Friday, December 28, 2007

ATONEMENT (Joe Wright, 2007)

Undeniably, Atonement is an excellent example of mature, intelligent filmmaking at its finest. Coupled with the fantastic and unique musical score(the sound of a typewriter as an 'instrument'), it's a transfixing combination of images and music. Keira Knightley further proves that she's one of the finest young actress working today, exhibiting a kind of elegance in speech and demeanor that is sorely lacking in other Hollywood actresses, particularly Americans. But it is James McAvoy that ultimately shines. It's funny how great actors & actresses now are found outside of America.


Another noteworthy scene is the 'tracking shot' at the beach. It's proof enough of the technical excellence of the film, and reason enough for Joe Wright to be nominated for Best Director.


However, the end result did not measure up to the technical bravura. And that is disappointing. I've never read the book it was based on(I rarely read any novels anyways), so maybe i have little right to judge the material. But a book is a book, a film is a film. I'll judge this for what it is, or how it is. The early 70% of the film is gold. It's entirely engrossing and emotionally wrenching. But sadly, it falls apart by the last act. I felt that the resolution was far less than satisfying, and missed the mark of the 'heartbreaking finale' it was probably going for. And yes, I do get the messages of 'the power of lies', 'the power of writing' and 'how do one atone for sins of the past'. But the resolution did not complement the events leading up to it. Simply put, it's just that I felt cheated by the end of it. It has left me wondering of the relevancy of an earlier scene, and I felt less than impressed by the manipulative method of that act.


///Possibility of minor spoilers!////

Maybe by looking at it another way, it would make a little more sense. But it's kind of far-fetched and it would seem ambitious to a fault. This paragraph may look a bit 'messy'(I'm no writer anyway), but here goes. The finale is just like what Briony did to Robbie and Cecilia. A lie. A betrayal. Both another form of betrayal by Briony to them, and a betrayal to the viewer. It basically jumps out and drags us into the same predicament as the characters. Whether we, could handle that 'lie'. Further stresses the themes I mentioned above, particularly on 'the power of writing'. The film itself 'is' Briony: manipulative. In retrospect, it questions our early 'expectations' of the fate of the characters. We are very much like Briony, we really hoped that both of them could be together by the end;a happy ending. But if it was not meant to be, would a lie suffice? Would a lie be better, just so that it would be of comfort, like the dying soldier in the ward. Ultimately the film juggles imagination and reality in itself, and in our minds.


Atonement works best as a romance film. Keira Knightley's and James McAvoy's performances provide a believable love story. The cinematography, the setting, art direction, the music, and directing are all top-notch. It would be amongst the truly great films of this year, if one could only overlook the 'trippy' finale. To me however, that is one sin the film could not atone for.


3.5/5

Monday, December 24, 2007

I AM LEGEND (Francis Lawrence, 2007)

The movie that further cements Will Smith's status as the 'biggest box-office draw of this decade'. Credit is where credit is due, he *earns* that title in I Am Legend. Will Smith basically carried this movie, a pretty tough feat considering it's a one man show where he's in it 99% of the time. Like Tom Hanks was in Cast Away. Therefore, the success of the film rests solely on Will Smith's shoulder, whether or not he could pull off a one heck of a performance. And he did. Actually, he did more than was warranted or expected in an action blockbuster movie. He treats the premise and source material seriously, thus making his character believable along with the world around him.

As for the movie itself, that's another story. I'm pretty divided with it. On one hand the movie is very good when it indulges on Robert Neville's character; his psyche, how he survive and how he cope on being the 'last man' on Earth(as implied). Add it with Will Smith's intense acting that I would claim even Oscar-worthy, we have ourselves a well-qualified character study film. But when the sun goes down for the action to take center stage, and the 'creatures' come out, it's kinda terrible. Particularly the CGI of the creatures that is downright ugly and laughably cartoonish. It's as bad as the CGI in The Mummy Returns(remember The Scorpion King AS The Rock?). And there's also the typical "creature-feature" frights and jolts that belong in a B-movie. Thankfully the director Francis Lawrence restrains a bit on the action part, and shifts the focus more on the main character so that the 'plastic creatures' wouldn't take up too much screen time.

All in all I liked the movie to a certain extent. It's nothing spectacular, but still engrossing enough. I'll still be in line for Smith's next blockbuster flick.

3/5

Sunday, December 9, 2007

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka


Link: http://10tahun.blogspot.com/

Macam filem ni juga, aku tak mau bagitau kau apa yang kau patut fikir.

Tonton, dan fikir sendiri.

Bagi aku, ini antara filem tempatan terpenting dekad ini.

'Once', once more.

ONCE (John Carney, 2007)


Pardon the cliche headline.

Once definitely did not live up to its title. Because i ended up watching it over and over again, every day since i first saw it. For such a 'small' movie, i never expected it to be so addictive.

I have or apparently, had, little interest towards 'musical' films in general. I never saw Singin' In The Rain(sue me), and I did not like Dreamgirls. I guess the idea of people suddenly burst out into a dance number in the middle of the road doesn't appeal to me that much. But Once is something else altogether. It's a landmark for the 'modern' musical films. Gone are the razzle-dazzle of traditional Hollywood musicals, elaborate choreographies and stagey set pieces. What we have here is more similar to a genuine, realistic 'indie' film;only it's driven by music to move the story.


There's no need for dialogues, for expositions, in order to understand the characters. The songs already gave a glimpse into their souls, into their hidden emotions. And the songs are indeed terrific. The leads are instantly lovable that I did not notice that the film never revealed their names, referring to them at the end credits only as 'Guy' (Glen Hansard) and 'Girl' (Marketa Irglova). And like Before Sunrise/Sunset, it's the chemistry of the leads that makes the film all the more compelling. Seeing that both of them are actually members of the band The Frames, so technically they're 'non-actors', but they can definitely act (better even than our own local "actors"). Maybe it's because of that fact that they're easy to root for. That they're not "stars", they’re just your average people, presenting their passion in music. Glen Hansard sings in the lead, with a the kind of voice that convey a flawed and broken character, and Marketa Irglova sings backup like a guardian angel. Watching over him.

I feel that there is no other film this year that is as heartfelt, and honest as Once. It's amazing how such a simple and sweet film like it could, in essence, lend so much depth about love and relationships. How two person can find harmony, and inspiration, with music. It's like the film transcends itself from its original ambition, from just a musical film, into a greater level. Into a work of art. I have run out of adjectives to express how much I love this gem of a movie. It's the best musical film I've seen, and one of the best romance film ever. I particularly loved the ending, which is pitch-perfect and defies Hollywood conventions. In truth, I think it's impossible for anyone not to like it, except the stone-hearted.


4.5/5

Here's a bit of a 'preview'. The song's entitled 'Falling Slowly'.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"SCULPTING IN TIME"

Apparently I have too much time on my hands....

BEOWULF (Robert Zemeckis, 2007)


Robert Zemeckis' newest infatuation(CG motion capture animation film), and marks his 2nd 'experimental' film after The Polar Express. The visuals have improved, sure, but it still looks somewhat creepy. And they never did fully fix the 'dead-eye' look. Still, it was good fun at the theaters. More of a visual feast and a technical exercise. Nothing much for the heart. The abundance of naked/half-naked bodies and sturdy biceps call for comparisons with 300--but minus the homoeroticism. In fact, I think Zemeckis gave an intentional 'wink', referencing 300, by the humorous effect of the overenthusiastic "I....Am....Beowulf!!!!".

