Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Worst of 2007

Man, there were a lot of bad movies I saw last year, mostly because of the Golden Village VIP card. There are a ton more that simply wouldn't fit on my lists. So, in fact, most of these movies I hate with a vengeance, which is a first.

The Crap

天堂口 (Blood Brothers) - Ludicrous plotting, atrocious dialogue, tedious exposition and sheer bad acting from Daniel Wu make this a (not so) bloody mess.
The Heartbreak Kid - Hatefully misogynistic and completely unfunny. Ben Stiller needs to stop making movies, period.
Lions for Lambs - An op-ed piece made into an annoying movie that lectures at you for ninety minutes.
快樂工廠 (Pleasure Factory) - Everything that can possibly be wrong about a movie, is wrong here. Absolutely painful and in no way pleasurable.
Rush Hour 3 - Somebody shoot Brett Ratner already. And Jackie Chan should just retire gracefully... oops, too late.
刺青 (Spider Lilies) - Wannabe-pretentious, but ultimately shallow and inert rubbish.
頤和園 (Summer Palace) - Lots of nudity, fucking, and artistic pretension does not make a movie. I'd rather watch porn; at least I can be spared the pseudo-art bullshit.
真相 (Truth Be Told) - A mediocre at best Channel 8 script given a terrible DV treatment.
Un Embrujo (Under a Spell) - Goes a lot of places, but never actually gets anywhere, because the audience is simply falling asleep.
ヴァイブレータ (Vibrator) - I repeat, lots of fucking does not a good movie make. Utterly pointless.

The Disappointments

Bee Movie - Great trailer (the one with the Spielberg cameo), but nothing really works in the movie.
兄弟 (Brothers) - The reunion of (most of) Hong Kong's 5 Tigers of the 1980's fizzles with a by the numbers script and wannabe-pretentious direction.
ドラえもん のび太の恐竜 2006 (Doraemon: Nobita's Dinosaur) - Childhood love re-examined through adult eyes and found deeply wanting.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age - Cate Blanchett's Queen Elizabeth defeats the Spanish Armada, but she's no match for the overblown, ridiculous script and direction.
Evan Almighty - I know the trailers were atrocious. But somewhere deep down inside, I was still hoping against hope that Steve Carell might be able to magically rescue it. Nope.
Frank Miller's 300 - I liked the comic. Hated the movie. It's a 20-minute short expanded to feature length and padded up by excessive slow-motion carnage, which induces yawns after the third decapitation or so.
The Invasion - It was probably fucked up by the studio, because it seems like it's two movies that don't gel well together at all.
鬼啊! 鬼啊! (Men in White) - Horrifically unfunny comedy. What happened to you, Kelvin Tong?
Savage Grace - I don't know what Julianne Moore is doing in this boring, pretentious crap. Pointless, toothless and drama-less.
Transformers - Thank you, Michael Bay, for raping my fond childhood memory and pissing all over it afterwards.

The Overrated

The 11th Hour - Too... many... talking... heads... Zzzz...
Black Snake Moan - Wastes a good premise by being ridiculously moralistic and misogynistic.
Blood Diamond - Well-meaning liberal bullshit, but incredibly arrogant and annoying.
Jesus Camp - Would be so much better if the argument wasn't so one-sided and obvious. Yes, radio deejay guy, I'm looking at you. You ruined the movie.
The King - Predictable, boring, and a waste of Gael García Bernal.
門徒 (Protégé) - Wants to be dark and edgy, as well as an Important Film. But it's nowhere close.
The Pursuit of Happyness - Way too slick to be believable or to resonate, even if it is a true story.
Rendition - Disappointingly rote.
Masz na imie Justine (Your Name Is Justine) - We've seen it all before, and done far better.
投名狀 (The Warlords) - Peter Chan reaches for the stars... and fails.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Black Friday

January 4th, 2008 was a bad day for me. So bad that I've taken to calling it my personal Black Friday.

In the early hours of that day, just past midnight, I was working on a script. Inexplicably, my laptop died on me, and nothing I did could make it come alive again.

Well, inexplicably is probably accurate. But there had been signs - for the past week or so, it had hung on many occasions, as often as once or twice a day. While my new MacPro had already arrived (boasting 1.5 TB of hard disk space, among other insanely powerful specs), I'd not gotten around to buying a monitor yet, and was still putting off transferring my data. So I guess I'm at least partially to blame for this mishap.

