Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fab Feb Films!

SFS is showing 4 movies in February. In addition to our Core Screenings at GV Marina on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday:

SFS Talkies @ The Picturehouse returns this Saturday, 2 Feb, with Errol Morris's acclaimed 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line. (read more here) (earlier post)

(btw, Werner Herzog had promised Morris he would eat his shoe if Morris completed his first feature Gates of Heaven (1980). Morris did, and Herzog ate his shoe. Now that is integrity.)

On Tues 12 Feb, catch Juraj Herz's disturbing The Cremator (Spalovac mrtvol), the latest film in the World Cinema Series -- our collaboration with the National Museum Cinematheque.

(I'm especially looking forward to this one. Herz studied, worked and did military service with Jan Švankmajer.)

And if you're still hankering for more, the National Museum's presenting more good stuff in conjunction with its Greek Masterpieces exhibition:

Wed 27 Feb - Jean Cocteau's Orpheus (Orphée) (1950)

Thurs 28 Feb - Miklós Jancsó's Electra, My Love (Szerelmem, Elektra) (1974)

Fri 29 Feb - Theodoros Angelopoulos's Voyage to Cythera (Taxidi sta Kythira) (1984)

Sat 1 Mar - Don Chaffey's Jason and the Argonauts (1963) - Outdoor screening! Free!

Cathay raises ticket prices to $10.50

So besides rising taxi fares and property prices, now it's the turn of cinema ticket prices to head upwards. Cathay Cineplexes announced that they'll be raising the prices of their tickets by 50 cents to $10.50, with an additional $0.50 for blockbusters. Will other cinema operators follow suit? We think it's likely, given how the local taxi operators did the same.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"This Film Is Not Yet Rated"; Censorship Uncensored - 1 Feb 2008

Looks like Cathay has finally decided to put This Film Is Not Yet Rated on general release. They've had the print since 2006, when this documentary was first shown - once - as part of The Picturehouse's 1st Anniversary celebrations.

In what looks like a tie-in event, Cathay is organising "a panel of industry players" who will talk about their censorship experiences here. They're coy about the details though -- no word yet on who's actually going to speak.
Censorship Uncensored

FRIDAY 1st FEBRUARY at 7.30pm The Picturehouse Lounge

Find out more about CENSORSHIP IN SINGAPORE for yourself! Curious about the whole film rating process? What are the steps a film must go through for a rating? What does an NC16 rating mean for a film? Join us at The Picturehouse Lounge for a open dialogue session with a panel of industry players who will breakdown the local ratings system and sharing some of their own experiences with the censorship process. Speakers include the Chairman of the Consultative Panel at MDA, a representative from a Major Film Distribution company and local independent film maker.

RSVP your place at to avoid disappointment. Subject line:RATED Explores.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Holy hexadecimal! - "Dystopia"

Singaporean directors tackleleth the 10 Commandments, and their fruits shalt be gathered into a feature film - Dystopia

Culturepush has an interview with Nicholas Chu, one of the prime movers behind Dystopia:

Dystopia is about a distant future, a very grim future that we are heading towards and in which people have forgotten about the very first moral imperatives known to men. This reflects on the current situation and the world that we are living in. And if we do not stop and reflect on our actions, we may just be moving to the world that is seen in dystopia.

The project came about when two other directors at apostrophe films and I started talking about the state of films made in Singapore. Most of the movies are either horror flicks or movies about heartlanders. We were kind of jaded that the audiences were interested in these two genres of movies and decided to expose them to something visually and content different.

After a year or so, we eventually decided to do something about it and roped in ten different directors for our Dystopia project; Jeevan Nathan, Mike Chew, Christina Choo, Boi Kwong, Randy Ang, Ric Aw, Bernard Tan, Lawrence Ong, Terence Teo, and myself.

Read the rest of the interview.

Two names ring a bell. Without resorting to the almightly Google -

- Ric Aw scooped first prize in the Professional Category in 2005's Panasonic-MDA Digital Film Fiesta with Buy Me Love.

- Randy Ang (together with Nicholas Chee) started Originasian Pictures, which made Becoming Royston and set up Sinema Old School.

The End for D&O Video

Film buffs on our little island are really spoilt for choice these days. Cathay and GV bring in non-Hollywood fare regularly now, the National Museum has monthly screenings, and what you can't find there, at SIFF or at SFS screenings, you can get via the Internet (legally or otherwise).

But once upon a time, all these weren't available. Film buffs had to rent VHS tapes (gee, remember those?) . And D&O Video at Tanglin Shopping Centre was the place for foreign films and hard-to-find cinema gems.

