Monday, February 20, 2006

The Constant Gardener - 87%

Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes stars in this psuedo fiction thriller based on a novel of the same name. Story begins with the death of the wife (Tessa, played by Weisz) of a British Diplomat (Qualye, played by Fiennes), murdered on a trip to a lake while travelling with his African friend. What goes on is a tale of intrigue, suspense, detective work and unravelling of a conspiracy between the British government and a drug company's immoral dealings in Africa.

The story unfolds very nicely along with the flashbacks that unveils more of the characters' history as Qualye goes on his search for the truth behind the murder of his wife. The love and struggles between the main characters Qualye and Tessa, builds up as the flashback counts nearer towards the time of murder - just as the Qualye was getting closer and closer to the truth himself. Nice structure of story-telling allows the emotions to build up nicely as the film climaxes towards the end.

Rachel Weisz gave her most powerful perfomance on screen so far and her nomination in the Oscars is well deserved. She acted in the film pregnant as a pregnant Tessa, and that dedication to the art is well applauded. This is one of the best film of the year (2005). Do not miss it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Daremo Shiranai - Nobody Knows - 90%

As I had mentioned in the previous post, I watched this movie on the same day watched I Not Stupid 2. It was pure coincidence and not in anyway planned. But it was amazing to see the contrast between these 2 films. While I Not Stupid 2 was a dramatic drama movie that uses cliches and tears to create emotions, Daremo Shiranai (Nobody Knows) is undramatic in its story telling, and does not use any tears to force any emotion. Both films were emotionally driven, but they were done in such different manner. While "Stupid 2" was forced and stereotypical, "Nobody" was natural and unmanipulated.

The story tells of a mother who leaves her 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls) at home to fend for themselves. The eldest brother had to find means to feed, wash and take care of the siblings and you are constantly looking forward to see how he's going to solve their daily problems. I shall not give away the plot too much, but it does have a very surprising ending. But that's not to say that the film is dramatic in its delivery. In fact, the story avoids many of the paths that you'd expect, and that's what makes it so interesting. For instance, you'd imagine the mother to be behaving in a very disgusting and selfish manner given the expectations of what she will do (dump the kids), but she behaves totally unlike what you'd expect. And this is just one very superficial example, just watch the movie and you'll understand.

The code 3 DVD is going for only $12.90 at Laserflair. Goes to show how popular good films can get in Singapore eh? Ironic isn't it when I Not Stupid 2 is raking in the cash at the theaters in Singapore. Well, the budget of "Nobody" is probably lower, the distribution certainly much wider (thanks to the universally acclaimed story) and its accolades definitely much higher (2004 Cannes Best Actor). So how much it makes in comparison to "Stupid 2", really it is hard to say. ;)

I Not Stupid 2 - 68%

What is a Jack Neo's movie? One with very expectable results, plot, cliches, beginning and ending. Watching a JAck Neo's movie is akin to listening to your mother or father or Auntie that you've met during Chinese New Year, talk about their lives, and little bitsy ongoing in their lives and views about the world (or Singapore for that matter). Just like relatives whom you meet once a year or so at major family gatherings, it is all joyous and good, but it can get a little annoying if you have too much of the same thing. We've seen a few Jack Neo-ish productions (I Do I Do, 3 Good men etc) and they all smell the same. This one is no different. One thing I have realised about Jack Neo's movie, they all are written like all the parts are the same person. Like Jonathan Lee's songs which are sung by other singers, you can still imagine the song being sung by Jonathan Lee. But unlike song's which can be interpreted by different singers in different manner, Jack Neo's movie walks, talks and sounds the same from one movie to another and even the character talks the same. You can imagine Jack Neo talking through every characters' lips, and once you noticed that, it can get a little annoying.

The first Jack Neo's movie "Money not enough" was the first of its kind. In its own way, it broke the mould and created a movie that was one of its kind then. Though production value was not high, it still charmed alot of people. Why? Because it was one of a kind. There was never anything like that, and the story was original. His following works improved on production quality, but storylines only took marginal improvements, or none at all (Liang Po Po?). So it all goes back to the basics of filmmaking - everything must start with a good and strong story. No amount of technical expertise or special effects can make a bad story good.

I watched I Not Stupid 2 on the same day I watched another movie that was so contrasty with this one - Daremo Shiranai (Nobody Knows). I Not Stupid 2 has much higher production quality, some special effects, good sound engineering, proper lighting, and a formulaic storyline. Daremo Shiranai had mediocre production quality, marginal sound, no special effects and uses lots of natural lighting. But "Nobody Knows" has a great story.

I Not Stupid 2 is not a continuation of the part 1, and it focuses on teenage school children issues and the communication problems between 2 generations. Everything is dumbed down, simplified and direct in your face. Watching the movie is akin to having Jack Neo in front of you spewing out the same issues in his exact words rather than using a story to carry the message. The dialogue is the message and they are so in your face, you'd wonder why he even created a story around it to be delivered. And there are so many things in the film that was delivered but not resolved, and it makes you wonder was it placed in there just for laughs? Or instance, the subplot about the youngest son thinking that kissing would lead to pregnancy does nothing to move the story, nor improve your understanding of the character, it makes you wonder if it was placed there because it was relevant, or just because they thought this was a nice premise to place in the film and just forced it in there. It felt as if they stole a good idea like that and just plugged it in, and without knowing what to do with it, and left it unresolved.

The movie is good if you like Jack Neo's style of movie and want more of the same. If you've never seen a Jack Neo's movie, watch "I Not Stupid" (Part 1) and leave it as that. If you've seen most of his movies, and wonder if you should rent this or pay the ticket to watch it, I'd sugggest doing none of the above and wait for some sucker to buy/rent the VCD or DVD and then borrow it from them. At least you have the option to turn it off halfway, or feel good that at least it was a good rental at best.