Death Note 2: The Last Name


Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama, Erika Toda, Nana Katase
RunTime: 140 mins
Genre: Thriller
Rating: PG

Originally a manga series of a cursed notebook who kills anybody whose name is written on it, the screen adaptation earned instant success and charmed youths all over Asia.

- Will I be able to appreciate The Last Name without watching Part 1?
You may have difficulty as there was no flashback with little introduction to the characters. Besides Light Yagami (also known as Kira the holder of the Death Note) and L (the genius out to capture Kira), the other characters require some form of introduction to get a better understanding. My recommendation is to watch both, rather than just a Part 2 standalone.

- Is Part 2 better than Part 1?
While I was left hanging anticipating during Part 1, I must admit Part 2 was disappointing. With more talk and less action. Part 2 focused on the different the strategies taken by Light and L, but left out much action, humour and tension.

- So should I watch Part 2?
Reviews have been on two extremes: You either love it for the play of cat and mouse play of strategies or get bored with the numerous dialogues and explanations. Manga fans will find it disappointing as the movie did not stay true to the original.

With less surprises and slow pacing, The Last Name still has enough entertainment value to thrill. The star of the movie time is L, and I am a converted fan of chocolate and sweets.

Death Note 2 The Last Name: More dead time than dead people that Kira writes



Director: Deepa Mehta
Cast: John Abraham, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas and Sarala
RunTime: 116 mins
Genre: Drama (Hindi)
Rating: NC-16

While everyone is set in the mood of catching light weight entertainment during the holiday season, this powerful and heavy movie may get washed away.

Water, a brilliant work, is the third of director Deepa Mehta's trilogy of Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). This film on destitute widows in India took 5 years to reach the screen, as angry extremist threatened the crew by burning sets and throwing them to the Ganges River. The director showed the strength of movie as she moved her film to Sri Lanka with a different cast.

Set in 1938 Colonial India, against Mahatma Gandhi's rise to power, the story is about an eight-year-old Chuyia (Sarala) who finds herself in a widow's ashram even though she has never met her dead husband. Such is the fate of India's widows for the last 2000 years as they make amends for their 'sins' for causing the deaths of their husbands.

They can choose to bun with their dead husband, marry his brother, or sent away to widow houses. No much of a choice anyway. There is more to this film than traditional fundamentalists or the ill fate of life. Intricately filmed to revolve around the fiery Chuyia, elegant Kalyani (Lisa Ray) seeking truth love and Shakantuaa (Seema Biswas) struggling between her faith and values, it is enough to set hearts stirring.

During the final scene, the quiet Water pushes your emotions and you should find yourself tearing, for their lives and our helplessness.

Water – Companionate and Powerful



Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Pamela Anderson
RunTime: 104 mins
Genre: Mockumentary / Comedy
Rating: R21 (Coarse Language and Nudity)

Jagshemash. I just watch Borat. He the fake journalist from Kazakhstan to go US&A to make moviefilm. If it not success, he will be execute. So people enjoy with much laugher.

Americans think he actual TV personality who don't understand US&A culture. Cameras hide and capture real expression and reaction like Candid Camera. Of course people angry and want to sue him. If he in Singapore talk about Jews, Christians and other races, he will be fine and go cell.

Borat go from New York to California with fat producer to find Pamela Anderson. He want Anderson's Vazhïn (sounds like machine), even though he has wife in Kazakhstan and sleep with sister. Along the way, he meets feminists, gays, politicians, rodeo, hiphoppers, Jews, gypsy woman. They shock and you see their real reaction of Americans.

This one is mockumentary that let you discover more of different cultures and racism. It very crude so strict mothers and children don't watch because have nude obese with romance explosion (also known as liquid explosion) and show balls and shit.

Singapore gar'men show because got meaning and even nominated for Golden Globe. Borat Da Ali G also got best actor nomination because he very sexy. By the way, I watched this moviefilm at Yang Tze Cinema (Ah peks will not like). My first time. Also my last.

Borat: Cultural Learning of American for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – Funny and groundbreaking (Warning, not suitable for minors and strict mothers)

Night at the Museum


Director: Shawn Levy

Starring: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson
RunTime: 110 min
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG
Will Appeal To: More for the young

Ben Stiller play a blundering security guard at the Museum of Natural History where the exhibits and animals on display come to life and wreak havoc at night.

Trying his best to keep his job, he has to overcome a skeletal T-Rex, gladiators and cowboys engaging in battles, a mumbling Christopher Columbus, and a jingle of wild animals. Nobody believes him, and only a wax figurine of President Roosevelt (Robin Williams) offers a helping hand.

