Sunday, November 30, 2008

Movie Review

Cape No. 7 (海角七號) is a Taiwanese romance, comedy and music-drama all rolled into one. Filmed, written and directed by Wei Te-Sheng, it garnered 3 awards at the 2008 Taipei Film Festival as well as being its opening film. The film contains lines spoken in Mandarin Chinese, native Taiwanese and Japanese showcasing the backdrop of Heng Chun, Taiwan with its richness in contrasts: mountains along with beaches; the old towns near the modern resort hotels, the aging population with the young working in Taipei, the diversified demographics with Hoklo, Hakka, Mainlanders and Taiwanese aborigines, the weather variation between the tropical southern Taiwan and the snow-laden Japan.
Prior to this film, the two leading actors Van Fan (范逸臣) and Chie Tanaka (田中千絵) (stayed in Taiwan for 15 months to study Chinese) only had minor acting roles but they have done justice to the film and themselves, turning in a credible performance. Even without a strong promotional campaign (tight budget I might add), this movie has become so popular in Taiwan that it became the 2nd highest grossing film in the island's cinematic history, behind the all-time tearjerker, The Titanic. Naturally, it came as no surprise when the film was nominated for 9 awards in the 2008 Golden Horse Award and competing in the 81st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film as Taiwan’s representative.
On his trusty motorbike and his back on Taipei, Aga (Van Fan) journeys back to his hometown in Heng Chun after failing to make his mark as a rock band singer. On his return, Aga's step father (Ju-Lung Ma), the Town Council Representative, arm-twisted a position for him as a postman, replacing Uncle Mao (Johnny C.J. Lin) after an accident broke his leg. On his first day, Aga comes across an undeliverable piece of mail that was supposed to be returned to the post office (the daughter of the now deceased Japanese teacher has decided to mail the unsent love letters to Taiwan after discovering them, 60 years later). The rebel Aga unlawfully keeps and opens the package to uncover its contents, but the old Japanese-style address Cape No. 7, Hengchun County, Takao Prefecture could no longer be found. Ever so slowly, contents of the 7 love letters will be individually narrated throughout the movie, bridging the gaps of the characters and unraveling the final piece of the puzzle.
In the meanwhile, a local resort hotel is organizing a beach concert featuring Japanese pop singer Kousuke Atari. Putting his official position to good use, Aga’s step father bullied his way into insisting a local band opens the concert. Tomoko (Chie Tanaka), an over-the-hill Mandarin-speaking Japanese fashion model dispatched to Heng Chun, is assigned the difficult task of managing this hastily assembled band, led by Aga along with six other locals of rather unorthodox backgrounds. After a frustrating trial period Aga and Tomoko unexpectedly begin a love relationship which is flawed in the way it is handled, expressed and presented (focus on their romantic link-up is weak). With some assistance from hotel chambermaid Ming Chu (Shino Lin), Tomoko helps Aga find the aged Kojima Tomoko, the rightful recipient of the seven love letters. Aga then returns to the beach resort and performs a highly successful concert with this local band and Kousuke Atari.
In the final ending of the movie, it is revealed that in 1940s when Taiwan was a Japanese colony, a Japanese teacher (Kousuke Atari) dispatched to the southernmost town of Heng Chun fell in love with a local girl with the Japanese name Kojima Tomoko. After the Surrender of Japan, he was forced to return to his home country. On his trip home, he penned seven love letters to express his regret for leaving Tomoko, who originally planned to elope with him to Japan.
Watch because you have love for the film industry and at the same time, take in the wonderful sceneries of Taiwan. I give it 4 stars out of 5, very funny and heart-warming at the same time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Movie Review

007: Quantum of Solace is the highly anticipated sequel to the successful Casino Royale, directed by Marc Forster and features a muscled-toned Daniel Craig's second outing as James Bond. The title was chosen from a 1960 short story in Ian Fleming's For Your Eyes Only, though the film does not contain any elements of the original story. Filming took place in Panama, Chile, Italy and Austria. In this latest installment, Bond battles Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of an evil organization who poses as an environmentalist while staging a plan to take control of Bolivia. Bond is joined by Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), a former Bolivian secret agent, hell-bent on revenge for the death of Vesper Lynd and General Medrano, respectively.

Continuing from where Casino Royale left off, Bond is behind the wheel of an Aston Martin attacked by a chasing car from Lake Como to Siena, Italy with the captured Mr. White in the boot of his car. After skillfully evading his pursuers, Bond and M, interrogate White regarding a mysterious organization called Quantum but he escaped after being double-crossed by M’s trusted bodyguard Mitchell. Bond chased Mitchell on foot across the streets/ roof of Siena, a fierce tussle ensued and kills him. Through tracked banknotes, Bond heads to Haiti to find Mitchell's contact, Edmund Slate and kills him in cold blood. Posing as Slate, Bond learnt that Slate was sent to kill Camille under orders from her bed partner, Dominic Greene, the ruthless chairman of Greene Planet and a member of Quantum. Bond pursues her by motorbike and watches her meet with Greene, learning the businessman is helping General Medrano, murderer of Camille's family in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of desert wasteland.

As the story unfolds, Bond reunites with his old ally René Mathis, who now lives in a hilltop villa awarded to him by MI6. In La Paz, Bolivia, they are greeted by Strawberry Fields, sent by M from the local British Consulate. Although she explains Bond must return to the UK on the next available flight, he disobeys and seduces her in their hotel suite. That night, they attend a fund raiser being held by Greene, where Camille reappears to dampen his night. Bond and Camille drive to the location of Greene's intended land acquisition, surveying the area in a Douglas DC-3 propeller plane but were intercepted by a chopper and a fighter plane sent by Medrano. Crash-landing, both Bond and Camille jump from the crippled plane and then freefall-parachute into a sink hole. There, they discover Greene is not interested in oil but has been blockading supplies of fresh water, hidden in underground rivers.

Bond meets his CIA ally Felix Leiter at a local bar, who informs Bond of where Greene is set to complete his deal with Medrano and flees when other CIA agents arrive to kill him. Bond and Camille go to an eco-hotel powered by hydrogen fuel cells, located in the Bolivian desert, where Greene is finalizing the coup. As the various parties depart, Bond attacks and kills the departing Colonel of Police for betraying Mathis and sets off a chain of explosions when a hydrogen fuel tank is destroyed. Camille finally kills Medrano and Bond captures Greene. After interrogating him, he leaves Greene stranded in the middle of the desert with only a can of oil, payback for what he did to agent Fields. Bond and Camille drive to a train station, where they finally kiss before she departs.

