker and Nick Swardson) Rated * * (2 stars): This remake of the 1969 Cactus Flower that starred Goldie Hawn and Walter Matthau gets the farcical Sandler treatment here. Sandler's comedy isn't easy to 'just go with it' - it sputters and chugs along with so many unfunny gags and badly contrived situations that even the presence of Kidman could not save it. (Reviewed below)

c) THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN (fantasy adventure with Masanobu Ando, You Benchang, Ashton Xu, Kitty Zhang, Liu Xiaoye and Swanson Han) Rated * (1 star): Don't you hate it when some ad-maker fancies himself a hot-shot film-maker and come out with convoluted trash like this? The story, about a mythical chopper, is told in layers-within-layers in tales involving three men (of the title). Director Wuershan throws in all sorts of crazy, pop culture stuff and even the aria from Puccini's Tosca to lend a touch of style to the scenes but it turns out to be a mess. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:


1. THE EAGLE (swords-and-sandals adventure with Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Donald Sutherland and Tahar Rahim) Rated * * * (3 stars): A fitting 'sequel' to last year's Centurion, about a son trying to regain his family's honour by trying to recover the Eagle emblem of Rome's Lost Ninth Legion. The movie works best when it deals with the relationship between the protagonist (Tatum) and his British slave (Bell) as they journey into the wilderness of the north of Scotland. (Reviewed below)

2. WORLD INVASION: BATTLE LOS ANGELES (sci-fi adventure with Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-You, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena and Michelle Rodriguez) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): LA is under alien invasion again but this time around, it is not as silly as Skyline. Like the latter, it also concerns a small group of people - a platoon of Marines and a bunch of civvies. Of course, with Echhart and Rodriguez in the cast, be prepared for some incredulous gungho, kick-ass action. (Reviewed below)

3. SUCKER PUNCH (fantasy adventure with Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn and Vicky Lambert) Rated * * (2 stars): Coming from Jack Snyder, the guy who gave us Watchmen and 300, this fantasy 'guilty pleasure' is definitely more style than substance with its plot about five nubile girls battling various imaginary villains and monsters in what may look like 'Inception-land'. Yup, its all visual candy with no sense of danger or suspense whatsoever. (Reviewed below)

4. BANGKOK TRAFFIC (Love) STORY (rom-com with Sirin Horwang, Theeradej Wongpuapan and Unsumalin Sirasakpatha-ramaetha) Rated * * (2 stars): This 2009 film took two years to get here - it must have been a really bad traffic jam. Aptly though, the film gives one the feeling of being helplessly stuck in traffic. It's about 30-year-old Muei-Ly (Horwang) who falls for a hottie engineer (Wongpuapan) - but doesn't really know what she wants from him. This render us in a two-hour ordeal of infantile comedy, incredulous dithering and implausible behaviour. Even if such a woman exists, who cares about her? (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART - Prolonged Love Triangle

DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART (romantic comedy)
Cast: Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Gao Yuan-yuan, Lam Suet and Terence Yin
Directors: Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai
Screenplay: Jevons Au Man-Kit, Wai Ka-Fai and Yau Nai-Hoi
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

With Suitor No. 1 - Daniel Wu (and Gao Yuan-yuan)

PREAMBLE: This rom-com was shown at the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival recently and the big deal among the media was that the movie was in Mandarin instead of the usual Cantonese. An obvious attempt by the film-makers to penetrate the Mainland box-office. For viewers elsewhere, however, Don't Go Breaking My Heart will probably be a long-drawn, meet-cute and act-cute love triangle that stretches for almost two hours.

Thankfully, the movie somehow manages to maintain its charm (even if it looks contrived) throughout the proceedings - thanks to the chemistry of the three leads.

With Suitor No. 2 - Gao Yuan-yuan and Louis Koo

THE SKINNY: When the movie opens, we find Zixin (Gao Yuan-yuan) getting dumped by her boyfriend (Terence Yin) who is married. We can understand her subsequent caution with men, especially when she tries to recover from this heartbreak that makes getting rid of her past (those photos, gifts and even a pet frog) rather difficult. Helping her to turn over a new leaf is a street drunk named Fang (Daniel Wu) who is actually a disillusioned architect. Fang helps Zixin 'get rid' of her ex-beau's liquor collection and even take cares of her "ugly" pet frog, while she helps him get back to drawing.

Zixin is also attracted to Cheng (Louis Koo), an investment consultant who works in the building opposite her office. She watches him through the glass wall daily and they 'communicate' by sticking Post-It notes on their respective windows. Soon, Cheng, a playboy at heart, takes over the troubled company she works for - and starts wooing her in earnest. Will she forget Fang, the friend waiting in the wings, or will she keep a promised date with him? Ultimately, the big question is: who will she pick, Cheng or Fang?

