Friday, July 29, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - July 29 - 31, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (fantasy adventure with Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper and Toby Jones) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): Coming after The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor, Captain America is a lot more entertaining than Green Lantern and even the critically-acclaimed Thor! This is thanks to the wonderful performances by the leads, as well as Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci; to a gradually built up romance between Chris Evans' Steve Rogers and Hayley Atwell's agent Peggy Carter; and to the old-style Saturday matinee look and feeling that director Joe Johnston provides. Remember to stay back during the closing credits for a glimpse of what The Avengers has to offer. (Reviewed below)

b) THE HANGOVER 2 (comedy with Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Jamie Chung, Justin Bartha, Tanner Maguire, Ken Jeong, Todd Phillips and Mike Tyson) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): It is merely a repeat of the same shit - albeit in a different venue. Instead of Vegas, the 'crazy shit' shifts to Thailand where the three Wolf Pack members (Cooper, Galifianakis and Helms) grapple with a body, a bloody finger, angry monks and a drug-peddling monkey - after a night of boozing in Bangkok. It is deja vu right from the start but thankfully, the movie gets more tolerable as it progresses. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHY HALLOWS Pt 2 (fantasy adventure with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Jamie Campbell Bower, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton and Alan Rickman) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): British director David Yates seems business-like in this final part of the Harry Potter franchise, picking up from where Part 1 left off - and building up to the big showdown between Harry and Voldemort at Hogwarts. Of course, Yates is mindful of the legions of HP fans out there and he 'stages' farewell glimpses of almost of the whole cast. It is a fitting and celebratory send-off for a 10-year series that helped to define the lives of so many fans. (Reviewed below)

2. WU XIA (martial arts drama with Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei, Jimmy Wang Yu and Kara Hui) Rated * * * (3 stars): Mark this one as director Peter Chan's best work and one of Donnie Yen's best performances. The first half works like a crime scene investigation caper with Kaneshiro's detective 'reconstructing' the events that led to the deaths of two notorious bandits at an idyllic village in China. The second half is more 'action-oriented' but the best parts are in the little details of life circa 1917 and the scenic shots. The only flaw is the ending that borders on the absurd. (Reviewed below)

b) HANNA (spy thriller with Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden and Aldo Maland) Rated * * * (3 stars): Director Joe Wright teams up with his Atonement star Saoirse Ronan in this espionage thriller that has Ronan playing a younger, Kick-Ass version of Jason Bourne. Trained from childhood as a killer, her Hanna has us rooting for her as she goes against the odds with the CIA baddies. She has good support from Blanchett, Bana and Hollander too. (Reviewed below)

c) TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (romantic comedy with Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Michele Trachenberg and Michael Biehn) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A touch of Eighties nostalgia, anyone? Well, this comes from Topher Grace, one of the lead stars of That '70's Show on television. The comedy lacks the rowdy absurdity of The Hangover but Grace and Palmer display screen chemistry as two people trying to hit it off during a wild Labour Day booze party. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spy Kids 4D Comes With Aromascope (Smell)

JULY 27, 2011 - Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) has announced that it is releasing Spy Kids: All The Time In The World in its touted 4D version - with Aromascope, offering viewers the fourth dimension of smell.


Besides the usual 3D glasses, moviegoers will be provided an Aromascope card (above) with eight different scents that can be sniffed at corresponding times throughout the There will be a short introduction at the beginning of the movie explaining how to use the card. As the numbers flash on the movie screen, the moviegoer will wipe a finger over the corresponding number on his/her card (like on an i-Phone, no scratching involved). As each of the eight aromas is unleashed, the moviegoer will get to experience a special moment in the movie and be 'transported' into scenes in the family adventure film.

The 'smell-o-vision' gimmick has been around for a while, with most of them discarded after experiencing a few disasters with the smell. The 2003 film Rugrats Go Wild! used 'Scratch-n-Sniff' cards to add another level of experience.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, 'Spy Kids 4' stars Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Jeremy Piven and Ricky Gervais as the voice of Argonaut, a robotic dog. It opens nationwide on August 18.