Bond goes to Kazan, Russia where he confronts Vesper Lynd's former boyfriend, Yusef for some form of closure. Yusef is a Quantum henchman who specializes in seducing high-ranking women to get them to give up government assets and is doing the same with Canadian agent Corinne Veneau. Leaving Yusef's apartment, Bond is confronted by M who is surprised that he did not kill Yusef. M reveals that Leiter has been promoted at the CIA, and Greene was found in the desert shot dead with motor oil in his stomach. Bond sets out into the cold night, aware that Mr. White is still on the loose, throws Vesper's necklace in the snow.
Ratings: 4 out 5

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Movie Review

Movie Review - 20th Century Boys

20th Century Boys (20世紀少年, Nijusseiki Shōnen) is based on a science fiction mystery manga created by Naoki Urasawa who draws allusions mostly from rock and roll with its title taken off T. Rex's famous song. In the hands of director, Yukihiko Tsutsumi, the trilogy of "20th Century Boys" live-action films is told in four different time arcs from The '60s and '70s, late '90s, year 2014 to 3FE aka the Third Year of the Friend Era. It is set to be one of the biggest undertakings ever in the Japanese movie industry with not only a huge budget of 6 billion yen featuring a mammoth cast of 300 people including A-listers like Karasawa Toshiaki and Tokiwa Takako. The last chapter of the story is to be serialized under the name 21st Century Boys.

The beginning of the series takes place during the late 1990s, where Kenji Endo is a convenience store owner, making ends meet while taking care of his niece, Kanna who was left in his care by his older sister, Kiriko. He also has to take care of his old mother, who constantly nags him of what he had done to their family liquor store. Without any knowledge of the dark conspiracy that surrounds him until he learns at a class reunion that Donkey, an old friend of his had recently committed suicide. Hence, he begins a whirlwind adventure to figure out Donkey's sudden death, when he learns of a large cult organization under a mysterious man only known as "Friend" who seeks to destroy the world on New Year's Eve of 2000. Realizing that this madman is drawing his plan from a story he and his old friends came up, he decides to round them all up in a bid to jolt his memory. Kenji realizes that his only hope is to find the "Book of Prophecy", where he wrote scenarios in which he and his friends would save the day. Nine heroes were mentioned at the last paragraph but only 7 answered the call, who are the other 2? One would be Kanna and the final person might play a huge role in the final outcome.

Kenji confronted 'Friend' during a cult's concert meeting to kill him but backed down when he learns that 'Friend' is the father of his beloved niece and husband of his sister. It becomes evident later that Friend is also interested in Kanna, who possesses latent powers which in the mange attributes to a special pill that Kenji's sister took during pregnancy. He sends several members to kidnap her but was thwarted by Kenji's timely intervention. The angry mob turned on one of their own and burn down their family convenience store in the process. Residing over the ashes, Kanna's hidden powers shine through and points out to Kenji a hidden container protruding from the ground. In it was the book of prophecy that he had once buried. Kenji's family must now live in secrecy in order to escape Friend's grasp.

It is now the year 2000. We follow Otcho, another old friend of Kenji, now living in Bangkok and he is being hunted down by a local drug lord. When he receives a call from Kenji, Otcho is at first skeptical about his plan to save the world but later agrees to return to Japan. Kenji is now a wanted terrorist and he leads Otcho to an unused subway station where he and his supporters have been staying for some time. They begin to formulate a plan to stop the end of the world. Based on the Book of Prophecy, they learn that an unnamed building must explode to herald the beginning of the end. Before Otcho can find it on time, the Japanese National Diet Building explodes, confirming the prophecy and reaffirms "Friend" commitment towards World domination.

On December 31, 2000, as Tokyo begins to sleep, a giant robot appears out of nowhere and begins rampaging across the city, spreading the lethal virus which has been plaguing the world over the past few years. Kenji and his crew take off and head to the machine, unsure of whether they'll be able to stop it, but knowing full well they are the world's last hope. Our valiant hero reaches the control pod of the machine, activated his timer explosives and comes face to face with his nemesis as the seconds ticks away......

At the end of the first movie, we have a deeper understanding of all the central characters and whet our appetite of what’s to come in the following two features. The central protagonist of the first half of the story, Kenji Endo disappears after the events of the "Bloody New Year's Eve" but is rumored to be alive and I wont' be surprise if he rises once again to face his 'Friend'. In the final scene, we see Kanna, all grown up and ready to continue where his uncle left off in the next movie. Meanwhile in a prison cell, Otcho is digging his way out and vowed to keep on fighting for his friend, Kenji.

However, many answers still remained untold, who is the mysterious "Friend" (ともだち, Tomodachi) and how does he tie into Kenji's youth? Why are there disappearances and deaths tied into Ochanomizu University? Their memories hold the keys to the puzzle, but time and age have clouded their minds. The strange occurrences and the reach of the "Friend" conspiracy grow by the day. Will Kenji and the others be able to put together the puzzle and save the world?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Movie Review

Bad Habits (Malos Habitos)
in spanish with English Subtitles.

Missing the opening scene is not always a good start to a foreign film but I managed to do just that while sitting down and getting comfy, my first scene was that of a Mexican family gathering round for a hearty family dinner feast and exchanging banter when the head of the family, Ramon, suddenly chokes on his food. A child prays silently to God to save Ramon whilst Elena, Gustavo and other family members rushes to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre which rescues him.

The act of choking, ironically during a family feast, ingeniously sets up the stage for the main message: the act and rejection of consumption.

The child who was earlier seen praying is introduced as Matilde (Jimena Ayala) who graduated from being a religious child into a fervently religious adult with a doctor’s degree. Upon completion of her studies and blinded by her faith, she becomes a nun. On hearing that her aunt is gravely ill, she takes upon herself to suffer by consuming vinegar straight from the bottle and a copious amount of salt with her daily intake of food, in hope of God’s mercy. When her aunt does miraculously recover, Matilde sees it as a reaffirmed testament of the strength of her faith and the raw presence of God. In turn, her religious faith rapidly consumes her escalating into an overzealous participation of a life-threatening fast, in which her faith and repentance will call upon God to cease the rain that is causing the deadly floods in Mexico.

Next, we have Linda (Elisa Vicedo), a pre-pubescent who is pressurized into losing her baby fat by her stylish and alarmingly thin mother, Elena (Elena de Haro). Elena’s rejection of excess food consumption is juxtaposed by her daughter’s need to consume, resulting in the latter being forced to see a nutritionist and later, an expensive diet clinic. As the movie progresses, we gradually realize that Elena’s strict, and unreasonable behaviour towards Linda’s eating habits is not driven by parental concern, but is a manifestation of her own eating disorder. Whilst Elena consumes herself with unrealistic ideals about weight, her marriage with Gustavo (Marco Treviño) crumbles. Finding no pleasure in having sex with his skeletal wife, he finds himself caught up in a fiery, sexually charged relationship with a voluptuous student in which his suppressed sexual and eating appetite reaches an absolute gratifying level of consumption.

As his first foray into indie film, director and co-scriptwriter Simón Bross creates a watchable and interesting movie on how food can be perceive and connected by our three main story. Clever camera angles that goes from scene to scene, coupled with single wide-angle shots from afar downplays the depth of the messages he tries to bring across. It does feels like watching three stand-alone short stories with minimal overlapping between the main characters. Given the impressive amount of material Bross has to cover in 104 minutes, the movie does feel slightly detached and unpolished for the sake of achieving the movie’s theme. The sounds of water and rain does comes across as another link to the characters from Matilde's desire to stop the flood, Elena's quench for weight-loss through obsessive workouts, Linda's fear of not losing weight to Gustavo's dilemma in finding out the source to the leak in the drainage pipes at the university. There is a nice touch of irony when Elena, Gustavo and Linda were brushing their teeth as a metaphor to hide their sins with reference to contact in food. You have to watch the movie to know what I mean.

