Sunday, December 20, 2009

In Bruges [2008]

Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes
Drama/Black Comedy
Rating: Adult (bloody violence, drug use)
Comment: "Easily one of the most underrated movies of recent times..."

Ever heard of In Bruges? Or even Bruges for that matter? Me neither. Apparently it's some kind of a backwater place in Belgium. In fact, this became like a running joke throughout the movie, although this type of humour is only the nip of the tip of the iceberg.

The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hitmen who were sent to Bruges after a job went horribly wrong. The peaceful and quiet town became like a refuge for both hitmen who began to contemplate and ponder upon the meaning of life... and death.

Placing this movie in any particular genre was rather difficult, for it can be summarised as a drama that is dark in tone, although it was lightened up here and there by some dark comedy. It sounds rather peculiar, but that's the beauty of it - it actually works. A rather dark story being placed in a rather bright setting, it's pure brilliance.

Part of it's charm probably came from it's lack of prominence amongst feature films. Although there are no Hollywood A-list actors aside from Colin Farrell, this film stars some of the most charismatic actors today. There's Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes, arguably best known to casual movie-goers for their roles in the Harry Potter franchise, and also Colin Farrell known for starring in several Hollywood action flicks.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Story
- Casting

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 20 = 80 points

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Inglourious Basterds [2009]

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent
Action/War drama
Rating: Adult (language, graphic violence, brief sexuality)
Comment: "Unmistakably Tarantino, although not a masterpiece it sought to be..."

Any movie with Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino attached to it, you know you're in for a testosterone-fuelled thrill ride. While this movie deserves credit and entertaining in it's own right, it also suffers from overexposure and perhaps also over-hyped to the extent audiences might feel cheated upon leaving the cinema.

The movie revolves around fictional events taking place in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. A group of Jewish-Americans, known as 'The Basterds" led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). Their mission? To brutally kill and scalp Nazis.

Needless to say this movie has no basis in reality whatsoever, and solely for entertainment. But while it may be greater in scale (and budget), Basterds struggled to even barely surpass Tarantino's other classics such as Reservoir Dogs [1992] and is not even remotely as entertaining as his best work to date, Pulp Fiction [1994]. Now you might say that it is unfair to compare one movie to another, and it's true. But for argument's sake, this movie was touted even by Tarantino himself to be his masterpiece. FPBM! for one, would like to disagree.

What this movie lack is really the "engagement factor". Now, it may look like a war epic, but it is not. You can find more shooting and explosions in a single episode of Band of Brothers than in this entire movie. But that is not really the issue. If you are familiar with the works of Tarantino, you cannot help but not only watch the movie, but become part of it as well. For some strange reason, you will be able to appreciate the aesthetics of the movie in true Tarantino fashion, but you will also feel excluded from the ongoings.

What can be surmised here is that, Tarantino possibly fell in love a bit too much with Basterds, and lost a little bit of his touch. Perhaps he sought to impress the audience more than he would like to impress himself.

Better luck next time, Tarantino. While Basterds is a great piece of work and enjoyable in it's own right, it is hardly a masterpiece.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Machismo
- Fast paced
- Cinematography

The Bad [-30]
- Unengaging

100 - 30 = 70 points

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Star Trek [2009]

Director: J. J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Pinto, Eric Bana
Rating: Teen (violence, horrific images)
Comment: "A sci-fi fan's wet dream..."

The Star Trek series had always been one of those love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing, so expect don't expect the reimagining of it to be any different. FPBM! however, is a proud geek-slash-nerd hence why this movie shall receive favourable reviews.

Thumbs up to the production team for considering that we are already in the year 2009, forty-three years since the debut of the TV-series this movie was based on. Some liberties and changes were made, possibly to free itself from any continuity constraints already established in the franchise. Basically it is the same thing albeit with characterisations of it's own.

The story can be dubbed as "The Rise of Captain James T. Kirk" because that is what it was basically about. So there is no need to familiarise yourself with the entire Star Trek lore, even if this is the first time you've heard of it. Sure, there might be some Easter eggs for long time fans (such as the Redshirt's gruesome death), but this movie did more to reintroduce than to revive - akin to what Batman Begins [2005] did for the Batman franchise.

Good news for those who like it, there are two more Star Trek movies coming.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Pure sci-fi
- Fast-paced
- Intriguing storyline

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 0 = 100 points

Sunday, September 20, 2009

District 9 [2009]

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Robert Hobbs
Rating: Teen (violence, pervasive language)
Comment: "Deep, disturbing and no doubt one of the most powerful and important sci-fi flicks in recent times..."

If it was not for the trailer, I might have opted to pass on this one. As big a sci-fi fan as I am, one would have to admit; sci-fi films have gotten too formulaic to be any good, particularly if it is about aliens from outer space. But the trailer definitely did what it was supposed to do. Namely to make people realise that this movie has a lot of potential, more than it meets the eye.

District 9 refers to an area that segregates humans and the aliens that got stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa - an obvious reference to it's apartheid history. In the story, the aliens, derogatorily referred to as "prawns" came to Earth about twenty years ago, specifically around the year 1989. But against all expectations, they did not come to Earth to invade or conquer. As mentioned previously they were stranded here. It was not until twenty years after when tension escalated to such a high level when the South African government decided it is time to relocate the alien population to a much farther encampment - away from humans.

From there, the story narrows down to the character Wikus van de Merwe, a representative of Multinational United (MNU) whom on his assignment to get the aliens out of District 9, suffered a mishap with a Prawn technology. Slowly, he is mutating into one of them. From there, he has to decide whether to trust his fellow humans to help him, or seek help from the aliens.

