Thursday, January 25, 2007

WEEKEND PIC Jan 26 -- 28

1. BLOOD DIAMOND (adventure thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly) Rated: * * * (out of 4): A gory but exciting actioner about the hunt for a pink diamond which would change the lives of those involved in it. Also, interesting insights into 'child soldiers' and 'conflict diamonds'.

2. EPIC MOVIE (comedy spoof with Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Faune Chambers and Kal Penn) Rated: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Using the 2005 "Chronicles Of Narnia" format, this spoofs on the franchise blockbusters has a few hits but mostly misses. Mostly for nostalgia value.

3. PATHFINDER (adventure thriller with Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Russell Means & Clancy Brown) Rated: * * * (3 stars): Based on the Nature vs Nurture theme, this one is about an adopted Viking warrior having to choose between fighting for his Nordic kinsmen and for his adoptive native tribe in pre-Columbus America. Gory at times.

4. HIT & BLAST (Action thriller with Jason Statham, Ryan Phillippe and Wesley Snipes) Rated: * * (2 stars): This 'bank heist gone awry' plot offers lots of twists but it is ultimately a cliched movie with lapses in logic.

5. THE RETURN: (psychological thriller starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Adam Scott & Sam Shepard) Rated: * * (2 stars): Plot about a yuppie (Gellar) with recurring visions (what else?) takes a whole lot of footage in its build-up but the payback is disappointing. Very few scares too.

'GOLDEN FLOWER" now in Mandarin

25 Jan - In response to so-called ‘popular demand', Buena Vista Columbia Tristar has released the original Mandarin version of "Curse of the Golden Flower" exclusively at GSC Mid Valley, GSC 1 Utama (New Wing), GSC Berjaya Times Square, GSC Gurney Plaza and GSC Queensbay Mall today (Thursday, Jan 25).

Ever since the movie opened on 21 December 2006, there had been complaints about the movie being dubbed in Cantonese for its release in Malaysia. Language purists lamented the loss of ‘cultural' and other ‘subtle' language nuances in its conversion to the dialect.

Those who have seen the Cantonese version complained that the ‘flowery' Mandarin terms used in the imperial Tang court were lost in the translation. Also some forumers writing in Cinema Online's Forum said the ‘alterations' (to Cantonese terms) seem to have "taken away the essence of the emotions conveyed" by the characters.

One reader said that showing the Cantonese version in Penang is not fair for Penangites who mostly speak Hokkien and would have understood and enjoyed the Mandarin version better. Another cinema-goer, meanwhile, questioned if this release of the original version was a gimmick to get people to watch the movie again.

However, there may be a ‘sweetener' in store for those who watch the Mandarin version in Penang. It has been reported that a limited edition "Curse of the Golden Flower" notepad will be given out with every purchase of four movie tickets at GSC Queensbay Mall, while stocks last.

Starring Gong Li and Chow Yun Fat, and directed by China's maverick film-maker Zhang Yimou, "Curse Of The Golden Flower" is about a dysfunctional imperial family whose squabbles turn fatal. The movie has also been known for its generous show of Tang Dynasty-style cleavage. Thanks for the mammaries, Zhang!

EPIC MOVIE: A Few Hits, Mostly Misses

EPIC MOVIE (comedy parody)
Cast: Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Faune Chambers and Kal Penn
Director: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Time: 72 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)
The Movie Poster
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? After “Scary Movie” and “Date Movie”, we had to see this one coming. Yeah, “Epic Movie” spoofs the so-called franchise blockbusters of 2005-2006 in the same irreverent vein and style. And just like the earlier efforts, this largely uninspired “Epic Movie” manages to elicit a few chuckles, but rarely laugh-out-loud moments.
The plot, about the adventures of four ‘orphans’ styled after the children of the “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise, barely binds the spoofs together – and it is all a matter of hit-and-miss as directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer take pot-shots at our recent favourite movies.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? The four not-so-young kids are Lucy (Jayma Mays) who is brought up by the curator (David Carraddine) of The Louvre (where a masochistic albino lurks near the famous Da Vinci exhibit); Edward (Kal Penn), a refugee from a Mexican monastery which ‘secretly’ practises ‘libre’ wrestling; Susan (Faune Chambers), a victim of snakes running loose on a plane; and Peter (Adam Campbell), a student of a Mutant (read X-Men) Academy. Somehow, these guys stumble on a Golden Ticket to visit a famous Chocolate Factory where they (again!) stumble into an Enchanted Wardrobe that transports them into the Magical Land of Gnarnia.

