Day 065 : The Lorax Movie

I grew up with 老夫子 and 小叮当 so I had no idea what’s a Lorax. I thought it’s the misspelling of a certain luxury watch bought at Patpong, or the Singlish touch to that watch’s brand.

Then I realised it’s actually Puss-in-Boots after hormone therapy.

If you are clueless like me, Lorax is a sort of furry Captain Planet dreamt up by Dr Suess. This equivalent of Garfield on steroids is a mythical creature that is the voice of the trees.

But I think Lorax represents the voice of conscience that speaks within us because throughout the movie, except for the ability to pinch its ass to fly, the orange furball seem powerless to stop the destruction of nature except to impart guilt. And some wise words. Here’s the movie trailer about what the story premise is in a nutshell…

Basically, the story revolves around a 12yo teen (Ted) trying to impress a girl (Audrey) by planting a tree because they live in a plastic world devoid of any real plants and the missy would pimp herself to see one.

So boy sets out in a quest to find the last seed to grow a tree and meets the Once-Ler, the unintentional villain that killed nature and holder of the last seed.

Well, I shan’t go into the details of the story as the synopsis can be easily Googled. What I didn’t understand was why doesn’t the Once-Ler plant the last seed himself and make good what he destroyed?

And the mention of Donkey Kong? I can identify but do kids of today know what that is?

But those are just minor distractions from this largely entertaining animated movie filled with so many lovable animal characters (luurrrvvve the singing, dancing fish), it made a planeteer out of me. And I’m not the only who’s been Lorax-ed all thanks to Omy.sg for the movie premiere invitation.

This is one feel-good movie great for awakening environmental consciousness in kids and fun for adults to indulge in the whimsical creations of Dr Suess! Click here to visit The Lorax movie website. If you’d like to have the digital file of the moustache for use in this year’s Halloween, let me know and I can email it to you 🙂

Movie Review : Immortals (2011)

Anything with mythical gods, creatures and beasts never fails to bag my eyeballs. So since I saw the trailer for Immortals, the windows to my soul have been lusting for it. Thanks to United International Pictures Singapore and Omy.sg, I got a chance to preview this fantasy adventure in the vein of 300, Troy, Clash of the Titans, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and the likes.

Before I throw in my 2 cents worth of a review, let me first give you the story synopsis :

Eons after the gods won their mythic struggle against the Titans, a new evil threatens the land.  Mad with power, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) has declared war against humanity.  Amassing a bloodthirsty army of soldiers disfigured by his own hand, Hyperion has scorched Greece in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens by Ares.  

Only he who possesses this bow can unleash the Titans, who have been imprisoned deep within the walls of Mount Tartaros since the dawn of time and thirst for revenge.  In the king’s hands, the bow would rain destruction upon mankind and annihilate the gGods.  But ancient law dictates the gods must not intervene in man’s conflict.  They remain powerless to stop Hyperion…until a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill) comes forth as their only hope.

Secretly chosen by Zeus, Theseus must save his people from Hyperion and his hordes.  Rallying a band of fellow outsiders—including visionary priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and cunning slave Stavros (Stephen Dorff)—one hero will lead the uprising, or watch his homeland fall into ruin and his gods vanish into legend. 

Immortals movie stills taken from the web.

Directed by revolutionary visualist Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) and produced by Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, the producers of 300, as well as Ryan Kavanaugh (Dear John, The Dark Fields), Immortals is good popcorn entertainment that’s beautifully made. But there are obvious liberties taken with Greek mythologies that gnawed me in this film…

1. The gods are missing. Not that I’m a scholar of Greek myths but I was interested in them for a while and remembered from past readings that there are 12 Olympian gods in the Greek pantheon. Immortals only had 6 and Luke Evans playing Zeus is about as convincing as politics being clean.

2. Gods cannot meddle in human affairs? Erm… if anything, the Greek gods love messing around with humans! Look at the string of mortal women Zeus had seduced. Hercules is fathered by Zeus and a mortal maiden named Alcmene. Besides, why lock the Titans on earth and not in heaven if divinity is not to taint the hands of man?

3. Theseus-Minotaur inaccuracy. This is a minor detail but since the movie closed with the classic imagery of Theseus over Minotaur, I thought I’d shed light on the actual legend. In the original myth of Theseus’ heroism, Minotaur was a half man-bull monster imprisoned in a labyrinth. Every few years, a group of young girls and boys were offered to the beast. During one of the ritualistic sacrifices, Theseus was amongst those sent to Minotaur. Theseus killed the Minotaur and got out of the labyrinth by a red string he had tied at the entrance. Minotaur was not killed under the circumstances depicted in Immortals.

Other than the mythological inconsistencies, I felt the movie was a tad slow with too many shortcuts taken with its storytelling. Henry Cavill as Theseus also failed to connect with my emotions as his muscles did more acting than his facial expressions. And what’s with an Indian oracle (played by Mumbai model-actress, Freida Pinto)?! She’s supposed to be Greek isn’t it? Not that I’m racist or anything of that sort.

Having said all that, I still found the movie enjoyable especially the eye-popping 3D stagings, cinematography and bold costumes (the stag-beetle-seashell combo helmet for King Hyperion and the virgins’ lampshade costumes tickled me). I also love the innovative ways in which the evil king dished out his cruelty and those slow-mo fight scenes and blood spills. Awesome!

So is this movie worth the ticket price? Definitely!

If all else fails, take it as paid motivation to get back into gym.

Sex and Zen (3D) Came Onto Singapore’s Screens

The world's first 3D softcore porn has cummed to the big screams of Singapore! Is this the license we've all been waiting for to get risque and frisky? I Like!

It has finally happened! Softcore pornography has gone 3D and I’m not talking about the cup sizes of the actresses! Hailed as the first 3D softcore porno in the world, 3D Sex and Zen (玉蒲团) brought eroticism onto a voyeuristic level as audiences get the feeling of being at the scene of the act.

