Autobots … Roll Out

Not quite the 80s cartoon but Michael Bay does another great 4th of July movie.  By that, I mean unless you're an American the story ain't going to do anything for you.  So don't go watch it for that but please please please go catch it on the big screen because the animation and sounds design are too good to miss.  Anything less than a big screen would be a waste of time.

Erv enlightened me that there were more than 10,000 moving parts on Optimus Prime alone.  The CGI work was more than decent but what really brought the Autobots and Decepticons alive for me was the sound design.  You literally hear every piece of every being moving.  So it has to be a THX cinema or else don't bother.  Then again the action sequences were exciting too, made me feel like I was 10 all over again and pretending I'd have my own Autobot looking out for me too.

Whether it was how each bot transformed or how the Autobots tried to take the Decepticons out, I was pretty much focused on the screen.  The sleek animation was really quite a treat and I'd really like to get hold of the production storyboards just so I could 'read' each action sequence in detail.  Action aside there was classic drama, when Bumblebee was captured … could have been a scene out of a National Geographic documentary and the CGI made you feel the life of the bot as he struggled like an elephant caught by poachers. 

By the time the credits rolled, a familiar feeling started to grow in me … and I remember being 7, walking out of the cinema after watching ET … I couldn't wait to go back home and find a tube a Smarties to lure my own ET into my backyard.

So yes, I'm all inspired to buy my own car and I may make it a little yellow Camaro … and maybe it'll turn out to be my very own Autobot.

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Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End

They've truly made the whole theme ride for the big screen.  And what a ride it was too … with a full blown fantastical storyline and special effects to go with it, it was just like a ride at a theme park – FUN 🙂

So in a nutshell, if you haven't seen it on the big screen … don't bother, unless like Jules and I you are Johnny Depp fan.

As always he doesn't disappoint, funny, just tad silly and completely natural .. he is Jack Sparrow.  So did he die at the end of the sequel?  Since we know there wouldn't be a third without him, he was definitely alive, well and jumping around.  So yah, the storyline can be a tad unreal but it was fun.  Oh so fun 🙂


And Singapore gets a mention too.  Some are getting excited about the mention, thinking about the worldwide recognition it'll bring to our tiny island … … and all I'm thinking in my head is that the next time I try market Singapore to people who have no idea where we are, they're going to think Singapore has pirates, we live on houses standing on stilts and we row boats along the Singapore River. 

Anyway, back to the movie.  I have to say the first one was my favourite (just like The Matrix) where the special effects were used to create breathtaking impact and was pivotal to the storyline.  Part 3, like I said already was just one theme park ride – expensive to make, fun to be on and quite pointless.

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The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

It was 1999 when I read, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.  It's a simple true story about a man who had everything and woke up one day with the locked-in syndrome.  That basically means he couldn't move ANY part of his body except his eyelids … yes, all he could control was his eyes blinking.  With that, between him and his communication therapist, they developed a  system which is how he wrote the book … of course, with the help of an assistant who typed it all out.  I remember his sense of humour in the book, his very positive outlook despite having everything taken away from him in one swoop, who would have thought it was possible.

Thankfully the film maintained the essence of who he was.  I was curious how they were going to visually explore the very personal way he learnt to re-communicate.  So with POV angles and VOs, the audience is led into the a world where we can only imagine the fear and frustration.  And that was where the film was a little flawed for me. 

It seemed to gloss over what could possibly be the scariest moment of anyone's life.  And when he was learning to communicate with blinks, his frustrations were very reasonable … maybe that was what really happened.  Still, it felt a little unreal.

On the whole, it was one of those films that made you think a little about life.  It's all about perspective.  My dear friend, Cherry spent the afternoon at the zoo today.  She was volunteering to bring kids with Down Syndrome around.  Yeah, she has a sweet heart :)  And after that we were talking, it's so easy to be contented once everything is put in perspective. 

Which brings me to another story, the Dalai Lama was in Perth recently and my parents went to hear him speak; and the Dalai Lama had a simple advice … just four simple words – Contentment, Compassion, Love and Forgiveness.  It's not easy but with things put in perspective, we can always try.  So I'm working on being content and today I'm feeling pretty good about it 🙂

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Paranoid Park

The real perk of my job – getting to watch screenings that may not come to Singapore :P  I got to watch Gus Van Sant's latest Paranoid Park which is about a teenager trying to reconcile his emotions when he accidentally kills a security guard.

