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

how to turn an awful japanese horror movie into a brilliant comedy (1)

The most important thing when making a B-grade J-horror is to plan a movie loosely based on a popular video game. The looser, the loser, the better. Make the plot as unoriginal as you can, and with the investors’ approval because J-horror always sells, wield your imagination! Go wild, no holds barred.

But in any J-horror we always have the same characters, maybe different roles but since they all look the same to me, allow me to introduce the key characters:

The Father. He is the one who makes all the decisions in the household, including migrating his family to an isolated island where the people behave weirdly and stare kok at you at all time. Still he finds nothing wrong with it even though modern culture denotes that it is a recipe for impending disaster.

father

The Daughter. She is the one who actually takes care of the household because for some reason or the other, Japanese mothers have low high mortality rate. She has eyes straight out of Final Fantasy, she is usually of average height and slim build, and she is the one who just HAS to check out the source of weird creaks and screeches originating from various dark corners of a house/jungle. Almost needless to say, she is the heroine of the movie. Well, as heroine as a J-horror could produce.

daughter

The Mysterious Son. He who never speaks, stands like a timber, always manages to disappear even after being explicitly told to ‘don’t go too far away’, gazes and points his finger into empty space, basically the child you wish you never had. Why? Because if you have a child like that, be prepared to encounter a vengeful spirit at some point of your life. Why? Because J-horror says so.

son

So this is how your plot works:

plot

So easy like grazing grass in a field of cows.

Next: The Mystery Unsolved.

cicak-man — funny and lame, all at once

We had to watch Cicak-man, we just had to. So we did.

I’m not going to elaborate on what/how/when etc of it, will just quote some news piece that I read from somewhere and comment on it. Probably from The Star? I dunno.

Cicakman- Metrofulus

Lead actor Saiful Apek said the movie, which would be released during Hari Raya, had the potential to penetrate the Western market.

Not going to happen, sorry.

“This movie is so full of high-quality special effects that even Putrajaya, where the film was shot, looks different on screen,” he said.

I really want to remain patriotic and proud that this is the first Malaysian CG film etc etc etc, but then I remember that we *are* talking about heavy CG usage here….

Saiful said Cicak Man proves that Malaysia had creative talents to take the filming industry far.

Yes,definitely. But honestly I would rather see the money go to improving actors’ performances (not picking on Saiful Apek alone), and great on-location audio capture. I absolutely DETEST watching the words and lips not in sync. And it makes me absolutely UPSET because I KNOW it could have been SO MUCH BETTER.

When you record the audio in a studio, it’s damn different la. You’d feel compelled to add sounds that seem too out of place, tak secocok with the acting. I HATE the extra sounds the actors make. The extra hmms, tskk, hmmmm, tsk… quite killed my enjoyment.

In SEPET, the mobster’s sister’s acting was a bit kayu. But even in her kayu-ness, I liked her a lot better than Fasha Sanda, because her voice was recorded real-time. I don’t know whatever technical terms you want to call it, but to me it makes a HUGE ASS difference.

I don’t understand why Malaysian producers cannot invest more money in sound production. It’s only like one of the most important things in a good movie.

“Cicak Man is one of my greatest achievements in my 12-year acting career. It is high time we catch up with Hollywood, Bollywood and Hong Kong,” he said, adding that he had acted in 38 films.

Cool. I like Saiful Apek because he was funny in Senario, and I felt that he was better there.

Honestly, as an avid movier-goer, Cicak-man cannot fight HKG or Bollywood movies. Standards are like one heaven one earth. Cannot fight lah πŸ™‚ Maybe set lower, more realistic goals first, such as… I don’t know, a more fulfilling storyline?

Maybe Yusry should hire me as special consultant for Cicak-man 2 πŸ˜‰

Cicakman - Saiful Apek Cicakman - Fasha Sanda Cicakman - Yusry KRU
Cicakman - Aznil Nawawi Cicakman - Ginger-Boys

Not to say there weren’t good things. Some parts were absolutely hilarious and I LOL-ed in the cinema. But many parts were quite lame, and could have been so much better! So much wasted time and talent.

Haiya since it’s not going to run for long now, plus it made all the money it could make when it first opened, Yusry and gang are laughing all the way to the bank now. So I’m not going to write anymore la.