I had to finish the script, pronto - it was due the next day. But I decided to sleep on it and see if the laptop responded in the morning.

It didn't.

I called my brother and tried to get him him to come over, so I could try to slave my laptop to his and retrieve the data. He couldn't come till late afternoon, so I decided to head out to buy a monitor.

On my way to the Apple store, I stopped by Cathay Cinema to use their free internet, so I could send an email to the Final Draft people to get an activation code. Because even if I managed to set up my computer, it would be useless without Final Draft on it.

At the Apple store, I was told that they were out of the monitor I wanted, and I had to wait a few days for it. Damn. In order to start work as soon as I could, I called my cousin and managed to borrow a monitor for a few days.

I was in the process of setting up my MacPro when my brother arrived. He managed to copy all my documents into his laptop, so that was a big help. It was no easy task, because 9 times out of 10, my laptop refused to be recognized as a drive by the master computer, even if it was my MacPro. And of course, the idiot-proof "migration" application couldn't be used on such a faulty machine; it just hung every time we tried.

One happy thing was that my music and photos were on an external hard drive, so they weren't trapped inside the laptop. I began the process of transferring the data on the drive over to my MacPro, since it had 1.5 TB of space just sitting there.

First I copied my music over. That was around 20 GB, so it took a while, even by firewire. Then I was about to copy my photos, but decided to do that last for some reason, and copied the rest of the files, a miscellaneous grab-bag of crap, instead.

Then along came my cousin asking me to go get dinner with him. And so I did.

I came home after dinner and decided to empty out that external drive so I could use it to back up shit. So I deleted everything in it. And then emptied my Trash.

An hour or so later, I decided that it might be nice to import my photos into iPhoto. So I started looking for my photos on my computer. They weren't in the drive I'd copied all the other stuff to. I did a search using Spotlight. Nothing.

I started getting a sinking feeling in my gut. I frantically opened every single folder I could find.

Still nothing.

It was then that everything became clear to me. In my haste to empty out my external drive, I'd forgotten to copy my photos over.

I had accidentally deleted all my photos. All my photos. Everything.

Then I thought - Time Machine! Apple has this application that automatically backs up your shit and enables you to restore your computer to what it was at an exact point in time. I opened it. Turns out you have to activate it... and I hadn't, of course. Fuck.

I started to tremble a little as the enormity of what I'd done sunk in. All of my photos, taken over the last 6 years, were gone. I had to grab a cigarette. Or two. Or three.

When I came back, having chain-smoked like mad and made several panic-stricken phone calls, I had a game plan. I searched around for programs that could be used to recover files deleted off a drive, and found a few. Except they wouldn't let you use them properly until you paid for them. I decided to try a few scans with the trial versions. One of them - Data Rescue II - seemed more thorough than the others, so I gave it a run.

It took seven hours. Well, it was a 320 GB drive. I went to bed and woke up, and it was all done. I chose one photo to save as a trial (you're only allowed one in the trial version), and it seemed decent. So I coughed up the US $100 for it, and began the process of recovering my pictures.

Another few hours later, the task was completed. It appeared as if most of the photos were recovered, except now they were all in a huge mess that needed sorting out. It'll probably take weeks. It's such a daunting task that I haven't gotten around to starting it yet. But hey, all in all, I should be grateful.

If anyone has accidentally deleted stuff, you can pass my your drive, and I can try the recovery thing. It's pretty effective, I think, but the main thing is that you should never write more information on the disk after you realize your mistake. Same thing goes for a memory card in a digital camera. If you accidentally wipe it, stop taking photos immediately, and if you must, buy a new memory card to use in the meantime. This is because even though the data is deleted, it still exists in the drive or card until something new comes along and is written over it. So it's still recoverable, but not if you stupidly copy more shit to the drive or take more pictures. Good to know.

So yeah, that was a shitty Friday indeed.

There's more about the whole laptop saga. I called AppleCare, and they told me my best bet to get my data was to go to a service center and get my hard disk out of the laptop, because it appeared as though the hardware of my laptop had been fried, but the disk might still work.

When I got there, I was told I had to be charged for the cost of simply opening up the fucking thing and getting the drive out. Because my extended warranty had expired one month ago. I suspect the fuckers program their computers to fail right after 3 years. Anyway, I called AppleCare again and tried to get them to waive the charges. After a long discussion with both me and the service center staff, the reply was "no". Flat-out rejection.