Sadly, D&O's closing its doors this weekend. According to Paul Rae on the ArtsComm mailing list:

As you may know, D+O is/was no ordinary video store. It's closing from Monday, so if you fancy getting your hands on some decent films and TV series v cheap - not to mention a small piece of Singapore video history (as you may know, the cut vids come with their own descriptions of the cuts, as specified and phrased by this proud Republic's fearless moral guardians), head for Tanglin Shopping Centre - 2nd or 3rd floor...I can't remember, today or tomorrow.

And for enquiries about bulk buys, contact Mr Odell (Jnr) on 92960766

Friday, January 25, 2008

Review: 3:10 to Yuma

3:10 to Yuma, USA, Director: James Mangold, Cast: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Peter Fonda
Westerns have undergone a small revival of late, particularly after Clint Eastwood's splendid Unforgiven. 3:10 to Yuma doesn't take the revisionist track, and tells a tautly plotted character study about rancher Dan Evans (played by Christian Bale) and a bandit Ben Wade (played by Russell Crowe). Trying to earn enough to keep his farm going, Evans has to put Wade on a train to Yuma where he will be tried for his crimes. However, Wade's posse is determined to get their boss free. Crowe and Bale put in sterling performances, and though the ending where there's a wild showdown as Evans tries his best to put Wade on the train is rather confusing, this remake still shows there's life in the Western. Rating: B+

The Thin Blue Line

The Singapore Film Society will be screening Errol Morris' acclaimed documentary The Thin Blue Line on February 2nd, and there's a wealth of info about the film and the murder case discussed on Morris' website. One of the funniest items is Harvey Weinstein's letter to Errol, telling him how badly his interview went. Harvey even goes so far as to say he would hire an actor to play Errol Morris, and telling Morris to describe the film as "In Cold Blood with humor" and "scarier than Nightmare on Elm Street". One wonders if Morris took that advice seriously.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lucky 7 website up

The Singaporean anthology film Lucky 7 gets a website over at Wordpress. It's premiering at the Rotterdam Film Fest, and has been rated R21 without cuts and will be premiering at SIFF. Check their blog for more updates!

Singapore box office for 2007

According to ST, the top ten films of 2007 were:
1. Spider-Man 3
2. Transformers
3. Harry Potter And the Order of the Phoenix
4. Pirates of the Caribbean 3
5. Ratatouille
6. Mr Bean's Holiday
7. Fantastic Four 2
8. Rush Hour 3
9. Shrek 3
10. 881

Considering the number of sequels in the list (7 including Mr Bean's Holiday), it shows why followups are popular amongst the Singaporean audience. Kudos to 881 for making the top 10. One suspects that sequels will continue to dominate the list, with the new Harry Potter and Indiana Jones sequels on their way.

The Other Drama Off-Stage

The end of the writers' strike is nowhere in sight and the nominations for the Oscars are out. It is a safe year with no surprise nominations.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Singapore Int'l Film Fest 2008 website up

Just some basic info for now, but we're hoping this year's selection will be good. Head on over to

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Movies opening January 17

Top opener this week is the much-hyped monster flick Cloverfield, and hardly anything else. Film aficionados might want to catch The Savages, 3:10 to Yuma or Andrew Lau's debut Hollywood feature The Flock. Shockingly, the #1 film last weekend was the remake of Miike's One Missed Call, which just shows you Singaporean's insatiable appetite for horror, even if it's bad horror. More information here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mo Awards!

In an industry that trades on glamour, the desire to shower ever more self-congratulatory stardust is irresistible. Soon even an obscure town in Estonia will have their own film awards in a desperate to boost artistic credentials or rather tourist dollars. Here's the list for the SECOND Asian Film Awards. The Hong Kong Film Festival will run from 17 March to 6 April if you can't wait for SIFF.

Meanwhile, can someone tell me why we need to watch this film about a woman with a vagina with teeth?

Review: Cloverfield

Cloverfield (PG, 83 minutes, Director: Matt Reeves)
Perhaps it was a slow year, but the hype machine has been working on overdrive for this monster movie, produced by JJ Abrams. A farewell party is disrupted by the arrival of an unwanted guest; a skyscraper-sized beastie with more than a bad case of fleas. Shot from the point of view of a hand-held cam, the movie is thankfully less jerky than that other classic of the shaking camera era, The Blair Witch Project. The cameraman accompanies his friend Rob on a search to save the trapped former squeeze Beth, and the group having close encounters with the chaos that the monster has turned New York City into. It has some effective moments, but calls upon too many monster movie cliches to move the story along. The main reason to keep watching appears to be finding out what the monster really is, and the film does give the audience that money shot moment when it reveals the monster in its entirety. Cloverfield doesn't live up to the hype, and fails utterly in comparison to the Korean monster flick The Host.
Rating: B-

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In Search of the Red Carpet

With glamour squeezed out by gritty reality, the BAFTAs (on 10 Feb) has found itself in the limelight. The nominations are not surprising and probably indicates the way for the Oscars (The Golden Globes and BAFTA are really like Iowa and New Hampshire, no?) On the other hand, the reason why they are held earlier is most likely that if they were held after the Oscars, they would be irrelevant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kurosawa remakes? Why bother?

