Contents

Review 01 – Kungfu Dunk ( Added 08/02/2008 )
Review 02 – Juno ( Added 19/02/2008 )
Review 03 – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ( Added 27/02/2008 )
Review 04 – Death Note Spin-Off: L Change The World ( Added 02/03/2008 )
Review 05 – Meet The Spartans ( Added 09/03/2008 )
Review 06 – The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep ( Added 17/03/2008 )
Review 07 – The Leap Years ( Added 29/03/2008 )
Review 08 – Definitely, Maybe ( Added 06/04/2008 )
Review 09 – Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay ( Added 30/05/2008 )
Review 10 – Kung Fu Panda ( Added 20/06/2008 )
Review 11 – The Happening ( Added 20/06/2008 )
Review 12 – Get Smart ( Added 20/06/2008 )
Review 13 – Sex And The City: The Movie ( Added 24/06/2008 )
Review 14 – You Don’t Mess With The Zohan ( Added 28/06/2008 )

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Review #14: “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan
(* Written by aR)
You Don\'t Mess With The ZohanStarring:
Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, Lainie Kazan
Directed By: Dennis Dugan

Or rather, the Zohan should not mess with his audience!

The comedy-cum-action thriller genre is the current fad with Get Smart, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan as well as the upcoming Will Smith release, Hancock. However, Zohan actually starts of being positively funny with the numerous antics Sandler has up his sleeves, but progressively loses its focus as it meanders into a sex romp fest with a little tinge of romance and an attempted twist in the end.

The film successfully takes digs at racism and the Middle East, with subtle racist nuances planted throughout the movie. Even Zohan’s fake Israeli accent is likely to be a joke all by itself, though it really gets grating after awhile. In addition, throw in the Zohan’s fascination with a 1970s edition of a Paul Mitchell hairstyling book with retro hairstyles such as “The Avalon” and “The Coco” as a dig against the supposed backwardness of the Middle East, and you get the picture of how the essence of the film is to make fun of touché issues like that.

Adam Sandler plays the title role, Zohan, an Israeli counter-terrorist who possesses all sorts of superhuman capabilities such as the inclination to catch bullets with his nostril, ping-pong balls and barbecued fish with his bum, as well as an extremely active bang-a-boom sex life. Tired of having to save the world repeatedly (though bafflingly, his Israeli countrymen seem to be perfectly happy under the rue of the Phantom, the terrorist whom Zohan is up against), Zohan feigns death In an anti-climactic fight against the Phantom. In all his righteousness, he ironically becomes an illegal immigrant as he takes on the moniker Scrappy Coco in his pursuit of fulfilling his hairstyling dream.

It all turns raunchy from then on as Zohan showcases his abilities to “please” the older women who quickly become his most devoted customers.

Mariah Carey’s much hyped-up cameo within the movie is yet another anti-climactic turn, as the diva lends her vocal pipes to two lines of the American anthem, followed by an utterly bimbotic turn with lots of product placements for her latest album. This seriously makes me wonder if that is the diva personified, or if she’s merely clamming up for the cameras.

In conclusion, the movie is daring in its exploits to touch on the Israeli-Palestine conflict in a humorous yet touch-and-go ‘can’t we all just get along kind of way’. An average movie compounded by repetitive jokes which quickly lose their punch.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Review #13: “Sex And The City: The Movie” (* Written by aR)The Movie
Starring:
Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Jennifer Hudson
Directed By: Michael Patrick King

Frankly, I have not caught a single episode of the hit television series of the same title prior to watching the big-screen adaptation, but boy was I blown away!

Though this could be because of a lack of real expectations the film has to meet to satisfy me, than anything else.

Occasionally, SATC the Movie felt like a half-hour episode on television lengthened five-fold for the big-screen (with more sexual depictions together with an instant of brief male frontal nudity, otherwise unsavoury for primetime television, injected, of course). Despite the seldom draggy moments which evoked such feelings, it is perhaps forgivable considering how most other television-to-silver-screen adaptations also fall prey to that as well (with The Simpsons being a notable example).

The movie resumes three years on from where the story left of. SATC the Movie re-unites the four female leads (and their corresponding partners) on the big-screen in the Big Apple, otherwise idealised as the City of Labels and Love within the movie. It is evident that the primary incentive of the film is to offer fans a form of closure following the demise of the hit series, in what has been touted to be the final SATC outing in the popular merchandise.

Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are the larger-than-life characters who have been crystallised as feminine icons in the modern world of pop culture, as they are the hybrid of everything women seem to desire for. Throw in obvious product placements with the leads donning gorgeous outfits from Louis Vuitton and Manolo Blahnik, their material world forms the envy of every woman in town.

