movie: jangan pandang belakang – not that bad leh!

What’s with me and Malay movies? Heck I don’t even watch that many Chinese flicks anymore (but that is because I think no one can replace Stephen Chow as the slapstick mastah, and Zhang Yimou keeps making artsy-fartsy movies with weak storylines and weaker actors — erm, Jay Chou, wtf herro!!!!!).

Anyway, I caught Jangan Pandang Belakang last week because I didn’t fancy waiting 40 minutes for another movie. Sort of like a spur-of-the-moment purchase. The title is basically the age-old warning not to ‘look behind you’ if you feel that you are not alone, especially since ghosts and spirits are stereotyped to be sneaky beings who would only approach you from behind.

The movie began with a traditional Muslim exorcism, as seen in the photo below:

Jangan Pandang Belakang - traditional exorcism

The evil spirit was captured and put in a bottle (to be thrown into the sea), but the victim died. Fast-forward to a couple months or years (no idea) later, Darma (Pierre Andre) received news that his fiancee, Rose had mysteriously passed away. I kept waiting for the part when he was really grieved, but it never happened. Dude, the woman you are about to marry and spend the rest of your life with just fucking died, show some emotion can or not?!

Anyway the circumstance in which Rose died was mysterious, so Darma and Rose’s twin sister Seri (Intan Ladyana) decided to do some CSI to find out what the fuck happened. Again, Seri perplexed me. Woman, your TWIN SISTER just fucking died, omg show some STRONGER emotion already!!!!! At least Darma cried later a bit, but Seri… omg takde perasaan ke?! Death?? Never coming back?!?!?!?!

But that was the extent of my grip. Mostly kayu acting by the main protagonists, but the rest of the cast were good, if not brilliant.

Moving on… Darma and Seri found a voice message by a terrified Rose, that she thought ‘something’ was bothering her. Soon Darma realised that whatever was bothering Rose was bothering him as well. Weird noises in the middle of the night, something knocking furiously at the door and stopped when Darma reached for the door knob, the typical shock shock horror horror suspense suspense stuff associated with ghost movies.

Jangan Pandang Belakang - scene from movie

So Darma made a trip back to his hometown to seek help to rid the ‘gangguan’. Along the way, some stuff happened, pretty good even with my eyes closed…

Okay, lazy to write more. So overall of Jangan Pandang Belakang:

The Good: Khatijah Tan, the nenek (opah), nice lighting, shock horror setaraf dengan adegan-adegan yang menyeramkan yang terdapat dalam filem-filem seram Jepun dan Korea…

The OK:: The script and storyline. Sometimes they make sense (good), sometimes they don’t (bad).

The Bad:: Pierre Andre and Intan Ladyana’s acting, or rather the lack of it. Maybe Pierre Andre has found his other calling — he co-wrote the story with some other fella.

Jangan Pandang Belakang - hantu, arghhhh!

Jangan Pandang Belakang is showing in nationwide cinemas now. If you have seen the movie, did you disagree with my thoughts, or you have other opinions? Share lah.

chermin: mixed feelings

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to watch the movie CHERMIN with fellow bloggers :- TV Smith, PinkPau, Sultan Muzaffar, Faisal Mustaffa and Valarie at KLCC.

To be honest, it wasn’t a movie I would have gone to watch on my own. The trailer was less than impressive, and being a die-hard horror film buff (even though I’m darn scared of them) I’d seen more than enough mirror-related Asian horrors.

Chermin - Dual Universe
Have you ever wondered who is looking back at you in the mirror?