Here, they meet a faun, a talking beaver, a horny Lion and a White Bitch – and even find a scruffy Pirate Captain from the Caribbean wheeling himself into the fray. And while you are counting the number of famous movies spoofed, add in a superhero who wears his knickers on the outside; a bunch of not-so-young students at a School of Wizardry, and personalities like an heiress of a global hotel chain, and an asinine journalist from Kazakhstan.

HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS: It appears that Friedberg and Seltzer are more interested in covering as many ‘blockbusters’ as they can, rather than in getting more fun and laughter out of them. Yes, Carmen Electra is a sight to behold as the dyed-blue Mystique; Jennifer Coolidge works hard to behave like the White Bitch, while Crispin Glover is wasted with only a little screen time as Willy the wonky owner of a chocolate factory. “Epic Movie” seems to work like a nostalgic freak show as the film-makers expect us to be tickled just by the sight of these familiar characters. Sitting through the movie, we can see a number of potential gags gone to waste or underdeveloped while we get repeated sequences of Gnarnia battles and ‘aging’ jokes.

THE LOWDOWN: One thing we can be thankful for is that “Epic Movie” is not structured in the ‘epic footage’ of more than two hours. It closes at a pleasant 72 minutes. Jagshemash, thank goodness for small mercies.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Your Weekend Pic Jan 19-21

A weekly guide for your weekend viewing

1. BLOOD DIAMOND: (adventure thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly) Rated: * * * (out of 4): A gory but exciting actioner about the hunt for a pink diamond which would change the lives of those involved in it. Also, interesting insights into 'child soldiers' and 'conflict diamonds'.
James Franco in 'Flyboys'
2. FLYBOYS (WW1 drama with James Franco, Max Bollinger and Jake Canuso) Rated: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This story of a Texas boy who goes to France to join the Lafayette Escadrille volunteer fighter pilots has its ups and downs. However, the dogfight scenes are really terrific, especially if you are into that sort of stuff.

3. PATHFINDER (adventure thriller with Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Russell Means & Clancy Brown) Rated * * * (3 stars): Based on the Nature vs Nurture theme, this one is about an adopted Viking warrior having to choose between fighting for his Nordic kinsmen and for his adoptive native tribe in pre-Columbus America. Gory at times.

4. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (fantasy adventure with Ben Stiller, Robin Williams and Carla Gugino) Rated: * * * (3 stars): It is all chaos and mayhem when the exhibits come alive at this museum and scare the hell out of security guard Stiller. However, it is all visual and little in the realm of an engaging storyline.

5. THE RETURN: (psychological thriller starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Adam Scott & Sam Shepard) Rated: * * (2 stars): Plot about a yuppie (Gellar) with recurring visions (what else?) takes a whole lot of footage in its build-up but the payback is disappointing. Very few scares too.


BLOOD DIAMOND (adventure thriller)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly and Arnold Vosloo
Director: Edward Zwick
Time: 142 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
DiCaprio & Hounsou
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? “Blood Diamond” is a highly effective pairing of Hollywood heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou in a gripping adventure set in the 1999 bloodbath of Sierra Leone. Throw in the Oscar-winning Jennifer Connelly, a frantic search for a big pink diamond and a missing family – and we have a pot-boiler with disturbing political and sociological insights. The one problem audiences may have with this effort by director Edward Zwick is its pacing which tends to drag a bit...

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Hounsou is Solomon Vandy, a native Sierra Leone fisherman who has high hopes for his country and his family. He dreams of his country becoming a paradise when peace returns, and of his son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers), becoming a doctor when he grows up. His dreams are shattered when rebels raid his village, murdering women and children and cutting off the men's arms, sending his family into hiding. Solomon is captured and forced to work in a diamond mine that helps to finance the war chest of the rebels.
DiCaprio is Danny Archer, a South African mercenary who smuggles weapons and diamonds in and out of Africa for a living. His dream: to make enough money so that he can get out of the political mess that is Africa. Danny meets Solomon in the government jail one day – and that is when he learns that the lanky fisherman has found and hidden a huge diamond somewhere in the jungle near his village. Danny sees that gem as a ticket out of his predicament. The only problem is that he has to persuade Solomon that it is also his ticket in his quest to search for his family.
Connelly is Maddy Bowen, an American journalist covering the civil unrest in Sierra Leone. Her dream is to write that big expose on the illegal trade in 'conflict diamonds' – the stones smuggled out of war-torn areas and laundered through big Western companies. As a journalist, she has access to transportation and clearance into refugee camps where Solomon's family may have been kept. Also, Maddy sees Danny as her ticket to fame – her source to names and evidences for her expose.
Soon the three find themselves heading back into the political turmoil to look for the diamond. And as in all incidents of human quests and greed, there is an enormous price to pay...

HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS: As soon as the opening introduction is over, director Zwick and scripter Charles Leavitt zero in on the carnage – highlighting such atrocities as rebels asking their captives “Long sleeve or short sleeve” before chopping off their right hands so that they cannot vote. There is also a subplot on Solomon's son who is captured and turned into a child soldier by the rebels. He is indoctrinated to kill as casually as waving 'hello', just to get the 'respect' of the adults.
Filmed entirely in Africa, the movie reminds us of “Hotel Rwanda” where families are torn apart and made to fight against their own clan. Cinematography (by Eduardo Serra) is captivating, with sweeping vistas of lush hills and jungles – as well as nail-biting car chases and shootouts. While these can be absorbing, the pacing could have been tightened up a bit, reducing the 145-minute footage to a crisp 120, without affecting the narrative.
As expected, DiCaprio is magnificent as Danny, providing him the requisite roguish charm and enigma we would imagine of a 'soldier of fortune'. Hounsou gets our sympathy as the distraught father and as the movie's moral centre, while Connelly wins us over as the gutsy journo who thrives in crisis situations.

THE LOWDOWN: And then there is the insight into 'conflict diamonds' which this movie seems to be concerned about. Who knows, after watching "Blood Diamond", many of us may not be able to look at a gem as a 'sentimental gift' again.

'Cicak-Man' Tops Local B-O Gross

15 Jan - As expected, "Cicak-Man" is the top-grossing Malaysian movie of 2006, raking in RM5.1 million over 33 days on 34 screens nationwide. This is followed by "Remp-It", the controversial feature about illegal motorcycle racers in the Klang Valley. "Remp-It" grossed RM4 million over 42 days on 33 screens.

Tail-gating "Remp-It" in the box-office list is "Bujang Senang" at RM3.11 million, followed by "Nana Tanjung" (RM3.02 million) and "Buli Balik" (RM2.31 million).

According to figures released by FINAS (Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional Malaysia), the other movies making up the Bottom Five of the 'Top 10' list are: "Cinta" (RM2.3 million); "Castello" (RM1.56 million); "Tentang Bulan" (RM1.3 million) "Diva Popular" (RM1.11 million) and "Senario Pemburu Emas Yamashita" (RM995,000).

A total of 28 movies were released in Malaysian cinemas in 2006. Interestingly, Yasmin Ahmad's "Gubra" hit the 15th spot at RM523,000 – just below the thriller "Gong" at RM650,000.

Among the independent movies shot in the digital format, "Rain Dogs" grossed RM18,349 over 35 days on three screens; "Love Conquers All" made about RM13,000 over 19 days on three screens; "Chiplak" did RM10,000 over 28 days on three screens; and "S'kali" collected RM3,427 over 21 days at its sole venue, the Cathay Cineplex Damansara.

'EPIC MOVIE' Poster 'Censored'

Jan 15 2007: A 'funny thing' happened to the poster of 20th Century Fox's "Epic Movie" in Malaysia. It got an 'offending' part 'CENSORED' (see picture).
The original movie poster was actually rejected by the Censorship Board for public display/distribution in Malaysia because it had two women (among its cast of characters) showing an 'undesirable' amount of cleavage. After being rejected, Fox decided to 'modify' the poster by placing the text "CENSORED" to cover the offending elements. It was then re-submitted – and subsequently approved for public display.

Looking at the innocuously revised poster, one can only admire the ingenuity involved in transforming the banned element into a 'document' fit for public use. Technically, Malaysia may be the only market in the world with the word 'Censored' flashed across the "Epic Movie" poster.

"We felt that unlike other more serious movies, being a comedy spoof of epic movies, the additional 'Censored' word may even enhance the effect of the poster," an industry source said.

'APOCALYPTO' Withdrawn From Malaysia

Mel Gibson's epic movie, "Apocalypto", has been rejected for screening in Malaysia. It is understood that "Apocalypto" was not allowed to be shown because of intended censorship cuts which are deemed by the film-makers as 'detrimental to the integrity of the movie'.