Overall, it is a fun-filled pop-corn flick for the young in the family. Let your imaginations run wild with this adventure. Two thumbs up for special effects and makeup teams who transform everything to life. For better enjoyment of the movie, avoid watching any trailer which is likely to show the best and funniest parts of the movie.

Ben Stiller comes across as sincere and genuine (as compared to Zoolander, Meet the Fockers and Dodgeball) playing the divorced father. There are many other characters who have their own funny side, my favourites being Attila the Hun and gum-blowing Easter Island statue. More could be delivered from Robin Williams though, who speaks his usual gibberish once again.

Though not a trip to the actual museum, the movie also acts as a simple history lesson with its brief introduction of various historical characters. It would have been a more prolific attempt if there was more characterization and less corny jokes.

Night at the Museum – A fun outing for the family

Charlotte's Web


Director: Gary Winick
Starring: Dakota Fanning
Voices of: Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Cedric The Entertainer, Reba McEntire, Kathy Bates, Thomas Haden Church, Andre Benjamin
RunTime: 108 mins
Genre: Family, Animated/Live-Action
Rating: PG

Charlotte’s Web has always been one of my favourite children’s books. When I was ten, I used to imagine having a pig as my pet and tear at the disconsolate ending.

One of the classic stories of loyalty, trust, and sacrifice comes to life in this live-action adaptation. Dakota Fanning plays Fern who keeps an unlikely pet of Wilber the pig. As winter comes, the family decides that Wilbur would make delicious smoked ham on their dining table. It was the 'ugly' and small spider with a big heart, Charlotte who saves his life with her web and words.

More than a decade ago, the world was thrilled by Babe, the courageous sheep chaser. During that time, the CGI was considered ground-breaking, thus Wilbur may not be as celebrated as Babe. (I remembered I swore off char siew mee for a week after Babe.) Although the movie boosts a celebrated cast of Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates and Cedric the Entertainer, it was Academy Award Winner Julia Roberts who breathes in life into Charlotte with maturity and genuineness.

Pardon me, but I never found Dakota Fanning cute or sweet in any way. (She was a tad irritating in War of the Worlds.) Perhaps she is too mature and smart for her age, and thus somebody younger and more innocent may be suitable for the role of Fern.

Children of all ages should be thrilled by talking animals and a charming storyline by E.B. White. This is a moving story to teach them about life and death, trust and friendship. Adults may be a little impatient at the bland storytelling, and most would have already known the ending. The final scene will still tug heart strings and do bring your Kleenex. Do not be too skeptical, and you will enjoy this magical and childlike fantasy.

Charlotte’s Web – Not radiant, but is a humble and 'some movie'.

Curse of the Golden Flower


Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu Ye
RunTime: 104 mins

Genre: Period Drama
Rating: PG

Despite the millions of chrysanthemum flowers, ten thousand soldiers and three prominent male cast (Chow Yun Fatt, Jay Chou and Liu Ye), one thing will capture your attention. Make that two.

Gong Li and her titillating assets have almost overshadowed everything else in the movie. While it may not be historically accurate for 10th Century Tang Dynasty palace females to dress so scantily, director Zhang Yimou obviously wants to make a stylistic statement right from the opening scene.

His play with colours was apparent from Hero. Curse of the Golden Flowers presents a kaleidoscope in its grandeur palace setting and elaborate costumes. The final fighting scene lead by Prince Jai (Jay Chou playing Jay?) the prince with golden armored warriors trampling over chrysanthemum is nothing short of impressive.

Jay Chou had a difficult time playing Prince Jai, which required more complexity than a cool rider in Initial D. While emotional scenes with Gong Li drew some laughter from the audience, his final scene was noteworthy and articulation has improved.

Kudos goes to Chow Yun Fatt and Gong Li. Chow has improved on his accent tremendously (which was very strange in Crouching Tiger) and portrayed the Emperor with magnitude and hysterical outrage. Look out for the scene as the usually mild mannered Chow punishes his son with both rising temper and hair.

While the film obviously banks on Gong Li’s bosoms, they shouldn’t distract audience from her exceptional acting. It may be over-the-top at times, but she shows that nobody else can play this vengeful and solitary empress better than her. At this moment, she is the queen of the Chinese cinema.