‘Cos I am lazy to summarise the movie, here’s the official synopsis:

Chermin is a horror/suspense thriller about a woman who is haunted by a vengeful spirit trapped in an antique mirror. The plot centers on Nasrin (Natasha Hudson), whose face has been disfigured from a ‘mysterious’ car accident. When her mother Kak Siti (Khatijah Tan) discovers an antique mirror hidden amongst old family heirlooms, Nasrin finds herself strangely drawn to it. Nasrin’s fascination with the mirror turns into obsession and she starts taking on the persona of the mirror spirit, Mastura (Deanna Yusoff). On her quest to regain her past beauty, Nasrin submits herself to the mirror spirit by satisfying the mirror’s need for blood and revenge. Will she able to sacrifice love for vanity? Is she able to look inside herself and see the beauty within? Or is what is reflected in her heart a shadow of the mirror?

Chermin - Gossiping villagers
Dayum, I hate gossiping villagers too…

The good: The haunting score was awesome, and definitely brought the movie to another level. Sort of like a Red Violin vibe. Award-winning composer Adelina Wong delivered; and hers is a name I will look out for in future. Sound effect/production was also excellent, and I am glad that CHERMIN had the expertise of Addaudio in this area. From the batch of local movies I’ve been watching, I noticed that the ones where they had a hand in was always good when it comes to sound. It may seem a trivial matter to some, but BELIEVE me it is most important in the delivery of the movie. I am sure that most of you have watched movies where the lips don’t sync with the words. That sucks.

The director also use lots of colours in her movie: the combination of that with lighting effects is something I find visually pleasing and different. Reminded me of Hero. I loved the wardrobe, especially those worn by Deanna Yusoff — very traditional, so beautiful, rich in colours and quality (well you could tell if something is expensive). Visual effects were also above average, except for some surreal parts where it seems as if watercolour was dripping down from the edge of the screen.

The set/location was quite good and beautiful as well. The movie was shot in Janda Baik in Pahang; I don’t know exactly where it is, but I would assume it has lots of trees and small roads, perfect as a backdrop. I love the furniture used in the movie. I want some of that πŸ˜€ (not the mirror though, my own mirror scares me enough as it is).

The car accident scene was done very well. At first I had thought it was a CGI — but then I learnt that it was a real car being wrecked by a trained stuntman. Woah, that’s gotta hurt the pockets πŸ˜›

There are some scenes that I felt were really good, for example when the group of women were present for the doa selamat, and when Nasrin eavesdropped on the gossiping villagers.

Khatijah Tan is a top-rate actress. She should get a Suanie Award.

Chermin - movie stills
Movie stills from CHERMIN

The OK: The storyline is not something drastically different from what is already present in the movie horror scene. Honestly speaking, I feel that after Shutter, most other shock factors pale in comparison. Well maybe that shouldn’t be a comparison basis; after all Thai movies are so far ahead than ours. But we can always strive to jump the queue, right?

The exorcism ritual reminded me of the famous scene in The Exorcist when the girl was screaming and speaking in a manly voice. Except this one was blood-overload, kinda scary. And the eyes, omg. Give me a choice between a ghost with long hair and a ghost with scary eyes, and I would run to embrace the former. Well of course I would try to run away from both if I could help it…

I would put most of the acting in this OK category, with the exception of Khatijah Tan. Some are OK not bad, some are OK tolerable, some are OK get on with it.

Chermin - Waking up in horror
Shit, blood everywhere!!!

The Bad: What’s with the CGI lizard-like devil running around here and there? I felt that was unnecessary, and unintentionally brought comic relief to an otherwise ok horror movie. I couldn’t help but to be reminded of Constantine whenever the thing appeared on screen, and that is not so good because I think Constantine is a damn excellent movie. So after CHERMIN I went home and watched Constantine on DVD. Keanu Reeves can’t act to save his life, but I’d forgive him anyday if he would be the father of my children. Or maybe not, don’t really want my kids to turn out blank and stupid.

Well, I don’t really want kids, period, but that is besides the point.

There was one scene that stupefied me. Hypothetically, if you see your girlfriend appearing out of nowhere in your house in the middle of the night, wearing a nightgown drenched in blood with a zombie look on her face, you would scream and go WTF WTF WTF, right? I don’t know if it is overpowering love and affection that caused Yusuf to calmly express himself along the lines of, “Nazrin, are you ok? Nazrin? Nazrin? Nazrin??” but I doubt it.