"Apocalypto" was scheduled to open nationwide on 8 February 2007. It is about a young man's quest for freedom after being captured by the Aztecs as a sacrifice to their gods. It is set during the decline of the Aztec kingdom in South America and it is Gibson's 'warning' about mankind's excesses and wastage of precious natural resources.

Another Fox/Warner Bros movie which was rejected for release in Malaysia was "A Good Year". The reason is merely a matter of dollars and sense as it is deemed not worthwhile because of its limited appeal. The movie reportedly did not meet the producers' expectations at the box-office.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

WEEKEND PIC Jan 12 - 14

A Guide for your Weekend Viewing

1. PATHFINDER (adventure thriller with Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Russell Means & Clancy Brown) Rated * * * (out of 4): Based on the Nature vs Nurture theme, this one is about an adopted Viking warrior having to choose between fighting for his Nordic kinsmen and for his adoptive native tribe in pre-Columbus America. Bloody and gory at times.
The Return
2. THE RETURN: (psychological thriller starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Adam Scott & Sam Shepard) Rated: * * (2 stars): Plot about a yuppie (Gellar) with recurring visions (what else?) takes a whole lot of footage to build up but the payback is disappointing. It is more moody than scary.

3. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (fantasy adventure with Ben Stiller, Robin Williams and Carla Gugino) Rated: * * * (3 stars): It is all chaos and mayhem when the exhibits come alive at this museum and scare the hell out of security guard Stiller. However, it is all visual and little in the realm of an engaging storyline.

4. KUNGFU MAHJONG 3: FINAL DUEL (comedy with Roger Kwok, Shriley Yeung and Nat Chan) Rated: * * (2 stars): If you have enjoyed the first two of this mahjong comedy, you will like this 'Final Duel' which offers more of the same inane gags. Let's hope this is the last sequel.

5. THE WEDDING DATE (Romantic comedy with Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney) Rated * * (2 stars): This 2005 movie, which was slotted to coincide with the opening of Cathay Cineplex Damansara, had its release delayed for so long that it is now on Star Movies on Astro. It is a about NY yuppie (Messing) hiring a male escort (Mulroney) to accompany her to her sister's wedding in London.

PATHFINDER: A Man Called 'Ghost'

PATHFINDER (adventure)
Cast: Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Ken Watanabe, Russell Means and Clancy Brown
Director: Marcus Nispel
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
The Pathfinder Poster
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? A 'Pathfinder', according to the scripters, is a tribal leader of the American natives who has foresight, wisdom, healing powers and leadership. He leads his people in rituals and tribal councils and is held in high regard by even those of the neighbouring tribes.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Set 600 years before Christopher Columbus founded America, “Pathfinder” is about a Viking boy who is left behind by his clan during an attack on the native tribes of America. The child is abandoned for refusing to slay defenceless children of his own age. This white boy is found by a native squaw who adopts him as her own son. He is nicknamed 'Ghost'.
Fifteen years later, we see Ghost (Karl Urban) as a muscular warrior who is as much at home in the forests as he is with the clans and the tribal leaders. However, he is considered unfit to join the 'brotherhood of warriors' by the tribe's Pathfinder (Russell Means) because he still has 'demons from his past' that he needs to vanquish. These words are not only figurative but prophetic as well because his 'past' is soon to catch up on him when the Vikings return to plunder America again. Ghost, seen as the only one who can use a sword and fight in the style of the Norsemen, returns from a hunting trip to find most of his adoptive tribesmen brutally killed by the Vikings.
Teaming up with the feisty Starfire (Moon Bloodgood), daughter of Pathfinder, Ghost sets out to lead the remaining tribes to safety. Inevitably, however, he must face the nagging problem of his bloodline: whether to accept his Norse heritage and join the invaders or to renounce it and fight for the natives.

HIGHLIGHTS:Pathfinder” reminds us of the 1970 Richard Harris movie, “A Man Called Horse”. However, the natives here are shown as peace-loving people while the European invaders are the brutal and sadistic plunderers who kill for pleasure and pride. The Vikings have a clear advantage over the Indians because they use steel weapons against rudimentary wooden ones. Yes, expect lots of blood and gore as limbs and heads get cut off or ripped apart in what is basically a massacre of the natives.
German director Marcus Nispel purposely keeps the fighting sequences 'blurry' and confusing to reduce the 'gore factor'. His forte, however, is in capturing the scenic landscapes and mountains, especially the 'cliffhanger' sequence that culminates in a spectacular avalanche.

