Thursday, December 11, 2014

Terbaik is Yet to Come


That was what I felt when I stepped out of the theater. Terbaik Dari Langit had ended, and the talks had begun. I chuckled to myself, thinking that perhaps this is the second installment in their "feel-good movie about depressed people" trilogy (the first being KIL [2013]). Not that there's a need for it to be. To, you know, lend the film credibility or somethin'.

There was an air of celebration about the whole thing, as there should be. For the first time in a really long time, the audience could finally talk about the film and the film alone; we didn't have to talk about things that film-makers should already know but take for granted, i.e. technicalities, presentation worthy of cinema, and so on.

In other words, things that'd make you go, "Itu pun nak kena cakap keee?!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Apa Benda yang Islamik-nya?

Sebagai seorang Muslim jugak, mungkin ada antara korang ingat aku suka dengan trend filem dengan drama TV yang katanya Islamik sangat tu. Walaupun tak follow sangat, tapi familiar jugak dengan filem macam 99 Kali Rindu; filem-filem seram yang kononnya ada elemen Islamik; dan lagi satu, drama bersiri Tanah Kubur.

Urut dahi aku dibuatnya bila tengok semua tu. Lepas tu bila cuba cari apa yang Islamik sangat dengan 99 Kali Rindu ni semua, terus migraine. Sikit punya panjang aku fikir, last-last sampai jalan mati. Senang cakap, aku tak nampak apa yang Islamiknya, dan dalam artikel ni aku akan cuba bahas 5 sebab kenapa. Nak buat 99 sebab, tak larat.

Mungkin korang ada pandangan dari sudut lain yang aku tak nampak sekarang ni. Habis baca nanti, jemput share pandangan kat bawah nanti.

Monday, October 6, 2014

DOG POUND: Behind the Bruises

Three years, five drafts and four editors later, my debut novel Dog Pound is finally available for purchase!

I'd love to share some behind the scenes stuff, but just in case you're only curious as to what the book is about, kindly read the synopsis below:

Azroy, a rising star in the underground boxing circuit, fights the battle of his life when his opponent dies in the ring under mysterious circumstances. Caught in a web of deceit, he begins to live on the run while he attempts to uncover what's really going on, But can he really win this fight, now that his opponent is the law?

Find out!

All right now, the good stuff. I should warn you that this is gonna be a long ride.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lagenda Budak Setan 3 [2014]

"Director": Sharad Sharan
"Writer": Ahadiat Akashah & Jujur Prananto
Starring: Farid Kamil, Maya Karin, Bront Palarae, Ayu Raudhah, Iqram Dinzly, Lisa Surihani
Genre: Unintentional Comedy
Rating: General
Verdict: "Well, legendary..."

It starts out as a horror flick where Lisa Surihani sleepwalks her way through her scene, perhaps to foreshadow the fact that it's just dream sequence. Farid Kamil, who reprises his role as Ahadiat Akashah's Mary Sue character, wakes up from this terrible dream, but not before waking up yet again. His dream-within-a-dream turns out to be an even bigger foreshadowing as his reality is actually a much bigger nightmare; by the end of the film, Faridiat Akamilshah would have crossed paths with a coconut lady in labour, a CSI Mary Poppins character, an ex-lover with a psychotic husband, and an ex-psycho who's in love with his wife.

What to Expect
1. A proper ending to this legendary series
2. Trust Fund Babies
3. Notable phoned-in performance by Lisa Surihani
4. An actual budak setan
5. Confusing timeline
6. Claustrophobic camerawork
7. Mental illness galore!

What NOT to Expect
1. Logic
2. Common sense
3. Humour
4. Romance
5. Logic
6. Common sense
Your opinion about it will be influenced by how many friends you bring with you

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mamak Cupcake [2014]

Director: Woo Ming Jin
Writer: M. Zulkifli
Starring: Shaheizy Sam, Siti Saleha, Faizal Ismail (FBI), Maria Farida, Natasha Hudson, Acappan
Genre: Comedy
Rating: General
Verdict: "All icing, low on sugar, and burnt on the underside..."