I quite enjoyed it and not only because I'm a Gus Van Sant fan.  I still remember being blown away by My Own Private Idaho and To Die For.  My least favourite has to be Good Will Hunting.

This film cast with unknowns who did a very decent job.  Or shall I say Gus Van Sant did well as a director because the actors on the red carpet seem to have the exact personalities they portrayed on screen 🙂

I guess the key is to pick the right people to play the characters you want on screen.  Kinda like what he did with Keanu in My Own Private Idaho.

I thought it was more accessible than Elephant but there were others I spoke to who thought otherwise.  The story told in a non linear manner could throw some people off but I like how Gus Van Sant dealt with the range of emotions by inter-cutting skateboarding scenes shot in Super8 with the non-skateboarding stuff shot on 35mm.  Anyone who faltered as a youth would be able to relate to them. Some moments you think you're going to keel over with guilt, at other times you think all you have to do is tell the truth and other times you actually distract yourself into forgetting about the whole thing … even if it is for just a while.

That was why I thought the the lead was pretty good and quite convincing.  Through his sometimes pensive and other times very carefree protrayal, you were led to believe that his struggle with killing someone albeit by accident, a very real one.  And one can never underestimate because he could be the next Keanu Reeves :P  Anywho, if he becomes a big star in the future, don't forgot who thought he was going to be one :)  After all if the very hot Keanu can be an A-list actor despite having no acting range, the possibilities for the rest of us seem quite hopeful yet, much less the latest lead of Gus Van Sant's 2007 film.

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Music & Lyrics and Letters from Iwo Jima

It's been a while since I did two movies in a day so after a dearth of movie watching, the movie gang decided Saturday will be the day :)  Actually, just Jules and I caught two movies … everyone else watched one or the either.

So we started the day of with Music & Lyrics, one of those romantic comedies that can't go wrong especially with Hugh Grant who was as charming as ever.  Drew Berrymore was sweet and cute as she often is but I'm realising she has a standard templates of looks she does for romantic comedies, complete with the cute puppy dog look while sucking on a straw … very successfully cute though.  If I was a guy, I'd fall for it.

The best bit about the movie was the beginnging where they did a fantastic 80s MTV.  Gosh, they had it all down – the dance steps, the cheesy edits and the acting … it was hilarious …For everyone who doesn't do romantic comedies, the movie is worth it just for the MTV.  Reminds me of the good old days in  the 80s, when weird poofy hairstyles and over big ala American footballers type shoulder pads were in.  I'm not looking forward to when it all comes back but it's always good to relive the memories every once in a while.

Then Erv joined us for lunch at some Ramen place in Cuppage Plaza, actually he was the one who recommended it … all in celebration of Jules' JLPT2!!!!!  Congrats Jules!!

After which we had some dessert and it was back to Cineleisure san Daph for Letters from Iwo Jima … hmmm … what can I say … in a nutshell, I'm glad it didn't win the Best Picture at the Oscar's.  It was very Clint Eastwood i.e. slow which only worked with Unforgiven.  So very overrated but if you don't watch it on the big screen, you're quite likely to fall asleep.

Every time I watch a war movie, the whole pointless nature of it all is more obvious than ever and I start to wonder if women ruled the world … would there be lesser wars, if any 😛

But I have a new Jap crush, nope not the guy from Arashi but Tsuyoshi Ihara

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the oscars

it's a sad day when a rip off wins big at the oscars … it's not an adaptation if you only change character names and location … and I'm not sure what directing was done if shot by shot was a little too similar to the original but hey, I'm not the one who votes so my opinion doesn't count … sigh and the only one I wanted to win from The Departed wasn't even nominated …

anyway, here's who would have won if I had any say:-

Best picture
Little Miss Sunshine

Best director
Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Babel

Best actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond

Best actress
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

Best supporting actress
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal

Best supporting actor
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best animated feature film

Best adapted screenplay
Children of Men 

Best original screenplay

Best original score

Best cinematography
Children of Men

Best costume design
Marie Antoinette

Best make-up
Pan's Labyrinth

Best sound mixing
Blood Diamond 

Sound editing
Blood Diamond

Best film editing
Blood Diamond

who would have been on your wish list?