LOWLIGHTS: Except for veteran actor Means and relative newcomer Moon Bloodgood, the cast are unimpressive. Urban looks rather lost in close-ups and emotional scenes, and seems upstaged by Bloodgood most of the time. The scripters have apparently included a romantic subplot for Ghost and Starfire but Nispel seems to have forgotten to provide the sparks to develop it. There is too much concentration on action and chases at the expense of emotional build-up.

THE LOWDOWN: The movie's theme is again about nature versus nurture but we can also see “Pathfinder” as a prelude to the 'atrocities' the other Europeans would inflict on the poor natives.

THE RETURN: Lame duck thriller

THE RETURN (psychological thriller)
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kate Beahan, Peter O'Brien, Adam Scott, Sam Shepard
Director: Asif Kapadia
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)
Gellar in 'The Return'
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?The Return” sees Sarah Michele Gellar back as horror movie favourite soon after “The Grudge” series. This, however, is not good news for her career as it may mean that she is stuck in a rut as Hollywood's current 'horror queen'. And especially so since “The Return” is such a forgettable lame duck thriller that is rather devoid of thrills.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? The movie has Gellar as Joanna Mills, a hot-shot sales rep for a trucking company who has just been promoted over her ex-boyfriend (Adam Scott). Her personal life, however, is a mess. She has been suffering from recurrent nightmares and visions of being stalked by a stranger, plagued by Patsy Clien's 'Sweet Dreams' on the car radio (even when turned off) and is wont to cut herself with a blade.
While on a business trip to Texas, Joanna makes a detour to the (fictional) town of La Salle where, she believes, her nightmares originate. Indeed, she confronts her 'stalker' (J.C. MacKenzie) there, as well as a 'hero' (Peter O'Brien as Terry Stahl) who seems appear out of nowhere in the nick of time to rescue her. Oh yes, Joana also learns about a 'murder' in one of the farm houses from her nightmares.

HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS: Is Joanna being stalked by something or someone more sinister and supernatural? After almost an hour of excruciatingly slow plot build-up, with repeated flashbacks, cheap scares and red herrings, you will be sorely disappointed by the 'payback'.
The Return”, it turns out, is a one-idea movie stretched to a nonsensical 85-minute footage. It would have been bearable if there were more subplots or witty comic relief to see us through. But no, director Asif Kapadia (who helmed the Hindi film “The Warrior” in 2001) sticks to the tried and tired devices, using rundown settings to enhance the dark and dank atmosphere. Granted, the cinematography is first class and some of the location shots are nice to look at, but they do little to boost suspense or tension.
There is a subplot about Joanna's relationship with her widowed father (well played by Sam Shepard) but it is dismissed too early and not properly developed to connect with the plot. Poor Gellar has to carry most of the narrative as the troubled Joanna whose determination to get to the truth of her 'visions' even goes contrary to her character. Darrian McClanahan, who plays the young Joanna in the flashbacks, has a better time with her role. And so does Kate Beahan as Joanna's best friend Michelle. Alas, Beahan has more to contribute in terms of comic relief and build-up than the few scenes she is given in this anaemic thriller.

THE LOWDOWN: Which brings us to the nagging question: Is Hollywood so bereft of new ideas that it has to recycle Asian horrors to provide us with a good scare?