What makes a good sci-fi is when the mythology of it has it's footing in reality and stems from actual science. Along the way are the oft-repeated themes of how to use technology to our advantage instead of misusing them. District 9 has it all, albeit it takes the kind of emotions commonly associated with sci-fi to a higher level. For once, you will see a blatant example of how we are our own worst enemy. Worry not about those from the outer space or even the ones that lurk in hell, if you have not yet consider the sins of mankind. District 9 tells all these without getting too preachy, and it is without a doubt one that will become a landmark in sci-fi film history; worthy of mention alongside heavyweights such as the Alien series, Predator [1987] and Terminator II: Judgment Day [1992].

The movie was shot in a faux-documentary fashion, which might take bit of a getting used to in the beginning. It might even draw a chuckle or two. But the technicalities of the movie is actually part of what makes this movie so powerful and memorable. In a way, it increases the credibility of the movie, you will find yourself being able to take it seriously as opposed to a Michael Bay-like cinematography where everything and everyone is a prop. Combine that with obvious hints to actual world history, District 9 will remain the benchmark of sci-fi flicks to come.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Good story
- Original
- Meaningful
- Engaging cinematography

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 0 = 100 points

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Up [2009]

Director: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Cast: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
Rating: General
Comment: "Like chicken soup to the soul, warm and endearing..."

Very very rarely one can weep for a puppet. But that is exactly what Up is capable of, even though they are merely digital puppets, the feeling that they evoke is nothing short of authentic.

Up begins with a short animation which pretty much set the mood for the the entire movie. A sky full of clouds making all sorts of infants; ranging from humans to animals and even items at times. No dialogue takes place here between the clouds and the stork, but still the story is well-told.

Soon after, the feature presentation begins. Carl Fredricksen, a quiet but very imaginative boy befriends a tomboy, Ellie, whom would later become is life partner. Together, they share a dream of moving to Paradise Falls. However, they are not blessed with some of the best things in life , beginning with their inability to conceive a child and Carl eventually end up alone after Ellie dies. Soon after, Carl is reduced to be a disgruntled old man ignored by society. All that changes however, when he realises that he has nothing else to live for but a dream he once shared with Ellie. From there, he embarks on the biggest adventure of his life.

A strong appeal of the movie comes from the character Carl, despite the ill-tempered nature of the character, still he remains loveable. Combining that with the chemistry he has with a little boy he unintendedly befriends with, Russell makes for a memorable and no doubt one of the best animated features ever made.

All warmth and mushy-ness aside, the movie also deals with some of the most inspiring themes ever; it is never too late to pursue your dreams. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with bodily strength or even youth - all that you need is passion and the will to do it.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Good story
- Endearing
- Memorable

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 10 = 100 points

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Setem [2009]

Director: Khabir Bhatia
Cast: Afdlin Shauki, Rashidi Ishak, Vanidah Imran, Bront Palarae, Sathia, Que Haidar
Genre: Heist/Action/Comedy
Rating: General
Comment: "A must see. A breath of fresh air for the local movie scene..."

I have never had the privilege of Khabir Bhatia-directed flicks. For those who are unaware, this is the third motion picture directed by him. What is different this time is that, Setem is totally different from what he has done thus far. A brave attempt indeed, for the mainstream Malaysian movie scene is not generally known for making decent action movies. FPBM! has been watching action movies since the tender age of nine. So believe me, I know what I'm talking about.

Setem begins with the introduction of the subject matter, a stamp with a colourful history which will later become an obsession for everyone who comes into contact with it. For Joe and Sid, however, their obsession with the stamp is at a different level; they plan on stealing it. But they are not alone...

If you find yourself enjoying the movie past the first hundred minutes (which, in FPBM!'s opinion, is a tad too long, considering the nature of the film) you will probably find no fault with it. This movie has it all; action, tasteful humour & brilliant performances from the cast.

(This review was written in August 3rd, but was never completed)

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Original story
- Humourous
- Pure joy

The Bad [-10]
- A tad long

100 - 10 = 90 points

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gone, But Not Dead...

Although it is true that people leave this world everyday, the feeling of lost is not often felt. However, the same cannot be said about some fine individuals who had left us recently. Barely two months ago, the world of cinema was shocked by the death of the venerable Kung Fu star, David Carradine. A month after, the King of Pop exited the Stage of Life, and that caused a media frenzy. You may have heard of it.

More recently, on July 25th, another great name returned to meet her maker. FPBM! would like to take this opportunity to pay a little tribute to the very talented Yasmin Ahmad.

She first caught my attention with the romantic comedy, Sepet [2004]. Before then, I must confess, I would not even take a glance at a local movie. I did not realise until then that there are local movies not only watchable, but also enjoyable. She proved that there is no need for a million Ringgit budget or star-studded cast to make a great movie. All you need is a good story that people can relate to in one way or another. Almost single-handedly, she paved the way for me to explore other local productions aside from the polluted mainstream Malaysian cinema.

And then my interest to her body of work increased dramatically when I found out that she was the creative mind behind the countless of television commercials, often dubbed as "Petronas Commercials". These commercials and ads became a documentation of how lovable our country actually is. You get the feeling of warmth in your belly; glad and proud that you are part of what makes Malaysia so unique. The same kind of feeling you get from watching the films by the great Tan Sri P. Ramlee. Pure nostalgia.

Now, all of these sudden deaths may leave the impression that nowadays, people are dropping like flies. However, you have to put into perspective that people die everyday. What makes the death of these great names such a bereavement is that these are the people who made the most out of their lives. More importantly, however, how much they have touched the lives of others.

So to Yasmin Ahmad, I dare say you are gone too soon...


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [2009]

Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Genre: Fantasy/Thriller
Points: *[Invalid]
Rating: Teen
Comment: "Just when you think the Harry Potter movies could not get any darker..."