3/5

RESCUE DAWN (Werner Herzog, 2007)


Werner Herzog's first foray into Hollywood(also his first fiction film in a long time), and it should have come sooner. A wholesome survival tale of Dieter Dengler played by Christian Bale with another unbelievably dedicated performance, as do the filmmaking. Criminally underseen in the US which was probably due to the very limited number of theaters screening the movie and it being released around Summer time along with the 'Big Studio' movies. Personally, if taking into account the entertainment value only(without considering the obviously superior filmmaking aesthetics of the film), Rescue Dawn blows away Transformers or any of its competitors out of the water.

4/5

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (Paul Greengrass, 2007)


Then again, maybe Dieter Dengler doesnt blow away Jason Bourne. The Bourne Ultimatum is in my opinion, the best action movie for this year. Tremendously exciting from the get-go. Even though it's rather thin on plot compared to its predecessors, but the amazing, genre-defining action sequences more than makes up for it.

4/5

SUPERBAD (Greg Mottola, 2007)


"From the guys who brought you Knocked Up."

I think that's enough to describe Superbad. I am McLovin' it. It's another comedic gold from Judd Apatow(as producer) and Seth Rogen(as co-writer with Evan Goldberg). Superbad is laugh-out-loud funnier than Knocked up, but lacks the depth and thematic maturity of the latter. It's more in common with American Pie, while Knocked Up feels more like Woody Allen's.

4/5

AMERICAN GANGSTER (Ridley Scott, 2007)


A retread of the classic gangster films. If you've seen Scarface or any old gangster movies, you'll find American Gangster to be very predictable. But Ridley Scott's masterful filmmaking, and charismatic lead actors helped elevate it from mediocrity. Still, it never actually "takes off" to make it pass from "good" to "great". And that's a disappointment considering the amount of talents involved.

3/5

Sunday, October 28, 2007

DOCTORS. You. NEED. To. SEE. This.

SiCKO (Michael Moore, 2007)


...And I wanna be a doctor. In the UK.

...or live in France.

Please.

4/5

See Also: The Death Of Mr Lazarescu(Cristi Puiu, 2006)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

RAYA

Selamat Hari Raya.

Let's Forgive and Forget.

"Sometimes in order to help He makes us cry.
Happy the eye that sheds tears for His sake.
Fortunate the heart that burns for His sake.
Laughter always follows tears.
Blessed are those who understand.
Life blossoms wherever water flows.
Where tears are shed divine mercy is shown."

- Rumi

Monday, October 1, 2007

GRINDHOUSE

A tribute to the now defunct grindhouse exploitation films. Supposedly it's 2 movies shown back-to-back (for the US theatrical release), but for international release, the two movies are released separately. Maybe it's not fair to rate it separately, seeing that both films are supposed to be seen as one, but what-the-hell lahh..

PLANET TERROR (Robert Rodriguez)


Zombies blowing up. A flood of blood. Severed limbs everywhere. Like that Peter Jackson movie Dead Alive. A direct reincarnation of the old-fashioned B-grade zombie movie. Rodriguez took a direct route, more faithful to the Grindhouse essence. For better or worse. It's fun while it lasts. But personally, the Machete faux trailer is better than the whole of Planet Terror.

Verdict: 3/5

DEATH PROOF (Quentin Tarantino)


I liked Tarantino's part better than Rodriguez's. Although it's flawed, there's enough entertainment value found here that could warrant multiple viewings. Unlike Planet Terror, Death Proof feels more like it could be a 'stand alone' film. And the Grindhouse 'references' are more subtle. Having said that, this IS a Tarantino film through and through. A lot, lot of Tarantino self-indulgent jibber-jabber. Entertaining, nonetheless. The first half of the film with the first batch of girls are excellent and very well constructed. However, it started to steadily go downhill when it got into the second batch of girls, with several lame dialogue lines that I couldnt believe were written by Tarantino. It's a highly uneven film, but also highly memorable thanks to Kurt Russel as Stuntman Mike. And I screamed like a little girl during the car crash sequence.

Verdict: 4/5

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Woman In Trouble

INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2007)


The movie's tagline says "A woman in trouble". Aahhh seems harmless enough, ain't it? Maybe it's just about a woman dealing with abuses or something. But no. A big fat NO. Not in a David Lynch movie it ain't. Hell, that tagline is probably the most plausible thing that can be related to the film itself.

Inland Empire cares nothing about making any sense or coherency. It's almost impossible to make heads or tails of it. Scenes after scenes of seemingly disjointed plot and surreal circumstances. The very definition of an all-out weird arthouse film. The sequences could very well be plucked out of somebody's nightmare. Then again, so does almost every other film made by the ever enigmatic David Lynch, the only American surrealist filmmaker. But never has he done something in this measure. A cinematic amalgam equivalent to the experience of jumping headfirst into the rabbit hole, but never coming out. And I love it.

I'm having a really hard time in describing the film, in putting it on paper. Still, it's one of the most unique cinematic experience(I do stress 'experience') I have or will ever encounter. Inland Empire is for David Lynch as 8 1/2 was for Federico Fellini. A summation of the artist's themes, style and passion. And check out the end credits, a "reunion" of sorts of Lynch's past films. From Blue Velvet to Mulholland Drive.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Sunday, September 9, 2007

QUOTE OF THE DAY


"I despise stories, as they mislead people into believing that something has happened. In fact, nothing really happens as we flee from one condition to another ... All that remains is time. This is probably the only thing that's still genuine -- time itself; the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds."

- Bela Tarr

Monday, August 20, 2007

An Excellent Dish

RATATOUILLE (Brad Bird, 2007)

Brad Bird is a genius. The Iron Giant is my personal favorite animated film of all time. Like Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon, he is in a class of his own, and like his equals, shall be rightfully remembered as one of the highlights in the history of animated films. Underneath all those cute and cuddly cartoon characters, slapstick jokes, and simple storyline, lies therein a significant amount of depth, and most importantly, a large heart. That, should easily puts it high above its other competitors. Just when I thought that Pixar is starting to lose some of its magic with the somewhat disappointing Cars, they are now back on track. That said, Ratatouille is pure GOLD! Brad Bird and Pixar has proven to be an invincible combination.

Ratatouille is not just about a rat who loves to cook, as preposterous as that may sounds. It's not just about being funny and appealing for kids. It's a lot more than that. This is both a movie for adults and children alike. Children will marvel at the amazing animation, cute characters, and hilarious slapsticks. Adults, will notice its deep thematic undercurrent. It's a mature examination on the power of art. The arts and crafts of creating something. The true appreciation of any form art: culinary or otherwise(be it paintings, music, or yours truly: films). A great piece of art can even pierce through the dark recesses of the soul, and resurface the things that was once thought lost (as happens to Anton Ego: voiced by Peter O'Toole that quite possibly be the best voice acting ever). Indeed, at the same time Bird has crafted a loving abode to film, to filmmakers for pouring their heart and soul in their creation, and to film lovers who appreciate the greatness of that creation.

