Friday, October 30, 2009

This Blog is Fuckin' Dead

And I've got too many things to do to think about resurrecting it.

I foresee future posts will be very very sporadic.

Not that anyone cares.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Neckin' November, Huntress!

Lots of shit went down in recent months in both the private and work sector of Ye Olde Cinewhore, resulting in this long-delayed roundup of last November's movies.

Quantum of Solace
After the strong showing of the franchise reboot Casino Royale, this became my most anticipated Bond movie since... well, ever. And I'm happy to report that it doesn't disappoint. Fatigue set in with the previous slightly overlong installment, but not with this lean and pacey thriller that clocked in below two hours (!). The setpieces are exciting and visceral, and the quieter emotional beats are rather well played, if a little on the nose sometimes (damn you, Forster & Haggis!). True, the rational given for the climactic multi-explosion seemed rather forced (a hotel in the middle of the desert has to be conveniently powered by extremely flammable fuel cells - really?!), but all in all, it was much better than what I expected. All in all, a very good thriller indeed.

The Carrot Cake Conversations
There's a lot of talking in here, and not much action, and nothing is really inherently cinematic. Frankly, it might be a lot better as a stage play. Andrea Fonseka acquits herself well, but unfortunately her character is completely unbelievable - a local prostitute that walks around Geylang, speaks good English, and harbors dreams of being a jazz singer? If there's someone like this out there, I'll print this page out and eat it. Most of the dialogue is like nothing any real person ever says, and it's all very indie and self-indulgent. It does get better towards the end, mainly thanks to Adrian Pang's down-to-earth performance, but the damage has been done. No fault of the actors though, as they're almost all decent. It just seems like this was made by some rich, pretentious guy with no idea what the real world is like. Oh wait, I think it was.

Julianne Moore carries the entire film on her more than capable shoulders. This movie feels dirty and gritty and gross, and that's a big plus. It's just that there's nothing much more to the film than the Big Theme that jumps out and slaps you about the face. In fact, every character except Moore's is completely one-dimensional because they serve purpose other than to illustrate the Theme, and so every scene and every act proceeds to its logical and entirely predictable conclusion. It begins as it ends - abruptly, arbitrarily, and entirely pointlessly. It's a real disappointment from director Meirelles.

I saw Quarantine the month after I saw this, so I'll leave the comparisons to another post and just evaluate this as it is. The first 20 minutes or so, while anathema to a mainstream audience, is really nice setup - so mindnumbingly boring that you feel sorry for the protagonist and, like her, almost wish something would happen. And then, of course it does and the proverbial feces collides with the air circulation device. Wish fulfillment in a scary movie is never pretty, and take my word for it, this is a scary movie. A horror movie needs to be scary, above all, and this delivers the bloody goods with minimal cheap shocks. It's cheap (budget-wise), it's down-and-dirty, it's gimmicky, and it's also very effective. And when a horror movie works, all else are forgiven.

The Coffin
This is a pointed reminder (particularly after [Rec]'s effectiveness) that most so-called horror movies are nothing than a bunch of toothless clichés wandering around in a dark room. A pointless rehash of countless Asian horror flicks, this is completely devoid of scares or even chills. You get two major Asian stars, Karen Mok and the Thai guy whose name I can't spell, but they're in two separate storylines that are only perfunctorily linked at the end. Meanwhile, they're surrounded by an amateurish supporting cast and mope around getting haunted a lot. There's a lot of stupid emo bullshit stuff and random dripping blood, but the only frightful thing about this is how boring it all is.

The story for Fight Club appears to be a disjointed mess, but it was handled by David Fincher, and ended up being pure brilliance (some might argue that it's overrated, but I do love it so). The story for Choke, on the other hand, appears to be a disjointed mess, and handled by Clark Gregg, it ends up being, well, a really disjointed mess. It tries to be in-your-face and sexually and morally offensive and all, but in the end, it's nothing but random scenes and quirks wandering around looking for a semblance of some point - any point at all. And scarily enough, for all that quirk, it's all very narratively inert, and only comes alive whenever Anjelica Huston is onscreen, which is, sadly, not that often.

좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 (The Good, the Bad and the Weird)
While I don't always like director Kim Jee-Woon's films (I found A Bittersweet Life, well, more bitterly boring than sweet), I'm usually able to find something interesting about them, whether it's playful visuals or re-interpretations of genres. This is no different - a visually stunning take on the Western with ample style and panache. Sure, the convoluted plot doesn't make complete sense, and it's a little too long, but man, the gunfights are amazing to look at and the energy level is insanely high. Really, who the hell cares when the results are so much fun?

Talk to Me
There's no buzz about this movie at all, despite having a stellar cast headed by Cheadle and Ejiofor, and the reason is that all the best actors in the world cannot make something amazing out of a trite, familiar biopic. Yes, the two have a wonderful chemistry together, and they really bring their relationship to life. Unfortunately, for a biopic about such a controversial figure, the movie chooses to play it safe and go the warm, and fuzzy route that we've all seen one too many times before. Plus, you know, it's a biopic, which means I'm predisposed to dislike it already.

Body of Lies
Ridley Scott seems to be phoning it in at this point in his career, making generic thrillers-of-the-day with star billing but unfortunately nothing much else in terms of writing. DiCaprio and Crowe are decent in their roles, but mostly forgettable, and needless to say, they are vastly overshadowed by actor Mark Strong in a supporting role. This guy has charisma and danger dripping from every pore. Director Scott also seems to be on autopilot, and everything feels very familiar and rote. There's also a very forced romance subplot that sticks out like a sore thumb. Reeks of mediocrity, and that's yet another disappointment this month.

海角 7 号 (Cape No. 7)
There's a nice helping of local Taiwanese flavor, which really brings the locale to life, aided in no small part by the strong and entertaining supporting cast. Unfortunately, these are the only things that stand out in this otherwise mediocre mish-mash of genres. In trying to be too many things, it ends up not being anything in particular, and most of the plotlines collapse under their own inherent flimsiness. The weakest link has to be the main romantic plot, with its pointless referencing of a decades-old relationship and some long-lost love letters, written in the most cringe-inducing, twee language imaginable. This main relationship is utterly unconvincing, and the leads are unable to do much with their one-note characters. All in all, a grossly overrated movie. I might be more lenient if it weren't such a big hit.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Kevin Smith attempts to do an Apatow and inject some sweetness into his typically raunchy comedies, but he simply isn't as adept as the latter in mixing the two, which results in a somewhat uneven and overlong movie. The humor is best described as hit or miss, with one rather traumatizingly awful shit joke that left me shaking my head in horror. Still, there are some genuinely funny-as-hell scenes, among which is Justin Long's bit part as an aggressively gay porn star. Rogen and Banks are convincing and winning in their portrayals, which go a long way towards gaining audience approval.

Actually, you know what, I think I liked the posters more than the movie.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Number of Random Things About Random Ol' Me

In which I re-post some meme thing I wrote on Facebook because I am pathetic and have no life.


Someone said the original number of things you're supposed to write was 16. Then it became 25. I'm just going to use a random number... say, 30.

And yes, you're supposed to write your own note and tag the same number of people as there are points in your note.


My Random Number of Random Things About Random Ol' Me

1. This almost turned into a hate list until I decided to revise it. Still, there's a lot of hate in it. You have been warned.

2. In some ways, I'm ridiculously anal-retentive. Ideally, my DVDs, CDs and books would be divided into categories and alphabetized. (In reality, laziness has prevented me from doing so after I moved house) I sort my clothes into different categories and they're arranged according to color.

3. My biggest pet peeve with bad English is using the word "stuffs" as a noun. Eg. "Eh, where's my stuffs?" For the last time: Stuff is uncountable! There's no such thing as "your stuffs!" Stop it before someone STUFFS you into a duffel bag and throws you off a pier.

4. I have a thing about not wanting to read/watch/do what everyone else is reading/watching/doing. This leads to me not reading/watching/doing something until everyone else has already read/watched/done it. For instance, I only saw The O.C. this year, and I suspect I will not read the Twilight books for several years yet (if at all - I hear they're pretty dire). Hell, I haven't even read most of the Harry Potters.

5. As a kid, I took part in an art competition and had my picture displayed outside the then under-construction Bugis Junction for a couple of years. Now I think that picture looks pretty fucking ugly.