I wonder if we get to smell robotic dog fart in one of the eight scents.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

THE HANGOVER 2 - More Of The Same

THE HANGOVER 2 (comedy)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Jamie Chung, Justin Bartha, Tanner Maguire, Ken Jeong, Todd Phillips and Mike Tyson
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenplay by Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong & Todd Phillips
Time: 102 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Ken Jeong, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper

PREAMBLE: What happened in Vegas apparently didn't stay in Vegas, as far as the members of this 'Wolf Pack' are concerned. The Hangover (2009) became a huge hit globally. And in Part Two, it is happening all over again - this time around in Bangkok! Right from the opening frames, it is deja vu as we get that fateful call that the wedding may not be happening: someone is gone missing - again.

And if having seen the first film, you have an issue with "the same shit happening to the same guys twice", then you have a problem understanding the title of the movie. However, if you are game for another round of the same shit, this sequel gets more tolerable towards the ending...

SYNOPSIS: The so-called Wolf Pack consists of four pals: Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha). Stu is set to marry Lauren (Jamie Chung) in her native Thailand and Lauren's teenage brother Teddy (Mason Lee), joins the 'pack' for the nuptials at a posh beach resort. Mindful of the fiasco in Vegas, Stu wisely skips the bachelor party but a bonfire on the beach on the eve of the wedding ends up with almost similar results.


Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in a seedy Bangkok hotel to discover major changes to their appearances, a monkey in the room (pictured above) and Teddy missing. Of course, they can't remember a thing but what's perplexing is that they find a finger among the mess - and they soon have a get rid of a body before setting out to find Teddy.

HITS & MISSES: A large part of the movie involves a mad rush to find Lauren's brother among the naughty districts of Bangkok. This involves massage and tattoo parlours, and even a Buddhist monastery. The fun of the 'chase', however, is rendered by a new member of the cast - the monkey - who steals the show every time he is on screen. Indeed, the film-makers are so proud of the capuchin's antics that they boast: "When a monkey nibbles on a penis, it is funny in any language!"

Ed Helms and Jamie Chung as bridal couple, Stu and Lauren

The cast do what is expected of them and so we find Ken Jeong reprising his gangsta schtick as 'Mr Chow', a celebrity boxer reprising his guest cameo - and Galifianakis gets more loathsome than ever here. I like the toast of the father of the bride (played by Nirut Sirichanya) who paints a touch of 'Asian culture' in comparing his future son-in-law to a handicapped relative and to 'chok' (rice porridge). Mel Gibson was supposed to play the tattoo artist but he is replaced by Nick Cassavetes who delivers a bland, workman-like performance.

Some scenes, especially those involving transvestites, have been cut but it does not affect the flow of the story which appears badly contrived. I am particularly unhappy about the scene of a monk beating up visitors. But deja vu or not, the writers manage to 'iron out' the plot creases and the movie gets better as the plot unravels. Like in the original, the events of the previous night are explained in 'stills', right to the closing credits and the laughs continue.

THE LOWDOWN: For those who like more of the same.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America Tops US Weekend B-O

JULY 25, 2011 - It was a dollar-spangled debut for Captain America: The First Avenger. Despite being the last to strike, the most famous superhero of Summer 2011's comic-book onslaught delivered the best opening salvo of the bunch. Meanwhile Harry Potter's last stand fell prey to the adage, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall."

Captain America made an estimated US$65.8 million on approximately 7,100 screens at 3,715 locations, edging out fellow Avenger Thor's US$65.7 million as well as Green Lantern's US$53.2 million and X-Men: First Class's US$55.1 million to top the summer's superhero launches. While the gross difference was trivial, Captain had nine percent greater estimated attendance than Thor, which received more bolstering from 3D (and had IMAX): Captain's 3D share was 40 percent at 2,511 3D locations, compared to Thor's 60 percent at 2,737.