Though their romantic lives remain a mess as they attempt to unclog their hearts and desires and pursue what really matters to them in life. After all, they’re also ageing within the film itself. And this is exactly what the romantic comedy aims to address via its witty dialogue (a scene involving Botox comes to mind instantly), dramatic moments (hardly surprising considering the personalities of the leads) as well as sex.

While it may be argued that the film is an unashamed celebration of materialist values, an orgy of labels, brands and product placements, it all represents the rich lifestyle every woman (and possibly man) will like to hanker after, and that forms part of the attraction of the movie.

Jennifer Hudson takes on the role of a new character within the film – that of Carrie’s personal assistant as Carrie attempts to get her life back on track following one of the many mid-life crises she encountered within the movie. She is outstanding in her role, masquerading as a character as what the audience would think is Carrie personified – just fifteen years younger. It will certainly be more fun should there be any form of interaction at all between Hudson’s character and the rest of the women.

The acting remains first-rate (though I wouldn’t be surprised that the women were merely reprising themselves in the film), the soundtrack larger than life, while the movie somewhat captivating. If only, the self-induced mid-life crises somewhat takes the charm away from the movie a little.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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Review #12: “Get Smart(* Written by aR)Get Smart
Starring: Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Dwayne Johnson, Masi Oka, Terence Stamp, Ken Davitian
Directed By: Peter Segal

The film is a 21st century adaptation of the television sitcom in the 1960s of the same name. I admit to not having caught the original sitcom prior to watching this movie, as the sitcom was way before my era. As a result, with no expectations whatsoever, I had a thoroughly enjoyable one-and-a-half-hour ride full of irreverent jokes and comedic capers.

Perhaps that is precisely the way to approach the movie – one without high expectations, so as to fully enjoy it (as opposed to the critics who have blasted the movie for not paying enough homage to the classic original).

Get Smart is a delightfully silly, and at times, very funny effort, with likeable characters and ideal casting. Featuring heavily in the film is CONTROL, a covert American intelligence agency battling with its dastardly rival KAOS, led by leader Sigfried. Due to an unforeseen attack on the CONTROL headquarters by KAOS, Steve Carrell’s Maxwell Smart (aka Agent 86) is forced into field action, and is reluctant partner to Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway).

The plot follows a stereotypical formula conventional to most blockbusters today, involving KAOS getting its hands on weapons on mass destruction and attempting to blow up the US President (who is spoofed heavily within this film) along with a national monument.

What makes the film stands out is the chemistry between Hathaway and Smart. Smart’s goofy character who is high-in-IQ yet low-in-pyscho motor abilities, resulting in not-so-smart behaviour, as well as the comeuppance of Hathaway’s character as she unwinds these sticky situations, ensures comedic moments. Notwithstanding, of course, the strong supporting cast as well, including the random blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene of the farmers with their camera phones, as well as a hilarious turn by Ken Davitian as the sidekick to KAOS leader Sigfried (he has seemingly been typecast as sidekick roles; one of his better known characters was that of Borat’s sidekicks).

An absurdist entertaining film when taken at face value, this is really a good watch. “Would you believe” that the film didn’t “miss it by THAT much” at all?

Rating: 3.5/5

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Review #11: “The Happening(* Written by aR)The Happening
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Betty Buckley
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest theatrical outing “THE HAPPENING”, ironically has nothing happening for it at all (pun intended). While this offering is certainly notches better than the panned “LADY IN THE WATER” outing last year, it is still nowhere near the classics that were “THE SIXTH SENSE” nor “SIGNS”.

The main issue with this movie is the lack of focus, starting out as a horror flick before transcending into the science fiction and romance genres.

A real pity that an original premise goes to waste in such an unbelievable manner. The pacing is choppy, and apart from the relatively impactful first fifteen minutes, the movie quickly goes downhill after that.

Without attempting to spoil moviegoers to the plot (though the original title of the film, as reported on imdb.com, “THE GREEN EFFECT”, already more than does that), the movie is quintessentially bout neurotoxins being inhaled by the human body, leaving mankind paralysed with the notion of commiting suicide.

All the scary bits have been featured within the movie trailers, or the reviews of other critics. For instance, the chilling (yet comical) sight of construction workers throwing themselves off gondolas give new meaning to the term “It’s Raining Men”, or the zookeeper feeding himself alive to surrounding beasts, with the grotesque sight of his arms being chewed off. Many of the other deaths though, are because A shoots himself, dropping the gun which is picked up by B, who shoots himself, and so on.