I had the privilege of being invited to the film’s premiere and experienced first-hand what watching an erotic film on a big screen is like. And in THREE-DIMENSIONAL format! But more than smut getting an ‘A’ for adding another ‘D’ (from 2D films to 3D), I was more surprised that such a film genre got mainstream publicity and screenings at branded cinema chains in Singapore. So watching Sex and Zen was somewhat like being part of a historic event.

Singapore is not new to such films, which are known as Category III movies (equivalent to R21-rating in the current Board of Film Censors rating system). In the post-independence formative years of our appetite for cinematic entertainment, Singaporeans were fed drama serials and movies from the Hollywood of the East, Hong Kong. Then came the 1980s, a period where the Hong Kong film industry began to churn out what the audience wants – more graphic representations of sex, violence and gore.

In 1988, Category III was introduced in Hong Kong to classify and regulate such films. Initially, Category III was for all films that were considered sexually explicit or featured excessive violence and gore. But today, this classification is synonymous with those films that are interested to show more titties than than anything else. These films do make their way to our shores, but hush-hush like otah under the wraps of pandan leaves… you can smell them, but you don’t patronise. Over time, Cat 3 movies in Singapore retreated to the obscure Yangtze Cinema in Chinatown where the mostly older gentlemen audience get a chance to workout their biceps. I was sure it’s an urban myth until a friend of mine who worked there as a projectionist and hall steward for a while told me that tissue paper was the best-selling item there.

So you see, films like 3D Sex and Zen belonged to the celluloid underworld, not something that gets a billing in mainstream cinema. I watched the movie at Golden Village Vivocity. I won’t go into details about the storyline because Google will tell you that :

– The movie was shown in its entire 102 minutes without cuts in Singapore! That’s something to pop champagne over except that this version is actually a self-censored edition by the movie’s distributors. The full version is 135 minutes and the Hong Kong version clocked at 129 minutes,

– It is based on an erotic 17th century novel, The Carnal Prayer Mat, by playwright Li Yu,

– This is the 3rd re-make of previous 2 versions, one of which made Amy Yip (remember this bombshell with flesh-textured melons for breasts?) really famous,

– And that the story is about a lusty scholar who has a small *ahem* penis on a foray to increase his sexual prowess while unbeknownst to him, fell into a trap set by his best friend to exact revenge on him for stealing the former’s wife-to-be.

So is it worth watching? It was a long time since I’d seen a Cat 3 movie as the low production standards and cheesy dirty jokes that plague such shows don’t turn me on. But 3D Sex and Zen was quite an experience because of the 3D effect even though the human figures don’t seem to pop up as much as the sets (eg. flying daggers, flying shards from smattered objects, an elixir that can sustain an erection for 49 days, etc).

Plus, it’s an erotic comedy so the blatant sex jokes were a refreshing change from insinuated sexual referances of movies for the general population and the movie sparred no graphic death scenes. The segment where the villian (King Ning) was stabbed in the thorax by a sharp lotus ornament with the wound gapping made my skin crawl. The movie also took itself too seriously to preach that love trumps sex to the point where I found the attempt hilarious. And I really liked the abstract and artistic opening credits in the style of a flowing Chinese ink painting.

But I didn’t like the fact that it was censored as there are obvious lapses where I spent quite of bit of mental reasoning for what might have happened to catch up to the continuation of the story. I can’t be sure but I think some scenes containing rape, S&M and sexualising of religion were snipped, thereby causing holes in the emotional arches of the characters (eg. one scene we saw an old monk talking to a woman disguised as a man out to seduce him, and next scene, we saw a knife through his heart. I know what happened, but I’m not given the time and space to feel for the monk’s remorse.)

Yet, those are just small annoyances to the main objective of coming to a movie like this… it was to see how 3D smut looks like. In that aspect, I would say that 3D Sex and Zen gave a pretty good idea of things to come in the realm of human erotica. It’s a far fetch, but may this re-welcome of Cat 3 movies pave the way for a more open attitude towards sex in Singapore and hopefully, gasp!, increase birth rates!

I’ve come across video clips of the censored scenes online. Very graphic and shocking! Now I know why they were cut. I wonder how long the clips will remain on the web…

ScreenSingapore 2011 – Fledgling Asian Cinema

Billed as the Asian equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival, ScreenSingapore is

Had the privilege of being invited to witness the birth of ScreenSingapore at Golden Village Vivocity last Sunday and I’m so glad to see the continued efforts of growing our nation into Singawood. Or Porellywood.

ScreenSingapore 2011 was headlined by actress Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) as the festival's celebrity ambassador.

As I mentioned above, I’m gladdened by this latest development in our film industry. But who am I to feel heartened about it? Why? Well, I dabbled in acting in my younger days and played a stammering schoolboy in the MediaCorp English series, Growing Up. My character’s name was Ah Guan and I won the Best Supporting Actor (Drama) at the 1996 Asian Television Awards for that role.

If I may take this opportunity to reminisce about my brush with filmed entertainment, below is a clip from Growing Up Season 1 Episode 9, the episode I won the award with. I don’t know how I could’ve won it especially since I was up against veteran actor Zhu Houren (朱厚任) and that being my debut in acting for television (I did some stage plays before that. Nothing major, mostly school productions and a couple of stints with The Necessary Stage).

I cringed when I first came across this clip on Youtube. My acting was so over-the-top and contrived at the same time, I would have a field day bit*ching about it if I were my own critic. Hope you had a good laugh watching it. Gosh, my hair was so thick back then!

As acting has always been an interest of mine, greater development in the film industry here means more casting calls. Although I’m no longer active in the acting circle, who knows, I may scout for auditions to go for again and if luck would have me, maybe you’ll see me sweeping the floor at a corner in the next Singaporean blockbuster!

Saw Irene Ang & Adrian Pang on the red carpet promoting an upcoming movie that is a collaboration between Singapore and Australia. It

Am I beginning to sound like some has-been loser trying to borrow this opportunity of a ScreenSingapore-inspired blog post to reclaim some fame? Well, I’m not trying to that. You can’t get a has-been out of someone who’s never been in the first place.

