Monday, December 31, 2007

October's Occupations Part Two

Holy fuck, it's almost time to do the year-end round-up, and I still haven't managed to get through October yet. I've been insanely busy with shooting the sitcom, but that's another story. Meanwhile, on with the movies.

The Brave One
Jodie Foster is always captivating onscreen, and never more than when she's playing hard and tough characters. But like it or not, this is a concept firmly rooted in trashy B-movie revenge flick territory. Director Neil Jordan tries his best to lift the material, but doesn't always succeed, muddying his message in the process, to the detriment of the film as a whole. A nice, pat Hollywood ending rings especially false, but overall it still gets a pass due to Foster.

C+ 偵探 (The Detective)
Aaron Kwok is becoming quite a decent actor these days, and he manages to carry this genre flick reasonably well. As usual, the Pang Brothers don't care too much about the plotting of things, and there are more than a few head-scratching moments here. But hey, they don't aim very high, and as pure entertainment, this works.

Death at a Funeral
Despite having an all-British cast, this still feels very American, which shouldn't be a surprise, considering that Frank "Yoda" Oz is directing. All in all, it's somewhat amusing, but definitely not as funny as everyone claims it is. One has to wonder how different it might have been if a Brit had helmed it - probably the humor would be very much more wicked.

兄弟 (Brothers)
A cookie-cutter plot serves as the excuse to reunite 4 of the original 5 "Tigers" in the Hong Kong entertainment scene. And as a result the movie is also a sorry excuse. The pacing is horribly slack, and the movie is full of pointless transition shots that have their focus on some random object that's supposed to be "symbolic". It's rubbish, and if that's not enough, it's pretentious rubbish. There's a fine lead performance to be enjoyed from Miu Kiu Wai though, rising above the crappy script with his sheer charisma.

Mr. Woodcock
I hate Seann William Scott, and I want to slap him. He was only ever funny in American Pie, and he's long worn out his welcome. I don't know what on earth possessed Susan Sarandon to sign up for this abysmally unfunny shit. Billy Bob Thornton needs to get a new schtick, pronto. A complete waste of your time.

I'm McLovin' this movie! From the opening scene, its hilarity never lets up, and neither does its crassness. But I'm using "crassness" in the best sense of the word, as in "it's full of rude words, but there are no dumb fart jokes involving animals". Despite all this, there's still a wonderful touch of humanity, with surprising insight into the nature of friendship and the mini-tragedies of life.

The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising
Honestly, I expected rubbish, so I was surprised by its adequacy. I've never read the books though, so no opinion on the adaptation. It moves along, and is engaging in places, but never really rises above mediocrity.

Alpha Dog
It's a movie about the pointless lives of SoCal's over-pampered rich brats and how their stupidity causes a simple problem to escalate into a horrific mistake. But the many scenes of them partying and drinking themselves into oblivion almost derail the whole thing in to pointlessness. Fortunately, the gripping and tragic final act redeems everything that came before. Justin Timberlake proves he's more than a pretty face and music maker by turning a fine performance, and newcomer Anton Yelchin also stands out with his innocence and puppy-dog likability.

Ensemble, c'est tout
(Hunting and Gathering)

The "ensemble" in the title is accurate - there's a good ensemble here, and all of them play well off each other. There are no real surprises in the script, but there's lots of quirkiness to go round, as well as plenty of humanity and, well, niceness. Being French, it manages to be genuinely feel-good without too many calculated scenes and remaining Hollywood saccharine-free.

Touted as "the French Shakespeare in Love", but since Molière wrote comedies, there are lots more jokes thrown in. There's wordplay, slapstick, farce and other such fun stuff to keep it entertaining without being outright stupid, unlike many of today's "comedies". Still, medieval slapstick looks weird, no matter what. All in all, it's still a nice distraction.


Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm a Survivor

I took part in a half marathon yesterday, and the pain all over my body now reminds me of it every waking (and sleeping) moment.

Here's (roughly) how it happened.