Hot on the heels of the Sanjuro remake is the reworking of The Hidden Fortress (website), the movie that influenced Star Wars. Why is there a crowd of Kurosawa remakes now? I just finished Samurai 7, the anime 'reimagining' of Kurosawa's classic tale, and found it lacked the spirit and dynamism of the original. Maybe it was due to the skyscraper-sized Manga bandits that the Samurais were fighting or the unbelievable skills of the Samurai, which just added to the silliness of the proceedings. Throw in a plot that stretches the proceedings to the requisite 26 episodes and you have a bloated affair.

Nonetheless, at least The Hidden Fortress has a very nicely done poster. Manga fans should recognise the work of Takehiko Inoue, who did the art work for the Slam Dunk and Vagabond series. Now if the movie were fully done in the style of his art work, I'd definitely be queuing up to see it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Golden Globe Winners

Steven Spielberg won the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Best Picture - Drama : Atonement
Best Actress - Drama : Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Best Actor - Drama : Daniel-Day Lewis (There'll Be Blood)

Best Musical or Comedy
: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Best Actress - Musical/Comedy : Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
Best Actor - Musical/Comedy: Ryan Gosling (Lars and The Real Girl)

Best Supporting Actress : Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)
Best Supporting Actor : Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)

Best Animated Feature Film : Ratatouille
Best Foreign Language Film : The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Best Director : Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly)
Best Screenplay : No Country for Old Men (written by the Coen Brothers)
Best Original Score : Atonement
Best Original Song : Guaranteed (by Eddie Vedder for Into The Wild)

For more details check the Golden Globes website

According to omg! (I know, OMG!), Atonement was on the minds of those present for the Golden Globes in more than one way. Time is running out for the Oscars. However, some might be glad for more half-hour ceremonies.

Love and Pride Festival: 25-27 Jan 2008

It's not the first GLBT film festival here (that honour goes to Short Circuit, founded by homegrown gay activist and sharp essayist Alex Au in 2006), but Golden Village's Love and Pride Film Festival is the first gay-and-lesbian-themed feature film festival in Singapore.

Yes yes, it's an attempt to make money off old film reels GV already probably owns, but this is Singapore, remember? GV's shown some gumption in programming this festival (even if the PR seems to be pretty low-key). At least, it's a chance to catch Lee Ang's Brokeback Mountain and Sundance darling Quinceanera again.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Akan Datang: Sundance 2008

What will we watch this year or even next year? Part of the answer will be revealed on 17 Jan when Sundance kicks off in Park City, Utah for 10 days. Although several cinephiles have deplored the increasing commercialization of Sundance (heresy to the defenders of the spirit of Indie), it has become such a permanent feature of the international film circuit, no one with a stake in the film industry can afford to ignore it.

From a cursory browse of the film catalogue, the offering this year is diverse. Of note, Michael Haneke is showing a remake of an earlier masterpiece of his, Funny Games. Although most of us won't be Utah, 10 short films will be streamed daily:

18 Jan - I Love Sarah Jane, Spencer Susser
19 Jan - Pariah, Dee Rees
20 Jan - Yours Truly, Osbert Parker
21 Jan - my olympic summer, Daniel Robin
22 Jan - Sick Sex, Justin Nowell
23 Jan - Because Washington Is Hollywood For Ugly People, Kenneth Tin-King Hung
24 Jan - Force 1 TD, Randy Krallman
25 Jan - Wind, Ten Years Old, Marzeih Vafamehr
26 Jan - Sikumi (On the ice), Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
27 Jan - Spider, Nash Edgerton

Friday, January 11, 2008

Movies opening Jan 10

A list of movies opening this week and continuing has been posted here. Those looking for something a bit off the mainstream might want to check out Johnnie To's romance Linger or the adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. In an interesting trend box-office figures are now listed for movies, which gives you an idea of how well they've been doing. Last week's number 1 the horrid Aliens vs Predators 2 seems unlikely to repeat that performance this week. Will Ridley Scott's American Gangster managed to take the crown from the remake of One Missed Call? We'll see...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

An Illusive Glimpse

Although it is possible these days for jaded travelers to visit North Korea and revel in its Orwellian delights (Tip: Don't throw a magazine with Dear Leader's image on the cover into the dustbin), there is now the alternative of watching it on film, The Schoolgirl's Diary. It was first discovered in the 2006 Pyongyang Film Festival but of course, distributors had formidable red tape to overcome. James Velaise, its foreign distributor, called it 'propaganda light'.

