The Night Listener


Director: Patrick Stettner
Starring: Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Rory Culkin, Sandra Oh
RunTime: 82 mins
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rating: M18
Will Appeal To: Fans of Toni Collette and Sandra Oh

Toni Collette is one hardworking actress, with 2 of her movies opening this week at Singapore. The cast list of The Night Listener is an interesting one: Robin Williams tackling another serious role (but failed to sizzle), Rory Culkin (brother of the other famous Culkin) and Sandra Oh (Great acting! But unfortunately, another non-substantial stereotyped role.)

Robin Williams plays a radio show host who builds a friendship with his biggest fan, a sick and troubled young boy. All is well until his boyfriend (which explains the M18 rating) points out that the boy may not exist at all.

Based on the international bestseller by Armistead Maupin, The Night Listener is a psychological suspense. It interested me in the first place because of its premise and my job. There are times when there are people calling in who are not who they claim to be. And I am not sure about you, but I had friends with split personalities, behaving very differing in different situations.

The film scores in a non-confrontational way, so do no expect knives, murders in showers or gunshots. Toni Collette is amazing playing the blind mother of Culkin. Sandra Oh is also a darling.

Unfortunately, the film has one of the biggest anti-climax endings, not sure if it is purposeful or the lack of continuation skills from the screenplay. Audience left the theatre in bewilderment. It leaves you hanging, and drops you from there.

The Night Listener – A major anti climax

Little Miss Sunshine


Director: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Starring: Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano and Greg Kinnear
RunTime: 101 mins
Genre: Comedy
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual Reference)
Will Appeal To: Indie Film Lovers

(The review is contributed by Mr Disjecta.)

Little Miss Sunshine is a tale about a dysfunctional family's road trip to get the youngest daughter to a beauty pageant. The film is not so much about the pageant – more than a physical journey, but an emotional and soul-searching one. Even the plethora of issues brought forth by Little Miss Sunshine never overshadows this.

We all love families with 'weak' characters. They fall short of perfection and expectations. Gay brother? Marriage on the rocks? Rebellious silent and angst filled teen? Foul-mouthed junkie grandfather? The dysfunction and difficulties never cease and instead of frowning, we laugh and cheer the family on.

In this day and age, what is considered to be a normal family? There is no such thing. And this comforts us. It reminds us of our own families. We may have glaring differences, hate each other's guts, quarrel till the sun don't shine, but we are a family and we love each other and stick together.

The tagline of the movie should not be 'Where's Olive?' but 'Everybody look normal.'

It is overall a charming and light hearted film to watch, though I felt that the moralizing was rather overboard and 'obvious' for an indie film (as was the slapstick). Further the family dance bit at the end was a slightly contrived.

That being said, it was still a wonderful film to watch.

Little Miss Sunshine - An excellent and utterly believable ensemble cast with an engaging story.

The Host (Korean)


Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doo-Na, KO A-sung
RunTime: 114 mins
Genre: Horror/Action /Comedy

Rating: PG
Will Appeal To: Just about anybody

I am back! And The Host was the first movie I caught after my break.

Just as you think "Ewwww...", it's a silly movie about monsters, The Host is definitely more to it. It's part horror, part action, part comedy, part political and part family drama. I won't quite know how to categorize this movie and would think it would appeal to just about anybody due to its entertainment and satirical level.

The story is simple: A gigantic tadpole-look-alike swims out to the crowded Han Riverbank, slashing everybody in sight. The creature also snatched away the adorable daughter of a nitwit hawker Gang-du. As chaos and a general fear for a virus infection like SARS arises, Gang-du gathers his family to rescue his daughter.

Most monster flicks will sink into a mish-mash of special effects and mindless stomping. The Host is more than just that. It is funny, mocking and highly touching as well. Personality, I liked the scenes involving the grandpa and the final moments.

Although it was a tad long in the middle, it evolved some form of anger in me towards the issues discussed. It lets you think about what is the real 'monster'. But if you do not want to think that much, it's still an enjoyable piece.

The Host – The Koreans can do more than just soapy dramas

The Banquet 夜宴


Director: Feng Xiaogang
Starring: Zhang Ziyi, Ge You, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Huang Xiao Ming
RunTime: 131 minutes

Genre: Period Drama (Chinese)
Rating: To be advised

Set during the period of five dynasties and ten kingdoms, The Banquet is a story of power struggle and emotional conflicts.

The invitees to This Banquet is top-class: Director Feng Xiaogang from The World Without Thieves (a very entertaining movie starring Andy Lau and Rene Liu), cast Zhang Ziyi (or Ziyi Zhang and hers was the only name reversed the credits), Ge You, Daniel Wu Zhou Xun and Huang Xiao Ming, and action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping (again) and soundtrack composer Tan Dun.

A loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the focus is the young empresses (Ziyi as Gertrude?) who plots against the emperor (Ge You), but lusts after her step 'son' (Daniel Wu as Hamlet?). The final banquet was a climax where everyone plans a final showdown and crucial assassination.

The Banquet is spectacular in terms of ravishness and grandeur in terms of set design, and that's probably about it. It's like entering a grand restaurant without the food you expect.

All the actors were strangely speaking their dialogue with unexpected slowness matched with wooden expressions. The lovable Zhou Xun, who was only one who looked natural, instead seemed very out of place.

Ge You delivered one-liners which were clever, but somehow sounded ridiculous in the setting that the audience burst into laughter. I was trying hard to control when Zhang and Daniel started fighting, which seem to burst into a waltz dance. The direction was very deliberate, but pushed too hard to being arty-farty. A good 41 minutes could have been cut if more could have been done to its pacing.