Faith in God has totally consumed Matilde into obsessing with her fast, in the belief that it will move God to save his lost sheep. The other two stories, in focusing on the very flawed nature of humans, relates smoother with viewers on how in the search for perfection, humans overlook others, even loved ones and at times, their intentions produce an undesirable counter-effect. The director's vision to create depressing and hopeless atmosphere is without a doubt, spectacularly captured using lingering shots caught in dark, sedated colours, the sparsely placed, repetitive and monotonous background music, the lack of dialogue to the constant presence of pounding rain, a mood of the movie relentlessly reminded throughout.

The end of the movie also left us with some food for thought - Linda and Gustavo's guilt over the apparent death of Elena as well as Matilde's undressing of her nun's head gear and beads when it started to rain again, signalling her loss in faith and awakening to reality while watching over her sister's grave.

Movie Rating: Four out of Five.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Faint of a Woman

Morning Drama (True Story)

A life in need of intervention flashes right before me in more ways than anyone could perceive when an event unfolds right before my very eyes. It was an innocent Tuesday, first day of this particular work week. Relieve of feeling the Monday blues, a day after a welcomed long weekend break extended by Vesak Day. I awoke to the tune of "4 Minutes" by Madonna as my alarm clock, feeling tired and yearning for more sleep. The routine of a quick bathe, change of clothes and sculpting my hair went without much fuss. Jackie, the family Jack Russell Terrier looks at me and prepares his morning ritual of stopping me at the door. He always barks and tries to get a grip of my jeans when I leave for work.

The time was 7:45am when I left home with the mandarin (Ch 8) version of "Good Morning, Singapore" playing on the TV in the background. Plugged into Class 95FM and off I go, in the direction of Clementi MRT for my 50 minutes ride to Expo station. The rush hour traffic was at its usual squeeze-ness. Head on to my favoured entry points on the second carriage from the head of the train and waited patiently. It duly arrived in a minute’s time. Got on the train with someone backing into my bum and I returned a bump of my own. Sardines are never packed so tightly like this, bumper to bumper, good thing I got my head above most people and a gush of air conditioned breeze engulfed my face. Dover station was a welcome sight as streams of Singapore Polytechnic students started to alight and I tussle through to the crowd for a prized piece of real estate near the train doors, big enough for me to be hang loose. There was this woman (I shall name her Miss X), who was in a white shirt with coloured strips and wearing a tight (So tight, it was virtually sprayed on) above knee length skirt, scuttle across me, beating me to the corner void beside the train door. She was on talking on the mobile phone. Little do she, I and everyone else know of the drama that was to play out before us?

In my ears was the Flying Dutchman talking about a disco place in Singapore where he can go to regularly and have his dancing fix in the disco era. Miss X, next to me, proceeded to whip out the newspaper and read it. Soon, we went underground after Redhill onwards to Tiong Bahru, I changed my phone settings to walkman and Chris Brown’s "With You" was playing. Before I know, it was Outram Park and it was then a spiral turn of events lay bare. Miss X slump her back onto train’s shiny interior and a small ‘bump’ caught my attention. My eyes met the commuter who was seated in the corner seat with a glass separator, we looked at each other for 3 seconds as if to say "What’s wrong with her?" Then it was all a blur, Miss X fell sideways, right in front of me from 12 o’clock position to 3 o’clock. A thud reverberates through my earphones while her body shaken and her hands were trembling. There were some screams, some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’. A petite lady standing next to her let out a shriek like a falling tree was collapsing on her. I stood shocked for 2 seconds before kneeling down to held her head up with the rest of her body and said "Are you ok?" She said "Did I just fainted?" The knock to her head was more devastating than earlier thought, I didn’t want to laugh, so I kept quiet.

All this commotion has brought the attention of everyone in the train carriage, it was like the National Day parade, a lot of jaw-dropping and silence. A dude behind me was the parade commander shouted for every person to move back and give her some room to breathe. Its was sigh to behold, Singaporeans so obediently taking a few steps back, only if the train was so spacious everyday. It was a defining moment when I uttered these words "Is there a doctor or a nurse here?" Never had so many fellow travellers listened so intently to me and the dude behind me, clasp his hands into a cone and repeated my exact words. It resonated throughout the train like an echo through the mountains of the Alps. Sadly there was no response from the stunned crowd. (I swear everyone had a "What the F**k" look on them)

Another one of the passenger passed me some medicated oil but I don’t really think she needs it. So I passed it on to the petite lady next to me. During these tense moments, someone had the presence of mind to hit the ‘emergency’ button and the train came to an absolute halt. I took her by the armpits and wrestled her up to her feet. Holding onto her arm, brought her out of the train and onto a seat. I wanted to add at this point, two uniformed SMRT staff, a male and female went by me in search of the depressed emergency button but failed to notice Miss X and me, in need of help. I asked her again if she is alright, she nodded and asked me go on and continue my ride. She looked absolutely embarrassed and almost red-faced by my loving attention.

The SMRT staff finally came to her aid and I stroll on back to the scene of the drama and carry on like nothing has happened. Some of the other passengers took a glance at me but alas, no applause…… I felt great, for I had done something good and now, a firm believer of Ah Juan (I am a convert!), who had a similar experience. It really DOES bloody happen!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Movie Review

“Made of Honor”

Tom Bailey is wealthy, inventor of the “coffee collar”, the man among his guy friends and a swinging bachelor with handsome good looks. He has no problems meeting women and sleeping with a different lady every week, governed by a set of rules which dictates he cannot sleep with the same woman on consecutive weeknights. He met his best friend Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) through a case of mistaken identity while jumping into her bed instead of his intended love tryst. When Hannah goes to Scotland on a business trip for six weeks, Tom realizes he feels empty without her and decides to tell Hannah his feelings and ask her to be with him when she returns.

But events turn against him when Colin McMurray, a Duke and rich Scotsman sweeps Hannah off her feet and asks for her hand in marriage. His worst fear unfolds in front of him, Tom must now witness her unquestioned happiness up close and personal because she's chosen him to be her ‘Maid Of Honor’ and he agrees so he can try to win Hannah back and stop the wedding. Throughout the movie he made feeble attempts such as ruining her bridal shower playing bag pipes and serving pig lungs (Haggis) saying she should get used to it because of their popularity in Scotland. He also has to deal with others less tolerable such as Hannah's cousin Melissa who wanted to be her maid of honor since childhood and had her heart broken by Tom, like many other girls.

The bridesmaids and the bride went on a Scottish tradition called “Selling of Kisses” for change in a local pub and there, our love birds shared a deep, passionate kiss of epic proportion. It set off questions of their friendship and could there be love brewing all this while. Tom leaves the castle when he feels it was a lost cause to win Hannah back. But he was reminded, just in time by a border collie to rush off in the direction of the church. In the end Hannah realizes that Tom is the man of her dreams and leaves Colin at the altar in order to get married to Tom.