Review: American Gangster

American Gangster (M18), US, 157 minutes, Director: Ridley Scott, Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin
American Gangster, despite its title, isn't just a story about the criminal Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), who fueled the heroin boom in the 70s. It is also about the honest cop Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, who is finding the source behind the drug boom. In a twisted version of the American dream, Lucas finds a way to get his drugs direct from the source, bringing it into the US and selling it cheaper and at better quality than his competitors. By maintaining a low profile, he manages to keep abreast of Roberts, who has his work cut out for him tracking down the mastermind. It all comes together in this engrossing character study/crime thriller that has Scott playing the two leads against each other. Lucas is portrayed as an entrepreneurial businessman, willing to do anything for his trade, while Roberts is a cop whose honesty is actually a crutch. Scott's adept pacing helps the movie move along for its 2 and a half hours length, though the ending appears to muffle Lucas' malevolent influence and ends on a note of admiration for what he accomplished. Rating: A-

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Review: Aliens vs Predator 2

Aliens vs Predators 2 (NC-16), 2007, US, Director: Greg Strause, Colin Strause, Cast: John Ortiz, Steven Pasquale, Johnny Lewis
I admit while I didn't like most of Aliens vs Predators, I did like the final tussle between the two set in a whaling station at the end of the first movie. Not that it made it a great movie, but at least it gave the movie some atmosphere. So now Warner Brothers has given us a rematch between the two space-faring monsters, but this time there's only one dreadlocked Predator facing off against a bunch of chitin-armored Aliens, as well as the inevitable Predator-Alien hybrid. Caught in the middle, like the first movie, are some humans. It's all filmed in low light and much of the violence happens off-camera, and gorehounds would probably find the proceedings rather tame. It's all quite confusing and the greatest tragedy is how the original franchises have been so diluted. Mixing them together has just resulted in diluting, and this is yet another uninspired sequel made to pull in fans of the originals, who would be wise to avoid this muddled, confused mess.
Rating: C-

Filem-Filem-Filem (Jan 16-27)

If you have nostalgia for old theaters, rather than the faceless multiplexes of today, you might want to check out Malaysian artist Ming Wong's exhibition Filem-Filem-Filem from January 16th to 27th. More information here. Personally, I wish the Majestic in Singapore had not been transformed into a faceless mall, stripped of all its character. One still wonders about the fate of Capitol theater, with its art-deco design, still waiting for a purpose in the new millennium.

Review: I Am Legend

I Am Legend (PG), 2007, US, Director: Francis Lawrence, Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok
Will Smith might be the Last Man on Earth, battling against vampires and loneliness as he tries to find if there's anyone else out there. Based on Richard Matheson's classic short story, the ending is substantially changed, and the ending seems a bit hurried after the first half, which is full of wonderfully conceptualised images showing Smith and his Alsatian friend passing the time playing golf on top of an aircraft carrier and hunting deer in Times Square. The movie delivers just enough suspense to keep the proceedings going, though the vampires often look like poorly done animated extras from the video game Resident Evil. However, Smith manages to make the film watchable, showing the acting chops he displayed in Six Degrees of Separation. He's not just Hollywood's best action star, he's also one of its best actors. His guilty-faced Alsatian companion should also be up for a Palm Dog. Rating: B

Review: Breath

Breath (M-18), 2007, Korea, 84 mins, Director: Kim Ki-Duk, Starring: Chang Chen, Zia, Ha Jung-woo
Kim Ki-Duk's latest effort revisits elements from his previous films, as we follow the strange friendship between Jeung Jin (Chang Chen), a prisoner on death row, and Yeon, whose husband has been having an affair. There are moments in the film which appear to have remixed elements from Kim Ki-Duk's earlier movies, particularly 3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall . . .and Spring, and there is undeniable cinematic artifice in his works. A detached, dispassionate air surrounds the story of two wounded beings trying to make a connection, and the film's repetitious structure give it a firm and convincing rhythm. Like much of Kim's works there are wonderfully comedic and off-the-wall moments, and he probably is one of the most quirky and daring directors working today. Newcomers to Kim's work will probably be left wondering about the proceeding, while fans of his work will find little new. Still an interesting film that can only arise from Kim's imaginative and original mind, with subtle performances from both Chang Chen and Zia.
Rating: B+

David Lynch on watching movies on your phone

Director David Lynch tells the world what he thinks of watching movies on a phone. (NSFW)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

The Oscars this year might turn out to be interesting. Certainly, you could dismiss that yearly razzmatazz as frivolous, unrepresentative and populist, but tell that to the statuette with the Midas touch. There's more than stardust in the eyes of the nominees.