Don’t want to waste my talent πŸ˜›

movie: love conquers all

Sometime back Ms. Shermaine of Da Huang Pictures e-mailed and invited me to the preview screening of Love Conquers All, the debut feature film of Tan Chui Mui, who at 28 years old is the youngest female director in Malaysia.

Unfortunately the preview screening was on a working afternoon, and I regretfully declined. The whole world was disappointed by my no-show (haha) but Ms. Shermaine told me that there would be another preview screening the following week at night. Of course I said I’d go. By the way to the production houses who want to pre-screen your movies AND invite meh, why not hold the preview screenings at night? I can’t even begin to describe the awesomeness of after-office hours.

I brought Swifty, and he being jobless at the moment already reviewed the movie here.

Love Conquers All - poster So… Love Conquers All… Here’s my understanding of the storyline:

Sometime in the 80s, AH PING (Coral Ong Li Whei) leaves Penang for Kuala Lumpur to help her aunt HONG JIE (Ho Chi Lai) at the latter’s stall selling economy rice. She is lonely in the city, she stares into emptiness a lot, she has a great friendship with Hong Jie’s daughter, her little cousin MEI (Leong Jiun Jiun). She also calls home to her mother and her boyfriend at a public telephone (yes, difficult concept to grasp but remember, this is set in the 80s). That is where she meets JOHN (Stephen Chua Jyh Shyan), who unrelentingly stalks and tries to befriend Ah Ping, and eventually succeeded through a great show of blind persistence.

Once during the course of the courtship, John described to Ah Ping his cousin’s bad-ass tactics to lure women into prostitution. During this part, John said in Mandarin, ‘ai ke yi gai bian yi ge ren‘. The English subtitle for this line was ‘love conquers all’. I guess the accurate translation of this line, ‘love can change a person’ does not sound as good and catchy as ‘love conquers all’. But observing the true meaning of this line that is the title of the movie helped me understand a lot (later on).

You would have thought that with John’s prophecy that pretty chicks are easier to be duped into prostitution, PLUS his descriptive series of actions that a pimp would take to ‘influence’ the pretty chicks to selling their bodies, WOULD flash serious warning signs to Ah Ping, right? I consoled myself that this was the 80s where the lack of information led to some women being stupid noble trying to save the ones you love. So yes, love does conquers all, it just doesn’t lead to the Cinderella story that we all so hope for.

Or maybe Ah Ping more than knew what was coming, but was resigned to it anyway. Can you blame her life choices? I don’t know, it’s up to you to decipher and decide, but I was pretty upset by it lah.

Since the development of Ah Ping and John’s story would not be enough to fill out 90 minutes, there is a mini story involving little lonely Mei and Hong Jie. Well it could have been only Mei’s story but I found the relationship between Hong Jie and Mei rather touching. There was a scene where Hong Jie watches her daughter do her homework, and the moment was quite powerful to me. It told me of Hong Jie’s hidden feelings — helplessness, frustrations, overwhelming love for Mei, all rolled into one, and it was only Hong Jie looking at Mei for a long time! Well, that left a strong impression.

That said, I felt that Hong Jie and Mei’s story and performances could easily upstage Ah Ping’s self-discovery and journey, and Ah Ping and John.

Love Conquers All - scenes

What I liked:

  • The simplicity of the story that does not disguise itself other than a very ordinary love story
  • Good acting from most of the main cast
  • Lovely, light moments that made me cackle out loud
  • Pretty accurate depiction of everyday life, for example the Indian lottery man who comes by your table when you are having your meal
  • It’s very Malaysian.

What I did not like:

  • Constant shaky camera movements that gave me quite a headache. I don’t see why a low budget arty movie cannot be NOT shaky
  • Too many scenery shots (and repeated too!) for the longest times. I grew up in a kampung, I know what coconut trees look like, but I guess all the kampung scenes are for the benefits of the Western audience/market
  • Open-to-interpretation movies, period. For the same reason, the ending of Yasmin Ahmad’s GUBRA was a bit wtf for me. Maybe the problem is me. Yeap, it’s me. I don’t like to do too much thinking πŸ˜›
  • Or MAYBE the reason is because I’ve watched too many of these kinds of interpretative films, both local and foreign, and that is why sometimes I fully appreciate no-brainer movies such as ‘Snakes On A Plane’.

What I did not understand:

  • Why was John’s greeting of ‘Assalamualaikum’ beeped out?

