Saturday, March 17, 2007

Of Fairytales, Spartans and First Love Stories

"Women are great leaders. You're following one right now."

Spotted on a bumper sticker of a car driven by an aggressive lady


No, seriously. Don't do this to yourself.


Bridge to Terabithia

The kiddie bait.

My bet is that 99% of kids in Malaysia have never heard of this "beloved novel" that "came to life" recently to the TGV or GSC near you (and I confess fraternity with the majority). And all these kids which bullied their Daddies and Mummies to bring them to watch this Narnia lookalike will be oh-so-disappointed when they get there.

But I'm not saying that this movie is crap.

This is the first movie this year to move me to tears (think damp eyes, not broken dam crying), but that was due to a whole well of emotional slosh-a-bout already locked up inside me.

The message of this flick is simple;
  • Treasure your friends
  • Be nice your sister
  • Keep an open mind
I've a younger sister and this flick absolutely filled me with self-loathing. Unlike Jesse's sister, May Belle, who was still only 7, my sister's already 16. She practically spent her childhood not having her elder brother around - because I'm a loner, even within the family and I certainly haven't been bringing her out and stuff. I know how absolutely spiffing it is for girls to have bigger brothers, and my sister was deprived of all that spiff. And it's too late for me to do anything about it now.

I need to stop falling in love with underage kids.

The best bit about this flick was AnnaSophia Robb's portrayal as the boyish Leslie. Leslie, in the book, cannot be discerned from a boy but Hollywood had decided to make her a lot more girlish than her literary counterpart.

It's a mark of a good actress if she can make people care about the character she plays - and the quirky, spunky Leslie played by AnnaSophia is a definite heart-winner. It's precisely the amount of life she projects that made Leslie's death all the more wrenching, and there's no way we can ask more from a child actress.

A little bit of trivia here; AnnaSophia played Violet Beauregarde in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adaptation.

And Jesse's little sister, May Belle (Bailee Madison) was the perfect baby girl. Besides, AnnaSophia, she's probably the other most memorable member of the cast. That dude who played Jesse was as wooden as the trees in Terabithia, with slightly less force of personality.

In summary, this is a 6/10 movie. Just don't expect Narnia if you plan on seeing it. I bought the novel it's based upon right after I exited the theatre - and in my opinion, there's no need to bother with the book. The movie was waaay more entertaining.


300

This made me smile.

I can't believe my luck when I saw 300 scheduled on the display screen in TGV, KLCC. I remember reading somewhere that the worldwide release is set sometime in April - imagine my oh-my-goodness elation at that moment. I was afraid that I would have to watch this via some DVD rip file - but it seems I would still need download the movie after all (they *cough* censored some parts).

FYI, this flick was based on a graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller, who in turn based it on an old flick he watched called the 300 Spartans - which was inspired by the Battle of Thermopylae (which is Greek for 'Hot Gates', I suppose). Don't anybody write their own stuff anymore?

The Best. Scene. Ever.

It's one of those few versus insurmountable odds story; the titular 300 Spartans against a million (or millions, I can't remember now). I wanted to buy the graphic novel the flick was based on but the price tag gave a me a swift Spartan kick in my rump. Looks like I'll have to download it after all.

This is a movie that focuses on visuals over everything else. Every scene (or so I believe) was shot against a blue screen to mimic the flavour of the landscapes in the graphic novel. Slow-mo (or more popularly known as 'bullet-time', popularised by The Matrix and the Max Payne games) were used generously to magnify every battle sequence - every sweaty, muscled movement - to their utmost jaw-dropping potential.

Be damned with realism. The gargantuan size of the Persian King, the exaggerated deformity of the oracle dudes, the insane stand of 300 men against millions - these are the reasons I go to the movies for!

And as I said, visuals over everything else. You might want to leave your brains at the door before you walk in to watch 300.

The story was historically outrageously inaccurate (I used to be a huge Graeco-Roman buff and Sparta was one of the more interesting Greek states). The movie based the Spartan's brave stand to be in defense of free-will, right to choose, democracy and all-that-jazz; complete bullsh!t, in my opinion. As you can see in the flick itself, every child born in Sparta is immediately examined physically - the failure of which meant abandonment and certain death. And at a truly green age of 7(?), whichever child let to live would be drafted into the strictest, most inhumane of training programs. No choice. Completely totalitarian. Completely Spartan.

Not to mention that slaves or helots made up 30 - 40% of Sparta's population. The Persians are actually a whole lot nicer (if a rather more boring) bunch than the Spartans.

This ain't no documentary, but it still kicks a million Persian butts.

An example of the Spartans' world-class military dental care.

I suspect that Gerard Butler was casted because he looked so damn cool with his mouth wide open like this (to his credit, he played King Leonidas to perfection).