Sometime in September/October:
Stephen and Keith ask me, separately, to take part in it. "21 kilometres? That's fucking insane!" is the response they get.

A week or two later:
I sign up for it anyway, pledging to train for it in the time leading up to 2 Dec.

A couple of weeks later:
I try running for the first time in a few months. I get stitches. And I don't run again.

Early November:
I send the date to my production manager, asking him not to schedule me for a shoot on 2 Dec.

Late November:
I find out he's gone ahead and scheduled me for that day anyway. I secretly rejoice inside and tell Stephen and Keith the bad news. I banish all thoughts of training from my mind.

30 November:
I find out that due to last minute complications, my colleague CY who has also signed up for the run, might be shooting on that day instead of me. "Oh shit," is my first thought.

1 December:
One day before the run, it's confirmed: CY will be shooting in the morning, and she'll miss her run. But I get to do the 21 km! Without any training beforehand whatsoever! Plus, I also get to shoot two scenes in the afternoon after the run! I get visions of me collapsing by the roadside and my body being cleared by road sweepers the next day.

2 December, 4:30 am:
I wake up at a godforsaken time and head for the run with Keith and his friend TJ. A feeling of dread overcomes me. I joke that if my breathing stops, all they have to do is put a cigarette in my mouth to revive me.

6:15 am or thereabouts:
The run starts. Fuck.

At the 6 km mark:
Not too bad, surprisingly. It's been nice and cool so far, with great views. Running down the middle of Shenton Way with towering buildings lining both sides of the street is pretty cool. We stop for a toilet break. Resuming the run is a bitch.

At the 10 km mark:
We stop running and walk for a bit. Then run a bit. Then walk a bit. I start feeling abrasions on my inner thighs - my fat thighs have been rubbing against each other and my shorts for a while now.

At the 12 km mark:
We realize it's been quite a distance, and start running properly again.

At the 13 km mark:
I start feeling something worse than the thigh abrasions. The sweat has wet my shirt, and the wind makes it cold. Cold does something to nipples. And running causes the shirt to move, leading to friction. Which over a long distance leads to major ouch. I try pulling my shirt away from my chest as I run. It's really very annoying, and I can't run properly.

At the 15 km mark:
I tell Keith to go ahead. Fuck it, I'll walk the rest of the way.

At the 18 km mark:
I recover from my running and start being able to walk really briskly. I realize that my walking speed is faster than some others' running speeds. Hee hee. It makes me feel good, overtaking them while walking.

At the 20 km mark:
I run for a little bit, because I think the finish line is up ahead. And then realize that it's still rather far away, so I stop and walk again.

At the 20.8 km mark:
I come round the bend and the finish line is up ahead! OK, time to run a bit so at least I don't look bad strolling across the line. I overtake most people easily, since I've been walking all this while and am pretty well-rested.

At the Finish Line (about 10:00 am):
Woohoo! And ouch, my nipples and thighs hurt again. And knees too. And you know what, so does every part of my body, it seems. I collect my medal. It doesn't look very impressive. I risked my life for this little piece of metal?

Final results:
Stephen took a little over 2 hours. TJ a little over 2.5 hours. Keith is next, at a little under 3 hours (2:58:20). And me with all my walking took a little under 3.5 hours (3:18:25, to be exact). But hey, I'm probably the one who needs the least recovery time.

It's the day after, and I'm still hurting. Going straight to set after a quick shower (I almost screamed like a girl when the water hit my abrasions) didn't help the healing process.

Marathon Survivors

The official guide book to the marathon says, "Use petroleum jelly to prevent chafing in areas like inner thighs, under arms and even nipples." Thanks. I probably should've read it earlier, like before the damn thing.

If I ever do it again, my goal will be to actually run for a larger proportion of the distance. Which shouldn't be too hard if I prepare, like wear a pair of tights or use petroleum jelly, whatever that is. It sounds dirty. I wonder where you get it. A fucking Shell station?