Like any exquisite dish, Ratatouille is a film that needs to be savored slowly. Let the flavors seep in, and by the end of it all, the film leaves a delightening aftertaste. An envelope of warmth and wholesomeness, that I came out smiling all the way home.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

malas. dipresi.

ZODIAC (David Fincher, 2007)

Zodiac marks the return to the serial-killer genre for David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) after a 5 year hiatus since Panic Room. And it's a welcome return indeed. Zodiac is a near masterpiece, and the best film I've seen this year so far. Fincher has proved that he is one of the greatest living American filmmaker. Although clocking at nearly 3-hours long, this epic film is so tightly paced and there's not a single wasted celluloid committed on-screen. The amount of detail in this film is staggering. Every little scene is necessary, and every scene is pitch-perfectly directed, to the point that I even think that it's a little shorter than I prefer it should be.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A TRAGIC WEEK


Italian legendary filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni(L'Avventura, Blow-up, La Notte, L'Eclisse, The Passenger) dies at age 94.

Two of the most influential filmmaker who have ever lived died this week. Not exactly 'tragic' considering their age, but they would be sorely missed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

INGMAR BERGMAN IS DEAD


One of the greatest, greatest filmmaker ever, Ingmar Bergman, has died at 89.

This is indeed a sad day.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070730/ap_on_en_mo/obit_bergman_1

"I have always admired him, and I wish I could be a equally good filmaker as he is, but it will never happen. His love for the cinema almost gives me a guilty conscience." - Steven Spielberg

Sunday, July 15, 2007

HARDLY DYING

DIE HARD 4.0 (Len Wiseman, 2007)


John McClane is back. With or without the 'F' word. Now this is what a pure, adrenaline-rush action movie *needs* to be. Superbly entertaining from start to finish. No excessive slo-mo, no corny melodrama, and no cameramen on seizures (*cough* *cough* Transformers). *This* is the action movie to beat this year.

Die Hard 4.0 gave *exactly* what it promised, and then some. The fantastic action sequences are amongst the best I've seen, and almost all of them are done with *actual stunts*. Meaning: no overbearing CGI effects. And that's just what I want considering the flood of cgi-laden fares recently. A very much welcome return to the traditional ways of action choreography and practical effects.

The character interactions are always humorous and engaging, even though the dialogues generally take a backseat allowing the car crashes and explosions to take the screen. And surprisingly Die Hard 4.0 *DO* have an *actual* plot, and an actual thematic significance (befitting the post 9/11 paranoia) to come along with those explosions. Man versus technology. John McClane is the very antithesis of our overreliance on computers and technology. Rather smart; considering the movie itself used very little computer effects.

Forget Transformers. Go do yourself a favor and watch Bruce Willis in top-form, kickin' ass and spouting one-liners instead. PG-13 or no PG-13, I had the best fun in the theaters this year as of yet. "Yippee-Kay-Yay, m----r!!"

Verdict: 4/5

Oh, and "Happy Birthday to me!" ngahaha

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

NOT MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

TRANSFORMERS (Michael Bay, 2007)


Michael Bay is a hack. His talents are only and I do mean, only, limited to blowing stuff up and exhausting your senses. Seriously, with all the technological prowess of Industrial Light And Magic at hand, and Steven Spielberg as executive producer, it is a wonder that Bay still managed to screw it all up. And how could anyone(that have a slightest bit of talent) make a *dull* movie out of giant robots beating the crap out of each other?

First off, I don't really hate Michael Bay (at least before this). I really liked The Rock, and kinda-liked Armageddon. So any accusations about me being biased are arguably far from valid.

I'll start with the things I like before I go 'Megatron' all over the movie. Shia LeBouf basically carried the movie, giving an energetic performance. John Torturro embraced the movie's cartoon roots and took the corny, geeky material to very amusing result. And Megan Fox is *extremely* hot. To be fair, earlier on the movie was pretty exciting. And I particularly liked the humor and self-references(or self-parody?) scattered here and there.

Now the bad part. I won't complain about the script or the glaring plot holes, because I don't expect a Transformers movie to have a particularly engaging (or intelligent) story in the first place. If it has that, then it's a definite plus though. But the fact is it doesn't. So all I want to see is some fantastic action sequences that would blow me away. But sadly, it is in that same *department*, that the movie fails totally. The action sequences are virtually incomprehensible. The attention-deficit camera work, ultra-fast editing, and the constant zooming result to an ultimately dizzying, and sometimes excruciating experience. I didn't know who's fighting who, and what the hell is going on on-screen. The CGI team has put an amazing effort in bringing the robots to life, but all the fast cuts and bad camera detracts the overall "effect".

The horrible robot designs(more alien-like than anything) only made it worse. What made the cartoon series so appealing was because of the robot designs. They have *character*, each and everyone of them. Here they just looked like chunks of metal glued together. Bay applied his usual formula of "throwing *everything* on-screen and just blow them all up", with little to no attention on *creativity*. Okay, okay you can blow stuff up good, but you already did that in Bad Boys 2. Anymore tricks up your sleeve? Guess not. If you think about it, some of the action sequences are just a rehash from his previous movies (Even some of the scenes looked recycled!). To put it simply, they're just *dull*. No matter how much destruction committed on screen, nothing beats some genuine, imaginative "action choreography". The messy final fight sequence, pretty much sums it all up: headache-inducing, overblown, and surpisingly boring.

And I don't understand the need to shoot *every* scene like an action sequence, with shots that are barely more than 2 seconds long. This is common in Bay's previous movies, but in Transformers it was taken to the extreme. Any sense of pacing, tension, or a thrilling build-up can be thrown out the window. I thought that he would learn at least a thing or two from Spielberg, but any way you look at it this is still your typical Michael Bay movie: big, dumb, and loud. I hope this is the last of their collaboration, but that seems kinda far-fetched considering the money this movie would undoubtedly rake in.

Transformers worked better when it doesn't try to be serious. I really felt compelled to give the movie a total rotten rating, but Optimus Prime said that he'd melt my brain if I do. So there.

Verdict: 2.5/5

Sunday, June 24, 2007

FYP MODE

OCEAN'S 13 (Steven Soderbergh, 2007)


A return to the mainstream fimmaking for Steven Soderbergh, after the minimalistic indie film Bubble (2006). Ocean's 12 was horrendous imo, so I have pretty low expectations on this 3rd, and 'hopefully', final Ocean's outing.

The result: an entertaining popcorn movie. No more, no less. You'll enjoy it while it lasts, but there's nothing to write home about.

It's good to see Al Pacino, though.

Verdict: 3/5

BEHIND THE MASK: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (Scott Glosserman, 2007)


A satire of sorts on the horror/slasher classics; Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween (In this film, those infamous characters really existed.). We follow a group of grad students making a documentary on a would-be slasher, who are pursuing the same legacy as Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Myers did during their time.

It's a creative idea, really. Instead of following the would-be victims, the movie centers on the killer himself. From *his* perspective. Accompanied by the usual 'satirical' take on the genre's classic stereotypes. It *is* amusing, I'll give ya that. But I did expect some good blood and gore action to come with the humor. Disappointingly the movie didn't deliver on that regard.