With a whopping US$274.2 million tally in just 10 days, Deathly Hallows Part 2 was still the fastest-grossing Potter film yet, topping Deathly Hallows Part 1's US$219.1 million 10-day run. In fact, Deathly Hallows Part 2 posted the second highest-grossing 10-day opening ever, behind The Dark Knight's US$313.8 million, and it ranked 15th in estimated attendance.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for July 22-24, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (-) Captain America: The First Avenger (Paramount) $65.8 million ($65.8 million) 1

2. (1) Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 2 (WB) $48.1 million ($274.2 million) 2

3. (-) Friends with Benefits (Sony/Screen Gems) $18.5 million ($18.5 million) 1

4. (2) Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) $12.0 million ($325.8 million) 4

5. (3) Horrible Bosses (Warner Bros.) $11.7 million ($82.4 million) 3

Saturday, July 23, 2011

CAPTAIN AMERICA - Old-Fashioned WW2 Fun

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (fantasy adventure in 3D)
Cast: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper and Toby Jones
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely from the Marvel Comics character
Time: 125 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Chris Evans (centre) as Capt America

PREAMBLE: This weekend will see a head-on clash between Harry Potter and Captain America at the US box-office. Although I do not expect Captain America to do as well as Deathly Hallows Part 2, which collected a record US$169 million at its opening weekend, it will be interesting to see how Americans react to their red-white-and-blue home-grown comic book hero in this precursor to The Avengers, slated for May 2012 release.

Coming after The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor, Captain America is a lot more entertaining than Green Lantern - and even the critically-acclaimed Thor! Chalk this off to the wonderful performances by the leads, as well as Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci; to a gradually built up romance between Chris Evans' Steve Rogers and Hayley Atwell's agent Peggy Carter; and to the old-style Saturday matinee look and feeling that director Joe Johnston provides.

Hayley Atwell (centre) as Agent Peggy Carter

SYNOPSIS: The movie starts off in the present day, when a shield frozen in ice is found in the Arctic region. This opening sequence will help to clarify a nagging question at the end of the movie's third act. The story proper unfolds in 1942, when both the Americans and the Nazis are experimenting with a special serum to create super soldiers for the war effort. In New York, German emigrant Dr Abraham Erskine (Tucci) is fascinated by the tenacity of Rogers in his quest to enlist in the US army and he picks him to test his formula.

On Germany's side, ex-general Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is building his own Hydra army of super warriors, aided by Dr Armin Zola (Toby Jones). From the looks of it, Schmidt, who turns into the evil Red Skull (below), is a lot more sinister and dangerous than Hitler. Rogers' involvement in the war starts when he volunteers to air drop into enemy territory to save a bunch of soldiers captured by Schmidt. And from that mission, he becomes Captain America, complete with a signature shield specially made for him by industrialist Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).

HITS & MISSES: This effort is a far cry from the 1990 cheapskate film directed by Albert Pyun. The sets and the Forties setting look pretty authentic and appealing, especially those sequences involving the Cap in the sale of US war bonds. We easily warm up to Evans' Steve Rogers as the earnest, 90-pound weakling who aims to follow his father's footsteps and be a soldier. This is an origin story - and it is plausibly told and solidly supported by Atwell as the feisty Agent Carter, and Jones as the gruff Col Chester Phillips. Evans, who played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies, makes us root for him by being spiritually strong despite being physically weak. His Steve Rogers is also disarmingly candid, admitting to the pretty Peggy Carter that he doesn't have the courage to ask a girl to dance.

And yes, Atwell's role as Carter wins male hearts, just as most of Jones' one-liners make us laugh. Tucci also has a memorable role as the specky Dr Erskine while Sebastian Stan is fun and spritely as Roger's buddy 'Bucky' Barnes. Also, keep an eye out for Cooper's eccentric inventor Mr Stark, the father of Iron Man Tony Stark. Director Johnston, who gave us Jumanji and Jurassic Park III, may be a veteran at blockbuster projects but is no Michael Bay where CGI mayhem is concerned. The action sequences are passable and thrilling enough, bearing in mind that this is a comic book adventure that we are talking about. And yes, you may want to sit through the long credits for a glimpse of what The Avengers brings.

THE LOWDOWN: Absorbing, old-fashioned fun about Marvel Comics' First Avenger. Yes, there is more!

