Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pineapple Express [2008]

Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Kevin Corrigan, Craig Robinson, Danny R. McBride
Points: 90 out of 100
Rating: Teen (violence, drug use)
Comment: "Surprisingly, a film revolving around drug use can actually be very good!..."

Films written by Seth Rogen are often difficult to place in terms of it's genre. Personally speaking, I find his films a bit difficult to enjoy mainly because his films were written with Americans in mind. But what I find to be a major draw of Pineapple Express is the poster; seeing those firearms give the impression that this will be an action film. The truth is, there is something in it for everyone.

The film, simply put is about a 'stoner' witnessing a murder involving a drug lord and a corrupt police officer. From there, humourous events occur as he got people around him involved in his mess which include his girlfriend and her family, his drug dealer and the drug dealer's middle-man.

It is difficult pinpoint exactly what is the best thing about the film because there are just too many. The opening scene which parodies the history of marijuana in the United States, is already hysterical enough. For those who love action; just like the poster hints, there is plenty of action to keep the you satisfied.

Seth Rogen is definitely suited for roles such as this, but what is more entertaining is the performance given by James Franco. Remember Harry Osbourne from the Spider-man movies? Or James Dean from the self-titled tv-series? Yeap, it's the same person, although you would hardly recognise him. It has nothing to do with his appearance, but rather because he played a character so different than his usually-more-dramatic roles. It is definitely one of the most entertaining aspects of this film.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Hilarious!
- James Franco as a stoner

The Bad [-10]
- Drug-use might turn some people off

100 - 10 = 90 points

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Now, there are many things lacking in this country, but nothing annoys the hell out of me like the amount of censorship in this country. Seriously, if I were to list down the things that I don't like about this country, those at the censorship board would be on top of the list! Apparently, these people are pretentious enough to take their job much too seriously and think we appreciate what they are doing. We don't. Well, at least I don't. Let me tell you something; The three wise monkeys shouldn't live here, for movies are also a form of mass media. You would be offended to see news on tv being censored, right? So why is it that movies deserve anything less?

To the Censorship Board of Mofos, do you realise that you are showing the whole world how foolish you are by censoring too much? Here's a piece of my mind;

See No Evil?
When it comes to visual censorship, there are some things that I am willing to tolerate. Removing sex scenes are fine. I am not repulsed by them, but I believe any movie can go without showing people making love. It is after all, private stuff. Go ahead, censor them. I don't watch movies to see other people doing things I am not capable of getting (Haha!).

Censorship of nudity is also fine to an extent. I am not a pervert, but Goddamit! I have seen movies where they deleted an entire scene just because the female character was topless. What made me feel frustrated is because there were some crucial dialogue exchanges going on between the female character and the protagonist. Naturally, I had to do some inferencing because several important details were omitted from the film; all because she was showing some skin.

What would be better if you do what (Malaysian) Star Movies did to James Cameron's The Abyss [1989]; A female character was on the brink of death. She was drowning and there was a need to tear off her top and perform CPR on her. You can imagine that this is an intense scene, therefore instead of cutting the whole scene, they put that mosaic-effect over her chest. Although I scoffed at this, I still think that this is much better than just deleting the entire scene.

Hear No Evil?
I don't appreciate it when the dialogues are censored due to the use of profanities; I mean, C'mon! That's how people talk in real life! Just what are your trying to protect us from? Are our ears too delicate for harsh words? Of course not! We live in a country where even politicians and ministers act like mob bosses. So don't be a hypocrite and tell us what we can or cannot hear.

Another subject for debate, just what is their definition of 'profanity'? Aside from the obvious ones such as the f-word, I could not think of any more words that I think too vulgar for tv or movies. But every now and then, I hear words such as 'ass' being censored. It's a word! Just what is wrong with it? But then again, those at the board are probably not so fluent in the English language. At least not enough to know the difference when a particular "swear" word is being used as a noun, verb or adjective.