Speaking of Yusuf, he was played by Farid Kamil. I was trying to remember why he looked so familiar and where the heck I’d seen him before. Now I remember. Protagonist in Remp-It!!! Sorry, couldn’t place him without the helmet, the bike and the bad lip-synching.

Chermin - coffee with director
Me, Sultan Muzaffar and Pinkpau with the director of CHERMIN, Zarina Abdullah

We had coffee with Zarina Abdullah, the director of CHERMIN before the movie. I learnt that it was her debut feature film, and I’d say that overall, CHERMIN was quite impressive for a first-time director. Congrats congrats, especially on CHERMIN being accepted at the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy.

Zarina admitted that she is a shy and soft-spoken person in nature. We learnt that she hails from Kuching, has a civil engineering degree and masters in IT from UK, and prior to CHERMIN had only directed shorts.

I asked her if there was any supernatural incidents on set and she said yes, there were some weird stuff happening. Not to her, but to her actresses and crew. Apparently something was even caught on screen; she didn’t realise it until the post-production guys pointed it out to her. I didn’t notice it, but it was a whitish presence in a car scene that was definitely not supposed to be there.

When asked why she chose to do a horror when the current market is saturated with similar movies, she said that when she did the movie, there weren’t much around, except for the Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam series. It was only recently that we have horrors such as Syaitan, Jangan Pandang Belakang etc so must be a coincidence.

Why spell it CHERMIN and not ‘cermin’? Because the story is based on an old mirror and Zarina wanted the old spelling to reflect its antiquity.

What’s her all-time favourite movies? The Exorcist (naturally), Shawshank Redemption, basically the classics. Zarina said she would have a hard time writing a love story, so maybe later.

TV Smith asked Sultan Muzaffar if he thinks the Yusof Haslam era was over, and the latter said yes. Thank the gods.

I liked Zarina; she was nice, friendly and pleasant. And like I said, CHERMIN was quite an impressive debut for a first-time director — she is only 27 years old to boot! Here’s looking forward to more Zarina Abdullah movies. Go Go GOoOOOOoo!!!!

mukhsin – orked’s first and memorable love

Trust me to delay this review well after its release date πŸ™ Sorry, thousand and one apologies, I had too much stuff on my hands, and I hope you grand and brilliant peps don’t strike me off your guest list… I am useful, I swear!!!

Mukhsin - font banner

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the preview for Yasmin Ahmad‘s latest offering, Mukhsin at Midvalley. It was a large hall and there were plenty of familiar faces (fellow bloggers lah). The seats allocated to bloggers were fully occupied. So I muka tembok a bit and sat in one of the seats allocated to the press. Bwahahahahaha!!! I made acquaintances with the two girls sitting beside me (who were real press peps), and found out that one of them is Pelf‘s sister! Such a small world… Then I spotted hot chick and beckoned her to sit beside me.

Mukhsin - Orked and Mukhsin
Mukhsin and Orked sitting in a tree… not (yet)

MUKHSIN is the story of first love, of second chances, of friendship and of relationships. Sounds very Yasmin Ahmad, eh? The protagonists are a 10-year old Orked (Sharifah Aryana) and a 12-year old Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip) from a nearby village who quickly become fast friends. Misunderstandings caused from jealousy soon ensue and threatens to jeopardise their friendship. Will their relationship last like the evergreen sawah sceneries, or will it falter like Alan Yun’s kayu acting? That, you will have to watch the movie to find out.

Mukhsin - Orked with mother dancing in the rain
Orked and Mak Inom dancing in the rain

So far it has been like Star Wars — the director made the final three movies and decades later, made the first three movies in the series. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wait that long, so let’s recap a bit here.

