Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First Class Plug

Recently I've been mass-emailing and Facebook-ing all my contacts, bombarding them with messages plugging my new show. But I've forgotten another outlet that reaches out to people I might not even know. Yep, I forgot to post a plug on my own blog. How silly!

So without further ado, here it is:

First Class is a new Singaporean comedy series I created (along with a co-creator). It's a fast, furious and funny exploration of the insanity that can happen in a typical Singapore secondary school, "in the style of" (or "copying", or "emulating", or "paying homage to", whichever you pick) recent US comedies like 30 Rock and Arrested Development, which I adore. Of course it's not nearly there, but that's the general direction we try to head in.

It'll be hard going, considering that most Singaporeans' idea of comedy is still stuck in the silly slapstick that Phua Chu Kang and Jack Neo used to provide (the latter seems to have lost even his touch for silly slapstick, as his ego gets too big for himself and he fancies himself a Filmmaker - but I digress).

Anyway, I co-wrote every single script and also directed an episode, and this is probably the best thing I've done since I joined this godforsaken company. So here's what I need people to do.

Please watch the show.
Talk about it.
Get the word out.
Tell all your friends.
Visit the Facebook page and sign up as fans.
Invite your friends to be fans.
Visit the official website.
Download the spinoff episodes (episodes for viewing on your 3G mobile phone - don't worry, they don't cost extra) or watch them online here.
And it wouldn't hurt to drop our dear monopolizing broadcaster a note and let them know you like it.

First Class debuted National Day, 9 August, on Channel 5, and we achieved decent ratings that day. When the second episode aired, we managed to beat our competition by a pretty good figure, and hopefully that will continue to be the case.

For those who missed the episodes that've already aired, here's a YouTube video of the first one, and here's the one of the second. You can find the other parts of the respective episodes from the links on the pages. Of course the video's aren't completely legal (well, not at all, actually), but I'm grateful nonetheless. We need all the help we can get, to make this a big hit.

The third episode airs tonight, at 8:30 pm on Channel 5. Be there.

Thanks in advance.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Masturbatin' May, Batwoman!

Blockbuster season means no real films to see. Sigh.

Dark Matter
Hardworking Chinese student is screwed over repeatedly by his professor, and eventually snaps and goes on a killing spree. This true story's got lots of dramatic potential, but unfortunately the film squanders it. Liu Ye is a good actor, but he doesn't really get much to do with the rather superficial script, which never really lets us get into his character's mind. Meryl Streep, too, is wasted, in a role that is requires little effort for her. She and Liu have one rather effective scene together, but everything else is rather pedestrian, despite everyone's best efforts.

Nim's Island
This was a real pain to sit through, and the more I think about it, the more I dislike it. The setup's very forced to begin with, and it only becomes more and more unbelievable, with the ridiculously helpful "animal friends". The overly cutesy shit does not help one bit. Jodie Foster doesn't fare well in slapstick mode - she's way too good for this crap. Stuff happens, and stuff happens, and then more stuff happens, but there's a complete lack of urgency or sense of danger, and above all, no real reason to care at all.

I'd heard this was rather shitty, but since it's coming from Neil Marshall, I was prepared to give it a shot. Still, I was greatly disappointed. It's all very stupid, and very incoherent, with a patchwork feel to the whole thing. Besides, all the fun bits (i.e. over the top gore) were snipped away by Singapore censors, which makes what's left behind simply blah. At least Mitra makes a decent kick-ass heroine with lots of attitude, and there's a rather good car chase. Otherwise, it's really a waste of time.

Speed Racer
I'm glad I saw this for free, because I'd have been so pissed if I'd paid for it. This is nothing more than a soulless CGI confection of candy colors and swirling images. It's an over-the-top live-action cartoon that's quite possibly the most annoying movie (both visually and acting-wise) I've seen this year. It's as if the Wachowski brothers were waving their dicks in your face - I've got lots of money: check out my ridiculous computer-generated backgrounds and pointless transitions! The irritating kid and his monkey made me want to throw my shoe at the screen, except I was seated too far from it. The moral of the story is completely unconvincing - how can I believe that you're being sincere in espousing the values of the independent player against evil corporations when your movie had such a titanic budget? All in all, for something targeted at the ADD preteen crowd, it's strangely boring despite epilepsy-inducing rapid editing.

This truly bizarre film almost out-Cronenbergs Cronenberg, with its twisted takes on the horrors of the body. I'm definitely in love with the insane visuals and crazy camerawork, and anything with such a strong directorial vision surely has something to say. I'm just at a loss as to what it is. I mean, how on earth do you make sense of images like the scene where a man ejaculates fire?

Honestly, doesn't that just make you go, "What the fuck?!" And that's just the opening scene (!) - the whole film is filled with stuff like that. Whatever you want to call it, you can't call it boring.