HITS AND MISSES: It takes a long long time for Zixin to decide - and the title is rather apt. Having had her heart broken, Zixin is definitely going to break the heart of one of her suitors. We are kept guessing which one. This is the most demanding role yet for Gao Yuan-yuan and it is evident that she has what it takes to be the leading lady. She makes us root for Zixin throughout the movie, even if we find her indecisiveness irritating. Newcomer Larisa Bakurova (pic, left) provides eye-candy as a rival for Cheng's attention.

Koo and Wu are veterans in their role and they pull it off easily. However, Koo's Cheng seems rather implausible. The writers have gone overboard, having Cheng buy an apartment and a Maserati car as gifts for a girlfriend at a time when the economy (during the 2008 downturn) calls for prudence and accountability. Wu is the more pathetic of the two and his Fang even cooks! Chalk these up as the film-makers' attempts to wow the women in the audience.

THE LOWDOWN: Entertaining enough for a date movie.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

JUST GO WITH IT - Unfunny Sandler Schtick

JUST GO WITH IT (romantic comedy)
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker and Nick Swardson
Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenplay: Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling, based on the screenplay Cactus Flower by I.A.L. Diamond
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Aniston, Sandler and Decker

PREAMBLE: This is a remake of Cactus Flower, the 1969 comedy in which Walter Matthau played a dentist who pretends to be married in order to escape 'commitment issues', with his girlfriends. Goldie Hawn won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her
role as his assistant and it pretty much launched her career.

Just Go With It (which sounds like a plea from the film-makers) does not really 'go with it'. It jerks and sputters along with mostly unfunny jokes and lame dialogue - that even the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman could not save it.

THE SKINNY: After years of using a fake marriage to help him score with the ladies, commitment phobe, plastic surgeon Danny (Adam Sandler), finally meets the girl of his dreams. But, when his dream girl (Brooklyn Decker as Palmer) finds the ring in his pocket and notices the tan line on his finger, she demands to get his soon-to-be ex-wife’s permission before moving forward in the relationship. Danny must find a good female friend to play his wife and who knows him better than his own assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston)?

HITS AND MISSES: What seemed plausible in Cactus Flower (yup, I caught it in 1970) looks so phoney here. I am talking about Danny's ruse of getting a woman to bed by pretending to be in a bad marriage. While we could easily sympathise with Matthau as a downtrodden hubby, we can't do the same for the goofy Sandler. And the screenplay, showing him as being mean with children and a conniving bad-ass, does not help things either.

Indeed, as we can expect of most Sandler comedies, the rom-com soon degenerates into a farce when the action goes to Hawaii where 'get-to-know-the-wife-and-kids' stint is to take place. The appearance of Kidman - as Katherine's high school nemesis Devlin Adams - helps to heat things up for a while and then it is back to farcical gags and toilet jokes. Although it is a 'given' that Katherine and Danny are meant for each other and would end up together, we somehow wish that they don't. Sandler's Danny is too full of himself to 'just go along with anyone'. And as if we could not get enough imbecility in this Sandler flick, there is Nick Swardson (who plays Danny's cousin Eddie) to make the film even more ludicrous.

THE LOWDOWN: For Sandler fans, others, just stay away.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Amy Adams Picked to Play Lois Lane in Superman

MARCH 28, 2011 - Amy Adams has been picked to play Lois Lane in the upcoming Superman reboot, filling the shoes worn at various times by Noel Neill, Margot Kidder, Teri Hatcher and Kate Bosworth.

Adams will play the Daily Planet reporter and key love interest of Superman/Clark Kent, portrayed by British actor Henry Cavill. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner will play his adoptive parents.

Zack Snyder (Sucker Punch) will direct the Warner Bros. project, which is set for a December 2012 release.

"Second only to Superman himself, the question of who will play Lois Lane is arguably what fans have been most curious about," Snyder said in a statement yesterday. "So we are excited to announce the casting of Amy Adams, one of the most versatile and respected actresses in films today. Amy has the talent to capture all of the qualities we love about Lois: smart, tough, funny, warm, ambitious and, of course, beautiful."

Adams received an Oscar nomination this year for her supporting role in The Fighter.

THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN - Unmitigated Torture

THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN (fantasy adventure in Mandarin)
Cast: Masanobu Ando, You Benchang, Ashton Xu, Kitty Zhang, Liu Xiaoye, Swanson Han,
Director: Wuershan
Screenplay: Wuershan, Zhang Jiajia, Ma Luoshan, Tang Que (based on a short story by An Changhe)
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * (out of 4)

Ashton Xu as the Swordsman

PREAMBLE: Movie reviewers invited to previews usually see it as their job to sit through a movie, no matter how bad it is. However, during the media screening of this film, many reviewers walked out after 10 minutes. More walked out before half-an-hour into the screening. It could be because they do not understand the film as there were no subtitles at the screening, but I get the feeling that those who walked out knew a turkey when they saw one.


THE SKINNY: The plot is purportedly about a mystical blade which looks like a rusty chopping knife. As it passes through the hands of the titular characters with different motivations, it shapes their destinies. The Butcher (Liu Xiaoye, above) is a fat slob in love with a beautiful courtesan (Kitty Zhang, below), but is rebuffed each time he approaches her. The Chef (Masanobu Ando) is a handsome loner obsessed with seeking vengeance for the slaughter of his family. The Swordsman (Swanson Han), the son of a legendary warrior, is consumed by the desire to eclipse his father in both power and fame.

Their stories intertwine as each man takes possession of the mystical blade and discovers the power and the danger it brings.

HITS AND MISSES: I am sure there will be some smart alecs who will see this as a work of a genius but it was sheer torture sitting through this unholy trash, trying to figure out what is happening and why. The scenes are so devoid of logic and interest that the movie would make the eye-candy flick, Sucker Punch, look like a classic art flick of epic proportions. The actors are presumably selected for their weird circus side-show antics than for how well they can act. There are curious looking midgets in the cast and even one made up to look like Jabba The Hutt.

Director Wuershan, who used to shoot adverts, fails miserably at trying his hand on a feature film. He throws in all sorts of crazy, pop culture stuff and even the aria from Puccini's Tosca, in a bid to lend style (or a sense of art) to the scenes but it turns out to be more of a comedy - a tragicomedy. The few sequences that look good enough are those dealing with food.

THE LOWDOWN: A crude and infantile effort.

Wimpy Kid 2 Beats Sucker Punch at US Weekend B-O

MARCH 28, 2011 - Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules packed more wallop than the hyped actioner Sucker Punch in their debut weekend. Overall business was down five percent from the same weekend last year, when How to Train Your Dragon led.

Rodrick Rules bagged an estimated US$24.4 million on close to 4,000 screens at 3,167 locations, boasting a brawnier start than its predecessor. The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid (which cost US 15 million) drew US$22.1 million on around 3,400 screens at 3,077 locations in its first weekend last March, which led to a US$64 million final gross. The sequel cost just US$21 million and will theoretically end up in the same $60-70 million ballpark.

Sucker Punch succumbed to style and spectacle over substance: it was marketed as a video-game-like blur of random fantastical action bordering on sensory overload.


Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for March 25 - 27, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)


1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Fox) $24.4 million ($24.4 million) 1

2. Sucker Punch (WB) $19.1 million ($19.1 million) 1

3. Limitless (Relativity) $15.2 million ($41.2 million) 2

4. The Lincoln Lawyer (Lion's Gate) $11.0 million ($28.9 million) 2

5. Rango (Paramount) $9.8 million ($106.3 million) 4

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Filming on Hobbit Films Starts - At Last!


MARCH 26, 2011 - After months of delays and hitches caused by funding problems, a row over actors' wages and surgery for director Peter Jackson, filming has finally started on the two Hobbit movies in New Zealand.

For those who have just returned from Mars, The Hobbit films are set in Middle-Earth 60 years before JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his film-making team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.


According to fans' website, theonering.net, the two films, written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson (above, on the set of the movie), will be shot consecutively in digital 3D using the latest camera and stereo technology. Filming is being done at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.

The Hobbit” follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman, left), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakensheild. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever - Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-Earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey. The Dwarves are played by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield, pic, right), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), William Kircher (Bifur) James Nesbitt (Bofur), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Rob Kazinsky (Fili), Aidan Turner (Kili), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), John Callen (Oin), Jed Brophy (Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori) and Adam Brown (Ori). Reprising their roles from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy are Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Andy Serkis as Gollum and Elijah Wood as Frodo. Jeffrey Thomas and Mike Mizrahi also join the cast as Dwarf Kings Thror and Thrain, respectively.

Production on the films is expected to take up to two years and the first is due out in late 2012.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Broadway Pays Tribute to Liz Taylor

MARCH 25, 2011 - The Broadway theatre district will dim its lights today in tribute to actress Elizabeth Taylor, 79, who died in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

"The Broadway community mourns the loss of Elizabeth Taylor, legendary stage and screen star," The Broadway League said in a statement reported by Reuters and other agencies.

