Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rushing Thru August

Movies seen in August, in 3 sentences or less.

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros
(The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros)

Coming-of-age tale of an effeminate kid and his crush on a hunky policeman that's one part heartfelt, one part grunge and two parts trite. The resulting mixture is, unfortunately, rather blah, despite a more than decent performance by the kid in the title role.

La Môme (The Passionate Life of Edith Piaf a.k.a. La Vie en Rose)
Confusing timeline-jumping that serves not too much purpose aside, there's a fine, fierce performance by Marian Cotillard that kind of makes up for everything else. Oh yes, the music's pretty good too.

導火線 (Flashpoint)
Donnie Yen porn, but the money shots are only in the final half hour. The initial 60 minutes are a real fucking drag. If you're watching it on DVD, just skip till the climactic battle; you're not missing anything.

不能說的‧秘密 (Secret)
Teenybopper idol Jay Chou puts in a surprisingly decent directorial debut - but that only just barely makes this watchable. Cringe-inducing lovey-dovey scenes aside, there are some slightly clever plot twists, but it's let down by gaping logic loopholes and poor CGI in the finale.

Knocked Up
Hilarious, yet tender. A wonderful ensemble cast and a smart script provide the backbone for this lovely comedy. Judd Apatow is a freakin' genius.

A funny, chaotic, and ultimately surprisingly moving film is let down by poor extras and several sequences that show its lack of budget and time. The climactic showdown is particularly shoddily shot, considering what has gone on before, and a beautiful, emotional moment is spoilt by not having enough money for decent CGI.

The Bourne Ultimatum
The shaky, nausea-inducing handheld camerawork is fucking brilliant, as is the unbelievably tight and smart scripting. Paul Greengrass has done it again, making the Bourne series one of the few action series that gets better and better.

بيد مجنون (The Willow Tree, a.k.a. The Weeping Willow)
A decent parable that tends to hit us over the head a little too often with its Themes, which drops it down to slightly above mediocre for me. Also, a bit too religious for my liking, but that's just the atheist in me talking. Wonderfully moving moments are in there though, especially when the protagonist regains his eyesight and sees his family for the first time in his life.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
Lovely visuals, but completely empty in the script department. A very pretty and macabre-looking snoozefest.

Lots of fun, catchy tunes and an Important Message to boot - what's not to like about this screen-to-stage-and-back-to-screen adaptation? A great time at the movies, period - and check out the cool Japanese poster.

Wonderful production design aside, it had the opportunity to be really wickedly funny. Unfortunately it chose the bland way out and ended up being more bark than bite. Horror-comedies really aren't what they used to be.

天堂口 (Blood Brothers)
A bloodless remake of the John Woo classic Bullet in the Head, reset in 1930s Shanghai. The many ludicrous scenes (a man who hasn't fired a gun in his life before shoots 6 people in quick succession, never missing) and atrocious dialogue (after a bloody firefight in which he kills like 50 people, the same man screams at another "Don't kill anymore people!") made this a comedy for me, albeit a comedy that's filled with tedious chunks of dialogue and exposition.


Saturday, September 29, 2007


So I look over at my blog and I realize I haven't posted anything in close to a month. Lots has been going on, though, so I thought I'd best get through writing about movies, especially those I saw way back in July, then I can get on with putting pictures and shit up on everything else.

So yeah, these were going to be two separate, themed posts ("Animation" and "Local Movies"), but in the interests of playing catchup, I'm just slapping them together.

Surf's Up
I know what you're gonna say: "Not another fucking animated movie about fucking penguins". But at least this has a semi-clever attempt at playing with the genre, in making it a mockumentary, with all the bad shots and random background action that that entails. Also, it is rather entertaining, and a nice enough distraction. Definitely a rental though. Right. Moving on.

パプリカ (Paprika)
It's not clever. It's fucking mind-blowing, is what it is. The visuals are overwhelmingly insane, especially when the dreaming world gets mixed up with the real world, and reality begins to get really fucking warped. Plot-wise, it's really rather straightforward, once you get past the mindfuckery of the images. It's a real blast. Buy it.

The Simpsons Movie
The laughs come hard and fast in the first act, then it kind of goes into typical Simpsons territory, which is still far better than most. I might not love it as most people over here seem to do, but I still like it quite a bit. I guess I'll buy it eventually.

阿嬤 (Ah Ma) (Grandma)
This was the first Singapore film to be in the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival, where it won a Short Film Special Distinction this year. It's basically a portrait (well, since it's a short it's more like a sketch) of the family members who gather at the deathbed of an old lady in a hospital or hospice. Yes, it's tender and heartfelt without going into mush territory. But I can't help but look at it and hate what my life as a filmmaker has become, especially since the director just won a fully paid scholarship from the MDA to get a Master's degree in the UK, bypassing the traditional Bachelor's degree (which I am in bondage for). My bitterness at my slavemasters shouldn't deter you from trying to see this though.

Invisible City
Not as audience-friendly as Singapore Gaga, but it's well-made, with evident love for its subjects. I suppose one could describe it as a documentary about history, but it's more about the documenting of places, events and people than about history per se. That aside, one of the most moving segments is of an old British woman, Marjorie Doggette, who spent all her best years here photographing old buildings that were to be torn down. She has a photo book to show for all her efforts, which is probably out of print. But apart from that, not much else - she's now alone, decrepit and dying. She always thought she'd return to England one day, but time passed and when she suddenly realized how long it'd been, she was too old and weak to make the journey. And "Singapore is not a place to grow old in," she states matter-of-factly, her even tone barely hiding her regret.

Gone Shopping
TV host and extra-large personality Kym Ng reins it all in to remarkably moving effect in this indie flick that interweaves three stories set in and around shopping centers and involving Singapore's favorite pastime - shopping (what else). While not all the stories are strong, the lovingly-crafted frames that transform our weekend stomping grounds and a few very good performances (particularly from Kym and a little Indian girl) anchor the film and lift it above your typical moody indie. I couldn't imagine feeling moved by a scene set in the 24-hour madness that is Mustafa Shopping Center, but it happened.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Congrats Xinhong

So yeah, I'm glad your proposal worked out fine yesterday (wouldn't it suck if it hadn't?), and I'm happy that you enjoyed the clips. I'm just gonna put them up here for the world to enjoy.

Apologies, most of these are in Mandarin without subtitles. It's just too much work.