Somehow, this movie might be interpreted as the male version of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” but with a reunited ending to set things right. I loved the charming interaction of Tom and Hannah especially when they were at his Father’s wedding and enjoying a day in town, queuing for cake. The movie is thoroughly enjoying without being overbearing. Ratings are 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Movie Review

"The Bucket List"

The Bucket List brings together two actors (Nicholson and Freeman) who had made countless number of movies, living legends of their time, on the big screens for the first time. Directed by Rob Reiner, the story follows two terminally ill men embarking on a final road trip with a list of things to do before they die. They gamely shaved their heads for the movie.
Blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) meet for the first time in the hospital room. They become reluctant friends at first as they undergo respective chemo treatments for cancer. Carter is a gifted amateur historian, answers questions on ‘Jeopardy’ with absolute ease and family man who had dreams of becoming a history professor. A dilemma in his youth, simply put "broke, black, and with a baby on the way" did not pave the way for his ambitions and he stuck to his job at McCreath body shop ever since. Cole, on the other hand, is a corporate tycoon cum eccentric loner, who enjoys nothing more than tormenting his personal servant, Matthew whom he calls Thomas (Sean Hayes).
When both are diagnosed with terminal cancer, Carter begins scribbling a "bucket list," or things to do before "he kicks the bucket." After hearing he has less than a year to live, Carter wads it up and tosses it on the floor. Cole finds it and pushes Carter over the edge by suggesting things like seeing the world, sky diving, "fun things" with an unlimited budget as he is very wealthy. Despite the protests of his wife, Virginia (Beverly Todd), Carter eagerly agrees to it. The pair then set off in an around-the-world vacation, embarking on race car driving, sky diving, climbing the Giza Pyramids and going on lion safari in Africa. Along the way they discuss faith and family, we learnt that Carter has long been feeling less in love with his wife and Cole is deeply hurt by his estrangement with his only daughter, who disowned him after he "took care" of her abusive husband.

The Bucket List
1. Witness something truly majestic
2. Help a complete stranger for a common good
3. Laugh till I cry
4. Drive a Shelby mustang
5. Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world
6. Get a tattoo
7. Skydiving
8. See the pyramids
9. Get back in touch with (daughter)

Cole sneakily hires a prostitute for Carter, who has never had sex with another woman than his wife but when Carter realizes it, declines. He finds that the love he had for his wife is still strong and asked to return home. In gratitude for helping him, he tries to reunite Cole with his daughter but Cole angrily storms off. Carter blissfully returns home as a new man to his wife, children, and grandchildren. However, the family reunion was short-lived as Carter suffered a relapse and is rushed back to the hospital. The cancer has spread to his brain and he needs surgery. Cole visits him there and they share an important moment together where Carter reveals the origin of Kopi Luwak. They share a good laugh and Carter crosses off "laugh till I cry" and insists Cole finish the list without him. Carter dies on the operating table. When Cole delivers a eulogy at his funeral (I cried), he finally found the strength to face his daughter. Much to his surprise and joy, she not only accepts him back into her life but she also introduces him to the grand-daughter he never knew he had and he crosses "kiss the most beautiful girl in the world" off the list.
Cole goes on to live till a ripe old age of 81 years old. When he finally passes away, he has his ashes placed inside a Chock Full o' Nuts coffee can, alongside Carter, on the top of Mount Everest which Carter mentions that Cole would have liked, as it was against the law. When Matthew completes this, he crosses off the last item on the Bucket List (witness something truly majestic) and places the list with them, closed the small black box and reburies it in the snow.
The story is moving and opens you into the inner-most thoughts of the terminally ill. Watching these two great actors deliver their lines at the highest level of their craft is nothing short amazing, leaving me breathless and in awe. Ratings in this case is useless, just go watch it and really feel it!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Movie Review

"Definitely, Maybe"

"Will you marry me?", "Definitely, maybe?" From a line exchanged in the movie, this romantic comedy film directed by Adam Brooks, is a love mystery novel retold with a dash of twists and turns, how one man met three women. His precocious little daughter will guess the woman he married. William Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) is going through divorce and gets to see his 10 year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) once or twice a week. On one of these occasions, she had just finished first sex-education class at school. Flushed with questions on sex, she started to quiz him about his love life before marriage. Maya wants to know every details about how her parents met and when he decided to get married. In an attempt to add a sense of sensationlization and leave sexual exploits out of his story, Will changes the names and some facts. The story he tells Maya is depicted in long flashbacks with occasional pauses from time to time and switches back to the present, where Maya comments and asks questions. The story unfold in the year 1992, where a young and aspiring Will Hayes dreams of becoming the President. He made a decision to move away from his college sweetheart, Emily (Elizabeth Banks), embarking on a trip to New York to work on the Clinton campaign. She gives him a wrapped package and asks him to give it to her reporter friend, Summer (Rachel Weisz). In New York, he meets April (Isla Fisher), the photocopy girl for the campaign while he was performing menial jobs as the toilet-paper/coffee boy. They formed an instant attraction immediately. Out of curiosity, Will could not resists opening the package. It was Summer's diary. He reads it and comes across pages describing a love affair between Emily and Summer. Intrigued, he visits Summer to bring the diary, meets her roommate and sometimes-lover, her college professor and famous writer named Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline). April and Will met outside work while buying cigarettes. The connection grew when she tells him its her birthday and Will responded by buying her dinner but settled on accompanying her to a party. On the rooftop, Will eventually practices a proposal to Emily on April and she is taken aback by his words. They go back to her apartment, where April has multiple copies of Jane Eyre in her collection, explaining that her father gave her a copy with an inscription in the front shortly before he died, and the book was shortly lost. Will and April eventually kiss but Will left quickly while berating himself. Emily visits earlier than expected and expectedly, Will proposes in the park. Startled, Emily turns him down by telling him that she slept with Will's roommate left him devastated and heartbroken. Time past and Bill Clinton becomes president of the United States and Will moves up to become speech-writer for a candidate to be Governor of New York. April travels the world, and she and Will become pen-pals. Summer and Will's path crossed once again. Eventually, with the encouragement of Roth, Will and Summer become romantically involved. But it ended abruptly when she writes unfavourably about the politician Will works for. Will becomes disillusioned about his choice of profession when Bill Clinton is implicated in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He hates his job and starts to heavily drink. On his birthday and in a drunken rant, he confesses romantic feelings towards April but in the process, ends up hurting her in a fight with her where he tells her to "go to life rehab".Will eventually chance upon the copy of Jane Eyre that April's father gave her. He goes to give it to her, but left when he finds out that April and her boyfriend are living together. Summer and Will bumped into each other while he is at a cafe, and she invites him to a party where he meets Emily, now living in New York. They end up starting up another relationship and Emily turns out to be Maya's mother. Will signs the divorce papers served to him. Maya is happy that she figured out the story, but also realizes that her father still loves April, as even though Will changed the names of Emily (Sarah in real life), and Summer (Natasha in real life), he did not change April's name. Encouraged by Maya, who wants her father to be happy, he goes to try to win April's heart. The movie ends with Will confessing he held on to the copy of Jane Eyre because it was the only thing he had of hers. Maya and Will go to April's apartment to reconcile. The movie ends with April jumping into Will's arms to kiss him. Wonderfully scripted and never a dull moment, watch it with a romantic date. Ratings 3.5 out of 5.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Movie Review