Also, watch out for certain scenes where the actors hold poses way too long trying to capture some dramatic 'feel' or other. I'm sure they looked much cooler in the graphic novel than they did on the big screen (as some giggles from the audience attested)

Rorschach, my favourite batshit insane vigilante from Watchmen.

All I'm waiting for right now is Zack Snyder's translation of my favourite graphic novel; Watchmen by Alan Moore. Seeing what a smashing job he did with 300, I'm sure that my baby is in good hands.

300 chalks a strong 8.5/10 in my book - definitely one of this year's must-watch. Anyone who disagree can get a Spartan kick from me up his plumbings.


Mukshin

An example of a promotional poster that works.

The last Malaysian-bred movie I've watched was Puteri Gunung Ledang, which was pure, certified, irredeemable sh!t. Not crap, mind you - but sh!t (there's a difference). I watched KL Menjerit 2 as well (but that did not count since I saw it free-of-charge when I was working in GSC). Incidentally, that was sh!t as well.

Despite so many glowing reviews, both from authorities of the industry and from bloggers, I consider Mukshin to be crap (not as bad as sh!t). I'm not looking at it from a sympathetic Malaysian eye. I am fair, and I grade this on the same scale I grade all the other movies I watch.

This is bloody uncomfortable to watch.

The actors/actresses were lousy (with the possible exception of that little girl who played Orked and that bloke who played her Dad). The point of making a movie is to engage someone's interest and immerse them completely into the story. The acting in Mukshin felt really awkward. I know that, because I was shifting a lot in my seat trying to find a comfortable position all through the movie.

I snorted dozens of times at Orked's Mom whenever she starts showing off her crappy English. No one speaks that way - unless they are really artificial and pretentious. I have this impression that Yasmin Ahmad was trying to portray a liberal minded and educated woman as Orked's Mom - and at that, she failed miserably. However, that does fit terribly well with some of the neighbours' opinion that Orked's Mom spoke English to show-off. So I'll give her (Yasmin) the benefit of the doubt here.

But honestly, do we really need to see Orked's Mom squeeze her daughter's 10-year-old boobies?

Look at how Mukshin is leering lecherously at a very bored Orked.

I suppose that Orked got pissed with Mukshin in the end when Mukshin forbade her to join the guys' games because he didn't want the other boys to touch Orked. But I can't say that for sure. Yasmin Ahmad was being a tad too vague on that point.

And I also suspect that she did not show us what Mukshin wrote at the tail of the kite because she can't write anything cool, touching, or convincing enough to make Orked react the way she did.


Please, don't give me any of that "leave it to the audience to conclude" or "we need not show everything to tell a story" bullsh!t.

Another mark of shoddy storytelling was Orked's Mom telling the father that she caught Orked reading a calendar, and she was worried that she's spending too much time on books. A good storyteller/director shows the audience that Orked was a great reader by some cleverly shot scenes, possibly reading under the blanket and setting it on fire with an oil-lamp - not have Orked's Mom say it out straight in her mock-classy English.

This movie made me feel that it's a ramshackle piece of production - and no amount of hype or awards is going to change that bad taste in my mouth. 3/10, and I'm being mighty generous here. Don't waste your time or cash; go watch 300. The Spartans can kick Mukshin's ass from here to Persia and back.

But I'm going to get Sepet on DVD anyway. Hopefully, I'll enjoy that more than this.



So bite me,
k0k s3n w4i

7 comments:

michelleg said...

yea! 300 is nice!!

ingshan said...

300 is cool!
might go watch Brigde to Terabithia if it's still on the cinema when i go to KL again...haha

to say d truth, i never watch any local movies...expect XXRay and it's sequel. It's an old movie. Sepet, gangster, mukshin, bla bla etc...doesn't seems to convince my RM8 for its ticket...

k0k s3n w4i said...

@michelleg

THIS... IS... SPARTAAA!!!

@ingshan

Haha... XXRay? That was like uber lame.

But all my friends said that Sepet was good. Yasmin Ahmad may not be much internationally, but back here, she's still tons better than most other directors.

Malaysian movies cost less than international movies, y'know. I got into Mukshin with only 7 on a Saturday (cheaper still on weekdays)

mrbherng said...

My friend was right, not many people from Malaysia can accept movies or play being left open at the end for one to think about it. That is part of what you call art.

k0k s3n w4i said...

@mrbherng

I'm receptive enough to hanging ends and bits; I enjoyed The Talented Mr. Ripley immensely. Ghost World was another one that I liked a lot.

Yasmin Ahmad just isn't convincing enough. :)

Betsy said...

LOL! I always suspected you trying to stay away from me during my growing up teen years was because I was a pest in younger years. Always crying over a little things and getting you in hot soup. Anyway, this blog post made my day :)

bevE said...

u spelled mukhsin wrong even when the picture just below it

bodoh XD