FPBM! must say that David Yates has been the best Harry Potter director thus far. Honourable mention goes to The Prisoner of Azkaban director, Alfonso Cuaron who in our opinion, had set the mood for the following Harry Potter movies. Now, we are talking about the directors because fantasy movies is something of the delicate sort. In the wrong hands, what should be a good break from reality might come out as silly.

FPBM! confess that we are very biased when it comes to the Harry Potter franchise (and also Star Wars) hence why this review should be taken as a personal opinion (well, all the reviews here are FPBM!'s personal opinion). Having read the books since the age of fourteen, FPBM! feels like he has been growing up along with the cast of Harry Potter. The fuzzy warm feeling he gets as well as the kind of escapism he gets from the movies are difficult to put down into words.

Enough about that, here is the review.

The sixth installment picks up immediately where Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [2007] left off. Harry, along with the other main characters had been battling Voldemort and the Death Eaters in the Ministry of Magic's own headquarters. The battle may have been won, but the war is far from over. Now that the evil wizard is back on the loose, along with his influence reaching into the-once-impenetrable Hogwarts itself, just making it through a day is getting more physically and mentally demanding for our young heroes.

Needless to say, the movie is not as encompassing or as fulfilling as the book. But we need to stop drawing comparisons between the two entities. Personally, FPBM! thinks that the production team did a fair job in translating a six-hundred-page book into a-hundred-and-fifty-minute movie. Rather than trying to cram as much as they can into the movie, they had seemingly re-wrote the entire book for cinematic purposes - probably something they learned from the atrocity of Goblet of Fire [2005]. Now you get the chance to empathise with what the characters are going through in-between scenes.

Speaking of empathy, this is probably the only Harry Potter movie that could appeal to non-fans as well; provided that they are into movies exploring themes of teenage angst, puppy love, etc. Growing up on the set had definitely done wonders to the cast - everyone gives such memorable performances that it will be such a bereavement when it is all over.

Speaking of which, FPBM! wonders how are they going to end the movie series. It's no secret how the Harry Potter novels end, but FPBM! can't wait for the final two installments to see how are they going to end the movie franchise.

Points Calculation
*Unavailable due to FPBM!'s biasness towards the Harry Potter franchise

Friday, July 10, 2009

Public Enemies [2009]

Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard
Genre: Crime/Drama
Points: 50 out of 100
Rating: Teen
Comment: "What could have been a dry, tasteless movie is rescued by performances from the lead actors..."

Sometimes due having too much hype, or more significantly, too much expectation can really spoil the movie experience. Public Enemies is one such example. Michael Mann rarely disappoints, and the same can be said of Johnny Depp. However, FPBM! would have to say that this film is just as dry and tasteless as Michael Mann's previous film, Miami Vice [2006].

The film pretty much counts on the charisma of the two lead actors; Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard. However, since the production team opt to stick as close to facts as possible, combine that with the pace of the film, they had rendered the actors' talents to being underused. Especially Christian Bale who seems to be doing a really bad impression of George W. Bush.

Another weak point of the film is that it rely too much on the viewer's knowledge of the background of the film. Now, FPBM! is not saying that they should be spoon-feed us on whatever is going on in the film. But one can't really get what Public Enemies is trying to sell. Are they trying to make Dillinger into some kind of a modern-day Robin Hood? If that is so, it hardly shows on screen.

A good thing however, reliable sources confirmed that this movie remains faithful to history, and the story is told in such a way that you do not really feel like you are simply watching a stylish documentary.

As far as character interaction goes, the only one enjoyable are the scenes involving Johnny Depp and French actress Marion Cotillard. No offense to Christian Bale (who is a charismatic actor in his own right), but this movie could seriously do without him.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Johnny Depp, baby!

The Bad [-50]
- Slow pace

100 - 50 = 50 points

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Movie Schedule: JUNE

*Sources Box Office Mojo & IMDb

Picks of the Month
#1 State of Play [June 11th]
#2 Okuribito [June 11th]

June 4th, 2009

Title: Drag Me to Hell
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, David Paymer
Genre: Horror
Plot: A loan officer ordered to evict an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse, which turns her life into a living hell. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.

Title: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Director: Mark Waters
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Emma Stone
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Plot: A bachelor is haunted by the ghosts of his past girlfriends at his younger brother's wedding.

Title: Hannah Montana: The Movie
Director: Peter Chelsom
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, Mitchel Mutso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Musical
Plot: As Hannah Montana's popularity begins to take over her life, Miley Stewart, on the urging from her father takes a trip to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee to get some perspective on what matters in life the most.

Title: Land of the Lost
Director: Brad Silberling
Starring: Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride, Jorma Taccone
Genre: Adventure/Comedy
Plot: On his latest expedition, Dr. Rick Marshall is sucked into a space-time vortex alongside his research assistant and a redneck survivalist. In this alternate universe, the trio make friends with a primate named Chaka, their only ally in a world full of dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures. Can they all make it back to our world alive, and if so: Will Dr. Marshall can go from zero to hero with his discoveries?

June 11th, 2009

Title: State of Play
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman
Genre: Thriller/Drama
Plot: A team of investigative reporters work alongside a police detective to try to solve the murder of a congressman's mistress.

Title: 17 Again
Director: Burr Steer
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Plot: About a guy whose life didn't quite turn out how he wanted it to and wishes he could go back to high school and change it. He wakes up one day and is seventeen again and gets the chance to rewrite his life.

June 18th, 2009

Title: Okuribito (Departures)
Director: Yojiro Takita
Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kimiko Yo
Genre: Drama
Plot: Daigo Kobayashi is a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and now finds himself without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He finds a job preparing the dead for funerals. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.