Friday, July 22, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - July 22 - 24, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) WU XIA (martial arts drama with Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei, Jimmy Wang Yu and Kara Hui) Rated * * * (3 stars): Mark this one as director Peter Chan's best work and one of Donnie Yen's best performances. The first half works like a crime scene investigation caper with Kaneshiro's detective 'reconstructing' the events that led to the deaths of two notorious bandits at an idyllic village in China. The second half is more 'action-oriented' but the best parts are in the little details of life circa 1917 and the scenic shots. The only flaw is the ending that borders on the absurd. (Reviewed below)

b) HANNA (spy thriller with Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden and Aldo Maland) Rated * * * (3 stars): Director Joe Wright teams up with his Atonement star Saoirse Ronan in this espionage thriller that has Ronan playing a younger, Kick-Ass version of Jason Bourne. Trained from childhood as a killer, her Hanna has us rooting for her as she goes against the odds with the CIA baddies. She has good support from Blanchett, Bana and Hollander too. (Reviewed below)

c) TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (romantic comedy with Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Michele Trachenberg and Michael Biehn) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): A touch of Eighties nostalgia, anyone? Well, this comes from Topher Grace, one of the lead stars of That '70's Show on television. The comedy lacks the rowdy absurdity of The Hangover but Grace and Palmer display screen chemistry as two people trying to hit it off during a wild Labour Day booze party. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHY HALLOWS Pt 2 (fantasy adventure with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Jamie Campbell Bower, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton and Alan Rickman) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): British director David Yates seems business-like in unravelling this final part of the HP franchise, picking up from where Part 1 left off - and building up to the big showdown between Harry and Voldemort at Hogwarts. Of course, Yates is mindful of the legions of HP fans out there and he 'stages' farewell glimpses of almost of the whole cast. It is a fitting and celebratory send-off for a 10-year series that helped to define the lives of so many fans. (Reviewed below)

2. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (sci-fi fantasy with Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, Ken Jeong, John Turturro, Frances McDormand and Tyrese Gibson) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Seen in glorious three-dimension, director Michael Bay's CGI effects and set pieces are awe-inspiring and visually spectacular. Indeed, he is so proud of them that he overloads and repeats the sequences, unnecessarily stretching the movie to over 2.5 hours. The opening act, involving a 'secret' lunar landing deal, is promising but after that, everything goes downhill. The comedy looks strained, the acting is mostly over-the-top and Bay's latest eye candy, the English Rose Huntington-Whiteley, makes the discarded Megan Fox look like an Oscar star. (Reviewed below)

3. Mr POPPER'S PENGUINS (comedy with Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Madeline Carroll, Andrew Stewart-Jones, Clark Gregg, Curtis Shumaker and Angela Lansbury) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Looks like Carrey is back in his Ace Ventura mode of making an ass of himself with penguins. But no, this family comedy is more subtle than the Ventura flicks. What's more, the performances of the six Gentoo penguins, augmented by CGI (of course), will appeal to the audience, especially the five-year-olds. At least Carrey does not do poop and fart jokes - these come from the penguins. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT - Eighties Nostalgia, Anyone?

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (romantic comedy)
Cast: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Michele Trachenberg and Michael Biehn
Director: Michael Dowse
Screenplay by Dowse, Jackie and Jeff Filgo based on the story by Topher Grace and Gordon Kayman
Time: 112 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Grace, Fogler and Faris in TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

PREAMBLE: Anyone interested in a dose of Eighties nostalgia? Well, this is courtesy of Topher Grace, one of the stars of That '70's Show on television. Grace provides the storyline for this rom-com, with Gordon Kayman as co-writer. Well, there isn't much difference between the American-styled 80's and 70's comedy but those who have grown up with That 70's Show should be able to appreciate the 'nostalgia' provided.

SYNOPSIS: It is the Labour day weekend of 1988 when Matt Franklin (Grace) meets his high school crush Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer) at the L.A. video store where he works. An MIT-grad who has yet to find the job he is suitable for, Matt lies to Tori that he is working for Goldman Sachs, even though Goldman Sachs has no office in Los Angeles.

Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer

Matt then meets up with Tori at a wild party together with his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) and twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) - and they go through the 'rites of passage' that kids of the Eighties need to go through to earn respect.

