Thursday, January 26, 2006
Ok, I am not exactly a Jet Li fan. In fact I didn't watch a single of his American made movies. I have been burnt too often by those crappy American made Jackie Chan movies (Tuxedo anybody?) that when I heard that Jet Li is coming out with a Chinese produced martial arts movie, I was keeping my fingers crossed. Especially after the horrors that were "The Promise" and "The Myth", I have become pretty wary of these recent Chinese production out to "please the global audience". Today, my prayers have been answered, and my expectations totally met above and beyond. The answer I found in "Fearless". In fact, I haven't been so excited about a Chinese movie since the first "Infernal Affairs" and "Hero".
The story is very straightforward - loosely based on the life of Huo Yuan Jia, a true historical figure in Chinese Martial Arts history to have started a martial arts school that now has more than 50 branches around the world. This is a tale of a man whose arrogance has caused the death of his loved ones, and how through losing everything, does he realize what are the things that really matter in life, other than power and fame. But what I am most impressed with this movie was the structure of the way the story is told. As opposed to telling the story in chronological manner, the director moved the last scene of the movie to the front, thus establishing the great figure that is Huo Yuanjia. Many films have done this before, but this one is done so that it enhances the tale, and not just for "coolness" sake. In what way does it enhance the story? If the story starts out with Huo Yuanjia as an arrogant young man, it will reduce the impact by which the audience will feel when he goes through the changes that he did. But the fact that he was first established as a Chinese Hero, then revealed that he was an arrogant young lad, it makes the hero's journey even more compelling for the audience to follow. Also, if Huo Yuanjia was first show to be an arrogant lad that changes into a hero, it will make the character too one-sided or less compelling as we do not feel how great he truly is. By starting and ending the movie with him as an hero, will make us understand that we should not just focus on a person's bad past to judge his acheivements.
Many films has dabbled with the era when China was overrun with the caucasians and Japanese trying to snatch a piece of the land. This one though, does it nicely with minimum stereotyping of the foreigners and is the least cheesy in handling those characters. I personally think this will be one of the key success of this film when it is shown overseas.
Ok, other than the excellent structure for this film, the acting were great. And the cinematography and editing were very impressive too. If this truly is Jet Li's last film, I would say that he has exited with a BANG! This movie will go down in history as one of the classics of Chinese kungfu movies, just like Hero, Police Story, Shaolin Temple, Drunken Master, Fist of Fury etc. It is that good. Heck, I'll placed it as one of the best and possibly one of the most influential Chinese movie ever made along side the likes of Infernal Affairs and ChungKing Express.
And how could I not talk about the fighting in this great kungfu flick? There are some very impressively choreographed fighting sequences by Yuen Wo Ping. Damn it is hard to say which is the best. I'd say everything here were done with minimum wire works and their goal is to achieve a realistic look. Very well done.
So I guess I have said enough good things about this film. I am planning to watch it again. :) As for the Jay chou's music for this film, let's just say that it was good that it wasn't used in any part of the film with the exception of the closing credits. That pop song just doesn't do justice to this great movie.
Apparently this will not be his last movie - but his last "martial arts" movie. Thanks for the tip from a reader.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Ok the first beautiful peoples to be featured .... drumroll please ... Tada ... 4 huge assed personnels who decided that a 8 seater would be best for their special needs. Good job. I bet those standing around looking for seats must be really glad to see at least some big assed idiots get to have excess space around them. Whatever ...Let's move on ...
Ok now the next one. I have the grand fortune to be seating next to them! Here I see a table of 4 seating down with their nice bags taking up 1/3 of the table next to theirs. Ok then I tried and see if they can take a hint. "Excuse me, is this table taken?" They looked around in bewilderment for a few sec and then say "nope!". I said "Thanks!" .... and sat down with my friend. and we waited ... and waited ... until our foods satrted arriving and yet their precious plastic bags full of goldbars are still taking 1/3 of our table.
Here's another shot of our table - 1/3 with their precious bags ... and with our Stingray .... :)
And finally ... who will take home the coveted award of "Excellence in Crappy Behavior at Chomp Chomp"?? Drumroll please .... and more drama!!! ..... Swirling music!!!
And yes .... if you're wondering how come there are only seats on one side of the 2 tables? Well simply cos these 2 tables are for the disabled. These 2 couples did a great job at pretending that no one are looking. Well, the couple further away from my camera is an angmoh and his pregnant asian wife. Maybe that count as 1/2-abled ... which may be a tad forgiveable lah .. let's not be so mean. ;)
Friday, January 20, 2006
Even as a Chinese, I do find the thought of having 3 Chinese actresses playing Japanese in this film rather odd. Not that it has never been done before (Initial D and countless chinese films) , but the fact that this time, an American directed the film (though produced by a Japanese company), and it is shot in English. And I suppose American films are always more scrutinized because 1) they have a wider reach of the market worldwide 2) They have a bad record of trying to represent and interpret what they call asians or asian values (Mulan, Chinese Stereotypes in American Movies etc). So this time they want to shoot an Asian movie, with asian values, through the lenses of an American filmmaker. With the decision to use 3 major Chinese actresses to star as 3 Japanese characters - is a potential setup for trouble.