Verdict: 2.5/5

FANTASTIC 4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (Tim Story, 2007)



Oh why do I even bother. I went in just, and I do mean *just* to see some kick-ass Silver Surfer action. Coz he definitely looked cool in the trailers.

Yeah. And what I got was *exactly* what I got from the trailers. There are only two action scenes involving the Silver Surfer (they *are* cool btw), and both are already shown in the movie's trailer. Talk about a waste of money. I won't bother pointing at the obvious from the other aspects of the movie. Simply put the movie sucks. It's 90 minutes long but it definitely felt like more than 2 hours.

By the way, I don't find Jessica Alba attractive.

Verdict: 1.5/5

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It Shines

SUNSHINE (Danny Boyle, 2007)


I kinda regret that I missed the movie's theatrical run, because as it stands, it's one of the best sci-fi film to come out in recent years. Sunshine tells a story about a space mission to reignite the dying sun, thus saving mankind from Earth's barren, frozen tundra. Yeah I know it sounds unbearably cliche, like we've seen it all before. But it is, after all, a film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. The same team that basically *reinvented* the horror/zombie genre with 28 Days Later.

As 'traditional' as the premise may seem, there is enough talent involved that overcomes the film's 'predictability', whilst at the same time providing more than enough edge-of-your-seat thrills and the usual special effects bravado that comes in packages with the genre. Technical virtuosities aside, the characters also hold a strong spot in the film's backbone. The relationships between the crew, and the psychological impact the mission has brought on them as they juggle with the extreme burden of the fate of mankind. To the point that they question their own sanity. Cillian Murphy leads a great ensemble cast, with Chris Evans giving a surprisingly intense performance.

However, the third act didn't reach the height of the promising buildup. A mish-mash of perplexing philosophical(or even religious?) brouhahas emerged all of a sudden. Masquaraded into a somewhat generic chase/thriller sequences, that feels all too familiar and over-the-top to boot.

The movie's flawed, sure, but this is the kind of 'blockbuster movie' (should it reach blockbuster status.) that is worth the anticipation. Enough thrills, dazzles, and intelligence that is a breath of fresh air from this 'threequel'-laden year. So Danny ol' chap! Ya can chalk up another star for another nail in the genre.

Verdict: 4/5

See Also: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Solyaris

Saturday, June 9, 2007

PAPRIKA (Satoshi Kon, 2007)



You can always count on Satoshi Kon to deliver an animated/anime film that transcends itself from mere, hand-drawn, animated cartoons. His films are always psychologically complex and thought-provoking, with realistic characters, that calling them 'anime' becomes an understatement. They're a work of art. Many regard Hayao Miyazaki as the 'godfather of anime', but personally I prefer Satoshi Kon. Even though their specialty is very much the same (their imagination knows no boundaries), but Satoshi Kon is the very contrast of Miyazaki. Where Miyazaki "creates" new imaginative beings, Satoshi Kon *skews*, or manipulate those visions that has embedded themselves in pop culture, into his films. Like David Lynch is to Hollywood stereotypes. The 'arthouse' of anime; more 'adult-oriented'. In short, his films are the most 'humanistic' compared to other animes, closer to a live-action film. Millenium Actress, remains my favorite anime film ever, and a masterpiece.

Although I feel that Paprika is a bit of a 'minor' work, but it still is his most 'mind-bending' film. Kon's trademark of blurring the lines between reality and dream, that constantly shifts-in and out, are ever-more evident here in Paprika. Viewers will find it hard to follow the film's narrative earlier on, due to its lack of blatant exposition. But it is the 'trust' that is put to the viewers' own intelligence, that raises my respect towards Satoshi Kon. Even more due to those brainless Hollywood blockbusters that are pouring all over this summer. Paprika did not forget to present not only visual sensations, but also plenty of food-for-thought too. It is pulsating with extraordinary imaginations that comes from the "inner-child", at the same time delving deep into the characters'(and our) psyche. As we would continually ask ourselves what is real and what is not.

Paprika didn't actually meet my rather *high* expectation(a fault of the rather underwhelming finale), but indeed, the 'headtrip' is definitely worth the experience.

Verdict: 3.5/5

See Also:
Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Paranoia Agent Series

Thursday, May 24, 2007

MARATHON..... SORT OF..

I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE (Tsai Ming Liang, 2007)


I missed his retrospective in Central Market some time ago. *sigh* Exams be damned!

The first Tsai Ming Liang film that was filmed back in his home-country. An examination of 'loneliness'(a recurring theme in his films) amidst the bustling, claustrophobic Kuala Lumpur. As to be expected; minimal dialogues, 'meditative' pacing and perfectly framed, long, static shots are inevitable in a Tsai Ming Liang film.

Tsai perfectly captures the sense of 'seclusion' of his protagonists. That is, their need for 'soulful' connection, far surpasses the need for verbal communications.

It's amazing, really, the level of detail that has been put in each scene, each frame. There is so much too look at, to marvel at, in the intricate details embedded in every long, static shots. It's almost like every movement was choreographed, but at the same time, feels naturalistic. It is filled so much with visual beauty, that my mouth was left gaped in awe most of the time. Indeed, under Tsai's unique flair, KL have never looked this beautiful. Even in those damp alleyways, squatterhouses and abandoned constructions. The last shot, in particular, is simply breathtaking.

Although after the first half the film kind of meanders on a bit and the novelty of the 'new locale'(Kuala Lumpur) starts to succumb to wear, the film's finale is more than enough to reward your patience. The film is truly a sumptuous cinematic experience, and must be fully appreciated on the big screen.

Verdict: 4/5

28 WEEKS LATER (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)


The sequel to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. Although I still prefer the orignal, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo still managed to brew a worthy enough successor to one of the best horror films ever. Frenetically fast paced, with hardly any pauses for a breather, this is as gripping, and thrilling as you can get from any movie this summer (I'm doubtful of Pirates 3 and Transformers to reach this height in terms of entertainment value. But we'll see.).

Although it falters in terms of 'humanistic' elements that was prevalent in the original, 28 Weeks Later redeems itself with pure adrenaline rush. Frequent jolts, buckets of blood and gore, and inventive action set pieces elevate to a very commendable horror/action flick. It even managed to slip in a critical commentary on the US-army interference (More like a slap in the face for the American 'military power').

The movie left me exhausted. In a good way.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

THE KILLING JOKE


"I Believe In Harvey Dent."

...This is ALL kinds of COOL.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

THE SPIDER SENSE IS TINGLING

SPIDER-MAN 3 (Sam Raimi, 2007)

Spiderman 3 is without a DOUBT, an ENORMOUS DISAPPOINTMENT. Considering its predecessor Spiderman 2 has been often touted as the best superhero movie ever made (although personally I'd choose Batman Begins all the way!), maybe it's the considerable high standards that i've come to expect from this series, and from Raimi and co., that detracts the overall experience of the film. But as it stands, and being the most expensive movie ever made, it definitely should have been better, or at least provide a satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy.

Judging by the trailers, I first thought that this entry would be a much 'darker' and 'violent' version (treading the path of Batman Begins). A black Spiderman, and the promise of Venom as one the villains, are enough to put fanboys in ecstacy.