The nominations will be out on 22 Jan which gives the Academy about a month to clear the pickets.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Time on Nanking

Time magazine has an article/review about the docu Nanking, screening at Cinema Europa now. Definitely well-worth a watch.

Best of 2007

It's always hard to sum up the best thing I've seen in the past year. Honestly, I don't remember that much. A lot was good, some were great, but nothing really stuck in the head. Still, the best thing I saw last year was actually released in 2003; the 6 hour long The Best of Youth. This is an astounding film chronicling the life of two Carati brothers, as it follows them from their carefree youth in the 60s to the new millennium. There's a 2-disc DVD available and prepare to be moved.

As I'm an animation nut, a lot of the stuff that I enjoyed last year was animation. I was glad to see Paprika get a release at Cathay, and judging from subsequent anime screenings, it might herald that we'll be seeing more anime in theaters. I also really liked The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which doesn't try to do too much with its time-travel core. Other stuff I liked was Alexandra Petrov's mini-epic My Love, with its stunning imagery and animation. The promo is up on youtube. (Note that the music in the background isn't from the film, thankfully)

I also enjoyed Lust, Caution, which totally pulled one into the story. Also making the cut is the stunningly imaginative Pan's Labyrinth and Fincher's serial killer biopic Zodiac. So for commercial releases my top 5:
1. Lust, Caution
2. Paprika
3. Zodiac
4. Pan's Labyrinth
5. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Review: Across the Universe

Across the Universe
2007, US, 131 mins, Director: Julie Taymor
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess
Putting together 37 Beatles tracks to fit into a movie is a tall order, but not for Lion King/Titus director Julie Taymor. Her movies have always been filled with cinematic artifice and overpowering stage direction. Across the Universe is her latest offering, and though the film takes some getting used to and some of the Beatles Songs are imperfect fits, she manages to capture the shift from the Fab Four's early days full of innocence to darker, more sombre pieces, and ties it together with the good-looking cast's own journey through the 60s and 70s. Some of the covers are rather jarring, though always interesting. Nonetheless, though some early moments are clumsy and the movie just has too many characters milling about, the film is an ode to love and the Beatles, and it's all you really need. Rating: B+

Lust, Caution short story

One of the most controversial movies last year was Ang Lee's Lust, Caution. After much hoo-ha when a PG-version was released, the distributors released a R21 version, which I'm sure has done extremely well. I saw both versions and have to say the latter is far superior, as the sex scenes are an integral part of the story, as it shows how Tony Leung's character comes to trust Mrs Mark/Wong Chia Chi. By the way, if you haven't read it, you can find Eileen Chang's original short story in Chinese here. The movie (R21 version) is still playing in cinemas, so do catch it if you haven't.

Happy 2008 and movies to look forward to!

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! This looks like yet another great year for movies. Here are some of the titles we're looking forward to this year.

Atonement - This drama, based on Booker Prize winner Ian McEwan's novel, has been winning awards ever since its release. Starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, the movie is set in 1930s and 40s Britain, the story revolves around a rash, adolescent act that destroys two lives. The Oscar buzz for this is strong and one can expect it to be a strong Oscar contender.

Persepolis - I love the graphic novels that this movie is based on. Marjane Satrapi captures the difficulties that a young girl faces growing up in post-revolutionary Tehran. The film has been winning awards and igniting quite a bit of controversy, being pulled from the much maligned Bangkok International Film Festival after protests by Iran. Expect it sometime this month.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- One of cinema's greatest hero finally returns. The new movie moves Indy away from the WWII setting and puts him in the middle of the Cold War. So we're talking about a much older Indy here.
Will he still be able to crack his whip and foil the bad guys? We'll find out on May 22nd.

Red Cliff - John Woo's martial arts flick has rarely been out of the news, with cast changes constantly a part of the news. Expect it to be yet another big martial arts epic in the style of The Warlords.

That's just a small taster of some of the films to look forward to this year. There are a whole host of other films but we'll talk about them in greater detail as the year goes by. Have a great year at the movies in 2008! Do check out this blog for more previews, news and contests throughout the year.