The acting is laughably bad, though speculation has it that this was a deliberate attempt by Shyamalan to include “B-grade movie” elements and to channel Hitchcockian techniques within the film. On the contrary, that is a mere attempt to find abstract art within a cesspool of trash. Both Wahlberg and Deschanel turned in one-dimensionally bland performances within the film, especially Deschanel, whose character unbelievably remains doe-eyed and unfaithfully-guilty to having supper with a colleague behind her boyfriend’s back even in the face of imminent danger.

Aside from which, there are many instances within the movie which are confoundingly illogical. On the other hand, the movie is sugar-coated with eco-parable self-importance, which in itself lends a positive edge to this bland flilm as to how plants may have the power to turn on human beings considering how mankind has devastated the earth. But for that, give me “AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH”any other day.

Rating: 2/5

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Review #10: “Kung Fu Panda(* Written by aR)Kung Fu Panda Poster
Featuring the voices of:
Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu
Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

This movie is wholesome family fun, especially ideal for kids who love cartoons, plus-sized plushies and underdogs ruling the day. Filled with slapstick and visual comedy, the film is bound to tickle kids aged below 12 years of age with its roly-poly panda hero antics and inventive effects.

The film release comes hot on the heels of the China fever raging around the world currently, with the impending Beijing Olympics games, as well as an unprecedented interest in the burgeoning Chinese market. Despite all the positive credits which the film has garnered thus far, I did not particularly enjoy it due to its predictable and formulaic script, which only serves to typecast further Chinese stereotypes in American films. It has a “been-there-done-that” touch to it, masked under the façade of a children’s comedy, with a totally blatant life philosophical lesson at the end (possibly for the young ones to get it) for moviegoers to chew on.

Po (the lead Panda, not the teletubby) is kung fu crazy, and worships the legendary Furious Five led by the legendary Master Shifu (how apt, with shi fu being the direct translation of “Master” in Chinese). He has big ambitions of fulfilling his kung fu dream, but working in his father’s noodle shop does not give him the opportunity to practise that. What’s more, his bumbling character makes him all the more the unlikely hero in this epic adventure where Po has to defend the town from the oncoming threat that is Tai Lung, upon being unexpectedly chosen to fulfil an ancient prophecy.

Told you about the stereotypical Chinese script, along with ‘wise’ conundrums throughout the movie, such as “There are no accidents” and “There is no good news or bad news, just news”. Of course, you might address the predictability to the fact that it is after all a kids movie, and the studio producers are not going to have the enemy emerge victorious, which will be bad for kids and bad for Toys R Us.

I must have totally outgrown that stage to actually enjoy the film to the fullest, though a few scenes were actually rather entertaining, especially the marathon showdown between Po and Tai Lung.

Kudos, however, to the backstage crew of animators, who did a credible job in creating the highly-imaginative production design and animation – truly one of the best efforts DreamWorks has ever produced, with the striking visuals and exotic Eastern backdrops. Kudos too, to Jack Black, who lends life and occupies his lead character perfectly. On the contrary, there is not much room for the supporting cast to perform, with huge names like Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu taking on bit roles with relatively few lines.

All in all, an average effort for me, though it will be stupendously enjoyable for the kids.

Rating: 3/5
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Review #9:Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay(* Written by yHarold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bayyng)
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn
Directed by: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg

Comedies are becoming increasingly hard to make in recent years. At least, they seem to be. With the limited vault of jokes starting to run dry with each comedy made, more and more producers are starting to recycle old materials. The “Superhero Movie” trailer (though Leslie Nielsen tempts me to watch the movie, I’m still not willing to spend ten bucks watching this) shows a spoof of Tom Cruise ,which people may remember seeing on “Scary Movie 4”.

However, after viewing “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”, I have to admit that as long as a little effort is put in, a successful comedy can still be made. “Harold and Kumar” does not strike me as a particularly well-made film. However, it is still a notch above most recent comedies I watched, being charming, slightly witty, and most importantly, really funny.

“Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” is a sequel to the 2004 film “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”, a largely overlooked film that is funny in its own right. It continues from where the first film left off, where Harold (played by John Cho) had just smooched the girl of his dreams, and was preparing to go to Amsterdam by plane to give her a surprise. However, his best friend, the weed-loving slacker Kumar (played by Kal Penn) tagged along and somehow thwarted his plans, resulting in them being mistaken as terrorists.

Like most comedies catered to similar audiences, the purpose of a storyline in the Harold and Kumar films is just to fit a string of ridiculous antics into a suitable-length movie. The duo were sent to Guantanamo Bay as prisoners, but a lucky break allowed them to escape successfully. The majority of the movie later focused on how the two friends tried to clear their name, with them getting caught up in increasingly absurd and wacky situations.