"August Rush"

Picture this, you hear music in the rustling of wind against fields of wheat, misunderstood by everyone around you and dismissed as a freak. “August Rush” is such a sappy tale of an orphan boy named Evan Taylor (Freddie Highmore of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’) who hears music all around him and senses his parents whom he never met or had any contact. Evan firmly believes his parents are out there looking for him and he hopes to be ‘found’ one day. When New York child service department counselor, Richard Jeffries (Terrence Howard) advises him to think about living in a foster home, Evan declines and replied that he has been waiting and counting the days - 11 years and 16 days for his parents. Impressed by his unwavering decision, Richard gave Evan his name card with a promise that he can call him whenever he wants to talk. Through a series of flashbacks, we were introduced to a cellist named Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell) and Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) lead singer/ guitarist of an Irish band called ‘The Connelly Brothers’. They met on the rooftop one fateful night and fell in love instantly but were separated without knowledge of each other’s whereabouts. Since then, Lyla and Louis both had trouble concentrating on playing music and stop performing all together. Unknown to Louis, Lyla is carrying his child in spite of her father’s (William Sadler) disapproval. When Lyla was involved in a car accident, her domineering father saw the chance to give up the baby for adoption whom he sees as an obstacle in their lives.One night, Evan follows an unusual sound that seem to call out to him and left the orphanage to follow it. He is picked up by a trucker and taken to New York when the latter calls Richard’s number on the card. Evan is told to stay and wait but after the wind blows the card into a sewer vent, he wanders around the city in a whimsical fantasy of sounds before he is attracted to guitar sounds played by a boy named Arthur (Leon G. Thomas III). Soon, he follows Arthur back to an abandoned theatre where he meets a group of kids, all street musicians taken under the wings of "Wizard" (Robin Williams) a former busker turned hustler who lets the children stay, in return for a cut of the money they made. When Evan begins to play music for the first time using Arthur’s guitar, Wizard puts him to ‘work’ on his former spot in central park. In no time, Evan started to wow the crowds with his unique brand of music and bring in the big bucks for Wizard. To hide Evan’s real identity from the authorities, Wizard gives him the stage name of ‘August Rush’, taken off a slogan on a truck driving by about the August rush to the beach.
On his deathbed, Lyla’s father confessed that her son had survived the car accident. Lyla rushes to New York City in a frantic search of her son and meets Richard. Meanwhile, Evan's father Louis has also begun to trace Lyla and ended up back where they had originally met. Still hot on Evan’s trail, Richard becomes suspicious of Wizard and has the police follow him to the condemned theatre where the kids live. Having escaped the police raid, Evan hears a choir singing in a church and meets a little girl named Hope (Jamia Simone Nash) who teaches him how to read and write music. To the surprise of Reverend James (Mykelti Williamson) and Hope, Evan manages to compose a musical piece and play the pipe organ with consummate skill in no time at all. Seeing the musical genius in Evan, Reverend James enrolled the child prodigy in Julliard School where he impresses everyone by writing a magnificent piece called "August's Rhapsody" which is going to be performed in New York City's Central Park with the New York Philharmonic.Out of nowhere, Wizard shows up in Julliard after learning about Evan's performance through the concert posters and forces him to leave by implying that he will tell everyone Evan's real name. Reluctantly, Evan goes along with his so-called ‘Father’. While busking, Evan meets a fellow guitarist unknown to both of them, is actually his Father Louis. Under the alias of August Rush, Evan says that he has a big concert coming up but he cannot go. Louis tells him that he would not miss it for anything in the World. On the day of the concert, Evan is in the subway station with Wizard and Arthur when he tells them of his intentions to leave for good. After escaping Wizard’s attempt to stop him from leaving, Evan arrives just in time and begins to conduct his music at the same time Lyla is leaving the concert. Attracted by the music, Lyla stops and turns around to approach the stage. At the same time, Louis and his band are inside a car near the park, stuck in slow moving traffic. He sees a poster hanging off a lamp post announcing the performance by August Rush in central park, like the boy told him but most importantly, Lyla’s name is on it as well. Ecstatic by the discovery, Louis runs out of the car towards the music. Approaching the stage, he recognizes the conductor as the boy he met in the park. There, he finds Lyla right in front of him listening to the music which brought him to her. Louis stands right next to her and quietly holds her hand. Mesmerized by the music, a surprised Lyla looks to her side and is thrilled to see Louis. Sensing the presence of his parents, Evan turns to the crowd and the trio recognized each other through their bond for music. I think Evan said it best at the end of the movie when he delivered a sweet monologue, "The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen."
The soundtrack contains gems like "Moondance" and "This Time" performed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, while "Raise it up" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Click on this link http://http// to watch the performance by IMPACT Repertory Theatre of Harlem featuring Jamia Simone Nash (Hope) at the 80th Annual Academy Awards®. Composer Mark Mancina spent over a year and a half composing the score of August Rush, starting with the final theme of the movie. The heart and soul of the story is about this young boy who believes that he is going to find his parents through his music. My ratings are 3.5 out of 5 stars for those who believe in hope.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Movie Review