I’m just sharing this unsual experience of having been on both sides and reach the conclusion that film in Singapore is a struggling art because the red carpet isn’t wide or long enough to support so many people. More like a red hand towel. Fresh ideas are hard to come by from a mini pool just as how genetic evolution has little progress within a small population. There’s not enough diversity to cross-pollinate.

So trying to plug into the international circuit by creating a platform for Asian movies to congregate is a good move. Let’s hope it lasts and can grow in acclaim to match Hong Kong’s Golden Horse or Korea’s Pusan Film Festival, or what ScreenSingapore is modelled after, *gasp* Cannes Film Fest.

Attended the Opening Gala Party at the beautiful Capella Hotel at Sentosa.

The other reason I was excited about ScreenSingapore was because I participated in a 2-day screenwriting course conducted by the Singapore Media Academy (SMA) and subsequently, a forum that invited budding screenwriters to participate in a close mentorship program to develop saleable scripts last year.

To be selected for the program, we had to write and submit a script that could be produced with a budget of S$200,000. Wha?! Are we writing a script for CCTV (Close-Circuit TV) a.k.a. security cameras?

The hotel staff at Capella were very friendly, full of smiles & provided a level of service brimming with sincerity.

Pardon my surprise at the film production budget but I thought a movie costs more than that to make. I read last month that the unfunny American sitcom, Two-and-a-Half Man, signed on Ashton Kutcher of That 70s Show fame and reportedly paid him $300,000 per episode as the male lead. In USD. (The former lead, Charlie Sheen, reportedly got paid US$1.25 million per ep, excluding backend fees. I don’t know that backend fees are but I presume it means royalties.)

Of course we can’t compare with Hollywood. Not as yet. But S$200,000 for a movie put a very small cap on imagination and how many variations can we have of the Blair Witch-Paranormal Activity formula?

With Ying Zi (blogger), Kew Sim & Thom (I think that

But it’s still a starting seed to test the soil of the screenwriter’s creativity. I had a horror movie idea that was developed during the 2-day screenwriting introductory course. When I shared my logline with the class, everyone was spooked and comments from the 2 Hollywood-grade screenwriters, one of whom wrote the hit movie, Sweet Home Alabama, were very positive.

Encouraged, I started a Word document and wrote my opening scene and started some research into my subject. Then work and other distractions set in. To this day, I still carry that three-page script in the thumbdrive I use daily. Hopefully, one day I can complete it. Even better, have it made!

May this audience one day be mine! Wahahaha... And pray for good reviews coz audiences have seen it all these days.

Oh wow, I wanted to just write a short post but ScreenSingapore brought up so many past and future interests in me. But to be truthful, I’m at the event solely for the free movies and a chance to get starstruck!

For the movie premieres, I was given tickets to 夺命心跳 (The Devil Inside Me) and Super 8. I’ll share my opinions about the 2 shows but keep in mind that I’m not a qualified movie critic or reviewer. As always, opinions are subjective so don’t let my views undermine your experience.

夺命心跳 The Devil Inside Me

The opening night movie was The Devil Inside Me (夺命心跳), a Chinese thriller about a heart surgeon dying of brain tumour who rigged a heart transplant so that he could live again. This longevity premise is based on the belief that a transplanted organ holds memories of the deceased donor and over time, the memories will take over the recipient and transform the recipient into the donor. So the donor lives again.

Interesting concept. But after watching the show, I’m convinced that brain tumour is contagious for it surely infected the director ZhangQi (张琦) to produce a coma like Devilus Insidi Me-llutus. The Devilus Insidi Me-llutus virus (in short, DIM) infects many horror films from Asia and symptoms include choppy story-telling, inconsistent acting, and a script that drowned while trying to outsmart itself.

DIM is serious because it keeps interrupting the entertainment of the audience by giving them what they don’t want to see. If anything, it showed how very dedicated the film commissioning board was in rooting for an Asian piece to showcase on opening night and their bravery in choosing DIM.

I’m a horror movie aficionado and DIM should really just be a direct to video release. Don’t mean to be a jerk by having such unpleasant things to say about the movie, but I really hope standards can improve. Especially for an opening night screening.

Super 8

The first thing I saw from the trailer of Super 8 was Steven Spielberg’s name. Aiyah, anything he touch sure good one lah. True enough, Super 8 is super gr8! I shan’t reveal the storyline for it is very straightforward but basically, it’s E.T. wanna Lego home.

What I liked about the show is that it has everything… human conflict and reconciliation, cool special effects, intrigue, gripping suspense and some pretty novel ideas. I especially liked how the movie ran in parallel with the story of a bunch of kids shooting a school movie using a Super 8 camera in the late 1970s.

Just to nictpick, I found the ending rather abrupt and rushed, but overall, it is good value for money entertainment. The movie will be supercharging Singapore theaters from 9 June. That’s today!

All Post-Coital Smoke

Good Sex?I’ve always been a fan of Sex And The City for its sharp observations about sex and relationship trends today. But as I sat in the cinema watching the sequel to its first highly successful movie (grossing over US$400 mil worldwide), I wondered if it was not in actual fact, Desperate Housewives on celluloid?

SATC 2 demonstrated the importance of knowing when to quit. The first SATC movie was an orgasm, this sequel was the morning-after-post-sex-bedside-smoke. It’s a slow long drag with a lot of nothing (but good for fashion retailers during this Great Singapore Sale season). It is not wrong to dwell into what happens after juicing the sugarcane, but this is about sex and the city, not raising a family in the city. Pulp should be thrown out, not soaked in water and pretend it’s fresh juice. Perhaps it takes being married to appreciate the themes in the movie better.

Without fail, SATC 2 continued to push the buttons on controversial topics such as gay marriage, open relationships, taking time-off from love, and what degree of flirting will hurt a relationship. And the latter topic was the climax du jour here. Carrie French-kissed Aiden (her ex-boyfriend) while married to Big, a major crisis that called for a dramatic emotional meltdown. Maybe I’ve been taught too well through all 6 seasons of the SATC series, I don’t see what the big drama here is. This whole segment of the movie just looked over-reacted and over-acted. SATC 2 is the equivalent of an emotional castration.