6. I like to use the word "fuck" and its derivatives a lot. After all, as a magnet at my workdesk says, "Everything's funnier with the word 'fuck' in it".

7. I like to get people to autograph stuff. Well, people that I like anyway. And it's stuff related to them, not random crap like a piece of tissue paper. My most prized autographed stuff include a CD signed by Jacky Cheung (one of the best presents ever), a CD signed by Eason Chan and assorted books, comics and even a statue signed by Neil Gaiman.

8. Neil Gaiman is my all-time favorite writer. Which explains why I have so much stuff signed by him. Also, he makes a lot of public appearances and is really friendly about signing stuff, which helps.

9. My fittest period was, ironically, just after my National Service (as opposed to during it, unlike most guys). Probably because I was so bored while clearing my leave and waiting to go to college, I had nothing better to do than work out for months on end.

10. I detest the whole notion of Traditional Asian Moral Values, because it's inherently hypocritical as fuck. If we were so bent on upholding these "values", women would still have to bind their feet, we'd still have a caste system, and everyone would be disemboweling themselves at every mistake they make. And hey, they also had brothels and homosexuality in ancient Asia, so what the hell are we being so fucking uptight for?

11. I watch and own erotica. Deal with it. So do a lot of people, only they're too hypocritical to admit it, and even more hypocritically, tsk-tsk the rest.

12. I am seriously accident-prone and injury-prone.

13. I will probably migrate, because I hate the Singapore government for treating people that don't want to get married before 25/become a cog in the machine/have 2.5 kids/etc etc etc like second class citizens. I hate them for not giving a flying fuck about me just because I don't fit their notion of an Ideal Citizen.

14. As a 12 year-old, my idol was Chew Chor Meng. Hey, stop sniggering. He won Star Search at the time, and was damn cool in that channel 8 water polo drama, OK?

15. Sometimes I cry at the movies. But not at what you might think. Put it this way, the more you're trying to make me cry (eg. tearjerkers like Jack Neo movies), the more likely I'll laugh at how bad you are. The more you're just trying to tell a good story and making me empathize, the more likely you'll move me. Some examples include Wall-E, Rachel Getting Married, My Magic, Boy A, The Dark Knight, The Orphanage, Gone Baby Gone, Away From Her, 3:10 to Yuma, Dan in Real Life - just some examples from the last 2 years.

16. I'm an atheist, but I have people who I think are Gods. These include Jacky Cheung, Eason Chan, Neil Gaiman and in recent years, Clint Eastwood.

17. I think there is great truth in the line often said by Evil Masterminds in cartoons: "If you want something done right, do it yourself".

18. My favorite superhero is Batman, because he has no powers beyond what a human being could realistically have. I've loved Batman since I was 11 (?) and read my first Batman comic. Watching Batman Begins, I was moved to tears when Batman swooped down over the slums of the city near the end - yes, I am such a fanboy. As a result of my love, my shelves are lined with Batman statues.

19. I credit Sesame Street and all the cartoons I watched during my formative years with my English language development. See, TV can be good for you!

20. I started smoking when I was 21 (late bloomer, I know), and I've told myself I'll stop smoking when I'm 30. Stop, not quit, because I don't like the word "quit". However, now that 30 is drawing nearer, I might change my mind.

21. It gives me great satisfaction to buy things. Which is really bad for my finances.

22. I discovered that I have the ability to eat almost anything, which comes in very useful in wedding "sabo" sessions. Still, I avoid some foods because I don't like how they taste.

23. I am a Hoarder and Collector. Among the various things I've collected (and often stopped collecting) over the years are: stickers, postage stamps, key rings, erasers, toys, magazines, comic books, etc. Things that I still collect are: DVDs (90% of which I haven't watched), CDs, books (although I've gotten rid of many of my childhood ones like Hardy Boys), shot glasses, compiled editions of comic books, etc.

24. As a kid, I used to be obsessed with the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Although, I must shamefully admit, I cheated all the time by marking where I was and skipping around to see which option was the best. Which kind of defeats the purpose.

25. I used to play the piano, play the violin, and draw a lot. Now I no longer do any of those things. Sometimes it makes me a little sad.

26. One day I want to write or direct (or both) a movie that will be shown around the world. Oh, and win an Oscar. Even though they're bullshit, they're so shiny!