The Banquet is a fine example to show that big budget films may not equate to substance, top actors may not equate to fine acting, and Chinese period movies should just stay true to the heart.

The Banquet – Paying a heavy price tag may not come with fine dining

Gigolo Wannabe


Director: Ryo Nishimura
Starring: Shun Oguri, Toshinobu Matsuo, Takamasa Suga, Yusuke Kirishima, Hiroyuki Hirayama, Ryoji Morimoto, Shingo Katsurayama, Hitomi Manaka
RunTime: 107 mins
Genre: Comedy (Japanese)
Rating: PG
Will Appeal To: Jap fans and some who are deceived by the title

If this movie is a gauge of how Japanese movies are heading towards, then I really worry for the industry. Come to think of it, what has happened to the Japanese movie and television industry? Taken over by Korean movies?

Seven young men who are desperate for money audition to be "hosts" of a pub. Therefore, by definition, they are NOT gigolos, or even wannabes. Their job is to entertain lonely female patron with drinks and talk.

If you think Full Monty, you are somewhat wrong. I was expecting such slick dances, embarrassing moments, or at least something funny. They only seem to have 5 customers throughout the whole movie, and their only job is to work towards pleasing them.

I do not mind that the cast is made up of a group of B-list unknown actors and actresses. There is so much potential for this, but it’s wasted by the lame script and the never-ending ending (Pun not intended.) Would it even attract the pink dollar? I do not think so.

Gigolo Wannabe – Only a wannabe

Little Man


Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans
RunTime: 98 mins
Genre: Comedy
Rating: NC-16
Will Appeal To: Fans of White Chicks and Scary Movie series. And I mean, strictly FANS

When you watch such a movie, you will know what to expect, or even less than that. After Scary Movie and White Chicks, the Wayan brothers did it again. Despite a bad script, lame sexual jokes and silly humour, Little Man still raked in Number 2 in the US Box office.

This time, Marlon Wayans' head appears on a toddler’s body. He goes around stealing jewels, kicking people’s jewels, fondles with breasts and drinks breast milk.

When you prepare to watch this movie, you are prepared to get one or two laughs. And that’s all you are probably going to get. I hate to admit it's funny at some parts, but that's about it.

The best thing in the movie? A cameo by another self-depreciating actor.

The Little Man – Little on sanity, little on jokes. (1 star for the special effect, 1 star for the cameo.)

Singapore Dreaming


Director: Colin Goh, Woo Yen Yen
Starring: Richard Low, Alice Lim, Serene Chen, Lim Yu-Beng, Yeo Yann Yann, Dick Su
RunTime: 110 mins
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Rating: PG
Who Should Watch: I wish everyone in this country!

Singapore Dreaming is the most personal movie I watched in 2006.

I was pretty excited to catch it as it starred my colleague Serene (who just gave birth to beautiful baby Ella) and Yann Yann, whom I think is one of the finest actresses in Singapore. I first came in contact with Yann Yann years back when she was a tenant at my uncle’s flat ,and then invited her to star in my first short film project The Last Flight of the Red Butterflies. She captured the essence and soul of the movie really well.

Back to the story, it is a story about a Singaporean family with dreams and aspirations. After the old man wins lottery, they struggle hard to find the true meanings of their dreams. Every character has a story, one you may see around you.

While Jack Neo has directed many movies which tried to weave in social commentary, they lack in terms of artistic merits and scripting (no offence). Beautifully filmed and well casted, Singapore Dreaming is a product that every Singaporean should be proud of.

Directed by husband and wife team Colin Goh and Wu Yen Yen, it digs where it supposed to, being funny, touching, realistic and reflective all at the same time. I managed to catch up with them days before and thought they were a sincere pair who would work well together (

The first thing I messaged Collin was the story reminded me of my own family. Dick Su who played an IT graduate shared the same name as my brother Ah Seng. who also happened to be an overseas graduate. The last dialogue by the mother drove tears, which reminded me of my mother who never really got to sing as well.

Singapore Dreaming could very well be your story. What they need is your support now. (Incidentally, if you are watching the movie, buy liang teh in to drink. It will make a difference. Trust me.)

Singapore Dreaming – A movie every Singaporean should be able to identify with. A must watch.

Akeelah and The Bee


Director: Doug Achison
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Keke Palmer
RunTime: 113 mins
Genre: Drama

Rating: PG
Who should watch: Word lovers, English teachers and any one who needs inspiration

(This review was contributed by Vonjie, after I highly recommended her to watch.)

Prestidigitation. Argillaceous. Merovingian. Now close your eyes and try to spell all three. Akeelah (Keke Palmer) is an 11-year-old girl who could spell words like these though she had never seen them. But her gift brought her more embarrassment than pride.

The black girl, struggling with identity and emotional neglect, finds herself compelled to join the ranks of smart, mostly white middle class kids so she could well in the state wide spelling bee. Her coach played by Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) shows her that her deepest fear is not her inadequacy but her brilliance.

It’s a heartwarming and inspirational story justified by Fishburne’s and Palmer’s skilled acting, despite somewhat predictable characters and a seemingly too perfect ending.

When Akeelah struggled with 'argillaceous' on stage, and finally got it right, I almost stood up and cheered, forgetting I was in a theatre, not at the bee. Talk about suspense of belief.

The movie made scrabble look hip and word lovers will feel like running out to buy the thickest dictionary and learning every single word. It does offer more than just words though and you’ll have to watch it to find out.

Akeelah and the Bee – When spelling the impossible is nothing

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