Instead, Spiderman 3 is more or less similar in tone as the prequels. Only differing in terms of quality; it's messy, bloated and lacklustre in almost every regard. Raimi dished out too much of everything. Too many villains. Too many characters. Too many subplots. In this case, 'more' turns out to be 'less'. It is painfully obvious that no attention was paid towards the 'script', or much of the things that made the prequels great in the first place. Spiderman 2 explores Peter Parker's inner turmoil with sufficient depth and focus whereas Spidey 3 only skims the surface in terms of character developments. And Doc Ock is a more compelling villain than Sandman, Goblin, and Venom combined.

The sappy 'soap opera-ish' story didnt help either. Boring and ultimately unnecessary. The dialogues are dry and cringe-inducing; sorely lacking compared to its predecessor. Sandman is underused, and its 'tidy' tie-up to Peter's history felt 'tacked-on'. Like a lame reason just to introduce the character, and show off the CGI effects. And not forgetting the plainly corny "father-child" subplot, trying too hard to squeeze out the audience's sympathy on the character. The best villain in it would probably be Venom. But again, he appeared too late, and too short a time to make an impression. However, it was Harry Osborne that stands out above the rest. His inner demons and ongoing feud with Peter are compelling enough to garner attention, even when the script sinks into 'Opera' world (particularly towards the end).

Don't get me wrong, there ARE some good, if not great, parts in the movie. But alas, they are scattered all over, with the horrible parts sticking out like a sore thumb. The only thing this film excelled at, is in the action sequences department. At best, they are as exhilirating and imaginative as its predecessor. The special effects are just jaw-dropping. I think the movie would fare better if they would just shut it on the 'melodrama' part, and just get on with the action. Aaahh but let's not forget the Bruce Campbell cameo. Priceless! I'd even be so bold as to claim him as the best thing in the movie!

That said, Spiderman 3 turned out to be just a passable action movie, but a failure as an entry in the series, thus ending the trilogy on a sour note. It's no wonder that the movie's promotions are off the charts. Seems to me that the guys in Sony weren't all that 'convinced' on this entry in the first place. In the meantime, let's not hope this would mark the start of a 'Summer Movie Curse'.

Verdict: 2.5/5

Thursday, April 26, 2007

JANGAN PANDANG BELAKANG (Ahmad Idham, 2007)


"Apa ke he nye, yop?"

Memang aku skeptik dengan filem ni pada awalnya. Bukan sebab aku bias kpd Ahmad Idham atau Metrowealth (ataupun pada filem melayu keseluruhannya). Tapi sebab filem-filem genre horror ni memang susah nak dibikin elok sekarang ni, susah nak melompat keluar daripada klise-klise filem-filem seram yang lampau. Dan memang, susah nak bagi orang rasa takut. Lagi-lagi untuk peminat kuat filem-filem seram. Patutlah kebanyakan filem-filem horror dari Barat(British terutamanya) dah macam tak mau bikin filem seram yang 'tradisional' macam ni. Menyumbat unsur-unsur satira atau komedi untuk menutup lobang-lobang 'klise' tu.

Aku puji Jangan Pandang Belakang. Walaupun babak-babak melodrama awal yang agak lama dan menjengkelkan tu hampir-hampir merangsang aku untuk keluar dari panggung. Ditambah lagi dengan pelakon wanita utama ntah-sape-nama tu yang macam haram tak reti berlakon, kontrol cun je keje (Walaupun memang cun jugak sebenarnya). Tapi bila dah masuk part seramnya tu, dipendekkan cerita memang seram lah kan. Keras juga aku pegang kerusi.

Filem ni lebih kepada gaya 'episodic', menayangkan satu demi satu episod seram yang memang secara strukturnya, tak bawak apa-apa perkembangan pada jalan cerita. Tak kisahlah, asalkan 'episod-episod' tu dilaksanakan dengan baik dan berjaya buat jantung penonton gugur dari semasa ke semasa. Pembinaan tension, atmosphere, dan sound effect yang sangat boleh dipuji. Dan aku terperanjat juga dengan gaya arahan Ahmad Idham yang 'humble', yang secara keseluruhannya tak 'lebih-lebih' macam kebanyakan pengarah filem 'mainstream' lain. Tak ada dah pelakon-pelakon yang menjerit melolong mengalahkan penonton sendiri. 'Pacing' nya pun sabar, tak terburu-buru nak tayang hantu depan-depan (sekurang-kurangny pada awal filem). Banyak bermain dengan kuasa imaginasi penonton sendiri. Apa yang kita tak nampak itu lebih seram, macam masa babak-babak Opah berinteraksi dengan 'kawan' Darma.

Tapi aku rasa kejayaan filem ini adalah disebabkan Pierre Andre. Skrip dia yang bijak. Ada passion (bak kata Ogy - ya, aku tengok AF. Kenapa?). Memang dia buat homework. Buat kajian tentang kisah-kisah hantu yang biasa kita dengar(yang boleh kita kaitkan), dan sejarahnya juga. Sempat juga diselitkan elemen-elemen komentar dan humor secukup rasa.

Aku berani kata, ini filem Seram Melayu terbaik pernah aku tonton. Aku ulangi, yang PERNAH aku tonton ok.

Verdik: 3.5/5

Saturday, April 14, 2007

SUMMER MERDEKA CUP 2007

(Ini iklan tak berbayar)




Ya aku tau cam haram. tak ada special efek. tak ada pelakon hansem (hahaha). kamera goyang (sebab takde stand). blablabla

...tapi aku pedulik hape.

Special thanks to:

- Mamud merangkap produser.
- Miji. sebab kasi pinjam digicam. dan jadi watak 'extra'. haha
- Teng. dia watak utama. dia bajet kacak.
- Keli dan Sarap for additional music.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

DEATH IS THE ROAD TO AWE

THE FOUNTAIN (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)


God, how I've waited to watch Darren Aronofsky's(Pi, Requiem For A Dream) latest offering. And it doesn't disappoint. In fact, with the lukewarm 'critical receptions' this film has received, I was actually surprised that it's *this* good. That's putting it mildly. It's FANTASTIC. Like Malick's The New World, The Fountain definitely ranks up as one of the most underrated films of the new millennium.

In the same tradition as Kubrick's 2001: ASO or Tarkovsky's Solyaris, The Fountain is *more* than just "science-fiction". I couldn't call it anything, really. It's already respectable that Aronofsky was brave enough to take the risk of making this kind of film in the first place. Considering the box-office reception, sadly I doubt that he would ever make anything like this again.

Spanning over a thousand years, with three parallel stories. One during the Spanish insurgent, one in the present, and one 500 years from now. Each with a different "incarnation" of Tom(Hugh Jackman) and Izzy(Rachel Weisz). No doubt the unititiated would scratch their heads over trying to make heads or tails of the story. But underneath the mysterious and ambiguous surface, at its core, is an epic love story about everlasting love that crosses the boundary of death. Indeed, the center of the film is about death. That to me, made the film feels more like Tarkovsky than Kubrick in its philosophical approach.