The story of betrayal, illicit affairs, chilled relations and dysfunctional families may be run on the mill and overdone. Drawing parallels with The Banquet by Zhang Ziyi is inevitable. Both are about an obsessed empress who craves for a relationship with the prince (Interestingly, both well-known for playing gay roles) and demands for more power from the emperor. Curse of the Golden Flower is not just soap drama but a period epic to impress with colours, opulence and sheer indulgence.

Curse of the Golden Flower – Old time family drama in a stunning, extravagant setting

The Holiday


Director: Nancy Myers
Starring: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, Jude Law
RunTime: 2 hrs 18 mins
Genre: Romance Comedy
Rating: PG
Will appeal: Women, not girls, not spinsters, but WOMEN

Two women (Diaz, Winslet) successful in their career are a mess when it comes to relationships. Enough with guy-problems, they cross the Atlantic to swap homes in each other's countries. In the midst of some culture shock, love strikes them one more time.

Cameron Diaz shows that she can only act as Cameron Diaz. From flirting with the green faced Carey (The Mask), getting gel on her hair (There’s Something About Mary), to picking shoes (In Her Shoes), her inability to portray more than a few emotions other than a silly smile and a pout shows. But who’s cares? She is one of the highest paid actress.

Jude Law recedes in his hairline more than his career, but still plays his role as the brother with English charm and charisma. Unfortunately, the on-screen romance with Diaz was too simplistic and saccharine sweet.

Jack Black is no more Nacho Libre, but a talented music producer. This low key role is rather refreshing, but his antics in Tendacious D seem deeply rooted in our minds.

Kate Winslet steals the movie playing a vulnerable and gullible plain Jane Iris. Many women may find a bit of themselves in Iris, who believes so much in love. Although mismatched with Jack Black, their story was the stronger of the two.

It’s not Something’s Gonna Give or Love Actually, but is enough to tug the heartstrings of women staying in the contemporary society.

The Holiday – A chick flick. What you expect is what you get.



Director: Stefen Fangmeier
Starring: Edward Speleers, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory, Robert Carlyle, Djimon Hounsou, Garrett Hedlund, and John Malkovich
RunTime: 104 mins
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: PG

When Christopher Paolini first wrote the book Eragon, he was only 15. This could be a double-edged sword for split votes between those impressed with his talents and those who criticise at the story’s immaturity and lack of depth.

The name 'Eragon' is probably derived from 'Dragon'. A fantasy about dragons and magic, it traces the adventure of a farm boy Eragon whose destiny is to save an Empire after he becomes the sole dragon rider.

The main attraction of the movie should be Saphira, a digital dragon voiced by the talented Rachel Weisz. The dragon emotes sensitivity and strength, and is easily the best 'actress' in the movie. Strange.

While fantasy novel fans have great expectation for this year-end blockbuster, criticisms have been forthcoming. It has been said to be a copy of Lord of the Rings, with its scenic backdrop, setting and elfish language. (And Elijah Woods and Ian McKellen were originally considered for the roles of Eragon and Brom). The young Eragon avenging the death of his uncle reminds us of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. And the use of magical spells, dragons and similar soundtracks scream "Harry Potter".

The story-telling is rather straight forward and predictable with a surprisingly short duration (clocking below 2 hours.) My advice is, try not to draw comparisons of it to Lord of the Rings and you will be more forgiving. Note: Arya (Eragon) is not Arwen (LOTR) even though they feel really alike.

Enjoy the dragon ride as you move through an entertaining adventure with breathtaking scenes.

Eragon – A world of fantasy and adventure



Director: Tony Bill
Cast: James Franco, Jean Reno, David Ellison, Ruth Bradley
RunTime: 139 mins
Genre: War
Rating: PG (Some War Violence)

In the light of many other movies of the same genre, Flyboys had it difficult. No major studio was willing to finance the film and it had to be financed by individual investors. Critics have been rather harsh, blaming its poor script and unconvincing CGI. Box office has been rather mediocre as well.

Perhaps it was because the cast was mainly unknowns, with the male lead James Franco more known as playing second fiddle to Spiderman. The story of planes and the adventures of the Lafayette Escadrille, America’s first fighter pilots during the First World War may not thrill many. Perhaps viewers haven’t gotten over the disappointment of recent war movies such as Pearl Harbour.

To be fair to the movie, it is still quite an entertaining popcorn flick which does not require too much from the audience. A predictable storyline, 2-dimensional characters, a love story and exciting battle scenes won’t go too wrong. I had quite an exciting ride.