1. Mukhsin — a young Orked meets a boy named Mukhsin and they fell for each other in a way that only children can
2. Sepet — Orked in her late teens meets Jason, they fall in love and only Yasmin Ahmad knows if Jason died at the end of the movie
3. Gubra — Apparently Jason died, so Orked married Arif. He cheated on her so Orked sought comfort in Alan’s arms. Alan was Jason’s brother. But at the end of the movie, apparently Jason didn’t die. ARGHHH WHY YOU MAKE IT SO MYSTERIOUS AND CONFOUNDING!!!!!

Like that lah.

Mukhsin - Orked calling fellow playmate 'cretin'
Orked playing groom to her neighbour (brilliant lil’ actress) playing bride

In MUKHSIN, we see a younger Mak Inom (Sharifah Aleya) and Pak Atan (Irwan Iskandar), Orked’s parents who were already breaking social norms in their kampung. The girls in the family rush out to dance in the rain when daddy and friends play traditional music (‘Hujan’, an original composition by Yasmin Ahmad’s dad). Orked attends a Chinese school instead of a national school. She speaketh powderful England, and at one point exclaimed, “cretin”, a word that I myself only understood when I was 20 years old. She would rather read books and watch football matches than to play with her friends. Her family openly laugh at other villagers. That pretty much would ostracise you in many kampungs.

It also shaped Orked to be what she became in SEPET and GUBRA, so it was interesting to see.

Mukhsin - Orked and Mukhsin's bike
Kesian Orked seorang…

I was quite happy that MUKHSIN was not as self-indulgent as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong — I loved SEPET and GUBRA, but I also thought that there were too many ‘wank fest’ moments. Most of the time I was grinning to myself, lost in my own childhood memories that Yasmin Ahmad so brilliantly captured, even though we don’t know each other, let alone grew up together. Some sceneries were breath-taking, such as the ones at the open green paddy fields. The main actors and actresses were brilliant in their roles; I especially love Mohd Syafie Naswip as the bright-eyed MUKHSIN. It was almost unbelievable that he had never done this before. Apparently he fell in love off-screen also lah, so maybe that helped his performance πŸ˜‰

Adibah Noor as Kak Yam is always lovable and entertaining. Irwan Iskandar as Pak Atan was cute; though hard to imagine he would be Harith Iskandar later on… hahahah…

Some of the supporting actresses were awesome too, such as Orked’s next door neighbour and her pregnant mother, and Mukhsin’s auntie as pictured gossiping with Kak Yam below.

And anyone knows who is the YOUNGER JASON?!?!?! OMG SO KIUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

Mukhsin - Kak Yam gossiping
Kak Yam and Mukhsin’s aunt making ice-cream

Some parts I am not too happy about:

– Kak Inom’s wardrobe. For example, check out the photo above where she was dancing with Orked. To me she was wearing something quite modern, and I had thought that this would be a movie set in the 80s, if you were to keep up with the storylines of Sepet and Gubra lah. They didn’t have those kind of clothes in the 80s… not even in England where she had studied! Just something that kept coming back to my mind, not quite right lor. Sorry lah, it just bugs me like that.

– Bits and pieces where I felt the writer/director was trying too hard to prove her point. There was a scene where Kak Inom pretended to punish Orked, and when the uneasy tell-tale guests left, the whole family burst into laughter, not bothering to hide their amusement from their guests. Cute idea, but I felt the implementation was a bit too forced and corny.

– The whole thing with the actor/actress who played Orked and Jason in SEPET. Someone said it was sweet to bring back the two, but I felt that their presence was unnecessary. Again, like trying too hard, too forced like that. May have not been her intention, perhaps she just felt like it, but to me it was like the whole bit tak ngam. Story flow and attention broken. Just not right lah.

I’m sure there are others, but not significant enough for me to list down here.

Mukhsin - Mukhsin and Orked

There were also many parts that I liked, some of them involving subtle digs at Yasmin Ahmad’s critics. Who can forget the infamous ‘pencemar budaya’ phrase? Well now it’s immortalised in Mukhsin, so… πŸ˜€

The manner of which Mukhsin falls in love with Orked — that was quite something too. Not once did Mukhsin tell Orked of his love, but his actions and the feelings he brought forth were so powerful and touching that words would just be a hindrance.