As heir to the family business, MJ (Shaheizy Sam) finds it hard to strike that balance between appeasing his widowed father, and nursing his secret wish of seeing his cupcakes enjoyed by many. But when he catches news of a national cupcake bake-off taking place real soon, he decides to enter because why the hell not.

What to Expect
1. An aptly colourful presentation
2. Inadequate world-building
3. Paper-thin characters
4. Uninspired script
5. Awkward editing

What NOT to Expect
1. Wit
2. Much comedy
Well-intentioned, but super dull.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Game of Thrones - 1995 Edition

This sure brings back memories of myself as a boy, sitting in front of the TV waiting for the likes of Spellbinder and Conan the Adventurer to start, and just forget about all the trivial things I had to do back then.

Ah, the '90s.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers: Will It Ever End?

Say what you want about Transformers - I don't like 'em - but they are huge money-making machines.

See what I did there? But truly, the first three Transformers movies have a combined gross of $2.6+ billion, against a budget of $700+ million plus. Numbers-wise, it's all very impressive, and perhaps the question is already answered: will the series ever end? Probably not. Not any time soon, at least. Especially now that they've brought Dinobots into the picture.

Transformers. Made up of sharp things. Weapon is a sharp thing. Now rides something sharp too.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

5 Reasons Why These “Islamic” Movies/Shows Are Anything But

Being a Muslim myself, you’d think I’d be engaged more than usual whenever I watch these so-called “Islamic” movies/TV shows. Well, in a way, that’s true. I do feel more engaged than usual, but thus far it’s all for the wrong reasons; or rather, reasons not intended by the film.

Now, I will fully admit that I haven’t seen all of them, from as far back as Nur Kasih to 7 Petala Cinta. But I have seen the likes of 99 Kali Rindu, horror movies with supposedly Islamic undertones, and I’m very much familiar with the hit television series Tanah Kubur. All of these have a few things in common, and I find it disturbing that these are the things that pass as “Islamic” in our society.

Friday, May 30, 2014

CEO [2014]

Director: Razaisyam Rashid
Writer: Nazri M. Annuar
Starring: Remy Ishak, Beto Kusyairi, Anas Ridzuan, Cristina Suzanne, Deanna Yusoff, Jalaluddin Hassan
Genre: Comedy
Rating: General
Verdict: "Provides the kind of laughs that has been absent in local cinema for the past couple of years..."

Two guys, two different worlds, nothing in common. High up in a lavish office in a skyscraper, there's Adam (Remy Ishak) who's the CEO of his own architecture firm. Meanwhile, down on the street is Sufian Abas, book publisher accomplished slacker with a pizza delivery gig on the side. The two have no reason to cross paths, but when Adam is framed for corporate fraud, he winds up on the street and, in a twist of fate, Sufian takes his place. Only then they have one thing in common: neither of them know what's going on or what's at play here.

What to Expect
1. Laugh-out-loud comedy
2. Witty banter
3. Memorable characters
4. Also, great performances from everyone
5. Odd camerawork at times
6. Score's a tad overwhelming

What NOT to Expect
1. Cerekarama
2. (Much of) corporate espionage and political intrigue
3. Senario antics
4. I'm-your-father plot twist
Despite some technical oddities, CEO is easily one of this year's best

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bad Lip Reading

I laughed a little more than I should. These are very well-produced, and they have a bunch of 'em at their YouTube channel. Check it out. I just picked on Twilight because I could never get over how terrible they are, and I find it super amusing that you can poke fun at it this way too.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Bitter Red Pill to Swallow

Malaysians. Can't even watch a goddamn movie without making it a racial thing.

The good news is that as of April 30th, 2014, this post is no longer relevant. But for the few days when the National Film Development Corporation of Malaysia (FINAS) added a new column in their box-office page, it was the most eye-searing thing I saw all week. See if you can spot it.

No doubt sparked by the unexpected success of The Journey, audience and film-makers alike have been wondering what made it tick. I briefly touched on it some time ago, but those with the transcendental awareness of Buddha; in addition to having sharper eyes and ears than mine; quickly noted that The Journey is a Chinese-language movie made by a director who is of Chinese descent.