In Taylor's honour, Broadway's theatre marquees will be dimmed at exactly 8 pm, the traditional curtain time for shows, for one minute. The Oscar-winning actress, 79, was laid to rest at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, outside Los Angeles - the same place where her close friend, singer Michael Jackson, was buried in 2009.

Glendale police told media waiting outside the cemetery that the service was for family only, with about three dozen people attending.

Taylor, who married eight times, is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She won two Academy Awards for Best Actress for her performance in Butterfield 8 in 1960, and for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - March 25 - 27, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) THE EAGLE (swords-and-sandals adventure with Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Donald Sutherland and Tahar Rahim) Rated * * * (3 stars): A fitting 'sequel' to last year's Centurion, about a son trying to regain his family's honour by trying to recover the Eagle emblem of Rome's Lost Ninth Legion. The movie works best when it deals with the relationship between the protagonist (Tatum) and his British slave (Bell) as they journey into the wilderness of the north of Scotland. (Reviewed below)

b) SUCKER PUNCH (fantasy adventure with Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn and Vicky Lambert) Rated * * (2 stars): Coming from Jack Snyder, the guy who gave us Watchmen and 300, this fantasy 'guilty pleasure' is definitely more style than substance with its plot about five nubile girls battling various imaginary villains and monsters in what may look like 'Inception-land'. Yup, its all visual candy with no sense of danger or suspense whatsoever. (Reviewed below)

c) BANGKOK TRAFFIC (Love) STORY (rom-com with Sirin Horwang, Theeradej Wongpuapan and Unsumalin Sirasakpatha-ramaetha) Rated * * (2 stars): This 2009 film took two years to get here - it must have been a really bad traffic jam. Aptly though, the film gives one the feeling of being stuck in traffic. It's about 30-year-old Muei-Ly (Horwang) who falls for a hottie engineer (Wongpuapan) - but doesn't really know what she wants from him. This render us in a two-hour ordeal of infantile comedy, incredulous dithering and implausible behaviour. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. UNKNOWN (suspense thriller with Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella and Sebastian Koch) Rated * * * (3 stars): With Neeson in the lead, this one is touted as Taken 2 but it is actually based on a French novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert. The first half keeps us in suspense as to Neeson's character's stolen identity, while the other consists of chases, flights and twists. Like Taken, the plot is preposterous but it has a bit more depth. (Reviewed below)

2. RANGO (animated Wild West spoof with Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant and Ned Beatty) Rated * * * (3 stars): Coming from Gore Verbinski, the guy who helmed the Pirates of the Caribbean films, this spoof on spaghetti westerns is cute, creative and visually arresting. The characters - lizards, singing owls, rodents, tortoises and a snake - look mighty real and well-developed. The narrative drags a bit but it is quirky fun on the whole. (Reviewed below)

3. MARS NEEDS MOMS (animated space adventure with Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Dan Fogler, Mindy Sterling, Julene Renee, Ryan Ochoa and Jacquie Barnbrook) Rated * * * (3 stars): As you may suspect from its title, this Disney offering is more for younger children - those who refuse to eat their veggies - than for the teens. But parents will definitely like its message and its Pandora-styled sequences that are reminiscent of Avatar. For those who liked How To Train Your Dragon. (Reviewed below)

4. WORLD INVASION: BATTLE LOS ANGELES (sci-fi adventure with Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-You, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena and Michelle Rodriguez) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Los Angeles is under alien invasion again but this time around, it is not as silly as Skyline. Like the latter, it also concerns a small group of people - a platoon of Marines and a bunch of civvies. Of course, with Eckhart and Rodriguez in the cast, be prepared for some incredulous gungho, kick-ass action. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SUCKER PUNCH - Eye Candy Inception

SUCKER PUNCH (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn and Vicky Lambert
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya
Time: 119 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Jena Malone and Emily Browning

PREAMBLE: In boxing, a 'sucker punch' is one that you don't see coming, a sudden illegal blow for which you have no defence. If you have not seen the trailer for this movie, then you may very well be unprepared for what you are going to see. If you have, however, then you may feel like a sucker - for falling for its lure of nubile starlets set against ridiculous odds and come out with nary a scratch.

But then most of its target audience would have known about this kind of eye candy and go for it anyway!


THE SKINNY: Set in the 1950s, a young girl (Emily Browning as 'Baby Doll') is sent to an asylum for the insane by her wicked stepfather (Gerard Plunkett). The institution is actually being used as a private strip club for the town's elders and the young inmates - like the outspoken Rocket (Jena Malone), the street-smart Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens, below), the loyal Amber (Jamie Chung), and the protective Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) - are being trained in seductive dances by a Nazi-styled Dr Vera Gorsky (Carla Gugino).