June 25th, 2009
Title: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel,Tyrese Gibson, Peter Cullen
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Plot: Decepticon forces return to Earth on a mission to take Sam Witwicky prisoner, after the young hero learns the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers. Joining the mission to protect humankind is Optimus Prime, who forms an alliance with international armies for a second epic battle.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Night at the Musem: Battle of the Smithsonian [2009]

Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Robin Williams
Genre: Comedy/Adventure
Points: 70 out of 100
Rating: General
Comment: "Bigger, better..."

Very rarely you get to see a sequel that surpasses it's predecessor, and this film is certainly one of them. The first one was a light-hearted comedy with a pinch of adventure thrown in, while this sequel is the other way around. The title itself suggests of a more adventurous flick, and indeed, it is.

The story picks up a few years after the first one, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is now a successful businessman with a company dedicated to selling his inventions. A visit to the museum he once worked at revealed that they are renovating the place, shipping off nearly all of its inhabitants to Smithsonian. It is now up to Daley to rescue his museum buddies.

Even though it is a sequel, rest assured that you don't necessarily need to have seen the first one. You might miss out on a few jokes which made references to the first movie, but nothing that will harm your experience whatsoever.

Performances are fun to watch. Nothing phenomenal here, but actors like Amy Adams and Hank Azaria give life to the movie. Appearances by Robin Williams gives the movie credibility as a comedy, although his talents are somewhat underused.

The story is not that strong. Somehow it feels like the producers are doing this for another paycheck, at the expense of a good story. But there is really no harm in that for the first movie wasn't that great to begin with. So there is really nothing to be ruined here. This is one of those movies made solely to pass the time for casual movie-goers.

Just like the first one, what makes this movie so fun to watch is how the bring human history to life. Also how chaotic it would be if history comes to life under one roof. Of course, you need to be well-versed to some extent about the exhibitions to be amused. Those who hate history in real life *might* not find this movie that enjoyable; you won't hate it, but keeping a straight face throughout the duration of the movie would be an effortless task.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Fun to watch

The Bad [-30]
- Flimsy plot

100 - 30 = 70 points

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seven Pounds [2008]

Director: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper
Genre: Drama
Points: 85 out of 100
Rating: General
Comment: "Will Smith might have played his role too well, that's a good thing, really..."

The movie came out quite some time ago, but FPBM! never got around to watch it. Which is a shame really, for this could possibly one of the best movies you will ever see starring Will Smith.

The story is about an IRS agent who goes around looking for people he could help in any which way at all - seven people to be exact, without asking for anything in return. He meets a woman with a heart condition and a rare blood type, and he falls in love with her. However, he is carrying within himself a deep and painful secret.

Do not be fooled by the possibly deceptive plot outline. This is nothing like My Name is Earl. They may share similar themes, but Seven Pounds is very dark and gloomy. A "bummer", some might say. But FPBM! means that in a good way and regards it as a strength that gives life to the movie.

Hats off to Will Smith for he had done it again. Similar to I Am Legend [2007], Will Smith took another risk again by taking a role that required him to "be on his own". The only difference is that this film is much, much more dramatic (d'oh!). The role required him to be in pain at all times, as though every second he lives is a searing pain - and Will Smith did just that.

If there's anything that could be a downside to the movie, it could possibly be the length, or rather the pace at which the film moves at. Some people might not be able to stand sharing the protagonist's pain for two hours. With that being said, the movie might be a little too painful to watch for Will Smith played his role a little bit too well.

Other cast include Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson, who deserves a notable mention. His role was rather small, but very pivotal.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Strong plot
- Great performance by Will Smith

The Bad [-15]
- Pace

100 - 15 = 85 points

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FPBM!'s Spotlight

FPBM! Spotlight is a new segment in the ever-growing FPBM! movie reviews blog *cough*. Basically what we do here is that we will put certain actors/actress in the spotlight (duh!). You probably know them already, but the actors featured here are some of FPBM!'s personal favourites, whose career have long been established and still going strong. That will be the criteria of those featured in this segment.


Date of Birth : April 7th, 1964
Nationality : Australian

Although he earned quite a reputation as a person who is a little short on temper, he has no shortcomings whatsoever when it comes to his talent. His breakout role was in Ridley Scott's Gladiator [2000], a collaboration that proves to be fruitful. To date, they have been working together for a total of four films (If all goes well, they will work together again in the upcoming Robin Hood movie in 2010). Combine Ridley Scott's visionary direction with Russell Crowe's ability to immerse himself into any role, I'd like to think that they complement each other's talent. It is safe to say that neither of them has made any wrong move so far. Keep up the good work!

However, this is not to say that Russell Crowe is only good when he shares credit with Ridley Scott. Russell Crowe has proven time and time again that he is an actor for real, and he has shown us the range that he has as an actor. You can feel that rush of adrenaline when he played a warrior in Gladiator [2000], you can feel his pain and suffering of his character even though it was just a supporting role in The Quick and the Dead [1995], and how can one forget the uplifting performance he gave in Cinderella Man [2005]?

Russell Crowe will top my list of favourite actors at any given time. No doubt he may not be the best ever, but if it means anything, FPBM! considers him a Hall of Famer.


Date of Birth : August 18th, 1969
Nationality : American

It's rather difficult for me to explain the appeal of this particular actor. He has a lot of range, that is true. But so does a lot of other actors. But Edward Norton has the kind of appeal that I cannot resist. Maybe it is because he is one of those actors who does not acknowledge his celebrity status. That way, he gets to maintain a little bit of mystery to his personal life. Therefore, he can be believable in many different types of roles. An actor through and through.

Perhaps most famously known for his lead role in Fight Club [1999] alongside Brad Pitt, Edward Norton is just one of those quirky actors who takes very risky roles that includes virtually everything from a priest to a pro-Nazi to the Incredible Hulk. I must say, FPBM! has never been disappointed with him so far. Although I doubt that anyone ever will.

