I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay


Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Rain, Lim Su-Jeong
RunTime: 95 mins
Genre: Comedy (Korean)
Rating: NC-16

Despite boosting one of Korea’s most successful idol Rain in his first feature outing, and director Park Chan-Wook of Sympathy of Lady Vengeance fame, fans in Korea were less than impressed with I'm a Cyborg, But that's Okay.

The 'problem' with this movie is that it does not fall into the cookie cutter of Korean melodrama of soapy tales with dying protagonist of unrequited love. Neither does it feature picturesque landmarks of mountains, trees and buildings all so typical. In fact, it is nothing we have ever seen before.

Instead of a pale long haired female lead, Lim Su-Jeong (Tale of Two Sisters) is refreshing as Young-goon, a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks she is a half cyborg. She doesn’t eat as she charges herself with battery, sticks herself with wires and talks to fluorescent lamps. Il-Sun (Rain), a mental institution mate who steals personality traits from other patients, is secretly in love with her.

Using fanatical and violent characters is nothing new in director Park Chan-wook’s movies, and what the movie has to offer is really out of this world. Conservative audiences may be completed bewildered with the bizarre story and wacky characters, from an apologetic patient who walks backward, a liar who suffers from memory loss and obese bully who craves to fly with her red and green socks.

I think the director wants the audience to look beyond the strange and peculiar characters, and that a universal theme of love and dreams can be applied to just any person. Love is all about acceptance and sacrifice, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to fall into the same mould that all other movies would use.

You have to applaud Director Park for his ambitious and highly imaginative take in a movie industry like Korea. Although it is cannot be considered a romantic comedy, audience will laugh and be thrilled by the stylistic directing, spirited soundtrack (which would remind you of a merry-go-round) and fresh vibrant colours from yellow, green to blue.

However, the character development was weak, and the audience never really got a sense of why Young-goon would behave in the way she was (even though her family members are not normal as well.) Despite being a short movie, there were moments of boredom as there was no clear sense of direction on where the movie was heading. Rain’s maiden performance could not be said as exceptional, but fans can at least still get to see him shirtless.

Audience will be divided into two camps: You either appreciate this zany and hilarious movie or hate it to pieces for being nonsensical and lame.

I'm a Cyborg, But that's Okay – It’s different, and just okay

Letters from Iwo Jima


Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shido Nakamura
RunTime: 141 mins
Genre: War
Rating: NC-16 (War Violence)

Dear Mr Eastwood,

Although you lost the Oscars of Best Picture and Best Director to Martin Scorsese, you have earned the respect of many who feel that you are the deserving winner.

I am a converted fan. I wasn’t that impressed with Million Dollar Baby and felt that the Oscars were taken away from Mr Scorsese for Aviator. Flags of Our Father, though critically acclaimed by many Americans, was slow and unmoving for me.

Letters of Iwo Jima which focused on the other side of the war, was a lot more sentimental, moving and inspirational. At one point in time, I was rooting for the Japanese who were in fact the aggressors.

We were brought up with history books, television series and stories from our grandfathers who told us of the cruelty of the Japanese. Yet, you as an American director was able to depict the other side with humanity and without bias.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t about which country was right or wrong. You earned my admiration for humanizing this war, and made me understand one important lesson about life.

Letters of Iwo Jima – It didn’t win the Oscars, but won respect

Notes On A Scandal


Director: Richard Eyre
Starring: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson
RunTime: 93 mins
Genre: Drama
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)

As an educator, I get asked very often candidly by my friends if any form of relationships would form between students and teachers. I mean... NO! I keep my distance. They are so young. Just not right at all! Teachers used to be placed a far distance from students and viewed with a sense of authority. However, we grow up at an age now where I hear of lecturers marrying their students after they graduate.

Notes on a scandal: An arts teacher Sheba (Cat Blanchett) making out with a boy less than half her age. Nobody can ever understand fully why. The movie doesn't explain explicitly why. But as Bill Nighy characters say that we all crave for somebody younger at one point in time, it left me thinking for a long time.

Would being with somebody young remind us of the youth we lost, or desire that vulnerability of youth. Perhaps it was the intensity with innocence that older women yearn, but never got from their lovers. I won't know now.

One Woman's Mistake Is Another's Opportunity: On another hand, a veteran history teacher Barbara (Judi Dench) knows this secret of the guilty teacher, and uses this knowledge to form a 'friendship' underlining with sexual interest. Is she just lonely? Is she a lesbian? Most would say she is, but I may beg to differ. All she craved was a touch which would send her shivers, and she never ever had any true relationships with anybody. A loner and a lesbian is quite different, and you start to feel that the power of loneliness is undesirably and undeniably strong.

Any ordinary person would not fully condone or comprehend these two women. As for the emotional turmoil and tension, I could only commiserate but not understand fully. Yet it is strange that most people I know can acknowledge the conflicts in the movie. (Would it be the same if it was a male teacher and female student? Or two male teachers?)

The movie could be seen as an entertaining psychological thriller with clever lines and brilliant soundtrack. Or a showcase of exceptional acting by my two favourite actresses who made acting looked so easy. Notes on a Scandal's ominous undertones on loneliness left me rather disturbed.

Notes On A Scandal - You will never look at school teachers the same way again



Director: Brian Robbins
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin, Terry Crews, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
RunTime: 100 mins
Genre: Comedy
Rating: NC-16

Eddie Murphy is one very good actor, but not everybody knows that. From Beverly Hill Cops, Nutty Professor, Dr Dolittle to Shrek... Not everybody can play more than 10 roles (in a single movie) to a donkey as convincing as him. He just needs to win an Oscar. Wait! He may just win one from Dreamgirls.