What is worse, foreign movies are not the only ones affected. Even our local films have been the subject of excessive-censorship for far too long. It seems like those at the board are harsher on our very own film-makers than those from Hollywood. Remember the film, Suami, Isteri dan... [1993]? I did know until recently that the title was supposed to be Suami, Isteri dan Jalang. Exactly how 'jalang' is too harsh for the silver screen? Another example is the indie film Kami the Movie [2008]. Look at the tagline. It says, "Hari ini memang ..., tapi esok masih ada". It was crudely censored, but it is supposed to say "Hari ini memang palat, tapi esok masih ada". I didn't even know until recently that 'palat' is considered as a swear word! I used to think that it is on the same level as 'bodoh', or 'bebal' - often seen even on primary school textbooks.

What can I say, those at the censorship board are idiots who have nothing better to with their time. You want to know what I think? I think that rating system (U, 18SG, etc) are there just for show. In truth, all movies that come through should be rated K - for Kiddie... It's true. I have seen many movies and I cannot tell the difference from films rated U to the ones rated as 18PL.

So to the Censorship Board of Mofos; Get a life! I didn't pay RM10 to see a dumbed-down, watered-down version of films YOU think are suitable for us. I am capable of telling what is good and what is not, and I have been able to do so since I was twelve!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ran [1985]

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu, Mieko Harada
Points: 100 out of 100
Rating: Teen (violence)
Comment: "An epic produced by a genius..."

Films from the East doesn't get the kind of attention it deserves in this part of the world. Often we see epic films that glorify Crusaders, Spartans, Greeks and Romans, but not that often we get to see films on Samurai warfare. More often than not, it is more interesting to see a film about warriors from the East. Perhaps this is jingoism talking.

The film is based on an original script by Akira Kurosawa, although the parallel it has with Shakespeare's King Lear is uncanny. The story revolves around an elderly warlord, Lord Hidetora, whose throne was succeeded to his three sons. However, two of the corrupt sons turned on him upon receiving power.

What is so awesome about the film is how much it transcends into more than just a war movie involving the samurai. The film is laden with philosophy.

Some might consider the special effects to be laughable, one example include exaggeration of blood spatter. You will see things like a fountain of blood shooting from a decapitated head. However, consider this to be part of the aesthetics of the film and you will learn to appreciate it. In fact, very little special effects are used due to Kurosawa's expertise in cinematography.

This film deserves at least one sitting for those who are into epic films.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Wonderful re-telling of King Lear
- Philosophical

The Bad [-0]
- (none)

100 - 0 = 100 points

Friday, March 13, 2009

Watchmen [2009]

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Carla Gugino
Points: 90 out of 100
Rating: Adult (violence, nudity)
Comment: "Makes The Dark Knight seems so childish..."

Let's start by saying that this is not for everyone. Although the same can be said to virtually every other movie out there, this one is in a context of it's own. People who expect butt-kickin' supervillains would be disappointed. Please do not let the costumes and spandex throw you off, this is one heavy superhero movie and laden with philosophy. In fact, regarding it simply as a "superhero movie" would only explain a fraction of what the entire movie is all about.

This film is an adaptation of the graphic novel written by the critically-acclaimed writer Alan Moore, with that being said, do not expect to be able to explain what the story is all about in one paragraph. But here's the gist of it; When a former member of the Watchmen is murdered, a fellow former member begins to investigate the story behind the murder and goes on a journey to discover an even more horrible truth.

Having Zack Snyder's name in the credits might actually work against him, for his claim to fame was the testosterone-fuelled, action packed 300 [2007]; which was very, very entertaining, but not even remotely mind-boggling. Watchmen, however, is considerably much less about superheroism. So people, don't expect any formulaic Superhero story arc here. This is nothing like X-Men, or Fantastic Four or the atrocious League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

A downside, however, you might need to first familiarise yourself with the lore of Watchmen, otherwise there is a chance that the story would make no sense to from opening montage onwards. A simple way of saying it is that, this film does not go in the same timeline as ours - it takes place in an alternate universe in 1985 during the Richard Nixon-era.

As far as casting goes, they did something brave by casting relatively-unknown actors (at least on this part of the world). Those I find recognisable are only Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Carla Gugino. Which brings me to another point; characterisation. The duration of the film is definitely due to the development of characters. You have seen these type of superheroes before, but you wouldn't know them for they don't possess the qualities "normal" superheroes have. But they don't parody them either, you will be able to take them seriously for you see real human-beings through the disguises.