Overall, I liked what Yasmin Ahmad has done with MUKHSIN, more than Sepet and Gubra. The good storyline and script coupled with the actors/actresses’ stellar performances made the movie very sincere to the point of nakedness — where everything that could be offered has been offered and there is nothing more to give. Yasmin put so much heart in her movies that they touch the hearts of the audience, sometimes more than she could know. I’m glad that she won accolades at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival. Thousand of miles better than any reptile wannabe πŸ˜›

(Hahah, I am so not getting an invite to watch Cicak-man 2 :P)

MUKHSIN was written and directed by Yasmin Ahmad, and produced by Grand Brilliance. You should watch it like, now!

(It opens in Singapore two weeks after its release in Malaysia. It opened in Malaysia on the 8th of March. You go do the counting.)

Mukhsin - Suanie with Adibah Noor
Camwhoring with my favourite local actress, Adibah Noor!

More MUKHSIN reviews:
Sultan Muzaffar, Budiey, KlubbKidd, The Drowmage, Ted’s Thoughts.

You can watch the trailer for MUKHSIN below, then remember to watch the entire movie in the cinema, yeah πŸ˜‰

p/s: Tengku Iesta is quite hot πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜›

movie review – mukhsin

If I tak sempat write the full review before the movie comes out (8th March, this Thursday), please go watch it. It’s teh great.

UPDATE 12 MARCH:

Full, proper Mukhsin review here.

the pursuit of happyness and others who can’t spell

First thing I thought when I saw this title at IMDB.com was that some people can’t spell and now they are making a profit out of their inability to do so. Reminds me of the chick from Destiny’s Child who came out with a song named ‘Stole’, with the erroneous chorus line of ‘Life was stole…’ HERRO ENGLISH GRAMMAR 101?!?!??! And this coming from a person who readily admits that she has a serious grammar problem?!?

(no jokes about the problem being me anal, thanks…)

Then I watched the movie last night and realised the reason for the misspell. Okay, all is forgiven. But I still can’t get over the ‘life was stole’ shit. Makes me curl inside every time I think about it.

The Pursuit of Happyness Will Smith. His son, real life and on-screen. Damn sad. A little inspiring. Very Hollywood. The end.

The problem with movies ‘inspired by a true story’ is that after a movie, you go home and wiki the guy whose life story the movie was based upon. Then you get massively disillusioned because Hollywood being Hollywood, exaggerate and romanticise anything and everything that walks on earth. Even dinosaurs and King Kongs were portrayed with a soft and romantic side, so you know something is seriously wrong there. The lesson to be learnt is that you cannot at all times put 101% of your emotions on the characters, because Will Smith don’t get paid millions and millions of American dollars just for being tall and black.

But I know the feeling of being broke. Well, not the extent of homelessness, but the frustrating agony and the battle within yourself to loan someone $5 and wanting $14 back asap because your bank account runs in the deficit… (p/s: being broke and being poor are two different things).

So I was quite touched by the movie lor. I’d heard good stuff about it, tales of how some peps were reduced to tears in the cinema, that it is so good and so real and so on…. ok lor whatever rocks your boat. Great acting though, and overall a good movie. But something is amiss and I can’t pin-point it. I guess you are going to have to watch the movie to judge for yourself lor.

Links:
The Pursuit of Happyness at IMDB.com
Chris Gardner at Wikipedia.org

p/s: Thanks to hot babe for the tix πŸ˜‰

death note 2: so awesome, i nearly wet myself!

Death Note: The Last Name I have never been that that interested in cartoons, anime, manga and the likes — the only two Japanese cartoons I read regularly were Doraemon and Slam Dunk. So when KY ajak-ed me to watch Death Note 2 (thanks lovely Reta for the tix), I said yes because it was free. Again let me remind everyone that I am a slut for freebies. Got freebie, remember Suanie.