I tried to reason with them. Hey, I'd just bought a $13,000 computer from you guys. Surely you can waive this tiny charge for me. I'm a loyal customer. I swear by your computers.

Didn't make a difference. Fuckers. I thought they'd be different. In the end they're still fucking corporate assholes, toeing the company line. So what if they were Australian or American instead of local? Doesn't make them more fucking humane. What's the point of hiring all these expats when you just need someone to be completely fucking useless? Fucking illiterate ah bengs can do the job just as well.

I hate fucking AppleCare. They're fuckers with no human decency. And charging $130 for removing a few screws is just too fucking much.

So I'm still trying to get my hard drive out at this point. My cousin seems to have found someone to do it, so I'm hoping he's successful. In the meantime, I'm waiting on importing all my music and photos into iTunes and iPhoto because I want to try as far as possible to save time on re-organizing, hoping that I can get some preferences and setup configurations and shit out of my laptop. So I have no music on my MacPro's iTunes, which is a real bitch.

Oh, and in the meantime, my iPod died as well - fatally corrupted. It's also past the extended warranty period, although it lasted longer than my laptop did. I used it as backup for some documents and stuff, so I'm currently running a recovery on it to try and save as much data as possible, but because the drive is corrupted, it's taking forever. It's been going on for two days now, and it's not even 10% done yet. Jesus fucking Christ. And damn, do I miss having music when I commute.

So you know what, back your shit up. Over and over again. On several different drives. You never know when stuff is going to die. Well, actually you do. Once the fucking warranty expires.

Anyone wanna buy me a new iPod?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Best of 2007

I'm trying not to be too late with the list this year.

Disclaimer: Only films seen in 2007 are included in this list - it is not representative of the films that were released in 2007. We often get films, especially arthouse films, released much later here than in the US. Films which were released more than a year back and now screened as retrospectives, etc. in festivals are also banned from the Top 10.

Top 10 for 2007 (in alphabetical order)

Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids
One of the most painful experiences I've had in a movie theater, but oh so good.

The Dead Girl
Heartbreaking and beautifully structured and told, with pitch-perfect performances. What more can I ask for?

(The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)

One of the funniest, most imaginative, and also most moving animes I've ever seen.

Hot Fuzz
Fucking funny, yet also exhilarating as hell. Those who love the subjects the most make the best parodies.

El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)
Soaring with imagination, terrifying in its darkness, and yet deeply moving in its humanity.

Letters from Iwo Jima
Clint Eastwood can do no wrong. Miles better than Flags of Our Fathers.

Little Children
Another perfect ensemble, and another perfect human story.

The Painted Veil
They don't make grandly romantic movies like these anymore. A perfect film to fall in love to.

Darkly funny, and emotionally rich, this is Almodóvar at his peak.

Intense and wearying, this is an epic procedural that demonstrates the complete mastery David Fincher has.

Close, But No Cigar (or, the best of the rest)

13 Tzameti - Visceral and intense noir.
The Bourne Ultimatum - Helluva thriller.
The Fountain - Wildly ambitious, to the extent that it can't not fall short. But completely engrossing and fascinating nonetheless.
Lars and the Real Girl - The most bizarre romantic comedy you'll ever see, but surprisingly sweet and moving.
武士の一分 (Love and Honor) - Another samurai classic that puts the humanity back into the warrior.
戒|色 (Lust, Caution) - Tony Leung and Tang Wei turn in spectacular performances, and Ang Lee does some of the best work of his career.
The Queen - Helen Mirren owns this film, and stirs up all your respect and devotion.
Ratatouille - Pixar does it again, better than ever.
Superbad - Hilarious yet also very moving in its depiction of friendship.
Waitress - Quirky and sitcom-ey, but completely lovable. RIP, Adrienne Shelly.

Top-Notch Entertainment Top 10

28 Weeks Later


Knocked Up
Ocean's Thirteen
Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror

Rocky Balboa


Last year was only OK, I suppose. There weren't that many good movies I had to leave off these lists. In particular, while Singaporean film output was larger than previous years in quantity, only 881 felt good enough to make it to any of the lists. Most were, in fact, rather terrible. Hopefully this year will be better.