And they believe those are the reasons for its success. And because we're a shining example of tolerance and moderation, it makes sense to zero in on race upon the slightest "provocation"; or to react uncomfortably when "they" are doing well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Apokalips X [2014]

Director: Mamat Khalid
Writer: Mamat Khalid
Starring: Farid Kamil, Jehan Miskin, Iqram Dizly, Adam AF, Peter Davis, Pekin Ibrahim, Zoe Tan, Vasanth, Miera Leyana
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: General
Verdict: "In typical Mamat Khalid fashion, it felt like he made things up as he went along..."

So the world ends. Might have been a movie about people in this post-apocalyptic part of the world struggling for control. I'm not so sure. But, urmm... Farid Kamil was cool in it. So were Jehan Miskin and Zoe Tan.

What to Expect
1. Unsuccessful attempt at an ensemble cast
2. Some really cool ideas
3. A world that looks lived-in
4. But inadequate worldbuilding
5. Some memorable performances
6. Contrived romantic subplot
7. Bizarre uses of jump cuts

What NOT to Expect
1. Coherent narrative
2. A clear sense of plot and pace
3. Rhythm, rhyme or reason to anything
I've forgotten most of it by now

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why Do You Make Movies? (or Film Criticism 101 For Film-makers)

I don't know how it's like everywhere else because I can only speak from experience, but over here, a film fan apparently deserves to be slammed by film-makers for not liking a movie. Of course, this doesn't extend to every Malaysian film-maker out there, but there are quite a few who seem to think that way, and they can be pretty vocal about it too.

But I'm not here to point fingers. I'm just speaking generally. And also, I'd like to ask, "Why do you make movies?"

#1 For money?

If you do, no one can (or should) fault you for this. But if you do it for money and money alone, I gotta say there are easier (and less risky) ways to get rich. Showbiz is tough, often times due to bullshit reasons that I might have talked about a couple of times in the past, and I'm not a huge fan of repeating myself.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Take Me To Dinner [2014]

Director: Gavin Yap
Writer: Gavin Yap
Starring: Patrick Teoh, Susan Lankester, Thor Kah Hoong, Ben Tan, U-En Ng, Michael Chen, Jia-Wei Loo, Chew Kin Wah
Genre: Drama
Rating: General
Verdict: "Will entertain regular patrons of KLPac, but the rest of us might find the incessant monologues taxing to sit through..."

Edward (Patrick Teoh) is an aging contract killer who decides that he has had enough of this life, and would like to leave the business for good. He strikes a friendship with a woman named Jennifer (Susan Lankester), with whom he tries to make a meaningful connection in the days leading up to his retirement dinner, where he will be retiring more than just his career.

What to Expect
1. Practically a play
2. Solid performance from Teoh and Lankester
3. A clever script, but-
4. Tons of monologues
5. Anglophile supporting characters

What NOT to Expect
1. Jason Bourne
If there's nothing better to see that day

Saturday, March 8, 2014

5 Coolest Movie Trailers (In Recent Memory)

You know, whenever we talk about movie trailers, there's always the question of whether or not we are overblowing their importance, especially here in Malaysia; where posters and trailers are - more often than not - just there to fulfill some sort of a requirement, as opposed to what they are: powerful marketing equipment.

You'd think that this only applies to films that are funded through questionable means. But half the time, even movies made with earnestness end up looking like nobody gives a crap about the end product. The former can't be helped since the people behind them are in it for the wrong reasons, but people in the latter are actually interested in show business and in the industry, so it pains me to see how they squander their resources sometimes.

It's not exactly a mystery to me how it keeps happening. I've made hypotheses in the past, and to sum it up here: we just don't have that many things to play with. Until changes or improvements are made within LPF and Finas; and the way our creative workforce gets treated; don't expect things to get better any time soon. If that sounds very bleak of me, I'll have you know that I believe change is coming.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Journey to the Top

By now, you most likely would have heard that Chiu Keng Guan's The Journey has earned the top spot as the most profitable local film in Malaysian history, and I could just imagine studio execs scratching their heads in unison and wondering out loud, "How?!"

In many ways, the film went against many - if not all - of the rules stated in the How to Make a Local Film playbook. For a film that cost in the neighbourhood of RM 3 to 4 million, you'd think they'd be tied down to oh-so many demands and stipulations set by the investors; maybe they still had to bow down to some, I don't know. But from an audience perspective, it didn't seem like the vision had been tampered with.