Maybe some people who know and understand more about indie movies can provide a better perspective. Oh wait, they did! Check out the Jury Statement of the New Current Awards in the 11th Pusan International Film Festival:

“This film is using a known cinematic language in a nice way telling the life of a village girl who is going to a big city to work and face the reality and the morality of our time.”

Nice. By the way, this movie won the FIPRESCI Award (Prize of the International Film Critics), and shares the New Currents Award (Best New Asian Filmmaker of the Year) with Chinese director Yang Heng’s ‘Betelnut’ at the 11th Pusan International Film Festival in Korea.

It was also featured in the recent Tokyo International Film Festival, competing in the ‘Winds of Asia’ Category. I don’t know if it won, doesn’t seem to be much info on that.

LOVE CONQUERS ALL was written and directed by Tan Chui Mui and produced by Amir Muhammad. It opens in GSC Midvalley, GSC 1Utama and GSC Gurney Plaza on the 21st December 2006 (this Thursday). Catch it if you want something different, catch it if you want to keep track of Tan Chui Mui’s directing career which can only get better in the future, and catch it because Leong Jiun Jiun who plays Mei can beat Jay Chou’s stoic acting in ‘Curse of the Golden Flower’ anytime.

The Red Kebaya – a sentimental, contemporary Malaysian story

The Red Kebaya - poster

During Ramadhan, we were invited to dinner with the cast and crew of The Red Kebaya. Along with that came an invitation to the premiere at MidValley, for which I took the day off from my day job to attend.

Before the movie started, Sandra Sodhy (TRK’s PR and publicist) said a few words, with a few lines reminding viewers to switch their mobile phones to silent mode. Well obviously Malaysians are going deaf. No matter how many times we are reminded to put our phones on silent mode, or NOT to answer phone calls during the movie, or NOT to constantly kick the back of the seat in front of you, we NEVER listen. And this was a preview screening, by invitation only, with the producers, directors, actors in the cinema hall. But some dumb fucks just cannot show respect by NOT giving road directions to his geographically-challenged friend in the middle of the movie. Twice. Very smart. If this were my movie, I’d fucking tie you up and feed you to the Sarlacci.

/rant over

The Red Kebaya - Samantha Schubert, Suanie and poster
With Samantha Schubert:

And so the story begins…

The Red Kebaya - Production stills, set

Latiff (RAMLI HASSAN). Photographer. City dweller, successful fella. Orphaned. Blocked memories from childhood. Went ahead to take photos of abandoned buildings around Malaysia as part of his next project. Saw visions of two kids, one of them who was also…

Latiff (MOHD. AFIF), a little boy whose mother was…

Azizah (VANIDAH IMRAN), a hot divorced/widowed joget girl who encountered and fell in love with…

John (BOB MERCER), an English expat who loved everything about Malaysia (the food, the people, the culture, the heat etc) and of course, loved Azizah. John was unfortunately married to…

Davinia (SAMANTHA SCHUBERT), who hated everything John loved about Malaysia, including Azizah. When she found out about the her husband’s feelings for Azizah, ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ pretty much described Davinia.

The Red Kebaya - Production stills, people

Other notable names in the movie are: Patrick Teoh, Zahim Al Bakri, Elaine Daly, Paula Malai Ali, Sabera Shaik, Jo Kukuthas and Fauziah Nawi (who had a very short but most memorable role, that is if you could recognise her in the movie πŸ˜‰ ).

Because everyone likes lists, here’s one:

  • The Red Kebaya producers are Andre Berly and Ramli Hassan, and the director is Oliver Knott
  • The Red Kebaya was shot entirely in Malaysia. They did the dolby-dolby stuff and show prints in Australia. Post-production stuff were completed at ADDAudio, a Malaysian studio
  • Bob Mercer had just 3 weeks to learn all his lines in Bahasa Malaysia
  • Principal photography took 35 days
  • Initially the owners of the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion were reluctant to have their premise used for filming. But after a series of meetings and much persuasion that lead them to better understand the concept of the movie, they finally allowed it
  • Oliver Knott did not know what a ‘kebaya’ was prior to the movie
  • The budget for TRK is RM 1.5 million. RM1.5 million can buy you 202702 packs of fags, 150000 large Big Mac meals, 3000 sets of 21″ TVs.
  • RM 1,500,000 is also around USD$ 410,778. You need to top up that amount by 486 times to be able to make Spiderman 2.
  • I am guessing this is a privately-funded movie, as deliverance was mostly in English. But I didn’t ask for sure.
  • The producers/director set this movie around the 50s/60s, no specific time line, so they tried to create a suitable environment — visual and sound to suit that era. Was still pretty funny to see a bouncer in a black jacket outside a joget club though. Some things never change.
  • The nice folks at Rising Above will be hosting a dinner charity night on Monday night at BSC… hey, that’s tonight! Plus they will also get lots of underprivileged kids to go watch TRK on Wednesday, courtesy of kind people who donate to them, so yeah it’s nice of them to do that.