The main reason why Harold and Kumar works and others comedies, like “Meet the Spartans”, do not, lies in the indirect spoofs. Finding a person resembling Tyra Banks or Elle Degeneres and having her act like the real deal may induce laughter from the audience, but it does not really translate to a true comedic moment. “Harold and Kumar” succeeds in being the exact opposite. Guatanamo Bay looks nothing like the real thing, and the George Bush as depicted in the movie is actually an overgrown teenager with a liking of weed. It just reminds us of how entirely irrelevant, and amusing, their material is.

The movie also opts not to include too much toilet humour and to focus instead on its setup of the jokes and the writing. Instead of long farting or burping scenes as shown in many B-grade comedies, “Harold and Kumar” offers brilliantly thought-out scenes, such as the hilarious recital of an embarrassing square root three love poem. What results is a fast but evenly- paced movie, aided by a script that never seems to run out of jokes to fill the entire length of the movie.

However, as much as I have praised this film, it is still unadvisable to enter the cinema with high expectations of a brilliant movie. The movie does not engage me totally – half the time through the movie I was actually acutely aware of my surroundings – and at times it can get excessively rude and offensive. However, if you are into this genre of comedies, or are wishing to watch a comedy that is actually fun and humorous, this movie is worth your time. “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” succeeds as a movie that not only grosses you out, but provides you with a jolly good time.

Rating: 3.5/5
 
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Review #8: “Definitely, Maybe(* Written by aR)
Definitely, Maybe PosterStarring: Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Rachel Weisz
Directed by: Adam Brooks

Maybe it is the lofty expectations I had of the film, being marketed as the “new romantic comedy from the makers of Love, Actually and The Bridget Jones’ Diary“, which led to my general disappointment in that this passable film could not meet the high standards set by the aforementioned films.

The main problem with the film, definitely, is the way it passes itself as a romantic comedy without being neither particularly romantic (though “aw-shucks” moments were plentiful throughout the film, there isn’t any specific scene which remains exceptionally memorable) nor comedic. What results is a bland offering which, on hindsight, is an overlong affair which has audiences fidgeting in their seats hoping that the stars get it together already and stop their wishy-washiness.

The main issue which irks me is the rather preposterous storyline. The introduction to the film has Will Hayes, a brazen thirty-something father on the verge of a divorce, and the head of an advertising film with an office overlooking the picturesque Manhattan city skyline (a pity that that’s the only scene with the view, though), voiceover his perpetual goal in life – to find a perfect song for each day, especially Tuesdays, when he gets to spend time with his daughter (Little Miss Sunshine‘s Abigail Breslin, who does not really have much room to showcase her acting), a doe-eyed middle school student whose world seemingly opens up following a sex education lesson and who decisively flaunts her knowledge of the human anatomy in one of the film’s more embarrassing yet hilarious moments.

The breaking point comes when she suddenly determines that she may be the result of a freak accident and henceforth sets upon insisting that her father dictate the story of how he dates and how he came to meet his soon-to-be-divorced wife (or, her mother). Who, relents and determinedly tweaks the names of the characters around in a guessing game with the daughter amidst the storyline which has a myriad of twists and turns, which goes something along the lines of: A has a steady relationship with B who sleeps with C when A decides to venture to busy New York to further his career and hence breaks up with A as A proposes to B. A then meets C who has a shady relationship with B and falls in love with her. Soon, colleague D comes along and C decided that perhaps A is not suited for her and hence goes off with D whom happens to be cohabiting with E. A then runs into C who sets him up with B yet again but still they do not end up happily ever after. All this in a span of sixteen years where the lead runs into the same girls over and over again, makes you either guffaw at the fun fate must have had mocking him, or at the extreme coincidence of everything. Towards the end, the story becomes somewhat predictable, and you start wishing that the protagonist just get it over already and hook up with the girl of his dreams.

The movie stumbles along the same way its protagonist does in his romantic history in a lack of sure footing which extends all the way to the movie’s title, which on hindsight, does not have any relation to the movie except for a particular “quote”, though perhaps it is all but a subtle hint being dropped to the audience as to who the protagonist actually ends up with. The only silver linings in this offering are perhaps, a rare look from the male point of view as most movies usually take the feminine side, and how the movie dictates the inherent struggles in finding one’s true love.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Review #7: “The Leap Years” (* Written by yyng)The Leap Years
Starring: Joan Chen, Wong Li-Lin, Ananda Mathew Everingham, Qi YuWu
Directed By: Jean Yeo

“The Leap Years” has some interesting aspects going for it. First of all, it is based on a novella by acclaimed Singaporean writer Catherine Lim. Secondly, despite having been in production a few years ago, the movie was only screened this year, being released on the 29th of February. It is definite that this is an effort to fit the movie with the once-in-four-year rarity of the February 29 occurrence. However, despite all the fanfare, the movie is not really good.