27. I've destroyed way too many clothes/bags/shoes by dumping them in the washing machine. I still do it though, because I'm lazy.

28. I wish I could speak better Teochew so I can at least hold a conversation with my 96 year-old grandma.

29. My oldest article of clothing was bought when I was 12 years old. That makes it... 17 years old. It still fits (because baggy clothes were in at the time).

30. I take perverse pleasure in crushing cockroaches.

Did you know the maximum number of people you can tag is 30? How appropriate!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Oglin' October, Oracle!

추격자 (The Chaser)
Ever watched a movie where almost from the get-go, you feel your whole body tensing up, and you await each development with bated breath, your heart in your mouth? If so, congratulations: Such experiences are few and far between. And if not, go watch The Chaser. Tension-filled and taut as hell, this is a whopper of a crime thriller, with (amazingly enough) none of your usual stereotypes and clichés. Yet it also eventually becomes something more - a story of one man's fight for his own humanity and redemption against a hopelessly inept justice system. It's not without its flaws, but apart from a few missteps here and there, novice feature director Na Hong-jin shows masterful control and vision far beyond his years.

Le Dernier des fous (Demented)
This is another one of those movies that make me not want to attend any more festival screenings. Part of some French film festival or other, it's yet another snobbily detached, emotionally barren European arthouse film. For a movie that tells its story from a boy's POV, it does a good job doing so, but the strong performances are lost underneath the pointed detachment and self-satisfied ironies of it all. When I can't get attached to the characters and feel for them, I can't get into the movie and enjoy it, no matter how technically accomplished it is. And so, I couldn't care less. Cool poster, though. A kid with a gun is always cool.

Burn After Reading
OK, fine, I didn't really get emotionally attached to any character here, I think. But I still love this movie, because it's fast-paced and entertaining as hell - but not in the usual sense. Think about it. A comedy with no "punchlines" and no "funny music", but is hilarious precisely because of that. Only from the Coen Brothers could this little gem of a black, black satire come. Two of the funniest scenes, in my opinion, have a man getting shot in the face, and another man shot, then axed in the head. It's a tone that is unbelievably difficult to achieve - just look at all the Tarantino wannabes - but the Coen Brothers do it seemingly effortlessly.

Speaking of Tarantino wannabes, Mr. Guy Ritchie isn't technically one of them, although he's similar. He has his own English-crime thing going on, but the only person he rips off is himself, essentially making the same movie over and over again. He tries very hard to make it work this time, but overstuffed characters and plotting drag what could've been a fleet and entertaining crime caper down. It's still entertaining in bits, though I really couldn't care less about any character. Which, as I've mentioned before, almost automatically makes me dislike the movie (unless it's made by the Coen Brothers).

(Storm Rider: Clash of Evils)

Any attempt at making sense of the plot will be in vain, if you're not a fan of the long-running martial arts comic series in question. Elements - mythology, characters, histories, etc. - are packed in willy-nilly, and the whole thing still makes time for a whole bunch of cliché-ridden events like a pointless love subplot and annoying child sidekick characters. The fight scenes are energetic and interesting enough, if I could only tell what they were fighting over. Too bad the incomprehensible story denies me that. Also, the animation is at times prettty bad, going from rather amateurish 3-D establishing shots immediately to 2-D characters moving stiffly across the screen in extremely jarring edits.

G.P. 506 (The Guard Post)
This has an intriguing premise, which, while not the most original, is at least handled well in the suspense department. The problem it has is one it has in common with many other Korean movies - a flaccid second act that feels more like padding than actual plot advancement. The big revelation, when it comes, also feels rather anti-climactic, but at least from there on it leads to a respectably exciting climax. All in all, it's still a decent enough suspense-thriller-horror.

保持通話 (Connected)
A Hong Kong remake of the very watchable B-grade Hollywood thriller Cellular, this is competent enough on its own terms, but sacrifices the original's taut pacing at the altar of additional action movie thrills. These sequences detract, though, because they make it all less believable, and makes the pacing sag as well, because, honestly, they're not all that spectacular. Louis Koo and Barbie Hsu do well in the lead roles (she still can't beat Kim Basinger though), but awful over-the-top acting by the villains turn what should be an exciting climax into a gigglefest instead.