This is the kind of film this generation *needs*. Literally. The kind of film that not only shows something that you've never seen before, but also takes you on a journey *with* it. An out-of-this world journey, a spiritual journey. Though I cant quite put my finger on the film, on what it's all about, but the sense of awe of just experiencing the film is what's important here. It can't be "talked" about, can't be put into words. One *must* experience it first-hand. Heavy in symbolisms, I had considerable trouble to grasp their meaning, most I would possibly never could fathom, but they're coupled with visuals that are so transfixing, so beautiful, that it doesn't matter. Aronofsky leaves much to the audiences interpretation, restraining from expositions, leaving clues here and there. The 'adventure' of just piecing together(or try to) the 'puzzle' is reason enough to watch the film over and over again.

However, I do admit that this film is definitely not for everyone. Most would probably dismiss it as utter rubbish. Call me pretentious or whatever, but a work this ambitious, this passionate, deserves the praises. The very definition of an auteur presenting his *own* artistic vision, his *own* "universe", in film. To make a film the way he wanted to. The best way to enjoy the movie? Leave your logic, open your mind, journey inwards, 'feel', and you'll be blown away.

oh, and by the way, Clint Mansell's music is just superb. It haunted me for weeks. Even before I saw the movie.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ne Me Quitte Pas

MUKHSIN (Yasmin Ahmad, 2007)


Sesiapa yang tak suka filem ini, memang kau tak ada perasaan.

Mukhsin adalah filem nostalgia. Kalau tak semua, pasti ada cebisan2 yang akan mengenangkan balik zaman kanak2 dulu. Mungkin filem ni ada 'charm' yang tak henti2 buat aku tersenyum, ada jiwa yang lekat dengan jiwa aku, dan disebalik 'naivity' kisah Orked dgn Mukhsin ini ada 'kematangan' yang mengangkatnya lebih daripada sekadar filem tentang cinta monyet budak-budak. Betul-betul, satu filem yang cantik, rohani dan jasmani (if that makes any sense).

Macam Yasmin katakan, filem ni bukan saja tentang watak2nya, pemandangannya jugak adalah karakter. Sawah padi, pokok-pokok yang Mukhsin panjat, dan intricate details dalam filem ini ada 'peranan'-nya. Ada kesinambungannya terhadap development watak-watak. Dan juga membawa aku ke dunia Mukhsin yang seakan-akan sama dengan dunia yang pernah aku lalui dulu.

Mohd Syafie Naswip memang memikul tanggungjawab sebagai 'title character' dengan sangat baik. Dialah nadi filem ini. Casting yang sempurna. Syarifah Aryana aku rasa agak 'janggal' sedikit sebagai Orked, macam tak berapa 'selari' dengan Orked yang Amani lakonkan (macam lebih matang daripada her adult-counterpart). Tapi Aryana ada kualiti tersendiri, 'understated' dan bersahaja. Lakonan yang matang. Amat layak dipuji, lebih-lebih lagi sebab dia masih budak. 'Scene-stealer' sudah pasti Pak Atan dan Ayu (Pak Atan muda ini lebih best daripada Pak Atan tua). Tak payah aku cakap lebih pun korang boleh tau sendiri.

Yang uniknya, 'mood' atau 'theme' (i dunno the right word) ketiga-tiga filem Sepet, Gubra, dan Mukhsin ini masing2 berbeza. Ada personaliti sendiri. Mukhsin lebih 'mainstream', lebih 'colorful', juga lebih simple daripada yang lain-lain. Tapi ini bukan satu kekurangan. Ada juga falsafahnya. Falsafah 'rahmat' (macam Fadz cakap); seiring dengan lagu tema 'Hujan', simbolik dengan kali pertama Orked nampak Mukhsin. Dalam kereta. Ketika hujan. Mukhsin itu adalah rahmat. Begitu juga semua makhluk ciptaan Tuhan. Menarik juga memandangkan kebanyakan filem-filem lain menggambarkan hujan ni hanya melambangkan 'kesedihan', 'tragedi' dan apa-apa lain yang klise. Mukhsin jelas kontra dan mem'positif'kan 'hujan' tu.

Orang tertanya-tanya dengan kemunculan Orked dan Jason (both adult counterparts). Bagi aku, cerita Mukhsin ini adalah 'diceritakan' oleh Orked. Memori dia tentang Mukhsin, tentang hari-hari dia dengan Mukhsin. Apa yang dia ingat (atau apa yang dia mau gambarkan). Dan memandangkan ini cerita daripada hati Orked, sebahagian daripada hatinya turut masuk. Apa yang benar-benar dia mahukan. Maka muncullah 'dream life' dia dengan Jason, yang 'happily ever after'.

Lagi yang aku perasan, suasana di kampung Orked, tak terasa macam 'ketinggalan zaman' dibandingkan babak-babak dalam bandar yang jelas nampak perbezaan zamannya (Pondok telefon kuning, etc). Ada sense of 'isolation'. Terasa 'immortality' suasana kampung tu, betapa maju pun dunia, kampung itu tetap sama. Kehidupan yang sama.

Ini yang aku nampaklah.

Bagi aku, Mukhsin adalah entry yang paling entertaining. Walaupun tidak 'mencabar' macam Gubra (pilihan aku), tidak se'segar' Sepet, tapi Mukhsin adalah pelengkap kepada 'sekuel2'nya tu. Menontonnya dalam panggung, dengan lagu 'Hujan' dan 'Ne Me Quitte Pas' yang masyuk, memang bagaikan satu 'rahmat'.

Verdict: 4/5

Saturday, March 17, 2007

THIS. IS. SPARTAAAAAA!!!!

300 (Zack Snyder, 2007) aka 300 Pahlawan Berani Mati(??)


<I'd probably get flamed for this.>

The first box-office extravaganza of the year. A testosterone-ridden gorefest. Coupled with a fantastic trailer earlier on, how hard can it be for the movie to just kick-ass or at least, be entertaining enough for 10 bucks' worth? But disappointingly, 300 worked better, a lot better, as a trailer than a feature length film.


Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 takes a spin on the legendary tale of the ancient Battle Of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan warriors fought to the death against millions of the Persian army under the emperor Xerxes. The film stars Gerard Butler (Dear Frankie) as the Spartan king, Leonidas. Like Sin City, the visuals are indeed the main course. So does the perfectly built, steroid-overdose, six-packed Spartans that should very well *appeal* to not only females, but males as well. Straight or gay take your pick, but I'll put my money on the latter to literally go ballistics over Leonidas physical prowess (and *especially* the captain's son, too) long after the movie's over.

As unique and 'cool' as the visuals are, the novelty wears off pretty fast. A fault that is mainly due to the overbundence of 'slo-mo', to the point of exhausting. Imagine every scene (battle scenes or no) there would be a slow motion moment, presumably to parade the stylistic voyeur of the visuals or to give some screen time for the characters to strike the 'coolest', manliest battle poses. Don't get me wrong, there are some truly stirring shots. But I can't shake off the feeling that those scenes just work best as illustrations (the movie just basically lifts off the panels of the graphic novel), not in a motion picture.