HITS AND MISSES: This is mainly Grace's vehicle and he has the talent and screen presence to sustain our interest in his character, aided in no small measure by the sexy and adorable Palmer (right). Faris seems underused as the level-headed Wendy, while Fogler provides most of the laughs in his role as a used car salesman and 'resident clown'. Another star who shines is Michele Trachenberg who plays a kinky Gothic-styled party-goer who offers promises of 'wild action' but does not get to fulfil it.

Indeed, youthful fun in the 80's is mostly about booze, cars, drugs and endless partying - and we get a large dose of these here. Those who expect the rowdy absurdity of The Hangover will be disappointed although there is a sequence of sophomore madness involving a guy rolling in a huge metal ball. The nostalgia element also comes on the soundtrack, with 80's hits like Bette Davis Eyes and Let My Love Open The Door. Alas, the title song by Eddie Money and Ronnie Spector, is missing.

VERDICT: Mild but likeable comedy for those looking for something retro.

WU XIA - Almost a Masterpiece

WU XIA aka 'DRAGON' (martial arts drama in Cantonese)
Cast: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei, Jimmy Wang Yu and Kara Hui
Director: Peter Chan Ho-sun
Screenplay by Aubrey Lam
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Donnie Yen strutting his stuff in WU XIA

PREAMBLE: Wu Xia may not be the martial arts flick in the Ip Man vein but it grips us right from the start with an intriguing plot, rich characterisation, breath-taking locales and top class performances. This combination is rare in a Chinese movie, let alone a kungfu flick. But then again, Wu Xia is not just a kungfu flick. It is also a detective mystery with CSI elements, and a family/clan drama with well-developed characters.

The one downside to this effort by director Peter Chan is its supernatural ending that borders on the absurd.

SYNOPSIS: It is 1917, and Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) is a paper-maker in a small village where he lives with his wife Ayu (Tang Wei) and their two children. However, when a couple of bandits try to rob the local store, Liu intervenes and accidentally kills them in self-defence. Or so it seems until detective Xu Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) investigates the botched robbery.

Donnie Yen and Kara Hui slug it out

While Liu claims to be just the average guy, Xu (who is also a physiology expert and acupuncturist), suspects that he is hiding a deep secret, and goes all out to uncover the truth behind Liu’s identity. Xu's dogged persistence threatens the peace of the typical clan settlement and even his own life.

Tang Wei (centre) as Ayu

HITS & MISSES: The first thing that grabs us is the movie's detailed setting - in an idyllic valley with quaint thatch-roof homes that have cattle grazing on its roof. Scripter Aubrey Lam defines the social structure of the times in a scene when Xu asks Ayu to show him the back door. "There is no need for doors in a village like this," she replies.

The movie's 'CSI touches' are intriguing and even educational. As Xu probes into the deaths, we get replays of the action with illuminating insights into Xu's detective powers. There isn't much wushu-tye action in the early segments but the probes are nevertheless fascinating as Chan adds narrative details and character backgrounds to story.

The cast is top notch, with Donny Yen and Kaneshiro (right) verbally sparring against each other. One can safely say this is one of Yen's best portrayals as a caring husband and father trying to escape a sinful past. Kaneshiro gets our sympathy as the obsessive cop who will risk anything to find truth and justice. His demeanour reminds me of Peter Falk's Columbo. Tang Wei (of Lust, Caution fame) personifies the rural housewife who is fearful that Jinxi would abandon her - just as her first husband did years ago.

And of course, it is nice to see veteran Wang Yu (of One-Arm Swordsman fame) in a cameo as a crime boss, and fighting another one-arm swordsman himself. All in all, Wu Xia, which was one of the highlights at the 2011 Cannes Fest, is a refreshing change to the usual kungfu thrillers. Now, if Chan had rendered a more credible ending, it would have been a masterpiece.

THE LOWDOWN: A must for Donnie Yen fans.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Deathly Hallows Pt 2 Sets US B-O Record

JULY 18, 2011 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 soared into the record books with the highest-grossing opening weekend ever in US cinema. The series finale drew an estimated US$168.55 million on around 11,000 screens at 4,375 locations, dethroning The Dark Knight's US$158.4 million.