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Tenkuu no Shiro Rapyuta aka Castle in the Sky Laputa

Some films are timeless and after 20 years, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is really one such film.  I haven't seen the Disney released version but I'm not quite sure about anime dubbed in English and I'm definitely not sure about the re-scoring :P  Don't mess with a perfect thing, I say … but anyway … I recently watched it again and … sigh … was completely enraptured by it all over again … yes, it's my fourth time watching it and it was still as good as the first time 🙂

What would you do if a girl floated out of the sky into your arms?  Pazu knew he was going to be her hero but little did he know she was the one who was going to save him.

Based off a fictional place in John Swift's, Gulliver's Travels that no one seems to talk much about, Laputa is a floating island in the sky.  Miyazaki shows why he can take a seemingly Western story and layer Asian sensibilities over it to appeal to a world of different perspectives.


So I recommend watching the original Studio Ghibli version, Japanese voices and English subtitles, curled in bed and pretend you're 9 all over again 😉

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Little Children

I love coming out of films that inspire me to dust off my scripts-in-progress and work on them again.

Jordan and I woke up early on the third day of Chinese New Year and headed for a 10:15am show … when was the last time you did that?  And no regrets, Little Children directed by Todd Field who also did well with In The Bedroom, is the kind of film that leaves you one of those lingering feeling when you watch real simple movies that don't distract you with unnecessary special effects or manipulate you with cliche dissolves and the swelling of strings.

Coming from a director who has pretty much done in all from acting, producing, composing, camera crew Todd Field doesn't disappoint with his latest.  Hopefully, we don't have to wait 5 years before he touches our cinematic lives again.  Despite the difficult themes and plots, Little Children is a lot easier to watch than In the Bedroom.

It focuses on the lives of 3 main characters who live in a regular all American suburb, except they aren't exactly all American themselves.  A stay home dad trying to to pass his bar exam for the third time.  A convicted sex offender moving back into his Mum's home.  A stay home Mum married to a wealthy bored husband, with a Masters in English Literature who can't remember why she wanted to look after her own kid.

Real people faced with real situations and over 130mins the audience is drawn into a world where they can live vicariously through the characters.  At the end of it, the simple stories reminds us that while it's so easy to take  things for granted, life could be a lot easier if we didn't.  Sigh … didn't we all know that already … … that's why we need a good film every now and then to remind us 🙂

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The Last King of Scotland

Alrighty, after Babel and Blood Diamond I told myself that the next one will be a warm and funny one but when Mich and Zack wanted to watch a movie last night … I voted for The Last King of Scotland.

Hmmm … ok, I understand why they gave Forest Whitaker the Golden Globe … he was pretty much solid as Idi Amin.  Come February 25, it'll be interesting to see the fight between the two American actors who played Africans.  I bet if I watched The Pursuit of Happyness, I'll be even more confused.


Oh well, back to The Last King of Scotland … the moment that worked for me was when one of the Ugandan characters in the movie said,"There is so much hatred in Uganda and I do not want to be part of it." It's really quite that simple, isn't it?

Idi Amin thought he was saving Uganda.  I don't know the man but as Zack mentioned, we know of a lot who is so much like him … we should be grateful they're not the ones running our home.  Do third world leaders actually start with the belief that they are working for the people and when they get there the power changes them?  And what can the average individual do?


I'm not sure either but hey, there's enough hatred in the world … I'll just do my bit not to be a part of it.  So next movie has to be warm and fuzzy … hmmm … Clerks II, might just do the trick  🙂

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Have you ever been so lonely that you desire even a stranger's touch or so very scared, all you wanted to do was run as far away as you can or remember being a child and doing the silliest thing without realising the serious consequences of it?

Babel tells a story of these three real situations with the realism only a movie can achieve. From the director of 21 Grams, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu again weaves emotive visuals and rhythm with the concept of that we're all connected.  Kinda my idea of karma, no one actually ever thinks what we throw out will actually come back in ways we never even begin to phantom.

It's a movie with so many layers that touches (or not) every individual differently.  For me, he seemed to say never believe what you hear or read in the media, especially the news.  Objective journalism?  A little of an oxymoron from where I'm standing. 

Since starting my career in media, I've definitely learnt that the truth is only what you want to see.

So tell me what you saw in Babel 🙂 i.e. watch it … after all, it could be this year's Oscar winning best picture.

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