Well, now that it is out, how does it fair? I have to admit I am not too keen with the casting decisions made. There are tons of great Japanese actresses suitable for the roles I believe, but hey, we all know the motivation behind the casting decision - MONEY. So I have to be try to be as objective as possible, and gauge the film with no tainted prejudice - purely from a filmmaker's perspective.
Story is very simple - 2 young girls are sold by their poor fishmen parents - one (Satsu) to prostitution and another (Chiyo) to a become a geisha (eventually). The story mainly revolves around Chiyo (adult played by Zhang Ziyi), and her ascension to being the top Geisha in Japan. And the motivation of her every step, is somehow driven by a man that she met when she was in her teens. How her entire life, she's working to be (the image of) a woman next to the man that she loves.
So it is mainly a love story, and honestly, a rather thin one. And the story unfolds more like an adventure story tracking her life for the few decades that shaped her training and motivations. What really captivates me in this film are 2 things 1) The great acting from all the major actors (especially Ziyi, Gongli and Michelle) 2) The beautiful cinematography.
1) The 3 main characters Chiyo (played by Ziyi), Hastumomo (Gongli) and Mameha (Michelle Yeoh) were gorgeously played by the 3 actresses. Japanese or not, they played their characters very well. Granted from the way they pronounced some English words, you will know they are not Japanese, and for people who are familiar with such nuances, you can be rather put off. But nitpicking aside, these are some great acting skills at display here. Then there is Ken Watanabe who plays the "Chairman" and Koji Yakusho who plays "Nobu" - they are great actors too. I especially like the character played by Nobu and the scene when he confronts Chiyo about a possibility that she has sold her body to the American. Well .. the main characters performed admirably. So well done.
2) Beautifully shot. Every scene is like a painting, and I applaud the cinematographer for a job well done. This is one of the most beautifully shot film in a while.
So what's not to like. Like I said before, for people who are familar with the nuances of the Japanese language/culture, you might find some things to nitpick - and I am one of them. The pronounciation of certain words can damage the "realism" (or illusion?), of a film and reduce its ability to "make-believe" (remember Crouching Tiger? Why didn;t they just dub Chow's and Yeoh's lines?) Movie is all about make-believe, and since this film is shot like a serious fictional drama (and i mean not a comedy or scifi or something), the Chinese actresses do dampen the illusion a bit. But this could still be my nitpicking. American viewers, Indian viewers etc. are probably not gonna care. However, this film is really not too bad and it looks great - it just lacks a little "omph" ....
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Now when I threw in the argument that Singapore was inflexible, people will throw in counter arguments saying but "law is law", "we have to draw the line somewhere" and BS like that. But this one takes the cake. I can't freaking believe that this case would even happen, even at court. The arrogance of the court, inflexibilty of the system totally disgusts the shit out of me.
When Mr Lee Kwan Yew said that he would not have gone after the guy who did the documentary "singapore rebel", but he said that because the law is fixed, the police would have acted anyways unless the law is changed. I think he is insinuating that there's deeper problem here at hand - here is a government and society that has moulded a country with citizens who are too inflexible with the system and dare not take charge and make appropriate changes for fear of the "big brother". Yes we now have a bunch of sheeps called Singaporeans, but the problem is, the shepherd is getting old, and these sheeps are in no shape to lead the pack.
Link to Channel News Asia Article
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Ok .. I must be professional about this. No matter how much I dislike a film, I must still show it some respect by at least including a graphic of the movie - be it a poster or the logo. No matter how bad I feel a movie is, I must still refrain from using vulgarities. No matter how much I hate a movie, I must still back up my claims. And here goes - the following are the reasons why this film is the worst rated film this on my blog so far ..
1) Let's begin with the story (without giving away the "twist) - it is about a young man inheriting an old mansion. He decides to live in it and persuades (didn't do much really) his girlfriend who was initially extremely commitment-phobic (but suddenly switched mode u-turned 180 degrees in the first 10min of the film) to live together in this old mansion. Well, you guessed it, this house is haunted. But what's even more amazing (ahem ... ridiculous) is its amazing ability to teleport anyone who has spent a night there, from whereever he/she is if they leave the house. Yes you read it right .. teleportation. So what's wromg with the story? It is incoherent, it is ridiculous, it tries to hide its secrets by messing up the screen and passing them off as "special effects". And by making scenes blur and eventually making them clearer towards the end to "reveal" its secrets is a cheap way of saying "I have no idea how to make clever hints, misdirections and clever twists, so I'll just hide the secret by making sure u can't see it properly". Weak weak weak!!! Was the story about the house or the rearing of baby spirits?? Make up your mind!! It felt like the baby spirit portion was so forcefully pushed into the story and it didn't feel natural at all. Why would the baby spirit make the house so special?? Or why would the house be even necessary?? Argh .. Why is this movie even necessary??