Worst of all are the dialogues. Other than the ready-made quotes like "Tonight we dine in hell!!!" and "THIS. IS. SPARTAAAA!!", they're just equal to the standard of a video game. Not to say that those lines are any better, they just have the privelege of being *shorter*. I just wished the characters would just shut up on blabbering endlessly about "honor", "valor", "freedom" (who the hell cares, anyway??) and just get on with the bloodshed. And in that deparment, the film succeeds, if only mildly. The action pieces are definitely well-choreographed, with decapitations and torn limbs abound. But the lack of genuine "thrills" is disheartening. Again, it's the slow-motion's fault. Where's the sense of 'excitement' if the movie took like 10 seconds just to show Leonidas swing his sword. Another 10 seconds to show the head departs from the body. And another 10 for a 'cool pose'. Yeah yeah maybe I'm exaggerating but you get the picture.

The plot is just an excuse for the action to take stage. No surprise there. Very much similar to a video game where the hero move on from level to level, fighting off hordes of enemies with increasing difficulties. And dont get me started on the 'homoerotic' undercurrent. Maybe it's just me, but some of the scenes looked *more* than just "brotherly love". *shudders*

Simply put, this is just another mindless action flick offering. All style and no substance whatsoever. Honestly, I really *do* want to like this movie. I really want to, just to start off a good year for movies. But there's only enough for one can bear.

Verdict: 2/5

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater, 2006)


Richard Linklater is my favorite "new-generation" film director, and obviously, at the tops of my favorite film directors ever. Dazed And Confused, Before Sunset, and Waking Life; these are masterpieces of modern filmmaking. The ones that I won't get bored watching over and over again. And respectably, his other "lesser" films are still worthy of his reputation; maybe with the exception of The Newton Boys. But for his 2nd film of 2006 (after the very good A Scanner Darkly), Fast Food Nation landed as a disappointing endeavor from the auteur. Ambitious, no doubt, but ultimately unsatisfying.

The film boasts a large ensemble cast: Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Bruce Willis, and even Avril Lavigne. Based on the book by Eric Schlosser, who's also in the writing credits, the film tackles the fast food industry. Or *attacks* it, to be precise. Everything from the food itself and the corporate malfeasance, to its effects towards society as a whole.

The "slacker" flow that has been Linklater's directorial 'stamp' is most probably the film's downfall. It worked great in Slacker(obviously), SuBurBia, and pretty much most of his other films. But here, tackling an important, socially-conscious issue that is the fast food industry, needs *energy* and resonance. Which Fast Food Nation failed considerably. Bland characters come and go, bringing very little dramatic tension too if I might add, and the story of each of them felt disconnected somehow. It tried to convey too many messages. Instead, little did they translate effectively. For a lack of a better word, it's "unfocused". Although there *are* some memorable scenes and performances (particularly by Bruce Willis and Paul Dano), but by the end of it I felt a kind of 'emptiness'. The film does raise some thought-provoking issues though, particularly the scene where the characters tried to free the cows but they won't budge. More of a metaphor to the society, too comfortable in their current condition or too scared to change. They (or we) are as helpless as the cows.

Not to say that I hated this film, that would be overly harsh. But it is, as I said, unsatisfying and quite forgettable(then again, maybe not for the cow slaughtering scene). It didn't resonate as much as it should. Maybe it should have stayed in the novel.

Verdict: 2.5/5

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar 2007

Well, hurrah for The Departed! And finally Scorsese gets his due. Maybe it's not his strongest film, but it's still better than the others (aside from Letters, which I haven't seen yet).

The show as a whole sucked (Ellen was surprisingly unfunny). But I'll give credits to the Oscars for being rather *unpredictable*; for better or worse. And earlier on I thought Little Miss Sunshine was gonna give a surprise by winning Best Picture, seeing that it won for Best Original Screenplay.

There are certainly some disappointments, most notably Pan's Labyrinth and Emmanuel Lubezki losing. Other winners are satisfactory, I guess.


Here's hoping for a better host next year.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

SEVERANCE (Christopher Smith, 2006)


It's official. If you want a good horror dosage for your friday nights, leave it to the Brits. 28 Days Later, Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Shaun Of The Dead; the guys behind these actually *know* what they're doing. They actually love horror movies. AND, their ideas are *original* too boot. Not some "Asian remakes" or crappy imitators that Hollywood keeps dishing out over and over again. I'd say the last good Hollywood horror film was Slither. Even that was a "homage" of sorts to the B-horror flicks of yesteryears. Not that that was any fault if it was done competently. The same goes to this latest Brit horror/comedy flick Severance. Taking the typical horror movie premise and just spun it around for laughs. But, the difference is that Hollywood just can't beat British humour. I don't know why, just that they have a certain "penache" in their 'comedic approach'. They're more subtle, and witty.

The premise is easy enough, a bunch of people go for a vacation in a remote 'villa', and ended up getting their body parts hacked by a crazy-ass killer. In this case, the 'people' are co-workers of a weapons manufacturing company of sorts. Similarities with 'The Office' are glaring here. Only that you don't really care much about the characters. But then again, since when did we last *care* about a character in a horror movie? At least, this bunch is *colourful* enough.

Severance did what other movies of its genre did: it pokes fun at horror movie stereotypes. And whenever they do, it's hilarious. Most notably the scene where the "typical female protagonist" kills off the "slasher" (within seconds) with a shotgun, and uttered "I hate to be accused of not killing him when I had the chance.". If *that* doesn't beat you over the head with its sense of humour, then you just have no.....sense of humour. Or you've never watched a horror flick all your life. Then you're a loser. ha!

There's also a good amount of political satires thrown in. But I would call this a double-edged sword. It *is* brilliant at times, but also made the film itself wildly uneven (in tone). By the third act it degenerates into the ridiculous, with bursts of over-the-top political gags/references that seemed like I'm watching a different movie altogether. Like a late change of course by the filmmaker, aiming for a *higher* target than it should.

However, I really enjoyed the movie. Sure it's not scary (it's not meant to be). Just some gory stuff with a few cringe-inducing scene. But it *is* still a refreshing take on the genre; one that you could sit back, eat some junk, and laugh your ass off.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Painted Veil (John Curran, 2006)


Lagi satu versi filem yang diadaptasi daripada novel Somerset Maugham. Ini versi yang ke-3, jadi boleh ke kalau nak dipanggil filem ini filem 'remake'? Banyak betul Naomi Watts berlakon dalam filem2 remake (King Kong, The Ring). Aku sebenarnya tak berapa tertarik sangat dengan filem ini memandangkan stereotaip filem genre romantik+period piece = bosan. Tapi memandangkan penyandang2 utamanya Edward Norton dan Naomi Watts (keduanya pelakon feveret aku), aku pun bagi lah can kat The Painted Veil ni. Dan memang, seperti yang aku jangka, filem ni memberi lagi sebab kenapa diorang ni gilebab 'underrated'. Kalau kau tak rasa 'jatuh cinta' pd ceritanya sekalipun, kau pasti jatuh cinta pada dua watak utamanya ni.

Aku tak baca novelnya, dan aku tak tengok versi2 filem yang sebelum, jadi aku tak boleh komen lebih-lebih. Cuma aku boleh kata tema 'pertembungan budaya barat dan timur' filem ni agak 'ketinggalan zaman' bagi aku. Dan paparan orang putih sebagai 'penyelamat' orang Asia yang mundur agak menjelikkan sekali-sekala. Tapi tak apa, yang jadi kekuatan filem ini sudah tentunya kisah hubungan Walter dan Kitty. Juga sinematografi pemandangan yang menyejukkan mata.


