Sunday, February 28, 2010

CONFUCIUS. Take an Old, Dark Tunnel. Let this LIGHT shimmer through.


I have always been a fervent follower of CHOWYUN FAT’s works, since his early days at TVB Hong Kong.

I still am.

You surely don’t get to see a lot of CHOW YUN FATthese days, not when he, at one point, turned his back on Asian filmland to focus on a career in Hollywood.

That was when Hong Kong was facing a dearth of talented directors and good scripts.

When ANDREW LAU and ALAN MAK came on the scene with their INFERNAL AFFAIR trilogy, rescue was at hand, and there was hope for a renewed Hong Kong cinema.

The world took stock of the ‘revival’.

As for Mr. CHOW YUN FAT, his sojourn in Beverly Hills was far from illustrious with a slew of mediocre films with exception of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.

and now he is back in Hong Kong/China occasionally, doing what he was doing best before, acting in ASIAN features.

Yet he is pretty selective about the type of roles he’d play.

We have always loved this thespian for his sleek albeit cool acting.

He is a veteran of veterans, so to speak.

It had been reported that he walked out on the set ofJOHN WOO’s RED CLIFF and TONY LEUNG later filled in his shoes, but we shall never know the real reasons.

CONFUCIUS the movie is the latest CHOW YUN FAT’s cinematic offering to kick off year 2010.

It’s a US 23 million dollar budget biopic film financed by the Chinese government, and stars CHOW as the iconic Philosopher, whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced life in ASIA and beyond.

Helmed by female director HU MEI, it’s also a film shrouded in mindless controversy even before it hits the big screen.

Principally, the authoritarian state had ordered that the 2D version of the Hollywood blockbuster AVATAR be taken off the 1,6oo screens all across CHINA, resulting in consumer rage, thereby inciting scathing reviews, and in the end, the dismal box office takings of CONFUCIUS speak volumes.

So AVATAR had posed as a threat to the CHINA CINEMA byseizing the market share from domestic films?

Maybe so, from a commercial standpoint CONFUCIUS the movie tanked.

But this movie has its far-reaching merits.

First, we are familiar with the teachings of CONFUCIUSwho lived from 551 BC to 479 BC. He is also known asKONG QUI.

He was a great educator and thinker whose philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity.

Who would not want a harmonious and humanistic society?

Go watch CONFUCIUS with an open mind and not be prejudiced by armchair critics.

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is art.

Few adverse criticisms do not an ocean make,

Be your own judge, as there are always, two sides to a coin.

I, for one, enjoyed this CONFUCIUS epic.

I have always researched CONFUCIUS‘ wise sayings, yet I know so little about the esteemed philosopher.

This biopic takes me on a journey of aesthetic and visualistic pleasures.

Sure, the battle scenes are glorious, but this is not what I was there for.

Sure, you need to have a basic grasp of the Mandarin language to fully enjoy the rich tapestry of diction and culture. Otherwise, the beauty of the language would be lost in translation if you rely only on the English subtitles.

Sure, ZHOU XUN adds an alluring presence despite the brief screen time.

Sure, the lush cinematography of award winning director-of-photography PETER PAO enthralls and extends dimension to the movie.

Sure, CHOW YUN FAT is always at his best, exuding a majestic presence to the character of CONFUCIUS.

As I walked out of the cinema, I had this vision:

Take this old, dark tunnel ….

Use your torchlight and let this light simmer through.

What do you see?

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Now, we have scored a homerun.

This MOVIE REVIEW is written for

Thursday, February 25, 2010

INVICTUS Movie Review. It's as GOOD as YOU can GET.


INVICTUS gets off to a good start with a potpourri of distinguished talents.

Stir slowly …..

There’s the charismatic veteran MORGAN FREEMAN.

Running alongside, there’s thespian MATT DAMON.

With CLINT EASTWOOD helming the production, it’s a stellar ensemble ….

It’s as good as you can get.

Now, stir briskly ….

INVICTUS has scored the following nominations and wins, so far:

MORGAN FREEMAN (Academy Awards Best Actor nominee)

MATT DAMON (Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor nominee).

Plus the wins:

National Board of Review (NBR) Freedom of Expression Award 2009.

NBR Award for Best Director CLINT EASTWOOD

NBR Award for Best Actor MORGAN FREEMAN.

and more!

Now, Stir Well …..

Here’s the STORYLINE in a nutshell:

INVICTUS the movie is largely a biopic of NELSON MANDELA, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

He was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.

Way before his presidency, he was an anti-apartheid activist, fighting against racial discrimination, irrespective of white or black domination.

MANDELA served 27 years in prison till 1990, spending many of these years on Robben Island.