I think the producers knew that diaper woes (Charlotte and Miranda) won’t sustain the movie and no amount of hormone-popping (Samantha) can freshen up the show’s appeal, so they went ballistic on the fashion. Unfortunately, the fashion exaggeration is too much and instead of distracting from the tranquilizing storyline, it sank in the troves of suitcases the girls packed for Abu Dhabi.

But, despite all my grouses with SATC 2, I still loved it. Just like loving someone doesn’t mean seeing all the good and pretend there’re no flaws. In any relationship, we love the general good of that person and let love be our strength to accommodate the flaws. I’m in love with these 4 women and what they represent.

Yet, no amount of love can have me turn a blind eye to the greatest mistake in this movie… Liza Minnelli performing Beyonce’s Single Ladies. It sounded like Liza had the wedding ring on her neck instead of finger. She seemed out of breath throughout the routine and her vocal was intermittent. Put a ring on it? I don’t think so. Liza’s rendition made me want to put a wreath on it!

Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity posterIt is a befitting title. It’s abnormal for a horror movie to be this good. The story is simple… a couple experiences haunting in their apartment and sets out to video the paranormal activities as documentary proof. What’s amazing was that the whole movie never left the house. All 86 minutes told in the bedroom, bathroom, living room, storeroom, porch and toilet.

The film is a slice-of-life look at what happened in the three weeks that the couple was spooked by an unknown entity. It is shot home-video style so those mildly dependent on scopolamine may want to take some before watching. Other than that, the story’s pace doesn’t cause nausea or confusion unless you’re a die-hard left brainer.

I’ve seen quite a lot of horror movies in the cinema (my preferred choice for the sound effect and big screen to up the fright ante) and there’re two categories – those that you watch and think that it is a good movie, and those that you watch and make noises because fright has disabled any other feelings, such as embarrassment. Paranormal Activity is the latter. The whole realism thing just worked really well and the actors were believable everyday folks.

I did a little paranormal activity of my own. I watched the movie alone.

Love or Money?

What is the best way to build and secure a fulfilling life, especially for retirement?

a. Marry someone rich.
b. Let love handle it.
c. Leave it to God / destiny.
d. Take up financial plans.

Love or money? It is an age old question that has no expiry. Dennis asked my opinion two days ago on what would I choose… love or money? His exact words were, “你会选择爱情还是面包?” My kneejerk reaction was to ask him in what context was he asking me to base my choice. His premise to me was that if I had a choice between someone who is my type of a lover and someone who is a financial spectacle and can help me in my career, which one would I choose?

I chose love. That’s like some airy-fairy, ‘oooh… you are so noble and romantic’ kind of answer, but here’s my rationale : If someone was to be in my consideration as a lover, that person would’ve satisfied a checklist of requisites, financial abilities and possibilities being one of them, so it’s not that I think love is the answer to all the world’s problems or will fill my stomach, but simply because my partner would have all the attributes that attract me in the first place. And pecuniary competency is a big consideration. I am not a kept boy, but I don’t want to play sugar daddy either.

My wealth comes from being richly loved, and loving back with my all. When we tap into our all and give it freely, how can the person receiving not feel like a Donald Trump? Or Bill Gates? Or Steve Jobs (may he be blessed with good health even though I don’t own a single Apple item)? Or the families benefiting from our Temasek Holdings investments?

My motto is to never cheat my heart. Because I only have this one lifetime, this one chance to let it live in full honesty. I’m sure a lot of movies, books, songs, poems, paintings, buildings and theatrics had celebrated the triumphs of love, but because I’ve just watched Slumdog Millionaire last night, I thought it was exemplary of love. Love seems to always bring about the most beautiful of stories or outcomes. I can’t recall any movie which celebrated the prosperity of no love? Then again, if we treat love not as a person-to-person emotion but a driving force of our existence, then love could be applied to many areas… the love of money, the love of status, the love of beauty, the love of food, the love of self. How is that different from passion?

To me, love is something I cannot do without, but passion is something I can give up. Passion is somehow a moniker of love. With each passion, there’s a deep-seated devotion, and very often, it is the love of ourselves that motivates our actions. We may peg it to family or destiny, but ultimately, it’s because we’re obsessed with keeping status quo, we want the good things that make us comfortable last as long as possible.

But nothing stays the same forever. Time has the habit of eroding the quality of our lives. So we find pleasure in what we’ve accomplished or the hope of what we can become.

Dennis was anxious about the future, about not making enough money now to fund his retirement. The financial planner in me spoke of making financial plans for the future but I could feel the fear in Dennis that I was going to sell him something. I was a little disappointed because we’ve been gym buddies for some time and I’ve never prospected him to be my client. I’m speaking purely from a sense of professional exposure to answer his anxiety about funding the later age. He could have a financial agent who’s serving him right now and my intention was to get him to explore financial products that can help him realize we cannot FULLY rely on another person. Do you depend on another to fortune-tell your future? I think the prudent way is to look at what we have and put a plan in place. Anything that happens due to our attachment with another, on whatever level, is a bonus. I realized how far a friendship can go is determined by the fear, or trust they have in you.

When I watched Slumdog Millionaire, I kept thinking, “There, it’s an illumination to Dennis’ question.” Love is ours to decide. We can choose to let what we love decide our course of actions, and we have to bear the outcomes. But more often than not, it is my belief, that the love for people, usually brings about the most fulfilling of life’s experiences. When we love someone truly and deeply, we will have the fuel to make plans and take on responsibilities that fulfill our aspirations. Perhaps it is unfair for me to make this statement at this juncture where the person I love rewards me plentifully. What if, apart from my family, I couldn’t find another who consoles my vulnerabilities and insecurities? Will my focus then be on the functionalities of life, money being the sole part of it, and a successful life defined by the legacy I left behind?

I thought Slumdog was a great movie. It is a hard candy. While it is dissolving sweetly, I knew what I have in my mouth is something that could break my teeth. I used to think that being street-smart is an advantage. But through the movie, I felt that pure love is the denominator for all equations. As documented by my faith, Jesus went through the most painful death out of pure love for humanity to redeem our souls for eternity.