Deathly Hallows Part 2's first weekend flew past the previous franchise high of US$125 million, posted by Deathly Hallows Part 1 last November, and it topped the franchise in terms of estimated attendance as well. While its opening gross also out-distanced The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 3 (US$151.1 million), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (US$142.8 million), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (US$135.6 million) and the first Spider-Man (US$114.8 million), Deathly Hallows Part 2's estimated opening attendance was less than those titles, ranking sixth overall.

Internationally, the finale flick captured US$307 million in 59 countries since it opened last week, another record. That includes weekend sales plus Wednesday and Thursday for some markets, making a global total of about US$475 million!

Deathly Hallows Part 2 marked Harry Potter's first foray into 3D, and it made a splash with the broadest 3D launch ever (3,100-plus locations, including 274 in IMAX in the US).

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for July 15-17, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (-) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Bros) $168.6 million ($168.6 million) 1

2. (1) Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) $21.3 million ($302.8 million) 3

3. (2) Horrible Bosses (Warner Bros) $17.6 million ($60.0 million) 2

4. (3) Zookeeper (Sony) $12.3 million ($42.4 million) 2

5. (4) Cars 2 (Buena Vista) $8.3 million ($165.3 million) 4

Friday, July 15, 2011

HANNA - New Twist to Bourne, Kick-Ass Caper

HANNA (spy thriller)
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden and Aldo Maland
Director: Joe Wright
Screenplay by Seth Lochhead and David Farr
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Jessica Barden and Saoirse Ronan as HANNA

PREAMBLE: Imagine a female and teenage Jason Bourne-type traipsing across North Africa and Europe you can picture Hanna as a Kick-Ass assassin played by Saoirse Ronan. However, under the direction of Joe Wright (who did Atonement and Pride & Prejudice), the movie works more like a fairy tale than a Bourne-type spy thriller.

SYNOPSIS: Hanna (Ronan) is a 16-year-old being trained for a special mission by her father Erik (Eric Bana) in the harsh, icy wilderness of Finland. When she considers herself ready to take on her destiny and the outside world, she triggers a homing beacon - and starts a cat-and-mouse chase that involves her being captured by CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett) in Morocco.

After escaping from the underground CIA facility, Hanna joins British teenager Sophie (Jessica Barden) and her hippie parents (Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng) as she plans to rendezvous with her father in Berlin. In the meantime, she also has to deal with a German agent named Isaacs (Tom Hollander) who is sent by Marissa to track her down. And as she goes about her mission, she learns who she really is...

HITS & MISSES: Although there is initially a pervasive sense of disbelief over Hanna's gift for languages and physical prowess, the talented Ronan (right) gradually draws us into rooting for her character. Indeed, the better part of the story (devised by Seth Lochhead) is of Hanna discovering the joys of friendship and family as she huddles with Sophie in a tent. This, and her night out with the boys, are Hanna's 'rites of passage' - and it is fun to see how our 'Cinderella' react to her 'Prince Charming'. Gradually, we discover how she came to be closeted in the wilderness of Finland, and who she really is.

Ronan, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Atonement, is captivating as Hanna. At first, we see her Hanna as cold and calculating, as befits someone trained as a killer in a frigid wilderness. Then, as she warms up to being with friends, she starts to thaw and even starts to care for her friends. From here on, Ronan has us eating out of her hands.

Blanchett (left) and Bana are convincing too, even if their accents stray once in a while. Blanchett's Marissa represents the Bad Witch (or Evil Queen) and she plays the role with relish. The sequences are well enhanced by the thumping music score of the Chemical Brothers and the cinematography of Alwin Kuchler.