After his release, he helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa.

He once stated:

“Resentment is like drinking poison, then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Admittedly, our lives improve only when we are prepared to take chances, yet the first and most difficult is to be honest with ourselves.

Can we be that stoic?

Can we be like MANDELA?

So, instead of drowning in bitterness, we need to forgive the ones who hurt us and move on.

MANDELA cherished honesty and compassion,

He embraced forgiveness and humility,

and the ideal of a democratic and free society where all persons can live together in harmony and equal opportunities.


His works have always stemmed from an understanding of races, a feel for words and a detailed eye that follows and grows character.

INVICTUS is a beautifully crafted film, a celebration of, as well as a lament for South Africa’s past, charge with emotional and subjective power.

MANDELA persuaded FRANCOIS PIENAAR played by MATT DAMON, the Captain of the South Africa’s rugby team to help unite their country, in a belief that the universal language of sports can overcome any political odds.

MORGAN FREEMAN steps into the shoes of MANDELA and lives the role.

He stands tall in his portrayal of the former South African President, striking an imposing figure of firmness, yet with eyes that sparkle with a deep sense of genteelness,

It is a compelling and thoughtful movie that’s imaginative and deeply affecting, even long after you’ve left the theater.

Final Stir …..

Will MORGAN FREEMAN eventually walk away with the Academy Awards 2010 for BEST ACTOR?

Make a good guess!

This MOVIE REVIEW is written for


Friday, February 19, 2010

THE BOOK OF ELI Movie Review. 'Tis a SACRED BOOK that can save MANKIND.



It's really one stark word.

To those who wouldn’t want to know, it’s a prophetic revelation on the imminent destruction of our World … Doomsday.

We are all world weary and who wouldn’t be with constant reminders that the end of the world is coming …

Holy smoke!

What with giant quakes, death destructive tsunamis, mindless terrorisms, the brutalities that pit man against man and our own ravaging of the earth’s crust in recent years ….

the demise of this world may be sooner than we think!

Don’t think so? Then THE BOOK OF ELI tells us otherwise -

The Movie is post-apocalyptic in treatment actually.

Paradoxically – in the beginning, we’ve arrived at the end of the world.

CAMERA pans across this chilling, horrific wasteland of vast emptiness, broken highways, rotting corpses and desolate cities that are left from indelible marks of a massive catastrophic destruction.

Quite an ugly scene of despair and desolation.

So we take this as the aftermath of a nuclear war?

You watch this solitary man with a glazed look played by the brooding DENZEL WASHINGTON as he trudges for 30 years across the hinterland that was once America.

He’s one of the lucky survivors …..

He has, in his grip, this titular sacred book that holds the key to saving humanity.

The advertising tagline proudly says:

” Some will kill to have it,

He will kill to protect it.”

DENZEL WASHINGTON takes on the role of the savior.

He’s a warrior, not by choice, but out of necessity.

Yeah, hell hath no fury when he is challenged.

He’s guided by a “higher power” and given the task of protecting this book and taking it to its final destination.

It’s a book written in Braille (spoiler here) which our hero has memorized the entire content, from over 30 years of re-reading it.

Now throw in the perpetual baddie played by GARY OLDMAN as the self-appointed despot of a makeshift town of thieves and gunmen.

OLDMAN is a sadistic, power hungry rogue who is searching for the ultimate bible so that he can possess the knowledge no one is aware of.

He also has a foster daughter (MILA KUNIS) who takes an immediate fancy to DENZEL to fuel complications.

THE BOOK OF ELI has soul searching religious undertones, but it tries to stay clear of being a religious movie.

The overall mood is grim, dark, dismal.

It’s aimed as a sci-fi thriller, directed by the HUGHES BROTHERS.

Shooting in high definition digital (with the Red camera), the film has little to offer that’s new in terms of substance and plot.

We have been offered an onslaught of doomsday flicks in recent years

and it is always this little babe or that little kid that the screen hero has to protect, as it holds the secret to saving mankind.

THE BOOK OF ELI is no different, except A-listers DENZEL WASHINGTON and GARY OLDMAN are lured to add credence to this stylish movie.

It’s a tough plot made enjoyable by reasonably good acting.

DENZEL is a skilled archer and smooth shooter in the movie and in various key scenes, he shows how he alone can gun down armed assailants a la Hong Kong triad movie style. Kudos.

Yet in the final ending, when the camera zooms in on his face, we find that he is actually blind (another spoiler), presumably from the super intense bright flash of a nuclear explosion.


If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, then this one’s for you.

And if you can stay out from being too biblical or being too much of an altheist, then here’s one film that should not be missed.