Scheduled for a lobotomy in five days, Baby Doll is determined to escape the prison with her four friends before the ordeal. But first, they must flee reality and plunge into a fantasy world where they battle samurai warriors, Nazi troops, flying serpents and even robotic monsters just to collect five everyday objects.

HITS AND MISSES: In one of the fantasy scenes, Baby Doll's spiritual guide (played by Scott Glenn) says: "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." This must be aimed at the audience considering that they have plonked out good money for this prurient and exploitative cinematic cocktail (read: punch).

According to the background notes, director Jack Snyder had been working on this movie since 2007, aided by co-writer Steve Shibuya. The project was put aside while Snyder made Watchmen (2009). Sucker Punch, however, is shallower than Watchmen in plot and narrative depth. It is just about five girls in sexy costumes doing crazy stunts in five action set pieces - none of which held any sense of danger or suspense for the audience (since they are all imagined collectively, quite like the stunts of Inception). Unlike Inception, there isn't any logic involved - and the lines the cast are made to mouth are just plain dumb. Secondary stars like Jon Hamm and Oscar Isaac ham their way through while the starlets, in heavy make-up, go through the paces trying to look fetching and striking cute, sexy poses.

THE LOWDOWN: See-and-forget guilty pleasure.

Monday, March 21, 2011

BANGKOK TRAFFIC (Love) STORY - Stuck In Jam

BANGKOK TRAFFIC (Love) STORY
(romantic comedy
in Thai, with English subtitles)
Cast: Sirin Horwang, Theeradej Wongpuapan and Unsumalin Sirasakpatharamaetha
Director: Adisorn Trisirikasem
Screenplay: Trisirikasem, Benjamaporn Srabua and Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Time: 129 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Wongpaupan and Horwang

PREAMBLE: Two things you may want to know about this Thai movie - it was released on Oct 15, 2009 and it was the highest-grossing Thai film of that year collecting 142 million Thai baht (or RM14.1 million). We do not know why it took so long to come to Malaysia but its box-office 'appeal' (or the lack of it) could be a factor.

If anything, the title is appropriate because it reminds me of Bangkok's infamous traffic jams: watching the movie is like being caught in slow-moving traffic for more than two hours, with an insufferable long-winded wind-bag for a companion.

THE SKINNY: This is basically the story of Muei-Ly (Sirin Horwang), a Thai-Chinese girl who, at 30, is feeling desperate at finding her Mr Right. Societal pressures are hard to ignore, especially when most of her girlfriends, including a so-called 'ugly duckling', are getting hitched and moving out of her social circle.

Late one night, however, a drunken Muei-Ly gets into an accident and meets her Mr Hot (Theeradej Wongpuapan as Lung), an engineer working the night shift at the BTS (Bangkok Transit System or Skytrain) station. Lung would have been just a passing 'dream' for Muei-Ly if he had not showed up at her house a few days later - as 'Uncle' to the boyfriend of Muei-Ly's family maid.


She meets him a few more times at the Skytrain stations - but dares not make the first move, at least not until her pretty neighbour Plern (Ungsumalynn Sirapatsakmetha, above, right) starts hitting on him. And just when she manages to spend the Songkran (Thai new year) holidays with him, she discovers something heartbreaking...

THE REVIEW: Let's get over with the good stuff first: Wongpaupan is really a charmer and would definitely go well with females in the audience. Sirin Horwang has rather limited facial expressions but we tend to root for her as the shy, pampered girl who lives with her parents and Teochew-speaking grandma. Co-star Unsumalin Sirasakpatharamaetha (as Plern, below) provides comic relief and a little tension to the plot. And if you see a lot of scenes on the Skytrain, it is because the movie is sponsored by the BTS, celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Its flaws are plenty, most notably in its implausible and sometimes moronic script (by director and co-writer Trisirikasem, Benjamaporn Srabua and Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit) that drags, sputters and stalls for more than two hours to tell a story that could easily have been done in half that time. Indeed, the film-makers feel compelled to emphasise the nightmares of the infamous Bangkok transport systems - stressing on 'smelly' armpits and others - and doing infantile gags involving Muei-Ly's boss and his solar-energy bras, etc. What I cannot tolerate about the film is the writers' misrepresentation of Muei-Ly as the urban female. They portray her as the dreamer and schemer going after the love of her life - and yet when she gets him, she acts coy throughout. Yes, this is a love story when the lovers do not even hold hands, let alone kiss each other!

Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story is director Trisirikasem's third feature, after Lucky Loser (2006) and My Girl (2003). I have not seen the previous films but would definitely recommend that he takes a look at what young people do on dates these days, before he makes another romantic comedy. That way, his movies may cross more borders and gross as much as those from Hollywood.

THE LOWDOWN: For those who don't mind being stuck in jams.

'Limitless' Leads US Weekend B-O

MARCH 21, 2011 - Despite decent starts for Limitless, Paul and The Lincoln Lawyer, overall weekend business was off nine percent from the same period last year when Alice in Wonderland, The Bounty Hunter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid led.

Limitless packed an estimated US$19 million on approximately 3,200 screens at 2,756 locations. starring Bradley Cooper and Abbie Cornish, is about a wonder drug that gives the taker limitless brain power. Limitless,Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey and Marisa Tomei, is about a maverick criminal lawyer while Paul is the name of an alien who has been hanging out at a top-secret military base.

These titles trailed the opening weekends of recent thrillers (US$21.9 million) and UnknownThe Adjustment Bureau (US$21.2 million). Rango was still doing well at No. 2, collecting a cool estimated US$15.3 million.


Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for March 18 - 20, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)


1. Limitless (Relativity) $19.0 million ($19.0 million) 1

2. Rango (Paramount) $15.3 million ($92.5 million) 3

3. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony) $14.6 million) $60.6 million) 2

4. The Lincoln Lawyer (LGF) $13.4 million ($13.4 million) 1

5. Paul (Universal) $13.1 million ($13.1 million) 1

Friday, March 18, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - March 18 - 20, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) WORLD INVASION: BATTLE LOS ANGELES (sci-fi adventure with Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-You, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena and Michelle Rodriguez) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): LA is under alien invasion again but this time around, it is not as silly as Skyline. Like the latter, it also concerns a small group of people - a platoon of Marines and a bunch of civvies. Of course, with Eckhart and Rodriguez in the cast, be prepared for some incredulous gungho, kick-ass action. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

a) UNKNOWN (suspense thriller with Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella and Sebastian Koch) Rated * * * (3 stars): With Neeson in the lead, this one is touted as Taken 2 but it is actually based on a French novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert. The first half keeps us in suspense as to Neeson's character's stolen identity, while the other consists of chases, flights and twists. Like Taken, the plot is preposterous but it has a bit more depth. (Reviewed below)

b) RANGO (animated Wild West spoof with Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant and Ned Beatty) Rated * * * (3 stars): Coming from Gore Verbinski, the guy who helmed the Pirates of the Caribbean films, this spoof on spaghetti westerns is cute, creative and visually arresting. The characters - lizards, singing owls, rodents, tortoises and a snake - look mighty real and well-developed. The narrative drags a bit but it is quirky fun on the whole. (Reviewed below)

c) MARS NEEDS MOMS (animated space adventure with Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Dan Fogler, Mindy Sterling, Julene Renee, Ryan Ochoa and Jacquie Barnbrook) Rated * * * (3 stars): As you may suspect from its title, this Disney offering is more for younger children - those who refuse to eat their veggies - than for the teens. But parents will definitely like its message and its Pandora-styled sequences that are reminiscent of Avatar. For those who liked How To Train Your Dragon. (Reviewed below)

d) BEASTLY (romance fantasy with Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer, Mary-Kate Olsen, Peter Krause, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Neil Patrick Harris) Rated * 1/2 (1.5 stars): The film-makers must have targeted this modern-day version of Beauty & The Beast fairy tale at the Twilight crowd. But after watching this lame attempt I gained a new respect for the Twilight flicks. The story and the acting suck - and the Beast's make-up looks like a Halloween stunt. (Reviewed below)

e) BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (comedy with Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson, Jessica Lucas and Lorenzo Pisoni) Rated * (1 star): Watching another shitty unfunny comedy with Martin Lawrence in fat-suit is bad enough. Watching both Lawrence and Brandon T. Jackson doing this sh*t is sheer torture that no one should go through. Unless you are a masochist...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

BATTLE LOS ANGELES - Some John Wayne Sh*t

WORLD INVASION: BATTLE LOS ANGELES (sci-fi/action)
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-You, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena and Michelle Rodriguez
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay: Chris Bertolini
Time: 116 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

The ETs are here - LA under attack

PREAMBLE: The aliens are attacking Los Angeles - again! However, this time around, they are invading other major cities like Paris and Tokyo as well, not just in California. Sounds like deja vu?

Not quite. This one is definitely not the US$10-million turkey that was last year's Skyline, but an attempt at epic-style warfare reminiscent of War Of The Worlds.