'cause if it had, the poster might have ended up looking like this;

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Aaron Eckhart On Working With the Late Heath Ledger

A few weeks back marked the sixth year in the passing of the gone-too-soon Heath Ledger. Not that I keep track of these things, but as the world mourns the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I was reminded of him as well. Nothing to do with drugs, but everything to do with how I'm gonna miss seeing them up on the big screen.

Here's a little something I saw a while back; The Dark Knight co-star Aaron Eckhart talking about his experience working with the late Heath Ledger, and if you aren't already aware of Ledger's dedication to his craft, this will elevate it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Kami Histeria [2014]

Director: Shamyl Othman
Writer: Rafidah Abdullah
Starring: Sara Ali, Mila Jirin, Diana Danielle, Umie Omar, Nad Zainal, Nur Fazura, Izzue Islam, Afdlin Shauki
Genre: Comedy
Rating: General
Verdict: "If you're going to watch just one movie this coming month - local or international - make it Kami Histeria..."

The end of the semester break also marks the reemergence of Histeria, a rock band fronted by Laila (Diana Danielle), featuring Bad (Sara Ali), Peanut (Nad Zainal), Jojo (Umie Omar) and Airin (Mila Jirin). Due to financial reasons, the ladies move to a run-down flat in a secluded neighbourhood, where they achieve their greatest success as a band with the help of... something. But when it's time to pay the piper, will they be able to?

What to Expect
1. Ninety minutes of fun
2. Kickass soundtrack by LoQue
3. Crafty visuals
4. High production value
5. A refreshing take on horror tropes
6. Lovable characters & memorable performances

What NOT to Expect
1. Ghostbuster Imam or bomoh
2. For it all to be a dream
Best film to start off your 2014 with

Friday, January 17, 2014

Jonny Gossamer Thrillers: From the Film "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" [2005]

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005] is one of those films that kind of fell through the cracks, which is too bad because I had plenty of laughs watching it. It's pretty unique in the sense that it's a funny noir film, you should really check it out. But before that, a little background info on the film;

Written and directed by one of my heroes: Shane Black, probably best known here for having directed (and also co-written) Iron Man 3 [2013], but his screen credits goes as far back as 1987, mostly as screenwriter. Even if you've never heard of the guy, you have seen or at least heard about his other works - Lethal Weapon [1987], The Last Boy Scout [1991] and The Long Kiss Goodnight [1996].

You might also remember him from Predator [1987], an all-time favourite movie of mine...
What makes the film so special, as with any screenplays penned by Black, is his brand of humour. This blogger says it best, "One of the things I enjoy so much about Shane Black's screenplays is that his love of reading - especially his interest in mysteries and pulp paperbacks - always manages to cut through the gunfire, explosions and wall-to-wall wisecracks, and it's what ultimately makes his work so distinctive."

The look of the film is spectacular, especially the art direction; one of the things that keep me re-watching it. I won't even try to capture it in words, but I do want to feature one aspect of it, which is a series of fake Jonny Gossamer pulp novels that serves as an important piece of the plot. Like him, I too have a huge love for reading, and my first love had always been the arts.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Where Do We Go Now: From a Writer's Perspective (or, 5 More Ways to Improve Local Cinema)

Another year, another string of losses. I am, of course, talking about local films that saw release throughout 2013. I don't know, man. I mean, I talk a lot of smack about the quality of our films, but I don't revel in their failure. Not all of 'em, at least.

It doesn't seem like we'd be off to a good start for 2014 either, with movies like Rumah Sewa RM50 leading the way, which I'm sure will tank at the box-office. I mean, just look at it. Everything about it just screams of incompetence; the poster, the translation (might I suggest, "You wouldn't last a single night"?), the aspect ratio of that trailer on YouTube, and how I couldn't feel a damn thing watching it - granted, in part due to how desensitised I've become with horror flicks, especially local ones.

Going back to the subject at hand, 2013 wasn't altogether a bad year for local movies. There's KIL, for instance. Calling it a game-changer might be overstating it, but you can't deny it caused quite a ripple and got people talking about how much of a difference real talent can do to a movie. And it's good to see that it's being acknowledged for it.

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