I am born and bred in Singapore. I had my time of doing doodies in iron buckets where coolies came daily to shoulder out the load and stench. Slumdog showed me what it’s like to not even have that luxury.

Today I live with a silver handle that flush my excrements. I ask myself, and Dennis… Does it matter if that handle is made out of gold? Or if I have the ability to shit?

b. Let love handle it.

4Bia by Exposure

As I arrived at the obscured pathway that led to my flat, I paused for a moment. It was a familiar sight. Chrome rubber asphalt marked a fitness corner to my right, to my left, a short row of dark green foliage shrubs thriving amongst bald patches of sand. Everything was bathed under the dull luminance of three white street lamps dissolving into the ochre of HDB foyer lighting. My hair stood on ends.

I can’t decide if it was the chill from the midnight breeze, or the reminiscence of what I’ve watched earlier. The quiet scene before me glowed eerily. The downstairs of my home suddenly looked disconcerting, like the set of a horror movie… like the setting of story one in the four-part Thai horror flick I just saw, 4Bia.

4Bia PosterFew horror shenanigans (I’ve seen a lot of, if not exclusively, horror movies) can find my creep gene but 4Bia made me realize I can still be spooked. The two-hour movie was made up of four different stories crafted by such Thai horror geniuses that gave us Shutter, Close and Body #19. While the four directing styles and subject focus were markedly different, the collection worked well in spanning across urban taboos and ancient superstitions.

My favorite was story one (and all my friends who are horror fans agreed) where the storytelling was masterful. It began slow, putting down your guard, making you think it’s another lame, unscary, boring reel-waster; but as the story progressed on, it just gets creepier. There weren’t any jack-out-of-the-box kind of scares (except for the concluding scene), but it frightens with the premise of something so commonly used turning awry. The story is simple, but it rings (no pun intended) so close to heart.

Story two was a bit jarring for me and the CGI weren’t that great but the last scene would be an optometrist nightmare. The director would have to be the one who produced Body #19 for the reliance on creature design and massive use of CGI was unmistakable. Body #19 was not much of a cinematic marvel but the design of its ‘ghost’, a pregnant-woman-type with writhing tentacles, was rather refreshing from the usual hair-affair Asian horror loves to feature. This story is a straight-laced scare-and-gore fare.

Story three is in a class of its own. It is unabashed about its imitation of ‘the twist at the end’ with a certain M. Night Shyamalan classic, while at the same time successfully juxtaposing tension with comic relief. It’s like an emotional 2-in-1… you laugh and scream at the same time.

The last story returns to the tradition of horror-making. There wasn’t much gore, no full-on sight of a ghost, minimal blood, but it works on the psychology of knowing that sh*t will happen, and then watching how it will happen. You know the protagonist is damned for and the thrill is in watching, and guessing, if what you thought will happen, will really occur on screen.

And so I took a deep breath, enjoyed the eeriness a while longer, and started down the cement path towards the lift. What silly articulations of my mind of the paranormal.

But as I rode the elevator from the first to level fifteen, I avoided looking out the small lift window that showed each passing floor. I didn’t want to see the same kid waving at me on all different floors.

I think I’ve developed a phobia by exposure.

I had great Sex

WARNING : If you don’t want to know that Big married Carrie in the movie, read no further!

Why do we spoil the fun of others? Is it because of jealousy and an act to draw attention to ourselves? Just like people who are much loved sabotaging themselves because they can’t believe such a good thing could happen to them. Because they feel, somehow, they don’t deserve it. If everything is going so well, it is just a setting up for something bad to happen. Don’t life and love have a way of being a disappointment in the end? Life is finite. Because of that, do we then throw ourselves to the infinity of love so that our lives have meaning? Is love the answer to the question of why are we here and to what purpose do we serve?

Carrie thinks so. She began one of her column contributions with ‘Love.’ Full-stop. Then she added two more dots, ‘Love…’. Then she deleted the additional dots. She puts them on again. Deletes them again. Is love the end state? A full-stop. Or is it the beginning? With things to come but we don’t know what there is.

SATC PremiereIt’s neither. It is a process. It starts right at the middle. In the middle of all the things happening around us, in the midst of the living we have to deal with. Someone appears. And it happens. That’s a beginning of sorts. What happens after is anybody’s guess. So Carrie pondered… What happens after finding and falling in love?

As Miranda found out, it’s not an easy route with balancing the economics of family life with romance. After all, she has to take care of Brady, work as a lawyer, and deal with Steve’s infidelity. Steve. That sweet, dopy guy with all the right muscles and sensitivity. He loved Miranda so much, yet he slipped and slept with someone other than the mother of his child. Is that where all seasoned relationships head? Is it okay to share our bodies with others because the one we love is a frigid f*ck after a while? Do sexual needs in guys overrule everything else?

Not in the case of Samantha. Ms Jones is about as man about her sexual cravings as any man could be. Yet, she exercised restraint despite living next to a hunky, gorgeous next-door neighbor who probably got his nice firm butt from all that thrusting action. She saw him ramming, unzipping, bathing… But she never once faltered and betrayed her relationship with Smith. A huge sacrifice and a remarkable feat being the horn dog (or pussy) that she is. Well, in the end, her clit ruled and she left Smith. He’s rich, he’s young, he f*cks 5 times a week, and he loves Samantha. But she gave him up. That’s nonsense to logic, but the heart knows. Her gut feel was to give him up.

Which was Carrie’s advice to Miranda. After that red-hair giraffe was so adamant at forgiveness for Steve’s one sexual encounter, which he apologized for majorly (well, Miaranda hasn’t been warming the bird with her nest for six months, if you know what I mean…), she finally listened to her heart and discarded her lawyer ability to argue on both sides of the case. That scene where they reunited was so sweet. Each of them coming half-way and meeting in the middle. Don’t we all always insist on who we are or what we want, and we fail to compromise, to meet half-way where things could work because the feeling is right? We look for what we want, but we fail to see what that person can offer that is above and beyond what we’re looking for?