Future projects include Leaves of Grass [2009] and Motherless Brooklyn [2010]

Date of Birth : January 30th, 1974
Nationality : British

Christian Bale first caught my attention playing the lead role of Cleric John Preston in Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium [2002]. It was good. But like many other sci-fi flicks out there, one can't really see the range of those in the lead role. Then he played the Dark Knight for the first time in Batman Begins [2005]. His performance in Batman itself did not impress me by much, but he did caused quite a stir when I found out that he gained over a hundred pounds of muscle to play the Caped Crusader. It is that kind of dedication from an actor that intrigues me. That was when I began backtracking his career and saw his feature film debut in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun [1987].

His career began over two decades ago, and it is still going strong. His future projects include the soon-to-be-released Terminator Salvation [2009], Public Enemies [2009] alongside another great actor, Johnny Depp and also the Micky Ward biopic, The Fighter [2010].


Date of Birth : June 11th, 1986
Nationality : American

Believe it or not, I actually grew up with this guy. Well, it's not like we know each other personally. What I meant is that I have been following his career since his starring role in the Disney Channel series Even Stevens. Similar to how I feel about Edward Norton, I can't name any particular reason why he is an actor you should look out for. I suppose it is that guy-next-door aura wrapped around him that makes him so believable in the roles he has taken so far.

One thing I must say, however, his talents are going to waste by starring in no-brainers such as the Transformers franchise since he has proven so much in flicks such as Disturbia [2007] and Eagle Eye [2008]. I'm not saying that it is a wrong career choice or anything because, well... it is fashionale for Hollywood stars to have his or her name attached to a big-name movie project. I am just hopeful that he will star in more dramatic roles in the future.

Upcoming projects include New York, I Love You [2010].


Date of Birth : April 19th, 1981
Nationality : Canadian

Not much can be said about Hayden Christensen for he is a serious actor as well. Famed for playing Darth Vader in two of the Star Wars saga, he actually caught attention since his performance in Life as a house [2001]. Since then, he went on to act in Hollywood playing lead roles in movies like the suspense thriller Awake [2007] and the sci-fi Jumper [2008], both of which were highly successful - at least financially.

Future films to look out for include New York, I Love You [2009] and the crime thriller Takers [2010].


So there you have it. The first of the (hopefully) many to come of FPBM! Spotlight.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Resurrecting the Champ [2007]

Director: Rod Lurie
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Kathryn Morris, Alan Alda, Teri Hatcher
Genre: Drama/Sports (Boxing)
Points: 90 out of 100
Rating: General
Comment: "An intriguing tale of a true story that was based on a lie..."

More than any other sport, boxing seems to be on top of the list when it comes to stories that deal with courage, resilience and overcoming obstacles in life. Probably just coincidence, but boxing is the kind of sport where they have no one but themselves. Granted, technically they have their trainer and cutman in their team, but in the end it is them who have to get the job done. This idea is reflected throughout the movie.

Based on a true story, the plot revolves around a sports journalist, Erik Kernan Jr, who is in dire need for a big 'break'. He gets what he wished for, and his break comes in the form of a washed-out boxing contender whose prime was in the 1940's and the 1950's. However, after Kernan published an article about him, he finds out that this boxer is not who he claims to be.

While the big picture is indeed about boxing, this movie explores more on the concept of identity and father-and-son relationship. Possibly one of those tearjerker movies for men.

Performances given by the cast are strong, although the performance given by Samuel L. Jackson might take a bit of a getting used to. Not that there's anything wrong with it. It's just that, he is a bit too well-known as a "tough guy" actor. So watching him playing a wuss might be laughable at first, until the emotion gets through the physical side of the character.

This is definitely something for everyone because it is one of those movies that transcends above the genre from "just a boxing movie", to a human drama. Similar to what movies like The Champ [1931], Ali [2001], Cinderella Man [2005] and many others did for the genre.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Strong performances
- Deep
- Boxing!

The Bad [-10]
- A bit slow moving

100 - 10 = 90 points

Friday, May 8, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009]

Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Danny Huston, Liev Schreiber, Lynn Collins, Ryan Reynolds,, Dominic Monaghan
Genre: Action/Sci-fi
Points: 40 out of 100
Rating: Teen (violence, horrific images)
Comment: "This Wolverine movie is a great idea poorly executed..."

Ask any casual X-Men fan out there who is their favourite character from the movie versions of X-Men and chances are it would be the gritty, bad to the adamantium-reinforced bone Wolverine (it's either him or that nothing-but-blue-paint-Mystique). Plus, with the success of the previous three X-Men movies, where the main appeal had always come from Wolverine's antics, it only seems right for him to have a movie of his own. Sadly, what sounds really good on paper turned out to be mediocre at best on the silver screen.

Just like the title would suggest, this movie takes place prior to the events from the X-Men trilogy with sole focus on the development of the character Wolverine, or Logan. It tells the tale of how Wolverine first discovered his mutant powers up to the time when he loses his memory. I won't give away too much here, but it turns out that Wolverine is actually a battle-hardened soldier who fought in iconic battles in human history; from the American Civil War to World War I, World War II and finally the Vietnam War.

As I have mentioned earlier, a Wolverine movie is a good idea because people would want to know more about him because, well... After three movies of being unsure of Wolverine's past, now we get a definitive answer. Unfortunately, it appears that this might go down the same road as other atrocious superhero movies in the past such as Batman & Robin [1997]. It's not nearly there yet, but if they keep this up, it could very well be. It appears as though they are more concerned about merchandising opportunities rather than telling a good story.