ช็อคโกแลต (Chocolate)
I've only seen a couple of Thai martial actioners, and can't claim to be an expert on the genre, but it seems that they generally have a couple of things in common. The action is usually intense and very authentic-looking, because they actually do perform most of the stunts instead of relying on CGI (hell, lives are cheap in Asia - cheaper than good CGI, for the most part). But the plot and script is, more often than not, complete rubbish, generating far more laughs and groans than pathos. This is no different, despite having a female lead character who's autistic, and a martial arts genius too. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and entertaining enough, a highlight being the climactic showdown across the entire front of a building that has to be seen to be believed. But it lacks the visceral oomph of, say, Tom Yum Goong, and the clunky melodrama often kills the momentum faster than a speeding bullet.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
This being the first Indiana Jones flick I've ever seen in theaters, I went in with rather high expectations. And for a while, it doesn't disappoint. The opening sequence is as exciting as anything in Indy's heyday, with a deliciously evil villain in the form of Cate Blanchett, who's terrific. However, it sinks into clumsy exposition with the introduction of LaBeouf, who might or might not be Indy's son, and the pacing begins to suffer. Thankfully, it picks up again when Allen comes in, and never lets go through all of her and Ford's bickering. A fun, entertaining and nostalgic ride.

Zwartboek (Black Book)
Verhoeven returns to true form with this instant classic that I've been waiting to see play here since forever. Basically, it's like "Lust, Caution" but with more action. It's chock-full of twists and turns, and moves along smartly at a brisk pace. There's a stunning lead performance from Van Houten, but no one fumbles their game, either. Verhoeven is unambiguous in his criticism of war, and the film subscribes to his rather pessimistic view of humanity.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Arrestin' April, Nightwing!

Cassandra's Dream
Despite having some of the best young actors around in it, Woody Allen's third film in a row set in the UK is very disappointing. The direction never feels more than perfunctory, as does the acting. So many scenes exist solely to deliver plot points that we can hardly care about the characters at all. Perhaps Allen should give it a rest until he's re-inspired. After all, he doesn't really have to deliver a movie a year - it's not like it's in his contract or anything. We'd all rather he take the time and give us something worth watching.

扣籃對決 (Slam)
It's got youthful energy to spare, and the youthful cast acquit themselves well with their roles, bringing many appealing qualities to their somewhat stock characters. While the plotting and situations may be pretty much by-the-book, the China setting and the commitment of all involved make this a pretty good sports flick and time-waster.

The Bucket List
It's not very funny, neither is it heartwarming - it's far too rote to feel so. In fact, this movie made me feel nothing at all; everything is so completely manufactured and mechanical. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman phone their performances in, playing, well, Nicholson and Freeman, and director Rob Reiner is not much better. It's complete and utter mediocrity, but thankfully, not hateful mediocrity. It's hard to hate Freeman and Nicholson. It's the perfect film for your unchallenging, middle-class parents, though.

(Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon)

In a movie that doesn't make much historical nor narrative sense, Andy Lau plays a dashing - probably too much so - hero in the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history, taking huge liberties with historical accounts as he hacks down his enemies left and right within a dull, depressing color palette. Too bad we've seen everything done before, and done better, too. Honestly, this is a real bore to sit through. I can't even summon up the energy to write more about it.

Yet another Asian horror remake by the Hollywood factory, and as per normal, it's pretty much yawn-inducing. There were a few things I liked about it though: There is one effective scene lit by flashbulbs, one cool death via camera lens, and I liked how setting it in Japan made Taylor's character more helpless. Otherwise, it's a resounding "meh", and an altogether dull time at the movies. I'm so glad I didn't have to pay for this. Then again, I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

I was so excited to see this movie - it had an irresistible B-movie concept (a girl with teeth in her vagina? Holy shit!), and I do so love great B-movies. Unfortunately, the greats are few and far between, and this one falls short on the execution, thereby somewhat wasting a wonderfully crazy concept. The problem with horror-comedies is that it's hard to get the tone right (for a positive example, see Slither), and writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein can't quite master that yet, resulting in something that's neither scary enough nor funny enough. Still, that's a great lead performance, and I'll be interested to see what else Jess Weixsler does next.

The Other Boleyn Girl
On paper, this was a can't-miss for me. I like Eric Bana, and adore Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. I loved The Queen, and anything written by its writer Peter Morgan should be good. But wait a second, who's this Justin Chadwick guy who's directing? Never heard of him. Oh well, it couldn't be that bad, could it? It was. The pacing was atrocious, taking forever to get to any dramatic point at all, but then in the final act, enough subpar melodramatic twists are thrown in to fill an entire TV series. It almost seemed as if they suddenly realized they had a movie to wrap up and only half an hour to do it in, 'cos they'd been fucking around the whole time they were supposed to be working. In this shallow, shallow Elizabethan world, everyone - kings, queens, nobles - just kinda sit around and mope; it's a wonder the country didn't run itself into the ground.