Kelvin said it would best that I watch Death Note 1 before watching #2, and he kindly lent me his DVD. Unfortunately I did not have the time to watch it over the weekend, so 20 minutes before #2 Kerol filled me in with details of what who how why of #1.

A plot summary blatantly c&p-ed from IMDB.com:

Light Yagami finds the “Death Note,” a notebook with the power to kill, and decides to create a Utopia by killing the world’s criminals, and soon the world’s greatest detective, “L,” is hired to find the perpetrator. An all out battle between the greatest minds on earth begins, the winner controlling the world.

The tag line for Death Note is “The person whose name is written here shall die”. Not only the grammar is incorrect (cewah, as if I am the grammar queen), it is also one of the worst tag lines ever, because it makes you think of cheesy sucky awful Japanese horror movies. And Death Note is so NOT a horror movie, but a brilliant psychological twist-ful drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat (especially if you are like me, who didn’t really know the story beforehand).

The main actors were very good, and because I am biased, I am going to say that Ken’ichi Matsuyama was the best of the lot πŸ˜›

Death-Note---L
Ken’ichi Matsuyama is so hot and young that I feel like a paedo just looking at him

Well I won’t spoil the rest for ya. Death Note: The Last Name opens in cinemas today, you all should go watch it!! Take note that it’s a 2 hour 20 mins long movie, remember to pee before you enter the cinema hall and try not to drink too much Coke ya.

p/s: check out who else is in the movie!!!!!

Takeshi Kaga

AWESOME BALLZ!!!!!!!!!

Others blogged about it too: KY, Kelvin, Kim

how to turn an awful japanese horror movie into a brilliant comedy (2)

Continuing from my previous guide on how to turn an awful japanese horror movie into a brilliant comedy

Let’s face it — horror movies don’t make much sense. Personally I adore watching horror movies especially with my eyes closed, but as time goes by it seems that the producers/writers/directors don’t make much of an effort anymore. The perception, and rightly so is that Japanese/Korean ghost movies = instant hit. The last two good horror movies I watched were Ju-On (the original Japanese version) and Shutter, the awesome Thai movie. Coming in at third was The Eye. As for the rest, even though I enjoy scaring the crap out of myself, I wish that the people behind the movie would make the extra effort to make me wet my pants. Like Ju-On The Ring, where the girl climbed out of the tv screen and the well. That freaked me out for weeks.

Enough with the thesis. Where was I?

Oh yeah, The Plot. It’s shit. So let’s move on with three things often found in J-horror (or any kinds of pop horror movies) because recycling ideas is the new Britney Spears’ crotch.

1. Cause of Horror
2. Pointless Bits
3. Is This Stupidity?

1. Cause of Horror
Cliché of all cliché — there is a cause for everything, and this is painfully true in every awful Japanese horror movies. Even if the cause is not explained (maybe because they expect you to play the popular video game prior to watching the movie), there is a reason why this and why that. Why do parents dress their daughter’s corpse in red? Why the residents of an apartment block should not go out after 12? Why kok-staring villagers turn to killing machines when the siren is heard?

Sometimes the fallible reason could be as easy as this:

immortality

It doesn’t really explain why that turns them into zombies, but there you go.

2. Pointless Bits
Actually this is not limited to J-horror; in fact too many movies have pointless bits in them. Try as you might to seek answers (logical or otherwise) you just can’t solve the mystery of why the director choose to have those scenes in the movie. They are not explained, they don’t give the plot any credit, they just exist to draw your attention from whatever is happening, and sometimes they are in the form of semordnilap!

semordnilap

I don’t understand either.

3. Is This Stupidity?

dialogue

‘Nuff said.

Forbidden Siren opens in Malaysia cinemas tomorrow. Go watch, if you are so inclined πŸ˜‰

p/s: exercising my right to mock J-horror does not mean I will stop watching them πŸ˜›

More: ShaolinTiger