Monday, January 08, 2007

WEDDING DATE: Grossly Delayed

THE WEDDING DATE (romantic comedy)
Cast: Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams and Jack Davenport
Director: Clare Kilner
Time: 75 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Mulroney & Messing
FIRST, let's start the review with a little trivia: This 2005 romantic-comedy is Dermot Mulroney's second wedding movie – after the 1997 “My Best Friend's Wedding” where he played the groom. During location shooting, the film-makers had to use artificial flowers as much as possible because Debra Messing is allergic to real flowers. The movie's running time, officially listed at 85 minutes, clocked in at only 73 minutes at the preview at Cathay Cineplex Damansara on 27 December.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? My listing of trivia above is not to explain or to excuse the disappointment I got from watching this Messing-Mulroney vehicle. One gets the feeling of being short-changed even at the start of the movie when we see Kat Ellis (Messing) preparing to fly from New York to London. She ‘reluctantly’ sends the air tickets by courier to a male escort (Mulroney as Nick Mercer) she has hired for US$6,000 to accompany her to her sister's wedding.
Then director Clare Kilner plunges us right into the thick of the plot without bothering to introduce the lead characters. Maybe she will do so as the movie progresses. Well, she does that, but in spurts and sputters – taking for granted that we would expect Kat and Nick to fall in love, that Nick's charms will bowl us over (as he does all of Kat's girl friends) and that we will be so carried away by the plot twists and turns that we will overlook this 'little flaw'.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS: Brevity may be the soul of wit but not where building a sense of romance is concerned. The romantic relationship between the two seems to have been plucked out of thin air. One moment, Kat is coy about sleeping on the same bed as Nick, and next, we see them shacking up for the night in a houseboat!
Granted that Kat is drunk and clueless about what had transpired that 'fateful' night, but we can't help wondering what she has been doing, staying single all these years in a city like New York! There is nothing in the way of flashbacks to give us an idea of her lifestyle in NY, and also very little in terms of comedy in this rather formulaic movie. The only funny sequence is when a naked Nick parades himself to Kat in the bathroom – with Kat trying hard not to focus her eyes on the strategic part of his anatomy. The wedding eve sequences work like a TV soap opera while the wedding scenes turn out predictably farcical.
Kilner's strategy seems to be pairing up Messing and Mulroney and expecting us to accept the inevitable. Sure, the two leads are pretty attractive. However, they are not a romantic or even a funny couple. Something needs to be done to generate these two qualities and this is where Kilner and her scripters fail miserably. Other than a couple of witty lines, there is nothing much for us to laugh about.
The supporting cast are competent enough, with Jeremy Sheffield providing the 'hissable' factor as the two-timing Jeffrey; Amy Adams going spot-on as Kat's spoilt-brat sister Amy, and Peter Egan and Holland Taylor as her upper-middle class parents. “The Wedding Date” is adapted from Elizabeth Young's novel, Asking For Trouble. Now, if only the film-makers had taken the trouble to generate something new and refreshing.

THE LOWDOWN: And to end the review, here's another 'trivia': the release of “Wedding Date” was held back when the opening of Cathay Cineplex Damansara was delayed. The movie is showing on Star Movies of Astro this January 2007!

The Top 10 Movies of 2006

2006 had its share of blockbusters, remakes and sequels but for me, the most outstanding movies are those with 'original' scripts that have managed to touch our hearts or tickle our fancy. In selecting the Top 10 flicks of 2006, I consider the entertainment value, its impact on the audience, the performances and direction, usually in that order. I have also tried to pick from a variety of genres offered in Malaysian cinemas during the year.
My pick of the Top 10 Movies of 2006

Walk The Line Memoirs
1. Walk The Line: This biopic on the life and loves of country singer Johnny Cash has all the melodramatic gems of the Oscar-winning 'Ray' - plus a number of foot-tapping numbers and great performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

2. Memoirs Of A Geisha: Director Rob Marshall has done a fine job translating Arthur Golden's 1997 novel on to the big screen. Throw in touching performances by Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li and "Memoirs" sizzles.

3. Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles: China's maverick director Zhang Zimou may have graduated to bigger budget movies but his 'low-budget' efforts, like this, are the ones that get to the viewer's heart.

4. The Departed: Martin Scorsese's remake of Hong Kong's 'Infernal Affairs' is as violent and riveting as the original. And then there are the high-octane acting by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and, of course, Jack Nicholson who steals the show.

5. Electric Shadows: Call it China's version of 'Cinema Paradiso', but this first-time effort by director Xiao Jiang is a nostalgic trip into the cinema of yesteryear with many interesting insights into China's social upheaval.

6. Casino Royale: This new Bond, played by Daniel Craig, should help to make us forget the previous hyped-up versions who seemed to have iced vodka in their veins. Craig gives Bond the red-blooded human touch and we can all feel for him and his perilous quests to save the world.

7. Pride & Prejudice: With Keira Knightley in the lead as Elizabeth Bennet, and Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy, this adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel is the most audience-friendly yet, and the dialogue sparkles.

8. Eight Below: If the Academy Award judges had a category for animal actors, the dogs in this one would have swept a couple of Oscars. It is amazing how director Frank Marshall manages to get so much 'emotion' from the dozen dogs who play multiple roles in the film.
9. Miami Vice: Director Michael Mann's big screen remake of the famous TV series teems with explosive action and sensual affairs. It was just too bad that the censors had also wanted a few snips of the action.

10. After This Our Exile: This heart-rending story of a boy caught in a domestic nightmare between an abusive father and a runaway mom is a Hong Kong production but it looks very much like a local Malaysian movie, having been shot around Ipoh. Child star Gauw Ian Iskandar generates fantastic chemistry with Aaron Kwok as his father.

(There had been problems accessing this blog the past week after the Taiwan quake, hence this late posting. Sorry for the inconvenience).