Flyboys – Will not take off but still a pleasant ride

Flags of Our Father


Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Paul Walker, Jamie Bell, Barry Pepper and John Benjamin Hickey
RunTime: 132 mins
Genre: War
Rating: NC-16 (War Violence)

Iwo Jima is remembered for two good reasons: The death toll is one of the largest in the Marine Corps history in World World Two. And more importantly, it captured one of the greatest photographs of all time.

Joe Rosenthal's picture depicts five United States Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the flag of the United States atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. It is not only a photograph, but a symbol of hope and sacrifice.

The flag raisers Hayes, Gagnon and "Doc" gained immediate celebrity status. But little do the public know of the burden and pressure of the new found fame of these incidental heroes, who were not the original flag raisers.

Flags of Fathers is not only a war movie, but one of the sacrifices made with status and the symbolic meaning of heroes. Fans of Saving Private Ryan will find this one paling in comparison, both in terms direction and colour.

Paul Haggis seem to be lacking in his magical touch with his confusing screenplay. While it is understandable why it is not told in a literal style, random and irrevelent flashbacks only choose to slow down the pace. While the Oscars favour Clint Eastwood many times, his latest take on directing and composing the soundtrack (which has a simplistic score) show emotional detachment.

The original book is big. The photograph is bigger. But the movie Flags of Our Father failed to show the magnitude and emotions that it should have achieved.

(Trivia: There will be a movie Letters from Iwo Jima scheduled soon, also directed by Clint Eastwood. )

Flags of Our Father – The book will be a better read



Director: Billy O'Brien
Starring: John Lynch, Marcel Iures, Ruth Negga, Essie Davis, Sean Harris
RunTime: 95 mins
Genre: Suspense/Horror
Rating: NC-16 (Gore & Violence)
Will Appeal to: B Grade Horror Fans

"IT didn't want to be BORN.
Now IT didn't want to DIE..."

The copy was first criticized by Chris, a Creative Director I met at the preview yesterday, "If I have read this horrible copy, I will not even come to the movie." He added that an episode of X-flies would be even scarier than this entire movie. Uh-huh.

In this Alien meets Slither meets all other B-grade movies, Isolation does bring some suspense and false scares at the start. In the light of the mad cow disease, genetic engineering, this movie about an experiment which went wrong did have some potential.

But when the predator is some unidentified mutated cow (which bites off other cows, legs and a woman who just made love), this unmemorable moooooovie does nothing than to make you swear beef for some days.

Isolation – Holy Cow! Moooove on...

United 93


Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Christian Clemenson, Trish Gates, David Alan Basche, Cheyenne Jackson
RunTime: 111 mins
Genre: Documentary Drama
Rating: PG
Will Appeal To: If you care about the untold 911 story

I was very surprised this movie went straight to DVD in Singapore, perhaps it was due to box office concerns or sensitivities. Personally, this movie touched me a lot more than World Trade Centre, stirring up a mixture of emotions from disturbed, to sad, to angry to moved.

United 93 is a critically acclaimed docudrama written that chronicles events aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was skyjacked during the September 11, 2001 attacks. The dialogue and story was based on interviews with the surviving family members and actual phone records heard from the plane.

This plane was the only one which did not hit its target, and it was due to the bravery to those on board. You feel with all of them. Though they are ordinary citizens, they exhibit bravery despite fear and you find it hard to bear at their eventual fate.

This touching movie is recommended to those who want to look at 911 beyond the twin towers, beyond the terrorist, but at the ordinary heroes who sacrificed themselves to save the world.

United 93 – Hard to watch, but a must watch

Déjà Vu


Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Bruce Greenwood
RunTime: 127 mins
Genre: Thriller

Rating: PG
Will Appeal To: Fans of Action-thriller-suspense movies

“Déjà Vu” (French for "already seen") describes the experience of feeling that one has witnessed or experienced a new situation previously. Have you had the feeling you been to a place, or known a person even though you have never been there before?

This time travel piece is more Back to the Future than Déjà Vu. Denzel Washington (possibly being typecasted again) as an ATF agent who has to uncover the truth of a terrorist bombing of a ferry. With some new technology, he gets to peek into the past. I will leave the scienfic and technological explanation to the movie to how this is possible.

If you are the thinking sort who will dissect movies from Lakehouse to Minority Report on its logicality, then you should avoid this movie. The plot 'twist' and explanations can be very parodoxical, preposterous and full of loopholes.

If you can overlook all that, Déjà Vu is a gripping popcorn fare which will thrill viewers from the ferry explosions, chase scenes and seemingly intelligent and complex plot.

Déjà Vu – Feels like you seen it before. So you either love or hate it.

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