THE LOWDOWN: A refreshing twist to the Bourne legacy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - July 15 - 17, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHY HALLOWS Pt 2 (fantasy adventure with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Jamie Campbell Bower, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton and Alan Rickman) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): British director David Yates seems business-like in unravelling this final part of the HP franchise, picking up from where Part 1 left off - and building up to the big showdown between Harry and Voldemort at Hogwarts. Of course, Yates is mindful of the legions of HP fans out there and he 'stages' farewell glimpses of almost of the whole cast. It is a fitting and celebratory send-off for a 10-year series that helped to define the lives of so many fans. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (sci-fi fantasy with Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, Ken Jeong, John Turturro, Frances McDormand and Tyrese Gibson) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Seen in glorious three-dimension, director Michael Bay's CGI effects and set pieces are awe-inspiring and visually spectacular. Indeed, he is so proud of them that he overloads and repeats the sequences, unnecessarily stretching the movie to over 2.5 hours. The opening act, involving a 'secret' lunar landing deal, is promising but after that, everything goes downhill. The comedy looks strained, the acting is mostly over-the-top and Bay's latest eye candy, the English Rose Huntington-Whiteley, makes the discarded Megan Fox look like an Oscar star. (Reviewed below)

2. Mr POPPER'S PENGUINS (comedy with Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Madeline Carroll, Andrew Stewart-Jones, Clark Gregg, Curtis Shumaker and Angela Lansbury) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Looks like Carrey is back in his Ace Ventura mode of making an ass of himself with penguins. But no, this family comedy is more subtle than the Ventura flicks. What's more, the performances of the six Gentoo penguins, augmented by CGI (of course), will appeal to the audience, especially the five-year-olds. At least Carrey does not do poop and fart jokes - these come from the penguins. (Reviewed below)

3. MONTE CARLO (romantic comedy with Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Corey Monteith, Pierre Boulanger and Andie MacDowell) Rated * * (2 stars): Granted that this rom-com is supposed to work like a fairy tale romance but there are too many convenient coincidences and slipshod plotting to sustain our interest. This is obviously a vehicle of singer/child star Gomez but she fails to shine in her dual roles that are reminiscent of Lindsay Lohan's Parent Trap. There is no chemistry between Gomez and her love interest (played by Boulanger) and the only star that shines belongs to Meester who plays a stepsister to Gomez's character. (Reviewed below)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Pt 2 - A Fitting Finale

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Pt 2 (fantasy adventure in 3D)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Jamie Campbell Bower, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton and Alan Rickman

Director: David Yates
Screenplay by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Time: 131 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)


Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint

PREAMBLE: I must confess that I had not done my homework properly for this movie - and I regret it. As a Muggle, I should have watched Part One again before attending the media preview for this film. That way, the story flow would have been more continuous and I need not have to rummage through my notes to do this review.

Indeed, director David Yates plunges right into the story from the opening frame without the customary flashback to remind us of what happened in Part One. And as the spectacular conclusion to the Harry Potter franchise unravelled, it dawned on me rather emotionally that this is indeed the end of a magical adventure that spanned 10 years and eight movies.
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SYNOPSIS: Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, below) now has the most powerful wand and he's finally able to accomplish what he had wanted to do for over 15 years: kill Harry Potter. However, before the epic showdown between Voldemort and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) takes place, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) need to seek out and destroy Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes, those powerful objects in which a dark wizard has hidden a part of his soul for the purpose of attaining immortality.

And when the final battle begins, Harry may have to make the ultimate sacrifice - and life at Hogwarts will never be the same again...

HITS & MISSES: Somehow, when we have to say goodbye to friends, we tend to forgive and forget their flaws and concentrate on the stuff we will miss of them. And that's how it is with the HP cast. After losing their baby-face cuteness, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint had been awkward in some of their scenes. In this final episode, however, they seem more 'natural' in their roles as the 'chosen' trio - and there's even time for a wonderful romance developing, culminating in a kiss.

And of course, it is nice to revisit the Gringotts Bank and take a roller-coaster ride of sorts into Dungeons and Dragons territory; to be overwhelmed by golden treasures that magically multiply themselves, and to team up with the other students and staff for the defence and protection of Hogwarts.

The HP franchise celebrates the best of the British film industry and English director Yates assembles the lot of them here for the final 'take-a-bow' session. 'Led' by the imperious Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, we see Robbie Coltrane (as the adorable Hagrid); Helena Bonham Carter's Bellatrix Lestrange (who also does an impersonation of Hermoine); Alan Rickman (Severus Snape); Gary Oldman (Sirius Black); and even Katie Leung as Harry's old flame Cho Chang. Like many others, I had criticised the film-makers' decision to split the final episode of the HP franchise into two parts, but after watching Deathly Hallows Pt 2, I am glad they did it, especially in 3D. Over the years, the HP series has collected US$6.3 billion (RM19 billion) in ticket sales.