It’s pure entertainment!

This MOVIE REVIEW is written for


Wednesday, February 10, 2010




You will be more than pleasantly amazed.

We are treated to a heartwarming tale of male bonding and female camaraderie,

the trials and tribulations of 3 girls falling in love with the same guy, and yet remain as close chums,

plus a 30-year roller coaster ride of memorable events taking you through the economic and political storms of the 60s where SINGAPORE was going through a period of radical changes.

For the better.

If you are a baby boomer, it's a definite stroll down memory lane laces with memories of this thing called national service that was imposed on the guys way back then,

You also learn that SINGAPORE started printing its own currency in the 60s, the horrific oil crisis that hit the doldrums in the 70s, the horror when the stock market crashed in the 70s and more ......

The story centers on 3 young guys and 3 nubile gals and their different families residing in NORTH BRIDGE ROAD which over the years,had lost the "old feel" of the 60s due to modernization .....

so the principal cast and crew all left by coaches across the Singapore-Johor Causeway for location shooting in MALACCA and IPOH to authenticate that "old world charm".

And did this move measure up?

YES, special mention must be accorded to the excellent work put in by the LOCATION MANAGERS, WARDROBE PEOPLE,HAIR and MAKE-UP STYLISTS who were responsible for creating the retro "feel" of the 60s. They did a meticulous job to bring us the old forgotten shop houses and streets, the go-go attire with bell bottoms, the beehive hairdos for the ladies and the Brylcreem slicked hairstyles for the guys.

So there!

It's a job well done.

Notwithstanding the superb cast that lends credence to the entire story.

Here's what I feel, from the other side of the fence as a fellow writer/producer, far away from SINGAPORE:

KUDOS to the CASTING PEOPLE for assembling a personable cast where each and everyone did his or her best to weave heart-wrenching scenes that evoke indelible memories of a long gone era.

Let me pay tribute to some of the cast who had put in painstaking performances:

ELVIN NG, who, in his previous roles had been dubiously criticized for stiff acting has made a 360 degree roundabout turn and delivers a BEST ACTOR performance as a bumbling nitwit with a strong sense of friendship who would do anything for the girl he loves.

And love he did ..... not only buffing himself in the acting department, but the fight sequences as well.

Watch ELVIN NG as he takes us to the boxing ring where he delivers death-defying kicks and blows a la ONG BAK style that would have made TONY JAA sit up and take notice.

I cannot recall any actor in the Singapore MediaCorp stable who can display his prowess as a perilous fighter. Here's one action star in the making.

Well done, ELVIN!

On the female side, there is this lovely young beautiful thing called EELYN KOK, whom we'd love to hate as she is the pivotal focus in the story that shapes the lives of her friends around her.

But hate we cannot as she delivers a flawless performance as a spoilt, simple-minded damsel with her bimbo head in the clouds who "dares" to love and hate the person she adores.

Why wasn't one of the 7 princesses anyway?

She has definitely come a long way, holding her fort now as leading actress status and is a lot better than some of them, go guess who!

JEANETTE AW has always been good and may garner an award, but she's pretty much the same selfless maiden that she was, in THE LITTLE NONYA.

Watch another rising star ZHANG ZHEN HUAN who played JEANETTE's younger brother, a timid mouse who's forever afraid, an introvert who loves quietly and is a sad victim of circumstances.

He provides squealish relief when he cross-dresses as an "ah qua" (transvestite) to help pay off his father's gambling debts.

Veteran actor WANG YUQING puts in a memorable performance as the wimpish father, the street performer who peddles medicine for a living, who whiles his time gambling away his life, who suddenly has this glimmer of pride for his dimwit son to marry into a wealthy family, only to have all hopes dashed when his son and his in-laws shun him. He dies, sadly, admonishing us what filial piety should all be about.

And HONG HUI FANG as the demeaning, bitchy landlady .... Nothing escapes her, and this is what we call real acting.

There's also ZHENG GER PING, who have us in stitches when he adorns an effeminate Elvis Presely persona to play this comely role.

Old wine mellows with age, hah.

One significant flaw though.

Is it funny at all to have EELYN KOK in one stinking scene taking a dump and uses newspaper to wipe her butt?

Or having DAI YANG TIAN and ELVIN NG spicing their dialogue using words splattering with SHIT and FART?

We are not prudish, but there're more savory ways to inject humor.

Too much is an overkill.

Other than those, "TOGETHER" is a drama series that has a rare fascination and power, thanks to the content development writers at the station.

It is designed to startle and entertain.

And that for sure, IT DOES!

Now hear the THEME SONG and watch THE TRAILER of "TOGETHER".