Sure, it's an action movie and the special effects are nothing short of spectacular. But really, that is all there is to it; eye-candy... and a mediocre one at that too. While it is all very entertaining, they bring nothing new to the table either. We've seen it all before; hero walking away from an explosion, unconvincing plot twists, predictable one-liners, hero screaming "NOOO!!!" at the death of his *spoiler* (although it is easy to take a wild guess) and pretty much everything else made popular by action movies back in the 80's.

The only good thing about it is perhaps having Hugh Jackman in the lead role. After this one, I bet no one could imagine having anyone else to play Wolverine in his stead. Akin to how people will always think of Christopher Reeve as the "real" Superman. You really should see how Hugh Jackman beefed himself up and the amount of heart he put into the role.

It's not all bad. Just go ahead and see it, may it be on DVD or the silver screen. Either way, you will find that while it is indeed an entertaining movie, it is extremely forgettable.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Hugh Jackman
- Spectacular special effects

The Bad [-60]
- Weak plot
- Unconvincing plot twist
- Lacks "heart"
- Too many cliches

100 - 60 = 40 points

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Next Trend?

How long did it took you to realise that screenwriters aren't as busy as they used to be? First, they trade paper and pen for the typewriter. Then they switched from typewriters to computers. Then they forget about writing new one, they just pick up a novel and adapt that instead. Then they don't bother to read through every line of a novel, and just adapt movies from comic books. Convenient; the dialogues are there, and the storyboard is already provided.

Alright, that may have been an overstatement, but I'm just trying to make a point here. Nowadays, more and more producers opt to make movies out of novels instead of the good old traditional screenplay. Again, let FPBM! clarify that indeed we are aware that adaptations have been going on since the printing press was invented. We're just trying to strike a conversation here.

Reading Glasses vs 3D Glasses

ere in this country (Malaysia), the impact is not much felt because... well, we're not a reading society. But I dare say that half of the great movies out there are adapted from bestselling novels. The highly-successful Slumdog Millionaire [2008] is based on the the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup. The Da Vinci Code [2006] and the soon to be released follow-up movie, Angels and Demons [2009] are both adapted from the novels of the same name by Dan Brown. Need I mention the Harry Potter franchise? Of course not, you might have heard of it already.

Here at FPBM!, we are not against adaptations. Why should we argue if what they're doing is giving more exposure of a good story to a wider audience? In fact, some might find it more pleasureable to simply watch a story go down before their very eyes, instead of flipping through pages. To each his or her own, I always say.

Comics as Storyboard?

300 [2007] is not the first movie to be adapted from comic books (or graphic novels) and the so-called trend is nothing new. Come to think of it, movies such as Spider-man, Batman, Sin City, 30 Days of Night, Superman, The Crow (and others too numerous to mention) were all based on comic books. But 300 is one of the more successful ones and gained a lot of attention due to how faithful it is to the comic - it served as storyboard for the film.

This is where FPBM! takes a step back and think about whether or not that is a good thing. Granted, 300 is an entertaining (although shallow) testosterone-fuelled action flick. They did a good job translating what they see on the pages of the comic book to the silver screen. But was it really necessary? Adapting from novels is a different thing, there are only wordy descriptions of what is going on - it leaves a lot to the imagination. But with comics, everything is already there. What is there left for interpretation?

But it can't all be bad. On their defense, comic books do not reach as far here in South East Asia. So it would be a good idea to translate comic books into movies - much easier and perhaps cheaper for "transferring". And of course, it's a business opportunity.

Hollywood producers might have hit gold with the release of the dramatic superhero movie Watchmen [2009]. Akin to 300, this movie was also adapted from the comic book of the same name, frame by frame. But the greatness of the movie is only due Alan Moore's exceptional writing. However, kudos to the screenwriters and director Zack Snyder for Alan Moore once stated that Watchmen is "unfilmable". They did a spectacular job, and this proved that comic books - just like novels - carry enough credibility to be taken seriously as a form of media. That's a good thing, FPBM! would like to think so for I am a big supporter of everything artistic.

So far, all of these adaptations have yet to show that it is a bad idea. Well, I suppose we should have seen it coming. Video games have long been the victim of bad movie adaptations, let's hope that comic books (or graphic novels) will not share the same fate.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gran Torino [2008]

Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her
Genre: Drama
Points: 90 out of 100
Rating: General (gangsterism, bloodless violence)
Comment: "Even at 79, Clint Eastwood is still a badass..."

Veteran 'tough guy' actor Clint Eastwood is back after two years of working behind the camera. Despite the air given out by the promotion of the film, this is no Dirty Harry or even the Dollars Trilogy. Similar to other aging action stars, Clint Eastwood opted for a more dramatic role but at the same time retaining the same grittiness that made his tough guy roles so memorable.

The story goes like this; after the death of his wife, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) feels even more distanced from his own family - whom he perceives as "spoiled and self-absorbed". The bitter but not unlikeable Kowalski becomes unintentionally entangled to his Hmong neighbours and eventually begins to think of their family as his own.

Although Gran Torino here is a reference to Kowalski's prized vehicle, I'd like to think that it serves a higher purpose than merely aesthetics; it is a symbol of Kowalski himself - old, but still a powerful force that just won't go away without a fight.

A theme which I find touching is the theme of racism and it's foolishness. While it is not 100% relevant to our own situation, the point is made clear. Regardless of the colour of our skin, humans will always hurt each other, and it is also up to humans to protect and take care of each other. It is really the colour of our hearts that sets us apart - not our skin or facial features.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Old school "badassism"
- Meaningful themes

The Bad [-10]
- A bit slow moving

100 - 10 = 90 points

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shinjuku Incident [2009]

Director: Derek Yee
Starring: Jackie Chan, Naoto Takenaka, Daniel Wu
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Points: 100 out of 100
Rating: Adult (violence, blood & gore)
Comment: "Shinjuku achieved what New Police Story did not..."

