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.

*********
Updates?
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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