THE SKINNY: Like I have said above, the extra-terrestrials are invading Earth, ostensibly for its most 'precious commodity' (water). Many major coastal cities have fallen but not LA. Not without a fight, though. However, instead of a showing a well-
concerted national effort to ward off the invasion, the movie focusses on a squad of US Marines led by Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart, pictured below) who are assigned to rescue a group of civvies at a police station in Santa Monica.

Of course, they have a deadline to complete the mission before the place is blown up - but hey, that's obviously a script-writer's gimmick to heighten tension.


HITS AND MISSES: Director Jonathan Liebesman opens the movie with the 'big picture' presented via news reports on TV - what looks like meteors are dropping onto various parts of Earth. Then he shifts to the 'micro' level - where we see Sgt Nantz handing up his letter of resignation from the Marines. Of course, given the 'big picture' earlier, we can predict how his so-called 'resignation' will go. Nantz leads a platoon of cardboard characters like Second Lt William Martinez (Ramon Rodrigeuz), Cpl Jason Lockett (Cory Hardict), Cpl Nick Stavrou (Gino Anthony Pesci) and Cpl. Kevin Harris (Ne-yo).

Things perk up a bit when the platoon is joined by Sgt Elena Santos who is played by Michelle Rodriguez (left), the sexy kick-ass fighter-pilot from Avatar. Maybe she would provide some real kick-ass action... Expectedly, Liebesman uses hand-held camera to heighten the confusion of the battle scenes and succeeds in the confusion part; the civilians (played by Bridget Moynahan and Michael Pena) provide some emotional scenes - and predictably, the film closes with pure gung-ho Hollywood-style heroic action. Quite devoid of humour, twists and depth, the quality of the movie goes from bad to worse - as the fire power and explosions increase.

THE LOWDOWN: Like someone in the movie said, it's 'some real John Wayne shit'.

THE EAGLE - 'Sequel' to Centurion

THE EAGLE (sword-and-sandals adventure)
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Donald Sutherland and Tahar Rahim
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Screenplay: Jeremy Brock, based on Rosemary Sutcliff's novel
Time: 114 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Tatum and Bell in THE EAGLE

PREAMBLE: Coming out almost at the heels of Centurion, this one may be deemed as the sequel to Centurion, continuing the story about the 'disappearance' of Rome's legendary Ninth Legion (with its tale based on Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth). It is good marketing strategy and it should attract fans of sword-and-sandals epics like the Rome TV series.

THE SKINNY: In Centurion, we saw how 5,000 men of the Ninth Legion, led by Titus Flavius Virilus, were 'decimated' by the native tribes of Scotland - and how they lost the Eagle, their golden emblem. This movie picks up the story, circa AD 140, when Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) is posted to a British outpost - where he embarks on a personal bid to regain his family honour.

Marcus proves impressive in an earlier battle against the natives but is critically wounded and honourably discharged from service. However, his quest to find the 'Eagle' gets a boost when he learns that the military emblem of Roman power has been seen in the north of Scotland. Accompanied by his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot fame), he sets out beyond the famous Hadrian's Wall into enemy territory to reclaim the standard - which is but a piece of metal.


HITS AND MISSES: Under Kevin Macdonald's direction, we are treated to breath-taking scenery (of the undulating hills of Scotland and Hungary) and genuine-looking period pieces, especially of its brutal battle scenes and costumes. The cold and dank atmosphere is best felt during sequences when Marcus and Esca journey to the north - and when they are fleeing from the hill tribesmen.

However, the best part of the movie (and the novel) is the relationship between Marcus and Esca, a slave who swore allegiance to the Roman after being saved in the gladiatorial arena. Macdonald exploits the slave-master ties pretty well although certain parts lack depth. Performance-wise, I have no issues with Tatum and Bell. They do not provide Oscar-quality acting but there is enough chemistry to keep us rooting for them. Donald Sutherland has a small but engaging part as Marcus' uncle who helps him to recuperate from his wounds. Unlike in the Centurion, the make-up of the tribes look rather weird, more like powdered American Red Indians than what I would imagine to be ancient Brits. But then, the make-up serves its purpose - to make the tribesmen look menacing. Incidentally, there are no female roles here and those who look for romantic links will be disappointed.

THE LOWDOWN: Watchable and quite satisfactory.

Monday, March 14, 2011

'Battle Los Angeles' Tops US Weekend B-O

MARCH 14, 2011 - Battle: Los Angeles invaded the top spot with the second-biggest start of the year behind Rango, while Red Riding Hood lacked bite and Mars Needs Moms was a massive flop. All three movies generally played out according to what their respective genres prescribed. Overall business was down 12 percent from the same weekend last year, when Alice in Wonderland's reign continued.