I have yet to meet a fellow Asian who is not a fan of the great living legend Jackie Chan. Before we move on to the movie review, allow FPBM! to pay a little tribute to Jackie Chan, whose career spanned over six decades. The man have come a long way since his days of being overshadowed by the great Bruce Lee, and he is now recognised as an original entity of his own, loved by East and West alike. Action and death-defying stunts had always been his game, but now it is time for a long overdue venture into more dramatic roles; and he did it magnificently, if I may say so.

Shinjuku Incident is a fictionalised accounts of Chinese immigrants living in Japan during the 90's. A man nicknamed Steelhead is among these immigrants, whose intention of migrating to Japan is to search for his lost girlfriend. However, living in the shadow of the law has it's price, and Steelhead might just have to pay the ultimate one.

Jackie Chan had long expressed interest in exploring other genres other than his trademark action flicks. A recent example include the New Police Story, where he transformed the franchise from a light-hearted action-comedy to something more dramatic in tone. I would not say that it is a wise choice, for I grew up loving the original four Police Story movies and the sudden change might leave some feeling disgruntled.

With that being said, this particular film achieved what New Police Story attempted to deliver, and Jackie Chan proved that not only he is able to take deadly physical risks, but he can also carry the risk of being a dramatic actor.

What makes this film a compelling one is not just about Jackie Chan's performance, but there are deep implications about power, friendship, national pride and all things humane. This is one movie that you would not want to miss.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Good performances
- "Deep" themes
- Yakuza (:P)

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 0 = 100 points

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Black Snake Moan [2007]

Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake
Genre: Drama
Points: 90 out of 100
Rating: Adult (violence, nudity, sexual content)
Comment: "A misleading poster of an actually decent film..."

This is a movie that I came across almost by accident. I have long been a Samuel L. Jackson fan, he is just one of those charismatic actor who is so entertaining on-screen. One fact that bothered me, though. The poster does not do the film justice. For some reason, it is marketed to appear like an exploitation, Grindhouse-like flick when in actuality, it is anything but. Sure, one get to see Christina Ricci wearing nothing but a small tank top and panties, but c'mon... Grow up, people.

The story goes like this; a religious man and a former blues musician, Lazarus Woods goes to unconventional lengths to help a young nymphomaniac, Rae Doole to rid herself of her inner demons.

While this movie may not have much of an impact, and it is certainly not without it's flaws. But all the same, it is worth your while to watch it. It is one of those movies that you will become immersed with. You might find yourself laughing with the characters, cry with them, and share their sentiments. There's a little bit of everything for everyone here.

As one would expect from a movie with Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role, he gave a bad-ass performance even as a religious character - albeit with much, much less swearing. But it's still entertaining. Another thing, it's easy for one to be misled by the movie poster and Christina Ricci's revealing *ahem*... 'costume'. That's a good thing about having Samuel L. Jackson's name in the credits, for it was him who carry much of the film's integrity. Not to take anything away from Christian Ricci's performance, though. She took a great career risk by taking the role as a... well, slut. But this is a slut that one can take seriously.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Blues music
- Samuel L. Jackson

The Bad [-10]
- Might be deemed as "culturally irrelevant"

100 - 10 = 90 points

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Science of Sleep [2006]

Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Miou-Miou
Points: 100 out of 100
Rating: Adult (nudity, sexual references)
Comment: "Michel Gondry's interpretation of the dreamworld without resorting to CGI results into one unique art-film..."

This is just one of those art-film that may have been popular in the west, but it did not garner enough attention around this part of the globe. I understand that art-films aren't exactly a popular choice here, but this is one art movie that you should watch at least once in your life because here you have simplicity at it's finest.

The story revolves around Stephane, an artist who divides his time between his vivid dreams and reality. After moving from Mexico to his mother's home in France for work, he meets a woman whom he fancies and tries to share his world with her.

It's quite simple really. Long story short, this is a story of boy-meets-girl. The plot does not resort to non-linear storytelling, flashbacks or even time-travel (well, sort of) to make it interesting. But the way it is presented is the best thing about it. No CGI, no over-the-top special effects. Like mentioned previously, this is simplicity at it's finest.

So how does the film present dreamworld to the audience without resorting to CGI? It sounds implausible considering this movie was released back in 2006. To understand how, one would have to familiarise oneself with Michel Gondry's body of work. Have a look at music videos directed by him, Everlong by the Foo Fighters, for example. You see things like enlarged hands, giant-sized telephones, a bed turning into a drumset... Those kind of things. This movie is very much in the spirit of that in terms of it's absurdity. Yet that is what makes it very appealing.

While the acting in this film is nothing to be screamed about, that is actually a strong point. Each cast gave memorable performances. Natural, they almost seem like real people - people you have met throughout your lives.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- "Home-made" special effects
- Natural acting
- Original & refreshing

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 0 = 100 points

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Monthly Mailbag

Introducing, the new mailbag section! Here, I will attempt to answer any questions you may have regarding what goes on in the film industry, and of course, FPBM! itself. I do not claim to be a movie-savant, but I do my best at what I love and anything you could ever wish to know is only a click away.

I don't have it all figured out yet, but just like everything else on this site, they are all made up as I go along.

To kick-start things, here are some of the questions I received from fellow friends and readers. My answers are in italics. Oh, by the way, the questions are paraphrased because... Well, I cannot remember the questions in verbatim.