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis
(Welcome to the Sticks)

It's not difficult to see why this was the domestic hit that it was - most of the comedy is rather broad, and translates well regardless of language. It's a light and affable, if rather obvious culture-shock/fish-out-of-water comedy. If you don't know French, all the language/accent jokes will probably fly above your head, as they did mine. However, this might actually work in its favor for me, because I think the wordplay is pretty unsubtle, and if I did know French, I'd probably have a lower opinion of it (much like how I think Jack Neo comedies are pretty damn unfunny - even though this is miles ahead of Neo's ilk). Still, it's an enjoyable time to be had at the movies, and some of the farcical scenes are really quite hilarious.

20 世紀少年
(Twentieth Century Boys)

I've never read the manga series before, but from what I hear, it's plenty confusing, what with it's huge cast of characters and multiple timeline-jumping. I took a deep breath and leapt right into the movie with no prior prep work, and came away not a little confused, but enjoyed the ride nonetheless. The intricate building of the world and its multitude of characters make this quite engrossing, and the premise is, of course, intriguing. Still, as expected, the huge cast and the frequent timeline switches often get confusing, although by the end you kind of get the drift of things. The visual effects, though not wall-to-wall, are well done and technical aspects are solid and kept interesting, especially in the sound department. I'll be there for the second instalment. I won't be the first to see it, but I'll be there, and that's good enough.

슈퍼맨이었던 사나이
(A Man Who Was Superman,
a.k.a. If I Were Superman)

This will go on my Worst-Of List for sure; it's one of my most hated movies of 2008. There are many reasons why, but I don't want to waste too much time and effort on it. Suffice to say that it goes from insufferably annoying (the delusional antics of "Superman") to hard-sell sappy - which is a slight improvement. The comedy doesn't work, the whimsy is painful, the social commentary is clumsy, and the drama isn't well-earned at all. Nothing works, and it's all so horrid that it often made me want to throw my shoe at the screen.

The Princess of Nebraska
There's a very telling shot which encapsulates pretty much the whole movie: A close-up of Li's navel. 77 minutes of cinematic (or not-so cinematic) navel-gazing and whining is 77 minutes too much. It might've made for a decent 15-minute short, but drawn out here to (barely) feature-length and shot on ugly DV, it's a painful affair. What the hell's the big deal about Wayne Wang anyway? How deluded do you have to be to think that this is good cinema? It's nothing but wannabe-pretentious indie crap.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
After sitting through the torturous The Princess of Nebraska, this almost seems like a masterpiece... well, I did say "almost". Henry O is very good, even if the script is at times forced and overly familiar (Ooh! Inter-generational conflict! How novel!), and the supporting cast is often painful to watch. Yes, I know it's low budget, but does it have to extend to the cast too? Also, why is it that even movies about minorities have other minorities in stereotyped roles? Do these hyphenate-Americans have such big chips on their shoulders that they are blind to other hyphenate-Americans who aren't of their race?

As is usual with anthologies, this is a mixed bag - one good, one bad, and one decent. The first is Interior Design, which is typical Gondry - fun and quirky, with enthusiastic and highly imaginative visuals. But then again, would we have expected anything less? It's the best of the lot, that's for sure - in fact, it's so good, it should have its own poster. Oh wait, it does.

Immediately after that, though, Merde, with its ironically apt title (it means "shit" in French), brings it all to a crashing halt with its self-indulgent nonsense and hateful characters and situations. You do not, I repeat, do not, have extended courtroom scenes where people are translating from a make-believe language to a real one. That's just way too much grunting and growling to bear. Finally, Shaking Tokyo attempts to salvage the situation, but unfortunately the damage has already been done. Too bad, because it's really quite decent and suitably whimsical, and even kinda sweet.

Tropic Thunder
I've been waiting for this movie for a fucking long time, and it doesn't disappoint. Much. Yes, it's a little too long, and Ben Stiller and Jack Black aren't in top form. But damn, is it funny, right from the first fake trailer shown. It's rare to see a Hollywood satire of itself at every level that's so vicious, you'd almost believe it was British. There's so much that works here, you can easily overlook the stuff that doesn't. How good is it? It's so good that I actually preordered the DVD from Amazon, and I never do that.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

The ABCs of Complaining

Being sick and holed up at home over the New Year's period is really kinda sad. So I decided to spread my misery around and write all the complaint/angry letters that I'd been meaning to write for months. And coincidentally, the companies I'm writing to just happened to begin with the letters A, B and C.

The Arena:
This incident took place some months back, in July. Yes, it's been a while, but since a new year is a time to take stock, look back and reflect, I thought it's also appropriate to write you now.

I was with a few friends at The Arena, and it was near closing time, so the club was emptying. I'd brought along a zipped folder which contained a brand new iPod and a wallet, and it was placed on the couch at the table we were occupying.

For some strange reason (and also our own carelessness), we left the table unattended for about 2 minutes. When we returned, the folder was gone, along with its contents.

I asked a waitstaff nearby who was clearing up for help. He hastily took down my name and number on a notepad, and then disappeared without asking me any details of my lost items.

Disappointed, I returned home. But the more I thought about what your staff took down, the more I felt I needed to provide more details in case the items turned up somewhere.

So I returned the next day at around 9 pm. I asked the bouncers at the door to let me see the manager, because I wanted to leave more details.

The bouncers were cold and curt in their response, refusing to let me in, claiming the manager was busy (without even checking). They also said, "If we find we'll call you." But without any details, how would they even know when they'd found something of mine?

When I insisted on leaving details for the manager, they handed me a receipt and told me to write on the back of it. There was no proper book or file for this.

Do you understand how angry this made me? I was polite and courteous, and they were treating the whole thing like a joke. They made me feel like I was a dog begging for scraps.

Bear in mind that while the chief function of a bouncer is to keep the club orderly, they are also the first employees of the club that the public sees. If they have a holier-than-thou attitude and are rude to customers, what are the chances of those customers returning? Very slim indeed.

They are more than just "security personnel". They are front-line service staff.

If I wasn't a local, but a tourist on vacation, they would have left a terrible impression a visitor to our country. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what a big problem that is.

Additionally, you need to have proper procedures in place for customers who lose items. At the very least, a book or file would let me know that something was done about it. Do you see? Even if you don't take a second glance at it, you have made me think that you care. And customers like to be taken care of.

Because of the terrible attitudes of your staff, I will never return to your club again. I hope you take my comments to heart and make some improvements on The Arena and any future ventures.

This incident took place some months back, probably in July. Yes, it's been a while, but since the end of the year is traditionally the time to take stock, look back and reflect, I thought it's also appropriate to write you now.

I'd lost my Borders Preferred card due to theft, and had contacted you guys to get a replacement. I was sent an email that said my card was ready for collection (see emails below), so I set off to pick it up.

When I got to the Wheelock store, the staff member at the information counter asked me for the card number. When I said I didn't have one, she asked for my printout of the email. Without it, she said, there was no way they could find my card.

I was taken aback, because nowhere in the email does it say to print it out and bring it along. Neither was there any mention of the card number being required.

Since I was already a member, I asked, couldn't she search for my records, and surely it would be reflected in there somewhere? The reply was a negative; her computer was not hooked up to that system.

Well, since I was already there, was there any way she could get my access to a computer terminal so I could retrieve my email? Again, no.

So basically, my trip was a complete waste of time.

Now, what bugs me is that the email wasn't clear on what was needed, and also the fact that your staff was completely unhelpful. Surely she could've been more flexible or helped me come up with a solution to the problem, instead of just saying no all the time.

If it's a requirement to bring the printout or the card number, then please state it explicitly in the email notification. Put it in bold, underline it, whatever, just make sure that the message is conveyed. Otherwise, it's very unfair to your customers who have no idea what's needed. Additionally, the service attitude of the staff member in question (I don't remember her name) also has lots of room for improvement. Surely it's not too much to ask for some flexibility and initiative on her part?

I hope you will take this as an opportunity to improve your service. I'd expect this of a smaller, less established store, but not Borders.

The Canteen:
I visited The Canteen on Wednesday 10 Dec, and there was a promotion going on for DBS Credit Cards.

When me and my companion wanted to order, I asked if there was a minimum spending for the promotion. I was told by our waiter that the minimum spend was $40.00. We then ordered two dishes and an appetizer to make up the $40.00 so as to get the 25% discount.

However, when I then left to visit the washroom, I passed by the sign at your entrance. It very clearly stated that from 9:00 pm onwards, no minimum spend was necessary.

I asked another staff member at the cashier if there was a minimum spend. His response was the same as his colleague's: A minimum spend of $40.00 was required.

I wasn't in the mood to argue, but took a picture of the sign for reference. It is attached. The time was 9:11 pm.

On the DBS website, it again clearly states that no minimum spend was necessary after 9:00 pm. In fact, the exact phrasing is:

- 15% off total bill with min. spend of $40
- 25% off total bill (Daily: 2.30-6.30pm; Sun-Thu: 9pm-11pm; Fri-Sat: 9pm-1am)

While I must agree that the promotion details are a little confusing, your waitstaff need to be very familiar with the terms and conditions. They shouldn't give wrong information to customers. Yes, the bottom line is important, but equally so is earning your customers' trust. That doesn't come easily, and should never be taken for granted.

I hope you will make use of this opportunity to improve your staff's service and product knowledge.

Of the three, honestly, I'm really only pissed at The Arena. I'm putting it mildly in my letter, but those people were real assholes. That's why no matter what they do or how they apologize, I'm never going back there again. It's a lifetime boycott for them.

Update on 5 Jan: All the companies have responded to the emails in some way or other. Borders was the fastest with a phone call, followed by an email from the Les Amis Group for The Canteen (even though they are still investigating and have yet to give a more substantive answer), and then The Arena today - who are offering to call me personally to find out more.

Update on 31 Jan:
On 9 Jan, The Canteen offered me a free dinner for two, which I have yet to take up.
On 31 Jan, I received a $20 gift card from Borders.
The Arena has yet to call me.

Sizzlin' September, Commissioner Gordon!

Yep, comparatively, September was truly sizzlin', with two of my favorite movies of the year. If only every month had such quality!

Oh yeah, and since it's already 2009, I should really try to rush through the rest of the year.

犬神家の一族 (The Inugamis, a.k.a. Murder of the Inugami Clan)
This is an old-school whodunit in the very best sense, and it's also quite literally old-school - the director's remaking one of his early movies and uses the same lead actor in both. There's no updating in this remake, and everything still feels nice and quaint, like an old leather-bound library book. The performances are great, if stylized to the point where they might become targets of derision for modern audiences. But what really works is the slow-burning suspense and delicious twists and turns of the plot - a plot that always plays fair and isn't stupid (a real rarity these days).

Изгнание (The Banishment)
This award-winner from Russia is chock-full of religious symbolism, which feel too in-your-face for comfort. The somewhat over-meticulous shot compositions also add to the level of detachment of the audience, making the characters all seem very distant and vague - people that we are observing from afar with all the emotional involvement of a laboratory scientist. Still, it does look gorgeous and is well-acted. Too bad the overlong running time make it a real pain to sit through.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The Apatow factory produces another romcom that both guys and gals will enjoy, tempering the sweetness with their trademark brand of raunchy humor. As usual, the pacing's a little too loose for comfort, and the film meanders quite a bit all over the place. However, the main characters are all well-drawn and multi-faceted, and the supporting cast is fantastic. Especially hilarious is Russell Brand as the barmy British rock star. One sour note is the film's treatment of Kristen Bell's character, which borders on misogyny.

歲月 (The Days)
A rather weak debut from a local filmmaker, this coming-of-age tale is full of gangster clichés and raw acting. Some of the cast, though inexperienced, have charisma and are inherently watchable, but the stilted dialogue tests one's patience sorely. There's plenty of pointless animated sequences to string everything together, and even a plot twist in the secret ending that seems to exist for no real narrative reason at all. Sigh. When will filmmakers learn that plot twists that exist for the sole purpose of being twisty is meaningless and does nothing but annoy their audience?

Mamma Mia!
If Speed Racer is cotton candy for attention-deficit adolescents, then this is the equivalent for middle-aged women. Well, except it's a lot more sedate and unimaginatively shot and staged. There's nothing more pathetic than a movie that relentlessly tries to convince you that you're having a good time. In fact, it's downright sad and desperate, just like the needy middle-aged women that populate it's visually boring musical sequences. But the power of nostalgia is not to be scoffed at, for it's rare that a musical this thoroughly unspectacular makes so much money. Oh, and Pierce Brosnan. Cannot. Sing. At. All. Ugh.

Boy A
It's a lot harder for me to write a rave about a movie than a rant. Ranting and coming up with fresh insults is easy. But it's a lot more difficult to come up with reasons why I love a movie, because they're usually the same for every one - compelling writing, fantastic performances, stunning cinematography and/or visual effects, delicate nuances and subtlety in all areas. So let me just say that all of the above apply to Boy A, which is an absolutely brilliant drama that practically demands you soak in all the subtle nuances of the storytelling and the top-notch acting, and in exchange, leaves you with a beautifully tragic emotional experience.

Argh. Another wonderful film that I don't know what to write about. Suffice to say it fully deserves every accolade it receives. This is a fantastic work of artistry, full of stunning visuals, masterful storytelling, genuine laughs and lots of heart. It's so good, takes my breath away; it's probably the best Pixar film ever made, and that's really saying something.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
A beautiful animated work of art is followed by... a hideous animated steaming turd. The rubbish plot jumps from video game scenario to video game scenario, decorated with bad dialogue (well, that's one thing about the live-action movies they're faithful to), lame jokes and awful character animation. I thought Lucasfilm was state-of-the-art? Why, then, does everyone move like they're marionettes? The busy battle scenes just manage to scrape by with a passing grade, but everything else around them is a waste of time and money and the efforts of hundreds or thousands of people who worked on it. When will Lucas stop plundering the corpse of the franchise?

Youth Without Youth
There's one thing you can't accuse Francis Ford Coppola of, and that's lack of ambition. His first film after a long hiatus is one with a pretty good sci-fi concept - only it resolutely refuses to be a sci-fi flick and obsessively heads down the other, "artsier" path. Unfortunately this results in a schizophrenic movie in more ways than one, and while there are stunning visuals aplenty, none of it makes very much sense at all. But hey, at least it's not boring. I'd rather see this over Mamma Mia! any day.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen's latest is a marked improvement over Cassandra's Dream, and one where he abandons the heavy drama to make a simple, fun and breezy movie. There's not much substance to it, but it's all very entertaining nonetheless, watching the leads go through the revolving doors of their relationships. Penelope Cruz, especially, is fantastic and hilarious; pity there's far too little of her. Everyone looks like they're having a blast, even the director (who knew he'd be capable of having fun when he whines in all his movies?), and you will, too.

畫皮 (Painted Skin)
This is a confused mess of a movie, with silly jokes, slapstick, heavy drama, romance and martial arts all rolled up together haphazardly. Thank goodness for its female leads Zhou Xun and Zhao Wei, who elevate their roles above and beyond the thin caricatures on the page, providing a compelling emotional hook. Too bad that only comes to the fore in the third act, far too late to rescue the thoroughly mediocre fare that's around it. The movie tries too hard to be too many things, and fails at every single one of them - even Donnie Yen is wasted - and he's not that easy to waste; you just need to throw a few decent fight scenes in for him. Scarily enough, this was Hong Kong's pick for their Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination - and in a year when I can easily name 5 Hong Kong films off the top of my head that were better.

My Magic
I've usually been able to find something I like about all of Eric Khoo's movies (well, except One Leg Kicking), and this one is no exception. Sure, it's slow-moving and sometimes feels repetitive and disjointed, not to mention exploitative - did we really need so many close-ups of the main character piercing his body with random objects? What's the point of making your audience squirm so much in their seats, and so many times too? But thankfully, the genuine emotions and real chemistry between the father and son come through without once slipping into melodrama, and the ending is beautifully moving. Oh, and it also has a really cool, retro poster in the style of old-school local cinemas, painted on canvas. Check it out:


Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year

It's a brand new year!

How fun!

How glorious!

How exciting!


How utterly, utterly depressing. Bah, humbug.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Greeting

Season's non-denominational, politically-correct Greetings to all.

Side note: It's nice to be on leave from 24 Dec to 28 Dec, and not have to go to work till Monday. Of course, it also means pointlessly using a full day's leave to take a half day off on the 24th, but I have way too much leave and no time to take it anyway.