Battle: Los Angeles (titled World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles in Malaysia) raked in an estimated US$36 million on approximately 4,700 screens at 3,417 locations, grossing much greater than the entire run of last year's Los Angeles-set alien invasion movie, Skyline.

Rango ranked second with an estimated US$23.1 million, slowing 40 percent for a US$68.7 million tally in 10 days. The Adjustment Bureau slipped 46 percent to an estimated US$11.5 million, increasing its sum to US$38.5 million in 10 days, while Beastly tumbled 48 percent to an estimated US$5.1 million for a US$17 million total in 10 days.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for March 11 - 13, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)


1. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony) $36.0 million ($36.0 million) 1

2. Rango (Paramount) $23.0 million ($68.6 million) 2

3. Red Riding Hood (WB) $14.1 million ($14.1 million) 1

4. The Adjustment Bureau (Universal) $11.4 million ($38.4 million) 2

5. Mars Needs Moms (BV) $6.8 million ($6.8 million) 1

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - March 11 - 13, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) UNKNOWN (suspense thriller with Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella and Sebastian Koch) Rated * * * (3 stars): With Neeson in the lead, this one is touted as Taken 2 but it is actually based on a French novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert. The first half keeps us in suspense as to Neeson's character's stolen identity, while the other consists of chases, flights and twists. Like Taken, the plot is preposterous but it has a bit more depth. (Reviewed below)

b) RANGO (animated Wild West spoof with Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant and Ned Beatty) Rated * * * (3 stars): Coming from Gore Verbinski, the guy who helmed the Pirates of the Caribbean films, this spoof on spaghetti westerns is cute, creative and visually arresting. The characters - lizards, singing owls, rodents, tortoises and a snake - look mighty real and well-developed. The narrative drags a bit but it is quirky fun on the whole. (Reviewed below)

c) MARS NEEDS MOMS (animated space adventure with Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Dan Fogler, Mindy Sterling, Julene Renee, Ryan Ochoa and Jacquie Barnbrook) Rated * * * (3 stars): As you may suspect from its title, this Disney offering is more for younger children - those who refuse to eat their veggies - than for the teens. But parents will definitely like its message and its Pandora-styled sequences that are reminiscent of Avatar. For those who liked How To Train Your Dragon. (Reviewed below)

d) BEASTLY (romance fantasy with Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer, Mary-Kate Olsen, Peter Krause, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Neil Patrick Harris) Rated * 1/2 (1.5 stars): The film-makers must have targeted this modern-day version of Beauty & The Beast fairy tale at the Twilight crowd. But after watching this lame attempt I gained a new respect for the Twilight flicks. The story and the acting suck - and the Beast's make-up looks like a Halloween stunt. (Reviewed below)

e) BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (comedy with Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson, Jessica Lucas and Lorenzo Pisoni) Rated * (1 star): Watching another shitty unfunny comedy with Martin Lawrence in fat-suit is bad enough. Watching both Lawrence and Brandon T. Jackson doing this sh*t is sheer torture that no one should go through. Unless you are a masochist...

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. THE FIGHTER (boxing drama with Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Robert Wahlberg, Dendrie Taylor, Jack McGee, Jenna Lamia, Salvatore Santone and Chanty Sok) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): The true story of welterweight champ Mickey Ward (Wahlberg) is not just the usual underdog in the ring tale. Besides crushing odds in his matches, Mickey also has to contend with a domineering mother (played by Oscar-winning Leo) and a drug-addict has-been boxer of a brother (Oscar-winning Bale) in his bid for the title. Throw in another note-worthy performance by Adams, and we have a winner of a boxing drama directed with finesse by David O. Russell. (Reviewed below)

2. 127 HOURS (adventure drama with James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) Rated * * * (3 stars): Although this Danny (Slumdog Milllionaire) Boyle effort came out empty handed at the Oscars, it is another engaging rendition of the real-life story of mountain climber Aron Ralston's ordeal in the isolated Blue John Canyon in Utah in 2003. It offers the best performance of Franco's career as well as an inspired music score by A.R. Rahman. A must for adventure fans. (Check out the review here)

3. THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (sci-fi romance with Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp, Donnie Keshawarz and David Bishins) Rated * * * (3 stars): Touted as 'Bourne meets Inception', this adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story, Adjustment Team, is actually rewritten as a love story caught in the tussle between Fate and Free Will. It is at times intriguing and downright silly but with the sparkling chemistry generated by Damon and Blunt, the romance tale is engaging enough. (Reviewed below)