But that is nothing Charlotte will hope for. She’s the princess in every fairytale story we’ve ever known except that her prince charming reflects too much light on his bald pate. Charlotte is a big turn-on in her own way but to settle for… what’s the bald guy’s character name? Or his name as an actor? I can’t remember. Is it a sign that beautiful creatures should settle with someone not of their league to find happiness? Well, it would be tiresome if you and your partner fight for the mirror all the time. And bear him a child called Rose. So outdated lor. Women named Rose has got bad destiny lor… look at Rose from Titanic! Well, perhaps it complements the name of the couple’s adopted baby named Lily. Why don’t they ever call them Rafflesia?

So the big thing was that Charlotte shat in her gym pants. Toilet jokes are once again funny? But that made Carrie laugh after she was dumped by Big at their wedding day. What followed was choppy editing and storyline… where you can distance yourself and not be absorbed into the character’s predicament. But in the end, after a big turn around, they kissed and got married. I guess I can understand that. The pretense not to love someone when that one person consumes your heart. Much as you want to assure that person that it will just be ‘you and me’, somehow that person don’t want you by the side because they are used to being the one to provide, advice, comfort, guide, teach… meeting half-way is not an option or consideration.

Sex And The City is a great movie. No CGI, just actresses showing who and what they really are. At age 40. I’m sobered watching how true-to-life this movie was at describing love… and the fear it injects. Well, at the very least, this is about as much great sex a single guy like me had gotten.

Even though the ending was proclaimed… it is still worth the 2.5 hour journey to discover this movie that echoed so much of modern-day love… and sex.

Bangkok Love (sob) Story

Bangkok Love Story PosterAfter I watched the movie, I felt like I’ve just had a steaming hot pot of tom yam gung with extra chili padi sliced in, then added with pepper, and chili powder, and then mixed in with a huge lump of wasabi dissolved in Tabasco sauce.

Another way to describe my aftertaste would be having a chocolate brick filled with raisins and gummy bears, covered with a thick layer of icing sugar, then dipped into honey and finished off with a crust of caramel.

Or imagine a princess who lost her glass slippers while escaping from an evil witch, got thirsty and took a bite from a delicious red forest apple not knowing that it had been poisoned and turned her into a mermaid. While her feet turned into flippers, she fell and got pricked by a pine needle and fell into a deep sleep. The witch imprisoned her sleeping body atop a high tower and as she slumbered, her hair grew long and thick. The sheer weight of her braid soon gave her a neck sprain. Finally, the prince charming came to the rescue. Only thing is that, he’s a frog waiting to be kissed.

Well, do you need another analogy? I guess my emphasis on the excessive is becoming a compulsive analysis. But that’s exactly how I felt about Bangkok Love (sob) Story. It is a 110 min overdose on the worst-case-scenario situations. This cinematic equivalent of a straight-acting gay has tragedy in such epic proportions, it can outdo a powerhouse full of drama queens anytime! This is perhaps the greediest gay movie I’ve ever seen that kept begging for tears.

I won’t go into the synopsis of the story, but here’s how the movie would triple the sales of Kleenex…

1) Two butch guys with very masculine professions (an assassin, the other a cop), playing love hide-and-seek. The montages of them being so close yet so far was heart-wrenching at first, then digressed to the point where the tedious ‘missed connections’ looked so artificially staged.

2) The AIDS-ridden mother and brother of the assassin (Cloud, played by Rattanballang Tohsawat) being paddled as a campaign for tolerance and acceptance of people living with HIV. Like an orphan out to milk every sympathy vote, the presentation of the symptoms and disfigurations were authentic, but the sequence of Cloud’s mother reaching for medicine while the brother got AIDS bashed was overtly melodramatic.

3) That stubborn love that the cop (Stone, played by Chaiwat Thongsaeng) had for Cloud. Even though Cloud kept avoiding Stone after their first gay sex encounter, Stone (supposedly straight and married with a wife) fell logiclessly in love with Cloud. Stone took care of Cloud, took care of Cloud’s family, became blind because of him, waited many years for Cloud while he served his imprisonment for his crimes, and never gave up loving Cloud. (Such persistent love… what a big turn on!)

4) Alas, after overcoming and bearing much adversity, the two lovers were finally reunited outside the prison walls. By then, both of them have grown old, Cloud’s hair white with age. Then as they walked off talking about starting a new life togayther, Cloud got shot dead by his enemy.

Now, tell me that’s not the most tragic gay cinema of all! Being naturally adverse to sad movies being the big sob that I am, I did well holding back tears in most parts of the movie’s cue to cry because I find the bitterness so overwhelming, I became desensitized to it. But I did lose moisture through my eyes at the scene where Stone visited Cloud in jail and they held hands through the iron grilles. Stone, blind by then, felt around Cloud’s fingers and realized that the latter wasn’t wearing the ring he gave him. In an earlier scene, Stone gave Cloud a ring. If Cloud loves him, he will wear it on his finger, if he doesn’t, Cloud can throw it away. So Stone was disappointed when he couldn’t feel the ring on Cloud’s finger, but Cloud took it out (of his pocket? Necklace? I don’t know where because my eyes were so flooded, I had to look up towards the cinema’s ceiling and distract myself) of somewhere and said that he had kept it someplace else. Someplace close to his heart.

At that instant, love just hit me with some raw energy. It didn’t matter if it is between two guys, two girls, bisexual or heterosexual, love in its pure state has only joy.

I wonder why then, do people play hide-and-seek with love. Why delay joy?

Bad Horror Films Fight Back With Retribution

Retribution poster For all the bad things I’ve said about awful scary movies, I’m finally getting retributed in the form of one of the most horribly horrible horror movie, Retribution. The poster touted, “From the producer of The Ring and Ju-On” and I was immediately drawn… like a moth to a flame… I was drawn into my early scare-genre grave. All hopes to resuscitate my interest in J-horror movies would now be dead.

This reel of bile is so unentertanining, I still get amnesia when I try to recall what I did between 2.55pm to 4.40pm yesterday afternoon (Sunday, 29 Apr). I recall a red dress, a pretty girl, an old man that is the most unbelieveable detective, earthquakes, unnecessary high-pitched screams, no scary scenes, and a confusing plot about the present that’s stuck in the past. This is really bad film karma.

[staring into space for a long time… ] … … …I’m thinking very hard what to write about this movie… still thinking… thinking… …I give up! Retribution is really crap. The pace of the show is so tediously slow. It gave so much screen time for the actors to complete their tasks (eg. watching one of the actress come down 3 storeys of stairs and walk about 100m off frame) and the unnecessary details just dragged the audience slowly through a tunnel of shard glass without adding to the story. Well, you won’t realize how unnecessary they are until you retrospect about the movie, that’s if you remember anything about it at all. And the supposedly eerie scenes were so funny. Especially when the pretty ghost in red confronted the old detective; it’s like how children will assume their hands and fingers when they play ghost. Gosh… I haven’t seen a horror movie lazier than this one in presenting its core subject.

I hope this movie gets the retribution it deserves. That is, doing really badly at the box office, gets nothing but terrible reviews, all the reels of this film around the world get spontaneous combustion, and all VCD or DVD release of it will be shipwrecked. And any attempts to air-freight it will be hijacked by monkeys. Yes, it is a ridiculous proposition. Because this movie is ridiculous. And only primates can appreciate with their half-developed intelligence.

A reaping harvest

The Resping PosterThe Reaping is a visual harvest and a reminder of the wonders of God. For once, it is nice to see a cinematic representation of a God who takes matters into His own hands rather than let man clean his own sh*t from devil worship. We’ve all seen movies about Satan’s spawn (The Omen, End Of Days, and all other horrors that called on God but didn’t work) and the rush to stop-the-end-of-world by holy men before hell-comes-of-age-and-the-whole-world-will-suffer anthologies, and thankfully, The Reaping provided the much needed salvation.

Not that I’m a pious Christian. Hell, I’ve had my share of doubting the existence of God matched as vehemently by my consistent absence from church. Or my constant questioning of an omni-present Creator who created us and knows the ills of humanity, yet does nothing to turn things into Eden on the excuse of free will. “I’ve created all things on this earth, including you, but I’ll let you choose how you want to live your life.” I mean, if You know we’re gonna sin, You know we’ll make a mess of life right?

How can faith, love and peace compete with money, vanity, fame, drugs, alcohol and sex? Instant gratification versus something that is intangible that may or may not be true. The latter six takes minutes or years to achieve, whereas the former three spans a lifetime to decide. But just as worldly pleasures take the amount of time to achieve, they last the equal amount of time to enjoy. Because ultimately, everything will pass. Only love endures. God’s love that is.

Okay, this blog sounds rather preachy. Expect that from The Reaping too. Non-Christians can be inspired to curiosity, or be plotting my murder by now. But I won’t hide the fact that I am Christian. I’m learning my belief in Jesus, and I’m damn happy about that. The Passion Of The Christ felt my pain for the person named Jesus who died for my sins, The Reaping renewed my faith in a God who sheds light in the darkness of life. God is intangible. So is life. Or fate. Or coincidence. And the whole universe. No one knows the answers…

Except science. It explains a lot of things. It makes a lot of sense. The Reaping explained all the biblical plagues as scientific occurrences. And you get all 10 Egyptian plagues in the movie, which is a nice millennium update to the ancient text. It was delightful how science tried to explain why the river Nile turned red (due to a rare algae) to the death of the first-borns in Egypt (the first-borns being fed the most from livestock that drank from the river), just like how heaven tries to describe hell. It was still entertaining even though scientists had gone hoarse explaining that from the instant we can date time.

But the best part of the movie came near its ending (don’t all movie climax at the last 10 minutes?), and I shan’t be the devil to spoil it all. What struck me was when Hillary Swank asked how we know if reality is real. Then AnnaSophia Robb replied, “Through faith…” Isn’t it ironic? Faith is something we cannot hold on to. Yet through faith, we’re to view something we cannot stay permanent in.
And tonight I prayed. I thanked God for all the good times and the bad. That through it all, He is teaching me how to live. And to live life more abundantly.

ABC of The Haunted School

The Haunted School posterIt’s back to school for the spooks. And here’s the ABC for Asian scare fare, The Haunted School …

A is for ACTING

For horror movies, the actors are usually just accessories. As long as they don’t laugh when they’re supposed to scream, it’s like fulfilling hunger at MacDonald’s (even though Mac D tries very hard to list every dietary benefit its menu). Expect pensive looks, wide eyes and open mouths… but on really good-looking actors. The actors hail from some obscure Hong Kong boyband with a brick licking performance by veteran songstress / actress, Amanda Lee, as the ‘I-know-the-secret’ mistress of discipline. The cast wasn’t over-the-top in their portrayal and credible in emoting ghost, so it was easy to immerse in the storyline. Very often, actors take acting liberties with horror genres that they distract the audience from the purpose of the movie and the special effects. Thankfully, The Haunted School taught its actors the right grammar in their performances.

B is for BLOOD

Surprisingly, the whole movie bled only an ounce. There was no blood spitting from dismembered body parts, neither did it ooze from cisterns and sinks. The Haunted School belongs to the type of horror that’s scary rather than gory. And it did have some really creepy scenes like the sequence in the toilet; the one where a girl jumped from the school’s roof and then rising up, with her body all twisted and dangling; and the idea of the ‘wall of ghostly shadows’ (鬼影墙) was simple yet brilliantly disturbing.

While the Boo! factor scored high marks, the movie lacked a certain grip that gets you at the edge of your seat. Maybe it’s because of the kooky sense of humor that peppered the film. It was a nice touch. Especially in one really well executed scene where one of the male students opened a door and discovered the ghost after he thought it had been eliminated, that was so hilarious… the whole hall was roaring with laughter for quite a while. It was funny because the actor delivered his line very matter-of-factly without ‘comedizing’ it. You don’t get very many entertaining horror films like Haunted School nowadays.