Rooms for Improvement
First, I just want to congratulate you for this blog. I have no idea whether or not it is a success, but I take it that you write enthusiastically, and that is good enough for me. However, there are things I would like to point out. As much as I enjoy reading your reviews, they are rather bland and do not stand out very much in contrast of other movie review sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, etc. Perhaps you could make the site much more interactive? (Like a chatbox, perhaps)

I thank you very much for your mail and I appreciate your honesty. To tell you the truth, I also have no idea just how successful this site is. Frankly, I write movie reviews because there is no other form of media that I enjoy as much as movies. I could put a guest tracker on the site, but then again, I wouldn't want to know just how many people who actually come to this site. However, since I am receiving comments about it, I can only guess that there are quite a few.

And thank you very much for your recommendations! I honestly appreciate it. Yeah, to be frank, I do not know that much about how to make websites more appealing. Everything here are made up as I go along. There really isn't any deep planning involved. I am very interested to make the site more interactive, so I'll see to it. Although I must say, it's quite amusing that you compared this site to Rotten Tomatoes. There's a stark difference, but all that I would say about FPBM! is that; it is a start.

I was just wondering, how often is FPBM! updated? There are times when it is updated more than twice in a week, but there are other times when it is not updated for weeks!

Yeah, I am actually troubled by that as well. But the truth is, FPBM! is still very young, and therefore unstable. Plus I work alone, so if I get caught up in something, so will FPBM! I apologise for any inconvenience, for I am not doing this half-heartedly (not "warm-warm chicken sh*t")


Overdosed on Optimism

Is it just me, or you are unbelievably lenient when it comes to rating your movies? It seems to me like there isn't a single movie rated at 50 or lower. I understand if you are doing this to not offend anyone, but you said it yourself, a bad movie is a bad movie regardless of origin. So why must there be sympathy at play?

I believe you got it all wrong. I mean every word that I said, so yeah, a bad movie is a bad movie. It's just that, I tend to write reviews on movie that have a lot of impact on me. But as the FPBM! motto goes, "I write, You decide...". As much as I want to write about every single film out there, I lack two crucial resources; time and money. Therefore, I do a lot of guessing and also a bit of research before seeing a movie. So based on research and experience, I really choose which film to see.

Sometimes it's not even about the money. I just get really turned off (or rather, pissed off) to see a dumbed-down, watered-down version of a film. It's not rocket science, really; to tell whether or not a particular film will be slashed in terms of censorship. If you have been living in this country for at least a week, you would know.


So there you have it. The very first (hopefully not the last) mailbag section of the site. I think that should be it for the rest of the month. Unless of course, I get a lot more questions... Which I really doubt because I am so pretentious.

:D haha...

Valkyrie [2009]

Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Terrence Stamp
Genre: War drama/Thriller
Points: 100 out of 100
Rating: Teen (violence, blood)
Comment: "Ich liebe! A Hollywood documentary that's both good and accurate..."

Nazi and America don't go together, so it was half-expected that this is going to be one pro-Allies flick. Thankfully, the real events this movie was based on is already interesting enough, so the production team was able to make an accurate re-telling of the events which led to the July 20th Plot without adding too much of the "Hollywood seasoning".

The story takes place during the World War II era in Germany. An army colonel of the Nazi army, Claus von Stauffenberg, among several other key people of the Nazi army plotted against the Adolf Hitler administration and plans to assassinate him and take control over Germany. They plan to do this through the manipulation of Operation Valkyrie, hence the title.

For those who are unaware of what Operation Valkyrie is all about, there is no need to worry for this is one of the few film that is actually a documentary in essence, but possesses all of the qualities of what makes a good film and that includes; good casting, visionary direction and clever writing.

What I would like to stress here is how accurate this film is. You only need to brush up a little bit on your history to see that the production team went to great lengths to ensure that. Even the characterisation is intriguing. A publicity photo of the film compared the profile of actor Tom Cruise to the actual Claus von Stauffenberg, and you can see how similar they are. But it doesn't stop there, other actos such as Bill Nighy also bears striking resemblance to his character, Friedrich Olbricht.

Overall, this is not something you would want to miss. Especially if you are a fan of war dramas.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Bryan Singer's visionary direction
- Historically accurate
- Good characterisation

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 0 = 100 points

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The International [2009]

Director: Ton Tykwer
Starring: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen
Points: 80 out of 100
Rating: Teen (Gun-fights, violence, blood)
Comment: "Imagine CSI on a world-wide scale..."

Corruption spread amongst men like an incurable disease. Though this movie would not heal anything, it will make you think twice about trusting banks with your hard-earned money because at the bottom line, it all comes down to the love for money. People would sell their souls for a lot less.

Just like the title might have suggested, this flick will take you on a ride across Europe and the Middle-East as you join an obsessive Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) attempts to bring down the IBBC, a corrupt financial institution involved in illegal arms-dealing.

Clive Owen has a lot of capabilities to be more than just an action star, but nowadays he is seemingly being typecast as bitter, trigger-happy anti-hero. Although that is not necessarily a bad thing, personally I think he is better suited for roles that are more about brains than brawns. While this is not actually a traditional action film, there are lots of gunfights and I am not fairly certain whether or not he is the best man for the role.

Looking past the casting, however, this is an altogether decent action-thriller where every scene sets up the next. That could either work for or against you. If you are going to watch this in the cinema, please refrain yourself from taking toilet breaks for it will disrupt your understanding of the entire movie. It's not so much about the action, but rather it is the plot that moves fast.

One particular theme that I find intriguing is how well they brought forward the issue of bureaucracy. Just like everything else, the idea of bureaucracy was meant for convenience. That is what they're trying to sell to us. But in reality, bureaucracy is such a hassle and for the unscrupulous, that spells 'Opportunity' for there are bound to be loopholes in the system.

However, as good as it can get, most likely this film will merely preach to the choir. As though we don't know already that international corporations cannot be trusted.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Fast-paced action-thriller
- Well-balanced plot and action

The Bad [-20]
- Could have had better casting

100 - 20 = 80 points
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