2) Terrible terrible lines!!! Oh my this film has some terribly written lines. I wondered if I was watching a movie written by a cry-o-rama TV drama screenwriter?!! Tip to the script writer - stick to TV drama.
3) Terrible soundtrack. F@#@king annoying!!! The organ music reminds me the 70s horror movie Amityville. And the worst part, it is pervasive throughout the entire freaking film!! I don't recall much moments in the film where there's no music in the background - and worst still, it is freaking distracting!! Imagine "Shot of scary mansion" Background music "Ta Dummmm....!!" Puleeeeze!!! Help me!!
4) The actors - I could tell they are serious about the roles - dead serious .... But the overacting is freaking killing me ....
5) Technically - bad .... How many tracking shots of the house are gonna use (no .. re-use) in the film? Some of the shots are so poorly framed I seriously wonder if it is the DP's fault or the director's fault. Who stoyrboarded this??? Some angles of the film are so badly chosen I wonder if the director had gone to film school?? And some out of focus shot - one of them was so blatant I suspect they had no choice but to keep it in there as they didn't have time to go back to shoot it. That shot was of the police inspector looking at the 1st dead body - you could tell the inspector was out of focus and the police in the background was the guy in focus. Was auto-focusing on?? :P
6) Horror movie?? Yeah .. horrible movie ...
So, I know, I have lost it. I actually used a bad word at point number 3. Sorry but I really felt like asking the director to return me the $10 I paid for the movie. Boys and girls, please give it a pass. ...
Thursday, January 05, 2006
And if you are from Univeristy of Michan, Ann Arbor (I was!!) ... you MUST download this clip. Brings back some crazy memories doesn't it? :)
I was pleasantly surprised that he found Singapore the best in terms of food experience. Especially when most of my Malaysian friends tend to complain that Singapore's foods are too "sanitized" and not as tasty as those in KL. And this remark even more interesting since I've only been to KL once and long to see more of KL in the food arenas.
As for the blue dessert, hmmm I do beg to defer ... but I guess something like that do catch your eye ... especially if you are from the West. ;)
Monday, January 02, 2006
Whether I write a good or bad review of this film, doesn't matter. I figured millions are going to flock to this film regardless. So I took my time, and watched the film last weekend after like 1/2 the world has watched it, and sat on it somemore ... before decdiing to write this review. Actually this holiday season has made me so bloody sloppy I was wondering if I even wanna write this review.
But well what the heck. I'll write some thoughts on it. You'd probbaly be able to find a gazillion reviews on this film already. Most of them are positive I'll tell you. And well, they are mostly right. This is a good movie. Story is based on C.S. Lewis book Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe (damn I hate the long title), about this bunch of kids (2 brothers and 2 sisters) who stumbled upon a wardrobe that brings them to a land called "Narnia", where they are prophecised to bring peace and destroy the White Witch. Now I heard that there's a lot of Christian undertones to this film and I did notice a very very obvious one. I am sure anyone who is familar with Jesus' story of sacrificing his life for the sins of Man, and then coming back to life, would find the reference very easily. There might be more, but I wasn't watching out for every single references out there to link Christianity with this movie - I was just gonna enjoy the movie, and enjoyed it I did.
The little sister Lucy was brilliantly casted, and the little girl who played the role, brought so much life and energy to this film. The best parts of the film were largely carried by her natural interpretation of the role and she seemed like she was enjoying her role so much, the audience just can't help but be influenced by the enthusiasm when she discovered "Narnia". Audience also feels her hurt when no one believed her, and the audience will also feel her joy when she is happy. She brings much emotions to the film without making it feels forced and it makes the fantasy in the film even more believable.
So what's not to like about the film? Well, maybe because it is a little overhyped? And I am kinda glad that I didn't get too exposed to the marketing, so my expectations wasn't raised. Plus the fact that I have not read the book, should make my review a little bit more objective I guess. The story, really wasn't that "great". It is kinda silly if you think about it. I mean, a wardrobe that is a portal to another world? It makes Harry Potter almost seem more plausible - at least it is a "hidden magical world" in Potterland; even "Oz" seemed like it is more logical. "Narnia"'s story is more ridiculous in the "plausibility" aspect. And if you do not take into the bliblical references that it tried to make, the resurrection of the lion and the reason Aslan provided seemed rather lame too. But hey, a fantasy is a fantasy - and at least this one has biblical reference(s). So for a fantasy movie, it is well done.
Happy New Year ...
yeah yeah ... no updates :P . been lazy ... walau wat u expect? ... holiday mood mah ... too many parties ... and too much food ... and yesterday ... 1 January ... slow day at restaurant ...
So here's what my cook conjured up ...
have fun :P
May everyone have lots of fun .. make lotsa love ... and practice safe sex :P
And more random stuff .... LUKY DRAW ...