C is for CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nothing spectacular here. You can’t tell the era of the movie despite the story spanning three generations. The special effects are effective enough except the last part where the ghost was being consumed by fire. It was pure CGI massacre. It looked like an intro animation to an Xbox game and very cartoony. On top of that, I found the thunder and lightning combo with eerie photographs a tired trick and very, very dated.

On a whole, teacher gives The Haunted School a B+. It is entertaining without choppy editing and doesn’t waste time too many unnecessary details. But I have one question though…

You see, The Haunted School is about this discipline mistress (Luan Shi Yin) who was burnt to death in the admin office when the wife of the school’s principal caught their adulterous affair. Luan’s body was never found. After that incident, the all girls’ school closed for repairs and was opened 20 years later, and Luan returns as the phantom discipline mistress. She would call the names of students who had broken the school’s rules to come to her administration office. The students who went in never came out. Or they would be found dead at the school’s toilet.

With its reopening, the school also began to admit male students under the new education system. The school’s historical rules that are not to be broken include no smoking, no drinking, and the students’ skirts must not be more than 2 inches above their knees. But the number one rule that the students must adhere to is that they cannot have love affairs in school. So, the question is, if it was an all-girls’ school historically, how come their number one school rule is not to fall in love with each other? Unless… unLESs…

Watching The Haunted School was also somewhat of an experience because I attended the pre-release screening at NUS Temasek Hall. The media event was jointly organized by Shaw and the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI). Before the movie started, SPI had a segment that showcased their work, something like a documentary following their investigation of paranormal occurrences in Singapore. It was weak and it was a joke. They investigate things like whether Mentos popped into Coke would cause a ‘volcanic’ reaction (which by the way, it did). I mean. Hello? Is that paranormal?

Anyhow, the tie-up was an interesting idea and to watch The Haunted School in a school upped the spook ante. With all the NUS students screaming and squirming, I haven’t had more fun watching a ghost tale in a long time. If only I could just get one or two of them to sit on Uncle Darren’s lap so that I can spank them when they talk too much…

Draggy Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls posterNot yet a wet dream, but Dreamgirls would make any female impersonator cum in their pants… or, err… pantyhose. The movie runs like a style and sound guide for drag queens with lungs enough to fill a dozen amphitheatres; in lip-synching perfection that is. Bangkok could be doing material from this two-hour ‘sing it, don’t say it’ fable for years, and I’m sure the tight T-shirted crowd that dominated the cinema would gladly lap it all up.

For a moveecal (perhaps musical movies should be called that?), it’s not a bad investment. You don’t get a whole lot of choreography like Grease, Chicago, and the likes, but there’re enough retro feet movers and lovey tunes to raise goosebumps on eggshells. But the ballads aren’t really that catchy and the preachy lyrics made me squirm. The best track from the movie would be the disco version of One Night Only. It made my shoulders twitch. But not too much. Just in case my sequined pads slip out.

Story-wise, it’s nice how Dreamgirls blurred the hero-villain line and how being weak is the strongest one can be. And Beyonce Knowles is just incredible to watch. Not her acting, but her fantastic body and looks. She’s so beautiful, so perfect and absolutely flawless! I’m just so bowled over by how unbelievably gorgeous she is. No, I don’t want to be her, I want to DO her! If I can have a dream girl, Beyonce No-less would be she.

As for Jennifer Hudson, I was trying very hard to find proof to reconcile the fact that she won a Golden Globe for her supporting role. Maybe it’s the emptiness in her eyes that somehow made her facial expressions very flat, but an E Minor is what her voice is not. She’s got an amazing range and that girl can really scream, which became an earsore from an over-dramatic score. A solo album is probably in the making now that pre-marketing had been so successful. I’ll definitely buy it, ORIGINAL, if it’s out because Jennifer’s voice has so much talent.

The other casts put up a pretty good performance, especially Anika Noni Rose. Her transition from girl-woman is very well done. Her character’s maturity in the movie is obvious to see, yet undetectable in its process. Which only meant one thing. Great acting. Eddie Murphy also put in a sensitive performance that made him suddenly human, and tired, and aged, which was what his character is, a has-been musical icon. However, his trademark toothy grin still sparkle more Nutty Professor than serious actor.

Dreamgirls as a movie is entertaining for the first hour. After that, it’s rather draggy with too much singing (yes, there can be too much singing in a musical). Some of the show’s dialogue should just be said and not sung. This is a movie, not the musical that it was adapted from. Nonetheless, it’s not a bad watch… especially with Ms Knowles making every single cent darn worth it!

Matrimony is when love discovers horror

The Matrimony posterAnything with Leon Lai in it would already be frightful to watch. But with this horror movie’s persistence at outdoing itself in terms of being a piece of bore, you can’t decide which is more scary… the bad acting or awful directing? Yes, the story is that boring that you try to figure out why the director (Teng Hua Tao) produced such unimaginative cinematography instead. And it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to recognise his template rip-off from a pre-schooler’s textbook to horror-filmmaking.

The Matrimony has hardly any climax. It’s like what happens after marriage, after paying for my ticket and it’s too late to walk out. All this stale reel really does is keep divorcing its audience from any ounce of entertainment. If you remain curious about The Matrimony’s plotline, just visit its official website and read the synopsis. That is all you need to know and see of this yet another Asian horror flop.

If the script is nothing new and the camerawork cliche, at least pay some attention to the acting. There’re countless gaps in emotional continuity with the actors in this film. The really sore one was Leon Lai and Rene Liu’s (they play husband and wife) housekeeper, Rongma. In one scene where she was talking to Rene, she was all deadpan and corpse-like. Then in the next scene following straight after, she was chatting with Rene all lively and matrony. Her deadpan-ness seemed more like a technical requirement to increase the spook factor of that first scene, rather than the natural behavior of the servant’s character.

But the most offending part of the movie is also its end. It looked forced to leave a happy ending. The director should know that it is okay to leave a painful ending rather than ending it painfully.

If future horror flicks produced by mainland China is going to continue in the tradition of The Matrimony, I’ll be the first to file for divorce.

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