Presenting an indie smash-hit that has movie-goers giving it a fantastic review and cracking up with laughter, along the way. Juno is named after a Roman Goddess who had to deal with teenage pregnancy while attending high-school crosses boundaries into adoption and brings into perspective, the importance of family support. Jammed packed with great dialogue and quirky teenage angst, I took to the characters with extreme ease and loved every minute of it. Directed by Canadian Jason Reitman who made another indie hit "No Smoking Please" and written by Diablo Cody, a former stripper who incidentally won the 80th Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Ellen Page stars as 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, an independent teenager confronting an unplanned pregnancy after an impromptu sex tryst on a chair with best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). After taking three pregnancy tests at a local convenience store, Juno finally concedes and accepts that she is nine weeks pregnant. She had opted for an abortion but a last-minute change of heart paved the way for adoption. With help from her best friend, Leah (Olivia Thirlby) Juno searched a local thrifty newspaper called the "Pennysaver" for an adoptive couple. The scene where Juno broke the news of her pregnancy to her father, Mac (J. K. Simmons) and step-mum (Alison Janney) was hilarious and surprisingly, took to the news rather well. Juno went on to meet the couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) in their manicured expensive home and finalizes the 'close' adoption arrangements, quite literally on-the-spot.
Juno strikes up an instant friendship with Mark when she notices a Gibson guitar in his room and they started jamming. Soon, she finds herself going over the Mark's place more often, who shares similar tastes in music, film and pop culture. However, Mark slowly discovers that he is not ready to be a father and still longs to be in a rock band but has set aside his dreams for a conservative life with Vanessa. Although Mark works as a commercial composer, he feels like an outcast in his own home, not given room to exercise his dream. Cracks are showing in the beautiful portrait of the lovely couple shown in the classified ads. All this while, Juno wrestles with the new emotions she feels for her baby's father, Paulie who also has feelings for Juno but plays it cool. Juno maintains an outwardly indifferent attitude to Paulie but confronts him when she learns that Paulie had asked another girl to the prom, only to be reminded that it is at her request they remain distant and points out she was the one who suggested his prom date in the first place. Another scene worth mentioning is when Juno's step-mum berates the ultrasound technician to stick to "What she knows" after passing an insensitive remark on Juno's pregnancy at such a young age. It felt great to see how she defended her step-daughter from snide remarks and let those who judge a person without knowing them, a taste of their own medicine. Not long before her baby is due, Juno is once again visiting Mark who confesses that he is leaving Vanessa and moving out. Vanessa arrives home and an argument ensues between her and Mark about whether or not it is "bad timing" for them to proceed with the adoption. As she watches their marriage fall apart, Juno leaves and cries on the side of the road not before coming to a decision. Returning to the Lorings' home, she leaves a handwritten note for Vanessa. After a heartfelt discussion with her father, Juno came to the realization that she loved Paulie all this while and revealed her true feelings to him. Later at a track meet, Paulie notices Juno is not in the stands and rushes to the hospital to be with her. At the hospital, he comforts Juno by holding her tight in bed and they both agree not to see the baby. Vanessa arrives at the hospital alone and joyfully claims the newborn boy as a now-single adoptive mother. Juno's note to Vanessa is finally revealed, in place of a portrait of her and Mark, reads "Vanessa: If you're still in, I'm still in. - Juno." The film ends with Juno and Paulie playing guitar and singing to one another. Watch out for the group of runners, appearing in timely scenes of the movie.

A huge thumbs up for a cleverly crafted movie with plenty of heart and a catchy soundtrack to boot. Five stars out of Five for sure and worth watching a second time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Movie Review

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Tim Burton is the perfect director to put his 'dark' spin onto a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical of the same name. His 2007 vision of the black comedy, part horror/ musical film stars the usual suspects of Johnny Depp as the demon barber and Helena Bonham Carter (wife of Burton) who was pregnant at time of filming as Mrs. Lovett with a strong cast made up of notable Englishmen. As a musical, the tunes here aren't as melodic as films like 'The Sound of Music' or 'The Phantom of the Opera' but but it still gets the message across, somehow. Singing may not seem natural when it comes to murder most fowl but there are scenes where singing can be somewhat irritating and repetitive. Having said that, Helena's singing syncopation of "Worst Pies in London" while making pies was a treat to watch and listen. All the actors featured can hold a tune quite well and did an incredible job, especially Depp. The film won awards for Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) and Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) at the 65th Golden Globe Awards as well as nominations for Best Actor, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design at the 80th Academy Awards.

The story tells of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a barber who is falsely accused and sentenced to a life of hard labor in Australia by the lustful Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who has his lecherous eyes on his beautiful wife, Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly). Not knowing what happened to his family, Barker returns 15 years later under the alias of Sweeney Todd, set about to find the truth and seek revenge on Turpin. After bidding farewell to his sailor friend, Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) Todd returns to his old flat above his former landlady, Mrs Lovett's pie shop on Fleet Street where he learnt the dreaded outcome after his arrest. Turpin had forced himself on his wife and that she poisoned herself to death out of humiliation. The Judge also took captive of Barker's daughter Johanna as his ward, caged like a bird in his manor. The news devasted Todd and he vows revenge on Judge Turpin but not before singing "My Friends" to the razor knives/ blades hidden by Mrs Lovett.

Anthony wanders the streets of London in search of Hyde park when he stumbles upon the now-teenage Johanna and instantly falls for her. His attraction provokes a jealous Turpin to squash any thoughts of romance by instructing his henchman, Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall) to hand Anthony a good beating. Over at the Street Market, an eager Todd challenges Italian master street barber Adolfo Pirelli (Sasha Baron Cohen of 'Borat' fame) to a speed shaving contest where he trounces his rival easily. Todd then uses the opportunity to invite Bamford to his shop for a complimentary shave and spread the word of his skills to his master. When Pirelli shows up at Todd's shop to reveal his true identity as Barker's former young Irish apprentice and blackmails Todd to half his earnings, an enraged Todd swiftly murders him to ensure the secret remains silent. When Mrs. Lovett learnt about it, she made a pact with Todd to grind up Pirelli's body into meat for her pies. Todd agrees, and then installs machinery in his barbers' chair to dump the bodies of his victims through a trap door to Lovett's basement bakehouse and thus, began his downward spiral of innocent killings. Bussiness flourished and more bodies are needed to fuel the appetites of unsuspecting customers.

Fearing he might lose Johanna, Judge Turpin expresses his desire to marry her but is spurned by the young ward. Bamford encourages Turpin to visit Todd for a shave to enhance his appearance. When Todd is about to kill Turpin and exact his revenge, Anthony bursts into Todd's shop and accidentaly blurted out Johanna's plans to flee with him. An enraged Turpin hides Johanna in an insane asylum until she agrees to marry him. More killings went on before Anthony returns to reveal that he has found Johanna, Todd immediately instructs Anthony to disguise himself as a wigmaker's apprentice and free Johanna out of the asylum. He then writes a letter to Turpin informing him of Anthony's plans to free Johanna so as to lure the evil Judge and sends Toby to deliver it. When Toby returns, he voices his mistrust of Todd to Mrs. Lovett and recognized the money pouch of his old Italian tough-master in her possession. Mrs. Lovett, knowing the game is up, cuddles Toby and lures him into the bakehouse and locking him inside. As Lovett warns Todd of Toby's suspicions, they are surprised by the visit of Beadle Bamford to investigate "strange smells" coming from the bakehouse. While Todd lures Bamford into his barber shop, Toby finds a human toe in one of the pies. He then discovers stacks of human corpses and flees into the sewers avoiding Todd and Mrs. Lovett.

Meanwhile, Anthony and Johanna return to Todd's barber shop, where he tells her to wait for him. Disguised in men's clothing, Johanna quickly scrambles into the chest in the corner of the room as the beggar woman enters, looking for Beadle Bamford. Soon after, Todd returns to the shop and is surprised by the beggar woman, who appears to recognize Todd. Hearing Turpin is about to enter, Sweeney in a state of panic, slits the beggar woman's throat and drops her body down the chute. Turpin enters the room seconds later and accepts Todd's offer of a shave. Looming with his sharp razor over Turpin, Todd reveals his true identity and stabs him before slitting his throat. Todd then discovers Johanna hiding in the trunk and not recognising her, prepares to kill her but was interrupted by Mrs. Lovett's screams. He races to the bakehouse to find Judge Turpin still alive but he soon dies. As Mrs. Lovett opens the oven door to dispose of Turpin, the light from the burning coals shone on the face of the beggar woman. Todd moves closer and recognizes her as his wife, Lucy who was made to believe was 'dead'. Mrs Lovett reveals that Lucy survived her suicide attempt but the poison drove her mad. She tries to persuade Todd that she lied because of her love for him. Todd calms her down and bizarrely, begins to dance with her, saying that he loves her too and that "Life is for the Alive". Suddenly, he thrusts her through the open oven door and watches her burn to death. Todd then returns to Lucy and holds her dead body. Toby emerges from the sewer, picks up Todd's discarded razor and slits Todd's throat in a final act of vengeance.