The movie primarily revolves around Li-Ann (played by Wong Li-lin). After an encounter with a Chinese fortune-teller when she was a student, she believed that the love of her life would be a man who is ‘like the wind’. However, after a fateless twenty-three years without meeting such a person, her friends and family members began to question her ideas of such a true romance.

On Li-Ann’s sixth birthday (I shall assume that you have already guessed that her birthday falls on 29th February, with her being the lead and the theme of the movie; this means to say that in reality it was her 6*4=24th birthday in absolute years), she met Jeremy (played by Ananda Everingham), who seems to be the person she has been waiting for. Taking advantage of an Irish Leap Year custom (which allows females to invite males out on dates on that very day with the males having to accept) Li-Ann proceeded to ask him out on a date. Jeremy, of course, agreed to such a romantic proposal (that is probably one of the more memorable scenes of the movie).

After the unusual but engaging date, Li-Ann was saddened to know that Jeremy was actually preparing to go abroad for quite some time. However, Jeremy suggested to meet on that date every leap year at the same venue. This started a love-hate relationship between the two of them, spanning a few more leap years. The audience restlessly starts to question – Will the both of them ever get together?

With such intriguing settings, this is an undeniably romantic movie. The two leads were competent in acting out their roles, encompassing just the right amount of doe-eyed romantism in their characters, which somehow seems to characterise most love stories. The movie is peppered with beautifully-shot scenes, with each scene accompanied by soothing orchestra music.

However, this is precisely where the main problem of the movie lies – MUSIC. I acknowledge the importance of music, but the movie goes overboard in this aspect, with almost the entire movie being looped in some form of music accompaniment or another. This is really excessively used. This failed technique actually reminds me of another movie – “The Da Vinci Code” – which has the same problem. The music gets so over-used to a point when I really felt like I was watching a length advertisement selling the idea of romantism and love in the modern city (which incidentally will probably lead to increased birth rates, something the nation really needs), instead of a love story.  

As the saying goes, “Silence is golden”, and truthfully, there ought to be more of such silent moments in the movie so as to express the raw emotions of the characters to the audiences.

While I love its endearing theme and the very adorable Wong Li-lin, it is very difficult not to get cynical about the whole movie, which was built on the lack of communication between the two leads. At times, I got so frustrated that I wanted to jump into the screen and shout “Just listen to him already!” or “Erm, can you just tell her how you feel?!?!” in a bid to wake the characters out of their trance. This movie is really, quite an antagonising experience, when most of the time, you’re feeling like you’re watching ridiculously dense and self-fulfilled characters with practically no awareness of their loved ones.

I really find it difficult to truly recommend this movie to anyone. While it is appealing to lovers of the romance genre, it proves to be a frustrating experience for me. However, with it being a local film and all, I do encourage people to check the film out with an open heart, despite the generally negative reviews from myself, as well from critics in the print media.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Review #6: “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep(* Written by aR)The Water Horse - Legend of the Deep
Starring: Alex Etel, Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin
Directed By: Jay Russell

The film is an adaptation from a novel by Dick King-Smith, of Babe fame, and has pretty huge expectations to live up to, being touted “the most wondrous film of its kind since ‘E.T'” by Maxim movie reviewer Pete Hammond. It is easy to see why, given the uncanny similarities between the two films. The protagonists of both films are young boys. Also, both stories are centralized around bizarre-looking creatures, which the young boys are determined to hide from the grownups.

Via the flashback technique – over-used in theatre, yet under-used in film – the story is told through a recital by an old man in a pub to two tourists in present-day Scotland. Naturally, this style sets up the rather anti-climactic revelation at the end of the story, which all moviegoers should be able to catch unless they have been asleep through the movie.

The story within that story tells of a young boy Angus MacMorrow (wonderfully portrayed by Alex Etel) who lived during the turbulent period of World War II in Scotland. Chancing upon an unusual bluish glimmering egg at Loch Ness, his curiosity was perked, and he thereby smuggled the object home without the knowledge of his naturally-disapproving mother. The egg eventually hatched into a wriggling and flippered “water horse”, bearing a mixture of lovable cute in its innocent eyes and unappealing texture in its whale-like skin. Unsurprisingly, a strong relationship is quickly formed between the boy and the creature, which he names “Crusoe”. Crusoe grows into a gargantuan creature in a matter of days, and thus needs to be released into the sea, being unable to remain hidden in the household any longer.

Angst is eventually invoked in the creature, when soldiers fire artillery shells into the sea during an exercise. What ensues is a rather blatant rip-off from Free Willy, as Crusoe takes Angus on underwater tours, while Angus endangers his own life to protect Crusoe’s.