The Red Kebaya - Cast and Crew

My thoughts on TRK

Great poster. Excellent score/soundtrack. Beautiful cinematography. Beautiful use of locations. Some sound glitches but I understood that to be the cinema’s technical problem. Some performances were overly theatrical, don’t translate well to movies. Storyline is different from other local movies so far, which is a good thing. A couple scenes in the movie tak masuk akal; either continuity problem or just too plain odd to comprehend. Costumes were beautiful.

The Red Kebaya - Vanidah Imran with Suanie
Suanie: You should have worn the red kebaya lah..
Vanidah: Kenot, too sexy, later you all nosebleed.

Vanidah Imran was damn hot. Samantha Schubert was rather good as someone you would love to hate. Bob Mercer’s character was a bit of useless lembik bugger, he did it rather well. Sometimes you just want to shout at him, BE A MAN! Patrick Teoh’s role was nice, one that you would not really appreciate until the end of the movie. Some scenes just broke my heart. Some scenes weren’t supposed to be funny, but the audience laughed anyway. Some parts a bit too corny, slow and long. Some parts scared the shit out of me. Well, I am easily freaked out what…

OVERALL, The Red Kebaya unashamedly tags itself as a love story, and it is really rather different from other Malaysian movies — the concept, the execution, the delivery and so on till the end of Kudat. I quite enjoyed myself, it was a day off well-spent, and I urge you movie-goers to go catch this movie and make up your own minds on it so we could have a discussion (before the cinemas take them off the screens much earlier, as they often do with local movies). It’s a struggle for me not wanting to reveal more of the plot as not to spoil it for those who will watch it, but so dying to talk about the content!

I posed a question during the press conference, something about why did they choose the ending they chose instead of another version, which I’d thought would be much better for closure. Oliver Knott (the director) and Ramli Hassan (co-producer and lead actor) replied that they went through several endings, but decided that the closure that I thought was good would be too predictable. Besides that angle had been played to death in other movies (literally). I guess it was a nice decision to end the movie in hope and gladness.

The Red Kebaya - Samantha Schubert with Suanie
Samantha: Are we done with the fake dialogue yet?
Suanie: Why? Do they suck so bad? πŸ™

So if you want to know what the heck I’m talking about, go watch The Red Kebaya when it opens in Malaysian cinemas (GSC) on 23 November 2006. Be sure to catch it early, for reasons I have stated above.

Kate James (film editor and post-production supervisor) helped me to ask Andre Berly (co-producer) for permission to upload a couple of song clips from the soundtrack onto my blog. He said yes (thanks Andre and Kate!) and here they are, two songs that I really love. Very P-Ramlee Malaysian.

Joget Selendang Sayang – 0.55 mins
Mengharap Sinar Kasih – 0.34 mins

Music by S. Atan, lyrics by Nurul Asyikin, vocals by Sheila Abdul and Arifin Tioh.

If you would check out TRK’s site, you’ll hear a nice piano tune in the background. I absolutely love the melancholy composition, and sometimes I just leave the window open so I could listen to the tune while doing other stuff.

So, The Red Kebaya23 November 2006… GSC… go watch!

Other reviews (aka people who make more sense than me): Reta (and awaiting!!!)

So after the preview screening/ press conference/ excellent lunch, I was chilling at Starbucks to get something from J, and some of the cast and crew of TRK walked in, including Ramli Hassan. Our eyes met and he exclaimed, “I think I know this person!” and he came over and we hugged. We talked a little, then J helped us to take this shot.

The Red Kebaya - Ramli Hassan with Suanie
Ramli: How much you wanna pay me for the photo?
Suanie: How much are you worth?
Ramli: For you, free lah, as long as you write about TRK!
Suanie: Wah, you so cheap!!!
Ramli: Yah I memang cheap what!
Suanie: It’s ok lah, I also cheap one.

Didn’t have to fake that one πŸ™‚

Other reviews: Sultan Muzaffar