The movie has it engaging moments as it builds up for the finale and adds a twist at the end but the throat-slashings with blood spurting and some cases, flowing out severed necks may not be everyone's cup of tea. You will either love or hate it, thankfully its more love than hate for me. Three razors out of Five.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Movie Review

"National Treasure 2 - The Book of Secrets"

The first family of Treasure hunters are back and this time, Mum (Helen Mirren) joins in the fun in this much-awaited squeal. Benjamin Gates (played by Nicolas Cage) opens "The Book Of Secrets" with new information about John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abe Lincoln and how the 18 pages from Booth's diary became missing at a lecture when Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) revealed that he holds one of the missing pages from his forefather which implicates Thomas Gates, Benjamin's great-grandfather in the assassination of Lincoln. Suggesting that Ben's great-grandfather could be Lincoln's murderer came as a shock to Ben and his father Patrick (Jon Voight) when they had always thought of their ancestor as a national hero during the Civil War. This jump starts Ben and his dad to risk their reputation and lives on a quest to clear their family name on the Gates' history. Rounding up the same team made up of tech-guru cum struggling author, Riley Poole (Justin Batha) and his estranged wife Abigail (Diane Kruger - HOT!), the treasure hunters have to solve the mystery behind the missing diary pages.

A wild goose chase from Paris to Buckingham Palace and The White House to obtain vital clues from the twin resolute desks. Even resorting to kidnapping the President of the United States did not deter Ben from finding out the truth while tracking down a page from the fabled Book Of Secrets! Along the way, we see how Ben deals with his rocky relationship with Abigail and Riley's failure with skirt-chasing. The action scenes of car chase through the gritty streets of London is nothing new for Hollywood and I was hoping for a more inventive and intense outcome but was let downed by the run-of-the-mill chaos. After all the twists and turns, the 'clues' point to a mystical "City of Gold" at Mount Rushmore and finding it will clear the family name. However, the finale was tame and predictable, much to my disappointment. There were also provisions made for a third movie, something to do with page 47 in the Book of Secrets.

This second ride is not as refreshing as the first movie but it still managed to dish out an exhilarating adventure for everyone of all ages! More characters may mean more fun but this is a case of "too many chefs, spoiled the broth". There were lesser clues and even lesser action but redeems itself with well-timed humour. Three stars out of Five.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Movie Review

Movie Review: "Lust, Caution"
Of all the hype surrounding the explicit sex scenes between Asia’s cinema icon Tony Leung Chiu Wai and newcomer Tang Wei in Ang Lee's new film “Lust, Caution”, it was Lee's trademark story-telling that made the strongest statement in this movie. If you are watching plainly for the sexual content on the big screens, you will be very disappointed as Singapore’s version (NC16) is the same as mainland China (148 mins) which has 9 mins left on the cutting floor to accommodate China’s audiences who incidentally, do not have a film ratings standard. Ang Lee made the cuts himself to maintain a certain flow of the movie while removing fundamental seduction, foreplay and torrid sex leading to the final orgasm that we are allowed to see as they gazed upon each other. “Lust, Caution” is an espionage thriller set in WWII-era Shanghai circa 1942, adapted from a short story by Eileen Chang. The plot centres around the assassination attempt on Mr Yee, a powerful political figure and an intelligence chief of a Japanese-backed Chinese government. Wang Jiazhi is a young student who is the bait and gets involved in a dangerous game of emotional intimacy with Mr Yee. Veteran Joan Chen plays the dutiful wife, Mrs Yee where she is seen most of the time interacting in scenes confined to the mahjong's table. **Backtrack to 1938 with China at war, many Chinese students including Wang escaped turmoil back in their homeland to further their education in a safe haven - Hong Kong University but the thought of fighting the war in a limited capacity were not far away from their young impressionable minds. This is where first year student Wang Jiazhi is roped in by a fellow student activist Kuang Yumin (Wang Leehom) to join his stage-play aimed at raising funds and show their resistance and unity against the Japanese. Success of the play soon lead to a real-life mission to kill a much hated traitor residing in HK aka Mr Yee who is collaborating with the Japanese occupiers and responsible for the torture and death of hundreds of patriots. The team of 6 students headed by Kuang hatched a plan to infiltrate the home of Mr Yee via his mahjong-playing wife (Joan Chen) so that they can target Mr Yee for assassination. Wang is thrown into playing the role of her a lifetime as Mrs Mai, wife a small time businessman who is in the import and export business. Unknown to Wang, the group has made plans to thrust her into becoming Yee’s mistress in a bid to win his trust and the scene where Wang loses her virginity to a fellow student showed her absolute resolve and commitment to the mission. Nevertheless, they fell short in Hong Kong although Jiazhi manages to lure Yee to her fellow conspirators but the ever guarded Yee did not bite. The mission is left in limbo when Mrs Yee called to announce their plans to move to Shanghai in short notice. ***Fast-forward to Shanghai in the year 1941, Wang Jiazhi is now a poor student living with her aunt and studying Japanese to dull herself. Kuang reappears into her life with news that Mr Yee is in Shanghai and tries to persuade Wang into reprising her role of Mrs Mai. Introduced to Kuang’s superior, a senior member of a secret Chinese Agency, Wang throw caution to the wind and reaffirms her commitment to get the job done. This time the plan is clear, Wang is to seduce Mr Yee again and set him up for termination. When the mission is accomplished, they will reunite Wang with his father in England. Mr Yee is delighted to see Mrs Mai again but his cautious nature gave way to lust as he finally getting his hands on Wang, literally. The stages of sex entangled the level of trust Yee is willing to go and as their rendezvous continued, the deeper she falls for him. At one stage, Kuang realizes the predicament Wang is in, even beg their handlers to speed things up and complete the mission quickly. The conflict between duty and love comes to a head when the final moment of Yee’s assassination draws near. Will she go with her head or heart? ****Drawing a fine balance between Lust and Caution is the theme of the movie but when love gets into the mix, it becomes a double-edged sword. When you are in love with someone who has to carry out a dangerous mission, how do you balance feelings of Love and Caution? Personally, I was smitten by the beauty and innocence of Tang Wei. When it came to delivering her lines in fluent Cantonese and Shanghai dialect, it was well-executed and believable. Her wonderful rendition of a classic mandarin love song was another highlight in this art-house film. The incredible performance by Tang Wei was top-notch throughout and I could feel every emotion of love and angst in her which is surely worth a Golden Horse Nomination. We now know why Ang Lee cast her in the role of Wang Jiazhi ahead of other big names. Tony Leung never lets us down with his masterful interpretation of Mr Yee who is equally tragic in his yearn for true love and trust. Wang Leehom is a tad disappointing in his role as Kuang Yumin who is stiff and 'deadpan' at times but this will be a great learning experience for him to improve on his limited acting skills. “Lust, Caution” can be heavy at times when we see the lives of people put through hell in times of War. One last thing, the cinematography was beautifully executed especially the scenes of populated streets in Shanghai were spectacular. The many pieces of cheongsams worn by Tang Wei also gets a notable mention as they show off her curves to seduce Yee and ME!
Ratings: 4 out of 5! Watch for Tang Wei’s beauty in the role that will propel her into stardom.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Movie Review

Movie Review – Ratatouille

Ratatouille (Rat/a/Too/ee) is a vegetable stew that originated from Nice, France. The key ingredients are tomatoes, with garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant and basil, all marinated lightly in olive oil. It is served as a meal on its own or as a filling for crepes or an omelette.