Even though the movie promises to be a wholesome fanfare for the entire family, it fluctuates between the feel-good children’s film genre and a weighty coming-of-age drama. (For families with young kids, I thereby propose movies such as “Horton!” during this holiday season)

Despite the unoriginality of the film, that is made up in terms of execution, with the generally top-notch acting among the cast, and the few yet note-worthy humorous moments which stick in your mind even after the movie is over. Yet, the story flows along without actually delivering any punch or surprise to the audience, and is such, anything but “the most wondrous film of its kind since ‘E.T'”.

Rating: 3/5

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Review #5: “Meet The Spartans(* Written by aR)
Starring: Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Ken Davitian, Kevin Sorbo
Directed By: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer

As you would have already known, Meet The Spartans attempts to poke fun at various movies/people/TV shows/commercials/organisations in a satirical fashion, similar to the Scary Movie franchise (which parodies horror films) and its spinoffs Date Movie  (which parodies romance films) and Epic Movie (which parodies, well, epics).

These movies are typically box-office hits, yet are critically-panned and it’s easy to see why. They attempt to provide audiences with a good laugh without any need to ponder over the storyline at all (not that there is a solid or logical storyline to begin with anyway).

While this genre started out strong in the early Scary Movie films, likely due to the involvement of the Wayan brothers in scripting and directing back then, the series has gone downhill since. Friedberg and Seltzer, who took over the legacy, just aims to spoof as many films/people/TV shows/commercials/organisations as possible within a single film that the focus is totally lost, just as the funny parts are – lost in the wilderness of Sparta.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of spoofs (in no particular order) you can expect:-

* 300 (after all, this is what the movie is based on)
* Britney Spears (hair-shaving, crotch-exposing anyone?)
* Lindsay Lohan (coming out of rehab, again)
* Heroes (“Save the cheerleader save the world”)
* Stomp The Yard
* Ugly Betty as The Oracle
* American Idol (with Randy, Paula, Simon and Ryan Seacrest thrown in)
* Borat (the fat guy from Borat makes an appearance as well as the leader of the opposing army)
* Shrek
* Little Miss Sunshine
* Youtube

If you should also know – one thing remains unchanged in the entire series anyway – child violence. 

This unfunny film is so cringeworthily bad that it, really, should not even be considered a film. Save your money for another film and not spend it unwisely on something which leaves you dumbfounded at its stupidity at the very end of it. You’ve been warned. This 84-minute long film is just 84 minutes too long.

Rating: 0.5/5

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Review #4: “Death Note Spin-Off – L Change The World” (* Written by aR)
Starring: Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Narushi Fukuda, Mayuko Fukuda
Director: Hideo Nakata

The genius detective, going by the moniker of L, first made his appearance in the J-Fantasy two part series Death Note (2006) and Death Note 2: The Last Name (2007), amidst the fanfare of an occult death register notebook – people whose names have been penciled into the notebook will meet with their death by heart attack in 23 days, unless the cause of death is otherwise specified.

With such a unique premise, the movies naturally became huge box-office draws, while the character L was a fan favourite. Inevitably, L received a movie spin-off of his own.

Keni’chi Matsuyama reprises his role of L, the master sleuth under the facade of childish innocence with much aplomb. Still omnipresent are the little nuances which drew fandom to the character (jumping on and off seats, squatting with both feet on stools, walking in a hunched-back position, typing via a poking manner, as well as his gluttony, just to name a few), together with the long-sleeved white t-shirt which personalises the character.

You need not have caught Death Note to have an inkling of the storyline, which has basically little connection between this spin-off and the Death Note movies. The key links between the movies were effectively removed within the first half hour or so of the movie, such that audiences can focus whole-heartedly on the plot of this movie.

Having inscribed his own name in the Death Note, L only has 23 days to live, and L, now on his own following the demise of his mentor, is forced out of his own seclusion into the outside world to prevent an environmentalist group’s bioterrorist attack to wipe out useless humanity in a bid to create a perfect world.

As such, the master sleuth is now forced out of his shell, and has for the first time within the trilogy, shown some personal touch to the people around him, especially the two children in his accompaniment whom he has to protect – one of them being a survivor from the bioterrorist attack in a Thai village while the other is the daughter of a established scientist murdered by the terrorists, and holding the key to foil their efforts. The minute hints of a child emerging into the world are executed to perfection by Matsuyama.

As the master sleuth becomes an action hero, the brains he is known for takes a ceremonial backseat in his quest to foil the villains.

There is nothing particularly wrong with the movie as an action adventure – the storyline flows smoothly. However, fans of the intelligence and innocence of L will be disappointed to know that his brains took up a ceremonial backseat for most of the movie.