My recommendation; go watch it in the movies. The amount of censorship by the board of mofos might turn you off, but I can tell that these cuts are not enough to distrupt the value of the movie. After all, those censored scenes are 'love-making' scenes with no important dialogues.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Unpredictable
- Philosophical

The Bad [-10]
- You either love it, or hate it

100 - 10 = 90 points

Friday, March 6, 2009

Taken [2008]

Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace
Points: 70 out of 100
Rating: Teen (violence, gangsterism)
Comment: "Too many coincidences although the fast pace of the film disguised that fact..."

It is good to see Liam Neeson in an action movie once more. Not only that, his characterisation of the protagonist will remind audience of his role as the anti-hero, Darkman. Few other are able to do what he is able to do, and that is injecting dramatic elements into an otherwise one-dimensional action hero.

The tagline itself is pretty much what the entire movie is all about, Liam Neeson plays a retired CIA agent whose life after his services to the government left him nothing but a lonesome life - although all of these are told through dialogues between characters. After his daughter was kidnapped by a syndicate that specialises in trafficking women, he needs to summon his inner demons once more to rescue her.

With Luc Besson's name in the credits, rest assured that this is going to be a decent action flick. Unfortunately, however, those who are not interested in the action genre will not even be remotely impressed by the film because nothing in particular stands out. Sure, the action is good; makes you wonder if this is how a retired Jason Bourne movie would be like. But it lack the intensity of classic action movies such as Terminator II: Judgment Day [1991].

The use of action-hero-formula also makes you unable to resist to urge to root for the hero. The formula here is; the hero gets trashed first by everyone around him, but later, he becomes the only hope for those who resent him in the first place. In the hands of a charismatic and fatherly actor, this makes for one memorable action hero. The only problem is the truth behind the big screen. At 57, veteran actor Liam Neeson is probably too old to be believable as a badass mofo. Which is why the action (i.e fight scenes) are a tad fast, disguising the fact that they are possibly using stunt doubles.

All in all, Taken is a good action film considering that there is a lack of good action flicks lately. For action-junkies, this is a must.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Good plot
- Fast action
- Liam Neeson

The Bad [-30]
- Feels like a string of coincidences

100 - 30 = 70 points

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kami the Movie [2008]

Directors: Effendee Mazlan, Fariza Azlina Isahak
Starring: Syarul Ezani, Liyana Jasmay, Nas-T, Ani Zayanah, Juliana Evans
Points: 85 out of 100
Rating: Teen (gangsterism, subtle drug references)
Comment: "Although there is something in it for everyone, you need to have some knowledge of the tv-series to actually care about the characters..."

So, they made us wait for quite some time before revealing to us what actually happened to Abu after the shoplifting incident, how Lyn is coping with the move to the city, whether or not Ali relapse to drug-abuse, is Adii still unlucky in love and if Sophie is still... well, Sophie. The good news, however, it was worth the wait. This movie was made with fans of the Kami tv-series in mind, but thankfully, that will not stop anyone from identifying the characters with real people.

Picking up exactly where the tv-series left off, the story of this movie revolves around the lives of five friends making the transition from adolescence to young adulthood.

It is a shame that they did not incorporate much of the story-telling method of the tv-series into the big screen. The story arc of the tv-series was told in a non-linear fashion; akin to reading chapters from a book. Personally, I think that was why Kami was such a popular tv-series. It's new, it's refreshing and it shows that we do have film-makers who does not condescend to the local audience. But I am not taking anything away from the production team, I appreciate how challenging screen-writing can be, so kudos to them.

Speaking of writing, one would definitely enjoy the dialogues that takes place throughout the movie for the resemble to what real people say in real life. Every character is there for a reason, and even the minor ones are very memorable; namely the warden of that reform school which Abu was sent to.

There isn't much else left to say about the movie other than it is such a shame that it went off the shelves much too early.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Plentiful of memorable characters
- Clever writing

The Bad [-15]
- Non-Kami fans might not enjoy it as much

100 - 15 = 85 points
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