Dan menarik juga tengok Anthony Wong cakap English. Mungkin jadi landasannya untuk ke Hollywood. Jangan jadi macam Gong Li sudah (apa dia buat dalam Hannibal Rising??).

Verdict: 3.5/5


Wordplay (Patrick Creadon, 2006)


Filem dokumentari yang sangat 'educational' dan sangat menghiburkan (mana nak carik tu?). Tak sangka tengok filem pasal crossword puzzle geeks ni boleh buat aku terhibur macam ni. Dulu aku tengok mak aku rajin buat, aku tak faham apa yang 'seronok' sangat.Baru la aku tau selok-belok pasal pembikin dan peminat crossword puzzles (diorang genius) ni dan kenapa sampai orang jadi obses. Sampai Bill Clinton pun obses sekali. Hebat. Teringin pulak aku nak mencuba.

Verdict: 4/5

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigiir, 2006)


Undoubtedly you won't find any other film from last year that is as bizarre as Ten Canoes, a story revolving a tribe of Australian aborigins many, many years ago. Bear in mind, this film is NOT what you would expect considering that somewhat 'misleading' short synopsis. This is no documentary nor another heavy 'socio-political conscious' drama about these aborigins. Instead it is a charmingly funny fable, told in a unique flair that not only made the film accessible, but also complements the 'quirkiness' of the film itself. These "gibberish"-speaking, naked aboriginals are very much identifiable, complete with their own distinct characteristics that are similar to your average individuals. Unlike Apocalypto which more or less depicts natives as some sort of savage "aliens", Ten Canoes *takes* the viewer into their world with a nostalgic atmosphere, also showing that time doesnt change human behaviors as much as we would expect. They exhibit the same feelings as ours(jealousy, anger, desire, happy, sad, etc), do things that are as common as our lifestyle now and even talk dirty to one another. Added with the constantly humorous narration, their world and their story turned out to be not so 'other-worldly' after all. Truly a one of a kind viewing experience.

Verdict: 4/5

Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005/2006)


One of the nominated films in the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and also a part of the "Elements Trilogy" (I havent seen the others). Deepa Mehta's controversial film is a social criticism on the Hindu customs in India that closet widows in holy ashrams, which basically alienating them from "higher" society. Controversies aside, for me Water is a refreshment over the standard typical 'Hindustan' film offerings; meaning no musical numbers and melodrama in sight. Deepa Mehta weaves the story with feminist sensitivity (befitting the issue it raises), and although clearly she intends to make a sociopolitical statement, she never forgets the importance of a good story told with art. The film is rich with lyrical imageries, and also boasts a great cast. Particularly the gorgeous Lisa Ray as Kalyani. The 'message' is overbearing at times, but it never really gets in the way of the story itself as the film slowly builds itself into an ultimately moving tragedy.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Saturday, January 27, 2007

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2006

10. Gubra (Yasmin Ahmad)
Honestly, I don't get all the hate towards this film. I honestly don't. When other local films are portraying devout muslims(berserban, berjubah, etc) as terrorists or extremists, nobody said a thing (I'm looking at youse Misi 1511, Perempuan Melayu Terakhir, Berlari Ke Langit, Syaitan, etc). When in come a Bilal whose *only* fault is petting a dog (And also according to many for befriending a prostitute), all hell breaks loose. And about the so-called "ideology"? "Get a grip on r.e.a.l.i.t.y.", that's all I'm saying. Anyway Gubra is far from a flawless film, but its merits are enough for me to put it on the list.

9. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan)
A terrifically entertaining movie, and substantially superior than its "competition" The Illusionist. The rather 'messy' third act doesn't detract from the overall excitement. And Nolan is a genius in conjuring up a movie about magic, that is a magic trick all on its own.

8. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
Martin Scorsese's remake of Infernal Affairs really improved a lot on subsequent viewings. Now I really think that it's a little better than IA due to its details, depth and character-driven plot. And the script(dialogues) is the best 2006 has to offer(or even the best since a few years). Highly entertaining, and highly rewatchable. Scorsese's most accessable film to date.

7. United 93 (Paul Greengrass)
Contrary to pre-assumptions, for me United 93 is an unbiased, unjudgmental, and unsentimentalized account of the tragedy that befell flight 93 in 9/11. And I respect this kind of filmmaking, especially for a film that could easily be pro-American. If anything the movie criticizes the American government itself. Both the passengers and the terrorists are portrayed as "humans", not cut-and-dry heroes and villains. And I accept the film as a half-fact, half-fictional account of that day. It's possible that everything that transpires "inside" the plane are not accurate, but it's also a possibility that it is. Probably there are no 'terrorists' at all. These are all assumptions. And I accept this one as one of the possibilities. The movie's a thoroughly engrossing watch, and it deserves to be on the list for that final, heartwrenching crash sequence.

6. The Road To Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross)
Easily one of, if not the most important film of the year. This docu-drama follows the experiences of three British Muslims who are mistakenly captured in Afghanistan, and transported to the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison. Michael Winterbottom is probably the most versatile filmmaker, with films of various genres under his belt.

5. The Proposition (John Hillcoat)
I never really liked the Western genre before this. Now I do. The Proposition is *far more* than just another take on the tired ol' genre. It's as brutal and unflinching as the best of Sam Peckinpah or Sergio Leone, but defies tradition and revitalizes the genre to new heights. Ironically this 'Western' film is not even set in the good ol' Texas, it's set in the Australian outback.

4. Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles)
The.Funniest.Shit.I.Have.Seen.In.Years.

As Borat Sagdyiev would say, "Very Niiice!"

3. Volver (Pedro Almodovar)
Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz, and Carmen Maura are back together again. And the result is quite obvious.

2. Pan's Labyrinth @ El Laberinto Del Fauno (Guillermo Del Toro)
One of the best fantasy films ever. Forget Harry Potter or even Lord Of The Rings. *This* is what "fantasy" is all about. Highly imaginative creations that you have *never* seen before. It's an adult-oriented film, but never forgets its 'childlike' roots.

1. Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuaron)
A resounding accomplishment in almost every regard. Maybe it's even the best film since 2 or 3 years ago, if I may be so bold. My jaw dropped from start to finish of sheer amazement. And I only watched the movie on my PC. Imagine if I were to watch it on the big screen. haihh

Honorable Mentions: Inside Man, Little Miss Sunshine, A Scanner Darkly, A Prairie Home Companion, Thank You For Smoking, Half Nelson, L'Enfant, Casino Royale, Brick, Three Times, Happy Feet, Dave Chappelle's Block Party, 13: Tzameti, Cinta

Most Disappointing Films (not worst): Miami Vice, Superman Returns, Babel, The Queen, Little Children, X-Men 3, Cars

Worst Films: Pirates Of The Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest, The Da Vinci Code, Dragon Tiger Gate, Flags Of Our Fathers, Nana Tanjung (yeah I DID watch it. About 15 minutes of it. Probably even the most painful experience of the year.)

Need To See: Letters From Iwo Jima, The Fountain, Inland Empire, Perfume, The Last King Of Scotland