Rating: 3/5 

***
Review #3: “SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET” (*Written by aR)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Tim Burton

In Tim Burton we have an ingenue, a caustic macabre world of artifice and misfits. Such is his prowess in this field that past classics such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Ed Wood spring to mind with the mere mention of his name. His uncanny ability in the genre is exemplified in the quirky Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with subtle gloom in the bright cheery stage sets. Having honed his craft for years, what better a director than Burton for this dark musical?

In Johnny Depp, a stellar character actor who manages to fully assume the traits of the characters he plays. His numerous award nominations prove his aptitude as an actor.

Collaborating again in this adaption of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd, Burton has certainly picked his cast delicately. Depp is impeccable as the oppressed title character Sweeney Todd, a phebian banished to prison by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) – a corrupt judge lusting over his wife – vowing for vengeance. Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter, incidentally Burton’s significant other) takes on the role of Sweeney’s knowing accomplice, making mincemeat out of the unsuspecting victims of Todd’s murder ploy. Making supporting appearances include Sacha Baron Cohen (better known as his now-ditched Borat alter ego), as rival barber Pirilli (Rather difficult to picture the haughty and disapprovingly abusive barber as the same actor as the utterly clueless Borat). Ed Sanders is excellent as Toby, Pirilli’s assistant before being taken in by Todd and Lovett.

Catchy tunes aside, the actors in the movie are decidedly not professional singers, being passable at best. However, their voices resonate with that much power and emotion as they could muster that it is easy to overlook the flaws they may have in their singing.

This movie musical is hugely-acclaimed, what with the numerous positive reviews across critics. However, perhaps it is precisely due to these which pushed my expectations through the ceiling, resulting in a rather disappointing movie outing for me.

The movie started promisingly enough (though the opening scene of the ship docking into London, with the gloomy skies overhead, look somewhat recycled out of the Pirates of the Caribbean set). Todd draws viewers into his world with powerful lyrics and strong tunes, singing:

 There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
and its morals aren’t worth what a pin can spit
and it goes by the name of London.

At the top of the hole sit the privileged few
Making mock of the vermin in the lonely zoo
turning beauty to filth and greed..

The musical-movie was stunningly beautiful until the point where the first victim was massacred, watching Todd struggle with his inner voices and the subtle nuances he take upon vowing for revenge. Following which, the movie drones on, bordering on draggy, as the victims unknowingly get murdered one by one as Todd struggles with his anger and hatred towards the world, drawing on the victims gradually till he reaches his final target.

The blood is fake, looking as viscous as red paint, thus killing the fun for gore lovers.

The sobering twist at the end of the story where Todd and Lovett met with their own demise following a story of love, deceit and vengeance did not somewhat come as a surprise either.

Rating: 3/5

***
Juno PosterReview #2: “
JUNO”   (*Written by aR)
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner
Director: Jason Reitman

Juno manages to stand out from most of the movies being churned out in recent memory for a variety of reasons.

1. Despite being marketed as an indie film, Juno essentially has a script which deals with social issues ranging from unplanned teenage pregnancies, broken families, as well as the special sense of puppy love existing between two teenagers. These issues are certainly everyday norms, and it makes you wonder why so few other directors actually bother dealing with these issues, if at all.

2. Stories on unplanned teenage pregnancies and broken families usually end up as tearjerkers, but Juno manages to keep the light-hearted side of things. While it will be going a mile overboard to expect the movie to be a over-the-top, dramatic, laugh-out-loud fest a la Death At The Funeral, the movie is comedic in the way teenagers usually are – blurting out observations and facts of life upfront. The movie manages to bring a smile or two to the faces of the audience through many heartfelt moments.

3. The directing techniques used are unique. From the idea to use the change of the seasons to signify the trimesters of pregnancies, to the running athletes having their runs throughout the changes of the seasons to signify that while things are happening some things never change, the pace of the movie is set. Add in a wonderful soundtrack, and viola.

4. The musical soundtrack for the movie is an indie fan’s “wet dream”, as TODAY’s reviewer Phin Wong puts it. (It has already been on repeat mode for quite sometime on my stereo)

5. The acting is just sublime. Kudos to Ellen Page for making a teenage character come to life. Despite her tender age of 21, Ellen Page has proven herself to be a credible character actor, what with her stunning performance in Hard Candy in 2005 and now in Juno. Hand the character to another young actress, and you’re most likely to get overacting (Lindsay Lohan, anyone?). Ellen Page, however, manages to capture the subtleties and nuances of a teenager struggling with the dilemma of her unwanted pregnancy together with the discoveries of certain unpleasantries and joys in life, in a real manner. Little wonder she’s up in acting nods for most award ceremonies. Though she’s facing stiff competition from Julia Christie (Away From Her) and Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose), her time will soon come as she graces the stage as her acting prowess improves. While Ellen Page has been receiving most of the accolades so far, credit also has to go to her co-star Michael Cera, who pulls off the dorky boyfriend role with much aplomb.