I must get this off my chest - Ratatouille is the best CGI animation movie involving a rodent. No disrespect to “An American Tail” and “Stuart Little” but I was charmed by Remy, the little chef. The setting is Paris, France where miles of sewer tunnels ran underneath a cosmopolitan city, a city of great culinary history and fine gourmet restaurants. However, the underground sewers gave birth to a huge rat population and this is where we have a rat that harbors a dream of becoming a Chef one day. Academy Award winning director Brad Bird [who brought you “The Incredibles”] of Pixar animation studios takes us on a culinary journey through the eyes and ears of a rat who finds his way into the famous Chef Auguste Gusteau’s French restaurant led by the ghost of the late chef when Remy got separated from the colony while on the run. I loved the scenes where we see Remy’s point-of-view manoeuvring through the maze of pipes, cracks and sewers. The great chef was famous for his motto of “Anyone can cook” but little does he knows a RAT would become a master chef. The opening was great, I was drawn immediately to Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a suburban rat who enjoys gourmet food. His sense of taste are refined and impeccable, a connoisseur of food and its ingredients that made it so appealing. A nose for freshness resulted in a refusal to eat garbage but eventually, forced by his father to use Remy's gift as a "poison detector". A hidden desire to become a chef like his hero, Gusteau comes in the form of Linguini (Lou Romano), a newly hired garbage boy cum kitchen cleaner at a Gusteau’s Paris restaurant. He forms an unusual partnership with the Remy, working together in funny circumstances, hiding under Linguini's chef's hat. Soon, Remy started to create dishes of culinary delight by manipulating Linguini, like pulling strings on a puppet. His culinary adventure is lived through Linguini and as word of mouth spreads, Gusteau's Restaurant is the talk of Paris again. Skinner, the Head Chef is jealous of Linguini’s newfound fame tried his best to discredit him but was ousted from the restaurant when the truth surfaced, Linguini is Gusteau’s son. Linguini not only gets ownership of the restaurant and in the process, wins the heart of the only female chef Colette (Janeane Garofalo). Skinner vows revenge and rats to the health department on the rodent infestation at Gusteau’s.
The real test comes when France’s most feared food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) decided to revisit Gusteau's having earlier given the restaurant a death sentence [review] that caused the death of a broken hearted Chef. When Linguini comes clean on the secret of his success and reveal the origins of his remarkable talent, the entire kitchen and waiting staff walked out on him. Faced with a disaster, Remy took over the reins of the kitchen with the help of his rat colony and dished out his version of the Ratatouille [vegetable stew] to the absolute surprise and utter delight of Ego. The scenes in the kitchen were extensively researched by the team of animators who spend time at “The French Laundry” [The French-based Michelin Guide bestowed “Three Stars” to The French Laundry] helmed by famous Executive Chef, Thomas Keller who served as a consultant for the movie. Everything you see in the movie mimics a professional kitchen/ restaurant setup, down to the recipes, ingredients and terms used are real, to its very last detail. The animators got all the cutting, chopping, knife work, ingredient preparation, cooking sequence, various cooking stations and kitchen equipments as close to reality as possible, making the action in "Ratatouille" truly exceptional.
There are times that even I, forgot that Remy is a rat! The seemingly conflict is between rats and humans, but in fact, members of each species get to learn a little about the other, in terms of racism and tolerance. To quote from Anton Ego: "Not everyone can be a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere." "Ratatouille" is very entertaining from start to finish and heart-warming in the closing moments, suitable for both the young and the old. A totally delightful meal, five out of five!
Extra: The various titles used in a professional kitchen of a French restaurant.

Executive Chef - In charge of everything related to the kitchen, including menu creation, staff management and business aspects. While the position requires extensive cooking experience and often involves actively cooking, it is not necessarily very hands-on. They can also be referred to as the "chef" or even "head chef".
Chef de Cuisine - This is a synonym for the title executive chef. This is the traditional French phrase where the title chef comes from and is more common in European or American kitchens with a classical French brigade system. In some establishments this title is used to designate a chef who is the head chef at one location of an operation that has multiple locations where the corporate chef has the title executive chef.
Sous Chef - The direct assistant of the executive chef and is second in command. He or she may be responsible for scheduling, filling in for the executive chef when he is off-duty. He or she also will fill in or assist the chef de partie (or line cooks) when needed. Smaller operations may not have a sous chef, while larger operations may have multiple.
Expediter or Announcer (Aboyeur) - The expediter takes the orders from the dining room and relays them to the stations in the kitchen. This person also often puts the finishing touches on the dish before it goes to the dining room. In some operations this task may be done by either the executive chef or the sous chef.
Chef de Partie - A chef de partie, also known as a "station chef" or "line cook", is in charge of a particular area of production. In large kitchens, each station chef might have several cooks and/or assistants. In most kitchens however, the station chef is the only worker in that department. Line cooks are often divided into a hierarchy of their own, starting with "First Cook", then "Second Cook", and so on as needed.
Station Chef titles which are part of the brigade system includes -
1. Sauté Chef (Saucier) - Responsible for all sautéed items and their sauce. This is usually the highest position of all the stations.
2. Fish Chef (Poissonier) - Prepares fish dishes and often does all fish butchering as well as appropriate sauce. This station may be combined with the saucier position.
3. Roast Chef (Rotisseur) - Prepares roasted and braised meats and their appropriate sauce.
4. Grill Chef (Grillardin) - Prepares all grilled foods, this position may be combined with the rotisseur.
5. Fry Chef (Friturier) - Prepares all fried items, position may be combined with the rotisseur position.
6. Vegetable Chef (Entremetier) - Prepares hot appetizers and often prepares the soups, vegetables, pastas and starches. In a full brigade system a potager would prepare soups and a legumier would prepare vegetables.
7. Roundsman (Tournant) - Also referred to as a swing cook, fills in as needed on station in kitchen.
8. Cold-Foods Chef (Garde Manger) - May also be referred to as the pantry chef, they are responsible for preparing cold foods, including salads, cold appetizers, pâtés and other charcuterie items.
9. Butcher (Boucher) - Butchers meats, poultry and sometimes fish. May also be responsible for breading meats and fish.
10. Pastry Chef (Pâtissier) - Prepare baked goods, pastries and desserts. The pastry chef often supervises a separate team in their own kitchen or separate shop in larger operations. Some kitchens may have an executive pastry chef.

[Source of Extra:]


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