Definitely, Maybe
It's a little different from typical romcoms in having some actual idea of how people and relationships begin and drift apart and end... not hugely dramatically, but often with little fanfare and Big Moments. There are no Evil Bitches or Heartless Cads here, only realistic (well, more realistic than usual) people that come complete with both good and bad points. The cast are all appealing without being annoying, and after a while, you realize that for once, it really doesn't matter who ends up with whom, because you like all of them. It could do with a little less pointless convolution in the second half, but as a whole, it's definitely - not just maybe, no, not at all - very watchable indeed.

Funny Games U.S.
Not having seen the original, but having read quite a bit about it, I was mentally prepared for the experience, or so I thought. Still, Haneke's consummate skill at creating and maintaining tension got to me, and I felt as though I'd been mentally raped after watching it. But in a good way. Of course, one could argue that it's a needless remake, since all the shots and dialogue are the same. One could also argue that breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly detracts from the experience. But hey, whatever. It might not be the film of his that I like the most, but I'd take being mind-fucked over a mind-numbing blockbuster any day.

Feet Unbound
An interview-heavy documentary usually lives or dies based on the strength of its subjects, and this Singapore filmmaker has no lack of amazing interviewees - the female survivors of China's Long March. Listening to these old, feisty women speak is an Experience in itself; it's no wonder the stuff around it - the parallel journey the female protagonist makes - pales greatly in comparison. I can see why the director chose to use her to link the interviews; I just cannot identify with her at all, and at times, her pointless ruminations on everything simply annoy. Still, I'm going to err on the side of caution and say this is worth a look at, if only for the interviews alone (even though the other stuff brings it down to mediocre level). You can check out the website here.

The Children of Huang Shi
(a.k.a. Escape from Huang Shi)
A movie that no one really cared about, and I can see why. While its heart may be in the right place, the execution is truly mediocre at best. The film goes through a checklist of plot developments like clockwork, but unfortunately the human element never really comes through. Something worth mentioning, though, is that the lead character isn't as obvious a Foreign Hero as I thought he'd be - he probably learns more from the kids than they from him. However, it's sad when a movie's more notable for Chow Yun Fatt's much-improved diction than for anything else. And what's with retitling it Escape from Huang Shi when the actual escape is over in a couple of brief montages that really show nothing at all?

一個好爸爸 (Run Papa Run)
A funny, dramatic, heartwarming, refreshing mash-up of genres, Sylvia Chang's latest, while slightly schizophrenic, is more than decent entertainment. Rene Liu turns in a fine performance with (unexpectedly) impeccable comic timing, and Louis Koo is dependable as always in a role that seems tailor-made for him. While the ending fizzles out its initial promise, what went before is more than sufficient to make this little movie thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. Just ignore the overly-cutesy, butt-ugly poster.

The Forbidden Kingdom
Real Chinese will probably be full of endless mockery for this bastard child of a movie. Wait, actually, almost everyone will, with the exception of a hyperactive 12 year-old. It's nothing but a random hodgepodge of kungfu flicks and Chinese legends filtered through a white man's eyes, and garnished generously with bits of The Karate Kid. Honestly, this is so completely full of shit it's hilarious - perhaps it can serve as some college kid's choice for Bad Movie Night. Hell, kungfu legend Jet Li even does a cheap pee joke in it - the horror! Probably the one good thing about it is the Jackie Chan vs. Jet Li fight scene, and even that would've been much better in a Hong Kong flick.

Iron Man
This marks the start of Blockbuster Season, and what a start it is! I must admit, I had doubts about director Jon Favreau, but everything about Downey Jr. in the trailers screamed "Perfect Casting!". And happily, the movie doesn't disappoint, being a solid, thoroughly entertaining popcorn flick. Downey Jr., of course, is the heart and soul of it all, carrying the entire film with charisma and wit to spare. Gwyneth Paltrow is a fantastic foil to his Lothario, and the chemistry between them positively sparks as they exchange banter reminiscent of screwball comedies from a bygone era. Too bad she becomes nothing more than a damsel in distress towards the end. But hey, whatever. All in all, it's a damn good time at the movies, and with a summer blockbuster, that's more than good enough.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

And Then, What?

I don't do this often. In fact, almost never. But this Eason Chan song 然後怎樣 (And Then, What?) has been in my head the last couple of days, and I like it more and more. Which is rare for one of his songs that's in Mandarin, as opposed to Cantonese. But hey, a good song is a good song. And the lyrics are something. Simple, precise, but oh-so-true, like a stab to the heart.



完成了所謂的理想 放縱了情緒的泛濫
汗都流亁 天都微亮

擁有了旅行的空檔 卻遺失流浪的背囊
沿著軌道 一直瀏覽

假期過完 有甚麼打算
走過一個天堂 少一個方向
誰在催我成長 讓我失去迷途 的膽量

我怕誰失望 我為誰而忙
我最初只貪玩 為何變負擔
為何我的問題 總得等待別人 的答案

《我的快樂時代》唱爛 才領悟代價多高昂
不能滿足 不敢停站

A real, heartfelt cry from the disillusioned modern man. Fucking depressing. Fucking good. 林夕 does it again.