While this movie is being marketed as an indie film, trust me – the unique directing skills, respendent acting and exquisite soundtrack, amplifying the twists and turns of the everyday-seeming script, will be value for money even for the usual mainstream followers.

Rating: 4/5

*****
Review #1: “KUNGFU DUNK”      (*Written by aR)
Starring: Jay Chou, Charlene Choi, Chen Bo-Lin, Eric Tsang
Director: Kevin Chu

From all the reviews I have read of this 111-minute long movie before actually catching it, the best word to sum it up would probably be ‘average’. This comes after all the so-so reviews and scores given to the movie, my expectations in it when I stepped into the cinema wasn’t that high, and even then, it did not really live up to my not-that-high expectations.

The movie started promisingly, what with the premise of Jay Chou’s Fang Shijie growing up in a temple learning all the moves you’d only expect to see in some period drama movie, and him growing up to become an innocent young man who befriends Eric Tsang’s tramp-businessman Chen Li on the streets one day. Being banished from the temple he was raised in because of him executing kungfu moves in a club out of self-defence, and the corrupted principal being bribed by the wounded opponents, he was left to fend for himself under the guidance of Chen.

However, the movie began to drag into a long major hubbub of confused directing and predictable storylines. A lot of scenes could be cut, or would be better left unexplained, while those which needed explanations, however, were left to the very end of the movie. What was unimpressive was the need to insert a romance storyline somewhere into the story but it was never really dealt upon. A few scenes of cheesy romantic lines, waiting in the rain and running away because the admired thinks the admirer’s a huge pervert, for instance, DO NOT MAKE A ROMANCE SUBPLOT. In fact, it only makes it unbelievable and forms part of the confused directing which jumps from scene to scene like nobody’s business. Despite the fact that the technique being used is supposed to be in the form of a life story, that should not be an excuse for some sloppy storyline.

Soon, the movie started looking somewhat like a sequel to Stephen Chow’s “Shaolin Soccer” outing released in 2001 – the combination of Kungfu and sport, though this movie is somewhat more believable in real life. Kudos for the climax though – it was really the high point of the entire movie, and the method the somewhat predictable twist was weaved into the storyline was good. The aftermath though, was really draggy as new characters actually appeared even after the climax. Sometimes you’d really want the director to get it on and trim down bits and pieces of the movie to make it more compact such that it will not be such a snoozefest.

Acting-wise, this would be Jay Chou’s 4th big screen outing (following ‘Initial D’, ‘Huang Jin Jia’ and ‘Secret’) but there still does not seem to be any major breakthroughs in his acting. Not that I ought to be critical about it though. As director Kevin Chu pans, Jay Chou’s a “truthful” actor. Of course the real truth flavour will not be lost as he basically acts as himself and his roles do not offer room for breakthrough. One for the crazy Jay Chou fans who go gaga over him, and for those who wouldn’t mind a laugh (or two).

Rating: 2.5/5

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12 Responses to “MOVIES”


  1. […] and Date Movie, Meet The Spartans continue on the path of parodying other films and celebrities. Read how this latest offering fares with […]


  2. […] Chronicles of Narnia and touted to be “the most wondrous film of its genre since E.T“, read how the film fares with […]


  3. […] by director Jean Yeo, and stars artistes like Wong Li-Lin, Joan Chen, and Ananda Everingham. Read how the film fares with […]


  4. […] The Bridget Jones’ Diary“, and stars Ryan Reynolds, Rachel Weisz and Abigail Breslin. Read how this film fares with […]


  5. […] Movie Review #9 – Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay Posted in Entertainment by yyng on May 4th, 2008 Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay is the highly-anticipated sequel to Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. The latter has been much-heralded as a classic, for its nonsensical irreverent spoofs and satirically random occurrences which leave the audiences in stitches. How will the sequel fare with us? Read the review here! […]


  6. […] “THE HAPPENING” is critically-acclaimed director’s M. Night Shyamalan’s latest offering after the box office dud that was “LADY IN THE WATER” last year. Will he rediscover his golden touch that he showcased in classics such as ”THE SIXTH SENSE”? Read how this environmental parable fares with us! […]


  7. […] (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) with their flamboyant outfits and witty dialogue. Read how this big screen effort fares with […]


  8. […] Review #14 – You Don’t Mess With The Zohan Posted in 1 by aR on June 28th, 2008 Read how Adam Sandler’s latest silver-screen outing, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, which […]

  9. Ishi Varty Says:

    Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running
    off the screen in Opera. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Kudos


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