THE LOWDOWN: A fitting and celebratory close to one of the most successful series in cinema history.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Transformers 3' Holds At Top of US B-O

JULY 11, 2011 - Transformers: Dark of the Moon held on to first place in its second weekend at the North American box-office, and actually showed some improvement over the last Transformers instalment. Among openers, Horrible Bosses extended the winning streak for R-rated comedies this summer, while Zookeeper wound up in third on middling results. Overall box office was off around 19 percent from the same period last year, when Despicable Me debuted to a huge US$56.4 million.


Transformers 3 fell 52 percent to an estimated US$47 million. That was a lighter decline and a higher second weekend gross than those for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, indicating that Dark of the Moon is maintaining interest at a higher rate than its often maligned predecessor (though, to be fair, Transformers 2's second Saturday was muted by the Fourth of July). On Sunday, Dark of the Moon overtook The Hangover Part II to become 2011's top-grossing movie, and its 12-day total currently sits at a healthy US$261 million.

Overall,
Dark of the Moon generated US$140 million in global ticket sales over the weekend and pushing its worldwide total since its debut to US$645 million (RM1.935 billion).

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for July 8-10, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (1) Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) $47 million ($261 million) 2

2. (-) Horrible Bosses (Warner Bros.) $28.1 million ($28.1 million) 1

3. (-) Zookeeper (Sony/Columbia) $21 million ($21 million) 1

4. (2) Cars 2 (Buena Vista) $15.2 million ($148.8 million) 3

5. (3) Bad Teacher (Sony) $9 million ($78.8 million) 3

Thursday, July 07, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - July 8 - 10, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) Mr POPPER'S PENGUINS (comedy with Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Madeline Carroll, Andrew Stewart-Jones, Clark Gregg, Curtis Shumaker and Angela Lansbury) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Looks like Carrey is back in his Ace Ventura mode of making an ass of himself with penguins. But no, this family comedy is more subtle than the Ventura flicks. What's more, the performances of the six Gentoo penguins, augmented by CGI (of course), will appeal to the audience, especially the five-year-olds. At least Carrey does not do poop and fart jokes - these come from the penguins. (Reviewed below)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (sci-fi fantasy with Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, Ken Jeong, John Turturro, Frances McDormand and Tyrese Gibson) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Seen in glorious 3D, director Michael Bay's CGI effects and set pieces are awe-inspiring and visually spectacular. Indeed, he is so proud of them that he overloads and repeats the sequences, unnecessarily stretching the movie to over 2.5 hours. The opening act, involving a 'secret' lunar landing deal, is promising but after that, everything goes downhill. The comedy looks strained, the acting is mostly over-the-top and Bay's latest eye candy, the English Rose Huntington-Whiteley, makes the discarded Megan Fox look like an Oscar star. (Reviewed below)

2. MONTE CARLO (romantic comedy with Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Corey Monteith, Pierre Boulanger and Andie MacDowell) Rated * * (2 stars): Granted that this rom-com is supposed to work like a fairy tale romance but there are too many convenient coincidences and slipshod plotting to sustain our interest. This is obviously a vehicle of singer/child star Gomez but she fails to shine in her dual roles that are reminiscent of Lindsay Lohan's Parent Trap. There is no chemistry between Gomez and her love interest (played by Boulanger) and the only star that shines belongs to Meester who plays a stepsister to Gomez's character. (Reviewed below)

3. TREASURE INN (comedy in Cantonese with Nicholas Tse, Nick Cheung, Charlene Choi, Huang Yi, Liu Yang and David Tong) Rating * * (2 stars): Hong Kong writer-director Wong Jing is back with his usual bag of ludicrous tricks in this low-brow comedy about how two rookie cops (Tse and Cheung) try to solve the case of a stolen jade statue of the Goddess of Mercy. There are some attempts at spoofing the murder thrillers bit the movie is utterly derivative and a rip-off of Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer.