Friday, June 22, 2007

The Hibernation of Doppelganger Cinewhore

Now that I've actually won the contest and received the VIP card, it no longer makes any sense to continue posting my rants about film on two separate platforms. As such, Doppelganger Cinewhore will be placed on permanent hiatus.

Well, at least until the next such contest rolls along.

I didn't even like that platform that much anyway. It doesn't work with Firefox at all. Boo.

April, Week Two

The final week of April, which was Week Two since my return - 23rd to 29th April.

23 April:

The Kallang Wave
Has a tremendous amount of sincerity, but unfortunately, that alone does not make a good documentary. There are far too many talking heads, half of which have nothing significant to say and shouldn't even have been included in the first place. This also results in a fatal lack of focus, and when coupled with overly-cute narration, results in a whole lot of nothing at all. Still, a decent enough polytechnic final-year project - it's makers really have to thank their lucky stars it got a commercial release at all.

黑眼圈 (I Don't Want to Sleep Alone)
Tsai Ming-liang's newest film is also one of his most tender. Shot in his native Kuala Lumpur, it's also back to basics for him in terms of form and content. Casting aside the trashy over-the-top antics and pointless musical numbers of his last few works and focusing on a handful of characters and their gradual discovery of one another works wonders. Casting is a gem, especially unknown actor Norman Atun in the role of the Bangladeshi construction worker who falls for the Chinese man he rescues. The final scenes are moving, tender, and so very human. It also helps that some shots are simply gorgeous, especially those set in an abandoned construction site. Oh, and that one scene where two people try to have sex while holding their breaths due to the overpowering haze is bloody hilarious.

25 April:

It's a slick Hollywood vehicle that wants to appear much smarter than it really is. Thankfully, they have Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling squaring off in the leading roles, which makes for a great distraction, for they elevate the rote battle of wits into something immensely entertaining to watch. It's a pity the script is so damn predictable, and the Big Revelation hinges on something that can be spotted by experienced viewers within the first ten minutes of the flick, and so can be seen coming a mile away.

26 April:

武士の一分 (Love and Honor)
This is director Yoji Yamada's third in his samurai trilogy, and features a moving central relationship between a lowly-ranking samurai, blinded in the line of duty and his loving, dutiful wife. Ex-teenybopper Takuya Kimura shows fine acting chops, as does Rei Dan playing his wife. You don't get huge surprises, because that's not the point; it's the delicate crafting of human relationships that are the focus of the film. It moves along at a graceful, stately pace, but is no less gripping for it, and as typical of Yamada, his climactic battle is full of long, suspenseful takes, broken by split-second explosions of violence. A beautiful film, and a wonderful experience.

29 April:

The English title is a poor alternative for the original "Sakebi", which translates to "call" or "scream". The latter title actually makes sense in the context of the film (the ghost gives a spine-chilling howl as she floats towards the poor sap she's haunting), while the former doesn't really come into play at all. You can only have retribution if someone's done something horrible to another person, and there's really none of that here, just some demented bitch who died and blames everyone for ignoring her. While the glacial pacing could have been speeded up a tad, I must give credit to director Kiyoshi Kurosawa for his unconventional treatment of a banal tale. It's a huge step up from his previous film ロフト (Loft), which didn't make any bloody sense, but it still stays far away from the mainstream. Plotwise, it still needs work, for it gets into a tangle at the end it doesn't quite know how to get out of, wasting an intriguing concept. His effects work is mostly done in-camera, which makes for some pretty cool visuals, especially when he uses techniques most often seen in music videos for a scary effect. I also love the fact that he saves his most stunning CGI effect only till the end, and it's spectacular indeed, making me gasp audibly in my seat. I'm recommending this, but just barely, given that the script still seems like an early draft.

사생결단 (Bloody Tie)
The only film I saw at the Singapore International Film Festival, this is the movie that 門徒 (Protégé) desperately needed to be, but wasn't by a long shot. It's about drugs, it's dirty, gritty, and above all, feels real. Perhaps it's due to the swearing - you can't have a drug pic without swearing; it's just not right. Or maybe it's the amazing drug-induced hallucinations brought to stunning life by CGI - hordes of roaches crawling over a young woman's body is just not cool. Maybe it's the fact that the actors and actresses are willing to give a lot more here - there are no egos or "protecting" of anyone's image; a popular TV actress throws herself with abandon into her role and pretty much spends her earlier scenes nude and whoring herself out. Yes, it lacks some focus at times, and this causes it to be less powerful than it could've been, especially with the long running time. But it's willing to get its hands dirty and the result is a much more visceral and satisfying experience. I wouldn't call it fantastic, but it's definitely better than average.


April, Week One

After I returned from my month-long vacation, I went about trying to watch as many movies as I could within the shortest span of time, because I was worried that stuff I wanted to see would be pulled out of theatres. And so, I managed to see in two weeks the same number of movies as I typically do in an entire month, which is rather scary. Here's Week One of it, from 16th to 22nd April.

16 April:

There is no way the typical male in his twenties will not want to watch TMNT, since the Turtles were like, the coolest thing ever when we were growing up (this also applies to a movie like Transformers). It could suck to high heaven and we'd still go see it, and that's also the reason why this was my first movie upon my return. The animation strikes a nice balance between the darkness of the comic books and the cheeriness of the TV show, and boasts some of the coolest-looking animated buildings around. There's also a spectacular fight scene in the rain between Leonardo and Raphael. Too bad the script was just plain awful with some nonsensical rubbish about some artifacts and monsters and crap, to the extent of opening with a prologue that's set thousands of years ago. Why do that when you've got the freakin' Turtles?

17 April:

For Your Consideration
It was amusing in bits and pieces, but ultimately was a disappointing exercise. While it is funnier than most movies that purport to be comedies, I've come to expect much better of Christopher Guest and his crew. Hollywood types are just too easy to lampoon, although I have to admit Jennifer Coolidge is fuckin' hilarious as the clueless producer.

Der Rote Kakadu (The Red Cockatoo)
Do we really need another movie about East Germany under the GDR? The filmmakers seem to think so, and throw in rock 'n' roll and a young love triangle to spice things up. Trouble is, it never really becomes interesting, and I was so bored (and tired) I slept through a good portion of the movie, and didn't really care that I did.

18 April:

It's very insulting when some Caucasian filmmaker comes in to shoot a movie supposedly set in Singapore, yet doesn't give a shit about the geography of the place such that the main characters can take a fucking touristy bumboat to a shophouse on an offshore island that looks remarkably like somewhere in Central Singapore. Add to that a trite script that is nothing more than what you'd find on the Hallmark Channel, and you have the sad wreck that's one of Mako's last works. Well, at least he was Splinter's voice in TMNT.

Conversations with Other Women
It's sheer joy watching Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart tackle the almost non-stop verbiage of the script, and the constant split-screen works well both as a formalistic device and a storytelling tool. Lest you think it's too technical and wordy, there are moments of intense poignancy, and the leads' performances bring Truth to their characters. I'd almost call it heartbreaking, and the final shot is pure perfection.

Mr. Bean's Holiday
After all that intense poignancy, here's something utterly brainless. Rowan Atkinson is a comedic genius, and he's really good at physical comedy (although I prefer him in roles that require him to speak), but Mr. Bean is a character that's best suited to shorts, and seeing him in a feature film is just like seeing someone trying way too hard and failing. It was a good idea to throw in a French kid in this one, for he's genuinely cute and has good chemistry with Atkinson. Willem Dafoe also does an amusing turn as a pretentious wannabe arthouse director. The satire of shitty experimental arthouse flicks is easy and cheap, but still funny nonetheless. But sadly, it's Atkinson's solo scenes of Mr. Bean mayhem that drag everything down. I guess the best thing I can say about it is that it didn't suck as hard as the first one did.

Danny Boyle can do no wrong in my book, and he proves that once again with this one... Well, almost. This is smart sci-fi, something that's a real rarity these days, but Boyle keeps us right on the edge of our seats with crisis after crisis without insulting our intelligence. In fact, everything makes sense plot-wise, the cast is perfect (I'm such a fan of Cillian Murphy right now), and the cinematography and set design flawless. This state of affairs continues right up to the Third Act, whereupon everything takes a seriously stupid cliff-dive into slasher flick territory and never recovers. Seriously, what. the. fuck? Still, I definitely love the first two Acts, which is far more than I can say about most movies.

21 April:

The Namesake
I can think of a former schoolmate at NU who'd love this movie wholeheartedly and force it upon everyone that he came upon. Thankfully, I'm halfway across the Earth from him right now, so I don't have to pretend I like it if I don't. But to be honest, I do like it, if only for the performances of Irfan Khan and Tabu, the actors who play the parents of Kal Penn. To be sure, Penn displays far more ability here than he has in anything he's been in before, but he's not even close to their level. The Bollywood veterans leave their song and dance routines behind to play their roles with quiet dignity and true feeling, and are the heart and soul of this otherwise mediocre movie that largely dies when Penn's character becomes the focus.

Breach is a perfectly serviceable spy thriller that has all the required cloak-and-dagger moments as well as an extremely strong lead performance by the perpetually underrated Chris Cooper. Its biggest flaw is perhaps Ryan Phillippe, who is believable enough as the young rookie assigned to keep an eye on his new boss. In the end though, he has to use his smarts to trick Cooper, and given his ability, he just cannot convince me that he is capable of going up against Cooper and winning. Other than that though, this is an enjoyable enough procedural, from the director of another procedural I enjoyed, Shattered Glass.

22 April:

Smokin' Aces
What the hell is Joe Carnahan, who showed so much promise in his Narc, doing making a Tarantino-wannabe like this? There's a huge cast with some big names, but ultimately almost everyone dies in over-long gunfights where more rounds are fired than in the entire War On Terror. And you know what, we don't give a shit, because they are all annoying as hell and we just want everyone to die so we can leave the theatre and get on with our lives.


Don't Be Disrespectin'

It wasn't a good day at work yesterday.

There's this letter that we're supposed to get, that has interesting little nuggets inside like what our salary increments are gonna be, and what promotions, if any, we're receiving. I have yet to see that letter, despite the fact that we're all supposed to get ours this week.

On Wednesday, I'd spent two hours waiting stupidly in the office and paid the peak hour surcharge on cabfare there for a letter that never came. Why? Because the management level guy that was supposed to have signed them all the day before didn't finish doing so before he left for a dinner appointment the previous day, and couldn't be bothered to take them along.

Fuck, man, it's just a stack of papers to sign. It's not that difficult to do. You don't even have to fucking read them.

Our ex-boss then tells us to meet her on Thursday afternoon. Which is all well and good, except a bunch of us have a meeting to attend outside. The admin assistant says she has a meeting to attend as well, but assures us, she'll be back before the end of the day to give us our letters, definitely.

So we return after the meeting, and wait, and wait.

6 pm rolls by, and I've been rotting in my seat for 2 1/2 hours. We get the news - she's not coming back. She said to collect the letters from someone else. However, she has the letters with her, and they are all unsigned. Besides, that "someone else" has already gone home.

That's just sheer idiocy.

So basically, in a nutshell, we were not getting shit. And I couldn't get my letter on Friday, because I'd be away at a seminar all day.

That was it, I was fucking sick and tired of being jerked around like a monkey by management who didn't treat their employees with basic human courtesy and respect. I threw my huge biscuit tin on the ground. It made a loud clatter.

Then, because I still wanted to eat them in the future, I picked up the tin again.

Note to self: Never pick up something that you threw in anger. You look really stupid when you do that, and you lose all credibility.

Then I left the office.

The fire of hatred burned furiously within my belly. But the flames were brought significantly lower by a Chocolixir drink from Godiva. With the help of a dinner full of meat and beer from Paulaner's, courtesy of Mun, they were extinguished completely.

At least, until I step into the disgusting pit of hell that is my office again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Wedding

When I was but a wee lad, I had several goals.

One of them was to lose my virginity by the time I was 16.

Another was to be a father by the time I was 25. This was mainly because I felt I was so distant from my father because of our 36-year age gap, and I didn't want that with my kids.

Needless to say, neither of those goals were achieved.

Probably because I was an overweight, unattractive-looking boy. And besides, I didn't try very hard. At all.

Anyway, it seems that the older I get, the more I lose interest in the second goal. When I passed that mark a few years ago, it wasn't even hovering at the edge of my mind. It just wasn't something I'm interested in at that point.

Even now, I can't really imagine that happening anytime soon. Of course, I no longer have goals like that for myself. Whatever happens, happens, and there's no point setting a certain age to achieve these things by. If you insist on sticking to a "schedule" like that for your life, you get trapped in shackles of your own design. You might even end up like many Singaporeans, marrying someone just because the timing is right, even if nothing else is.

That being said, congratulations to Yujin and Peiwen. May you have a long and happy life together. As for kids, well, whatever happens, happens, right?

Haha. I wasn't very convincing in my congratulations at all, was I?

Congratulations again, Buddy. I know you read this.

Oh, and thanks for the birthday cake. It was truly a wonderful surprise.

Wedding Field

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Time to Go

15 months on, and I think it's time to move on.

It's been quite a decent run, but things just got to a head tonight, and I don't think I can continue living with him much longer.

It's a long story, but it involves the use of a digital camera long ago, a Mac, the purchase of a new JVC mini DV camera and my buddy's wedding. And suffice to say, I was furious, and am still fuming now.

But man, I'm going to miss this house.

Friday, June 08, 2007

March Stinkers

Even though I'm tired, I thought I might as well just get it over and done with and finish up my posts on my March movies. This last one is about the absolute trash that I saw that month. Oh, the horror.

I saw an ad for 制服誘惑 2: 地下法庭 (Raped by an Angel 5: The Final Judgment) in the papers, and the title sounded sufficiently sleazy enough to make the bad-movie-loving part of me take interest. I was hoping for a hilariously bad movie with lots of gratuitous nudity. Little did I know that it was actually a re-run, made seven years ago, and that it would have virtually no nudity at all, and was simply bad instead of hilarious-bad. The one scene that made me laugh out loud was a gloriously over-the-top rape scene (well, all of them were over-the-top, but this one took the cake) where the rapist, for some strange reason, wore a colorful condom on each finger. Otherwise, it was groan-inducingly bad, and my forehead was sore by the end from being slapped so much.

Years ago, I saw the Pang Brothers' 見鬼 (The Eye) and loved it. However, they've persisted in trying to test the limits of that love with all the lacklustre flicks they've put out since then. The Messengers does nothing to restore that love, and in fact almost douses all my goodwill towards them. It's derivative and boring, with plot twists that come telegraphed miles away and are simply just plain stupid. All the lovely visual effects and tricks in the world can't make up for a terrible script with gaping logic holes, and neither can well-shot scenes of sheer idiocy. I hated this movie so much, because it obviously thought I was as stupid as it was. I could just see the brothers smirking at me on their way to the bank to cash their fucking check.


European March

This here post groups together the films from the European continent, including the UK, that I saw in March. I'm tired, so there won't be very much about each.

L'ivresse du Pouvoir (A Comedy of Power) is Claude Chabrol's examination of a French scandal involving an oil company, albeit in fictionalized form. And with Isabelle Huppert in the lead role as a balls-crushing magistrate, it's particularly enjoyable as you relish each excruciating she puts her targets through. It's also a fascinating observation of the many power and political nuances in France, and how thoroughly the ridiculously rich disregard morality and ethics. A master at work is simply compelling to watch, no matter what the genre.

Paris, je t'aime is a rare film indeed - an omnibus that collects 18 short films about love, each set in a distinct Parisian neighborhood. Of course, in any short film collection are winners and stinkers, and this is no exception. My personal favorites are the Coen Brothers' hilarious entry Tuileries where Steve Buscemi is an absolute hoot, Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' poignant Loin du 16eme, and the Alexander Payne finale 14th Arrondissement, which, like most of his work, manages the difficult task of being funny, sad and yet full of heart at the same time. The absolute worst of the lot has to be Christopher Doyle's Porte de Choisy, which is just pure rubbish, with Faye Wong's 1994 hit 天空 thrown in for no apparent reason.

The History Boys was originally a theatrical play, and it wears its theatricality proudly on its sleeve, with clever dialogue zipping about at machine-gun speed. Yet, underneath all that is a sad, sentimental heart that all its cleverness can't disguise - not that it has to. The only complaint I have is that its adaptation to cinematic form just isn't bloody cinematic enough, but that's a small quibble when the script and performances are so well executed, even though they're not entirely original - probably the biggest bit of originality is that the beloved teacher gropes his male students.

13 Tzameti has one of those titles that makes absolutely no sense before the movie, and complete and perfect sense afterwards ("tzameti" is the Georgian word for "thirteen"). I'm not going to tell you how the number figures in the movie; what I'm going to tell you is that it's a fantastic noir piece that feels like it was made decades ago (in a good way), and is gripping and chilling as hell. A young man gets embroiled in a macabre game played by rich gamblers, from which he has no way out except to finish it - that is, if he can finish it alive. It's a rough gem from a first-time director, and I eagerly anticipate his next film.

Anthony Minghella's latest film, Breaking and Entering, has wonderfully compelling performances from Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, and complex characters that are using each other for their own selfish agenda. The missteps they take just keep on building until they reach an unbearable point - and then Minghella tries to wrap everything up and the whole thing goes awry. It's one of those unfortunate cases where the ending is exactly how you want the film to turn out, yet it feels false because it goes against what the rest of the film has been saying. That being said, it's still worth a watch for the performances.


March Oscar Contenders

March also saw the last of the Oscar nominees trickle into theatres here. But I'm glad to say that they may be last, but certainly not least, clichéd as that statement may be.

First, Clint Eastwood presents the mirror piece to Flags of Our Fathers, the told-from-the- enemy's-POV Letters from Iwo Jima. I don't know if it's the traditional Asian reserve rubbing off, or the sensibilities of the Asian-American screenwriter, but this is far more subtle, noble and as a result, more moving than the former.

You might be familiar with the school of thought that claims that the more specific a story is, the more universal its truths are. And there are few situations more specific than that of a group of reluctant Japanese soldiers fighting a battle that's doomed to failure in a war that looks increasingly like a lost cause. But in this specificity lies the inhumanity and senselessness of war, the class differences that remain even at the front lines, the delusion of those who lead, the honor of those who soldier on, and the wish of every single soldier on every battlefield since the dawn of time - to be back home once again.

The performances are simply perfect, from the intelligent nobility of Ken Watanabe's commander to the boyband member Kazunari Ninomiya who plays a baker who's a nobody in the army. I can't even begin to pick favorite scenes; there are so many excellent ones, but particularly noteworthy are a scene in which a letter from an American soldier is translated and read out to the Japanese troops, and a gut-wrenchingly violent sequence that culminates in the gory suicides of an entire section save one. Additionally, the spare yet haunting score contributes significantly to the mood and tone without getting in the way or in-your-face (are you listening, Philip Glass?).

The color palette has been bleached until it is almost a stark monochrome, which makes the film more True, if that makes any sense at all. And with these Truths, Eastwood has made a graceful, heartbreaking masterpiece that works in tandem with its predecessor to be, quite possibly, the best war movie(s) of our time.

I still remember the first time I saw an image from Pedro Almodóvar's Volver. I was in Johor Bahru, in a bootleg DVD store, of all places, and for some strange reason they had it playing on the little TV inside. I was with a bunch of colleagues, and the scene we saw sucked us in immediately. Penélope Cruz is trying to clean up the blood seeping from a dead body. She places a paper towel on the pool of blood, and in a gorgeous close-up, the blood seeps through the paper like red flowers blooming on a snowy landscape. The sheer beauty and evocativeness of the image left us breathless, and I refused to look at the TV anymore, for I wanted to see it so badly on the big screen and have the effect be undiluted.

And I wasn't disappointed. Here Almodóvar has assembled a fantastic cast in a delicious, celebratory film - it celebrates feminity, the ties between women, and even life itself through death. The melodramatic elements, always a prominent feature in his films, have been toned down in favor of the rich interaction between the characters, as well as some wonderfully played farcical moments. It's no accident that the most prominent male character is a deadbeat husband who gets killed after he tries to rape his step-daughter. Females are front and centre in this film - well, in most of Almodóvar's films, actually, but never more so than here - and they are portrayed with zest, vibrancy and dignity. These qualities extend to the look and feel of the film itself, with its rich palette and use of location.

Among the cast, Penélope Cruz stands out as the main character, proving that she's a much better actor in her native Spanish than in any silly Hollywood flick that casts her just because she's hot. With this film, Almodóvar has another feather in his cap, and he deserves a standing ovation.

As much as Volver is warmth and heart, Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) is cold and clinical, which is apt as its main character is a cold, clinical Stasi officer whose job it is to place suspected subversives under surveillance. But when he starts spying on a playwright and his lover, he starts to melt, as it were, and yearn to actually live a life apart from the bleak existence he's had so far, and slowly finds the humanity in his heart in the process. There's a beautiful scene where the stoic officer sits alone in his barren hideaway, listening to his target play the piano, and the music moves him to tears.

Ulrich Mühe does great, restrained work as the officer, keeping us interested even though the film is a tad overlong. It's also impossible not to see the present mirrored in the past - to what lengths are the powers-that-be willing to go to in order to preserve the "security" of the state, and to what extent are the people willing to accept this? This is especially relevant, given the current climate we live in. I for one, would not want to live in the grey bleakness of its world for anything.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

March Asian Movies

Onwards, tackling more movies seen in March! This post is themed as "The Asian Post".

Polygamy is a topic not often tackled in film, for in the modern world, not too many cultures practise it apart from Muslim societies, which today are not too prone to self-examination. Berbagi Suami (Love for Share) by writer/director Nia Dinata is one film that does though, and does it rather compellingly.

It's made up of three stories, which is a good move, such that we don't dwell too long on any single one and get bored. Each story features a woman who is part of a polygamous marriage, and the interesting thing is that they come from different social and economic backgrounds, and their attitudes towards polygamy are influenced partially from their backgrounds, and partially through their own feelings, and the two might not necessarily be what you'd expect. Additionally, there is the now often-used tool of having the main characters interact with one another at specific junctures, without any of them knowing anything about the others' stories, to show that their lives are linked and reflect each other in a certain way.

Though some scenes seem a tad too on-the-nose, there are moments of comedy arising naturally from the situations to defuse these situations, and the sincere and well-meaning tone, buoyed by naturalistic performances make this social examination rather watchable. Not great, but watchable.

Wow. That was a rather "formal" review. Next up is Park Chan-Wook's latest vehicle, I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK. Now, being a huge Park fan ever since I sunk my fanboy teeth into Oldboy, I have to admit I was eagerly anticipating this film. And did he deliver? Well... yes and no.

Yes, the visuals are as stunning as ever, and his inventiveness hasn't seemed to depreciate in any bit at all. His unique brand of twisted humor is also on full display here, particularly in the opening sequence and a dream sequence that consists of the entire mental hospital getting blown away by machine-gun fire.

No, the actual content itself is nothing like his previous works. This is a romantic comedy, but like no other romcom ever made, for it bears the unmistakable stamp of Park's sensibilities; a re-interpretation of a romcom, if you will, seen through Park's eyes. It's whimsical, quirky, sweet (never saccharine), moving at times and yet warped at the same time. A dark tale of hyper-violent revenge this is not.

The cast are to be commended, particularly the lead actress, for believing wholeheartedly in the absurd situations in every single scene. As in all of Park's works, the score is flawless, working pitch-perfectly with all the beats of the scenes. And finally, I pity the fans of Korean superstar Rain who went in blind, for they must surely have been disappointed at the non-traditional plot - this is as far removed from typical rubbish melodramatic Korean film as you can get.

In the end, it doesn't matter that this wasn't your typical romcom, or your typical Park Chan-Wook film, for that matter. It stands strongly enough on its own merits, box office results be damned. And hell, it's a huge fucking breath of fresh air.


Another Battle Lost

Sneezes, cold, nose-blowing, mosquito bite in the most unlikely place, yowling cats, relocation, hot, more nose-blowing, relocation, nose clear, finally a chance, road-sweepers, ah what's the fucking point?

And so I lose my battle with insomnia once again.


It's not pity;
A dull aching
Never quite fading away.

Monday, June 04, 2007

This! Is! Art!

There were two comic-book related movies in March. One of them was crap, another was not. Which do you think is which?

The Fountain, strictly speaking, isn't really a comic book movie. See, Darren Aronofsky had this wacky screenplay, and was having lots of trouble getting money for it, seeing as how bizarre and experimental it was. And so he went off and got an artist to turn it into a graphic novel, which was released a couple of years back. I'm guessing the costs involved were significantly lower, but I could be wrong. In the meantime he finally scrounged up enough money to make the damn film, and so here we have The Fountain.

And what a film it is. Leaping across time, space and narrative boundaries wilfully, it's a beauty to behold. Behind all the mumbo-jumbo and intentionally confusing yet brilliant editing, the simple themes of love and regret shine through brightly. It probably plays much better as a theatrical play, but with the amazing CGI that's available nowadays, Aronofsky can afford to immerse you in stunning visual environments.

Having all these amazing visuals would mean nothing if the two main characters were thin - and with a script containing all these Ideas, it'd be too easy for lesser actors to portray them as paper-thin characters who spout lines full of existential angst. Fortunately, in Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz (oh, the blatant nepotism! - she being Aronofsky's wife), Aronofsky's found two fabulous actors that anchor their multiple/single characters firmly in humanity and emotion.

I really have to watch it again to be sure, because it's simply too overwhelming the first time round, but for now, I have to say that I love this movie. Maybe I'm being pretentious, maybe not, but anything that's out of the ordinary and works well scores lots of points in my book.

The adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 is extraordinary as well, but in many other ways. Chief of which is the fact that it's basically a 30-minute short film stretched out to feature length by having two-thirds or more of its shots in slow motion. One cannot deny that the visuals look fantastic, but they're in service to a pathetic excuse for a script, and after a fight or two, everything starts looking exactly the same.

Actually, to be honest, with the heavy rock on the soundtrack, it looks like an incongruous music video, with semi-naked men leaping and thrusting all over the place in completely gratuitous slow motion. The completely-CGI-ed background thing worked perfectly for Sin City, but here, in the hands of someone who doesn't know what else to do besides having his actors pose and deliver stilted dialogue, it's just pointless decoration that doesn't bring add anything.

The end result is a pretty picture, but there's only that long before you get sick of staring at something pretty and vacuous. Two hours of that (which feels much longer) and hammy, over-the-top roaring ("This! Is! Sparta!") is enough to tire anyone out. This is something I don't understand - what justifies adapting a rather thin (albeit stunning) graphic novel, with under 100 pages (most of which contain huge two-page spreads), into a two-hour movie? I'm only grateful I saw it for free.