Unfortunately, his Oscar win may be hesitated from the untimely release of Norbit, which is a movie that the mass loves but the critics hate. There is just so much to say about a nerd, his fat wife, and his love for his childhood friend.

Eddie Murphy plays multiple roles as Norbit (a goody nerdy orphan), Rasputia (the fat wife) and Mr Wong (his Chinese father). It is still rather amusing to see Eddie tackle a mean black fat woman role (like an oversized Queen Latifah), but haven't we all seen it in countless other movies and Nutty Professor?

If you do enjoy such movies, try not to watch the trailer at least because it spoils all the 'fun'. Fat girl goes to a swimming pool... oh, no no...! There are just so many stereotypical and crass jokes you can make of an obese black and Asian restaurant owner who cannot speak proper English.

Thandie Newton plays the slim, gorgeous and generous sweetheart Norbit would love to have. Between her and the foul-mouthed and big thigh wife, it doesn't take much to think who the nice guy would land up with in the end.

Norbit – 9 for Eddie, 2 for the movie

Protégé 门徒


Director: Derek Yee

Cast: Andy Lau, Daniel Wu, Louis Koo, Anita Yuen, Zhang Jingchu
RunTime: 115 mins
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Rating: NC16 (Drug-related content)

Boosting some of Hong Kong’s film industry biggest with producer Peter Chan (Perhaps Love) and director Derek Yee (C’est La Vie and One Night in Mongkok), Protégé looks set to become this Hong Kong biggest film this Chinese New Year.

The Protégé here is Nick (Daniel Wu), trained to take over Jong’s (Andy Lau) heroin trafficking business, but is in fact a police officer. His inner conflict is between the loyalty towards his 'teacher', and duty towards his job and justice. Things get more complicated when he falls in love with a heroin-addict (Zhang Jingchu), forced to detriment by her husband (Louis Koo).

The story of an undercover police would remind many of Infernal Affairs, especially when both stars Andy Lau. The difference lies in its subtlety. While there are still police chase scenes and fights, the focus of the film is on the character development more than its actions.

Daniel has proven his acting abilities in One Night In Mongkok. Though he is playing the lead role in Protégé, his character lacks of a very distinct quality to showcase his acting skills. This is so for Andy Lau’s 'baddie' role as well, and you can’t put across strongly how you should feel for him. Anita Yuen has very little screen time, perhaps due to the fact she was six months pregnant, and there could be more chemistry between her and Andy Lau.

The scene stealer is the refreshing China actress Zhang Jingchu who breathes an air of vulnerability and frenzy as a woman forced by circumstances. We should expect more from her as she moves on to a Hollywood in Rush Hour 3. Louis Kook, in stained teeth and tattered clothes, changes his image successfully playing her abusive husband.

Starting off slowly, the movie picks up after moving to the Golden Triangle, where audience are treated to the eye-opening sight of heroin plantations and produce.

Protégé may not be adrenalin pumping or mass audience entertainment, as director Derek Yee probably wanted to weave in a social message in a subtle and restrained manner. The last scene was enough for me to understand the story, though you wished he had pushed the movie forward a little more.

Protégé – Big ambition, big names, but can be bigger on characterisation

Just Follow Law


Director: Jack Neo
Cast: Fann Wong, Gurmit Singh, Lina Ng, Moses Lim, Samuel Chong
RunTime: 111 mins
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG

Directed by Singapore's most successful commercial filmmaker, Jack Neo’s Just Follow Law looks into the rigidness of the local civil service. From Money No Enough to I Not Stupid, his films never fail to make a social commentary on the society, with characters who reflect reality of life in Singapore.

Through the experiences of a director and technician who exchanges souls in a freak accident, Just Follow Law demonstrates the bureaucracy, endless red tape, and inefficiency of government bodies and organisations. It would strike a chord with local blue collared workers. But the emotions and angst of the common people which made the I Not Stupid series very strong, was not well-developed. The sub-plot of soul switching and 'mini-MTVs' slowed down the pace and shifted its focus during the middle.

After criticisms of her English on foreign TV, Fann Wong showed her improvement playing the elite scholar Tanya Chew. After the switch of souls, she slipped in comfortably as a vulgar technician who scratches her (his) backside and sits with open legs. She certainly made her 6-figure pay worth as much as possible and proved her versatility in acting.

Gurmit Singh was not overly exaggerated as in most of the comedies he performed (including the disastrous Singapore Idol hosting), but turned in a subtle and gentle performance as a trapped woman.

Other minor characters such as Lao Char Bo (Fann's mother), the Indian security guard and the administrative staff stole the show with their stereotypical, yet realistic portrayal of people we see around. Are we laughing at them or laughing at ourselves?

Product Placement is a double-edged sword. Without sponsors, there won't be a movie, but it diminishes the artistic merits of the movie. Spot the number of sponsors and see how much you get correct at the end credits. It isn't too difficult as most are repeat sponsors from previous movies. So expect Fann Wong to open a fridge full of Super products, also indulging in her New Moon abalone. Talk about subtlety! Tsk Tsk!

It gets worse as Jack Neo (who plays a doctor) also appears in a Mitsubishi ad and Fann Wong appeared in a Bella ad in the movie. Double roles or breaking characters? Major fault.

Just Follow Law does provide some laughs along the way through its characterisation and little situations we face in our working life. Unfortunately, his mistakes made in his previous films resurface again. Songs should be used to bring a film forward not stall it Even though Billy Koh's Ocean Butterfly helped to produce the songs, 3 songs were too much. The focus on office politics got lost along the way, and the ending became another one of those predictable stage plays used in his last movie.

Just Follow Law still screams ‘Channel 8’ and lacks the movie quality. Overall, a good 'Chinese New Year' piece for the family, but expect no awards. Jack Neo may be a good social commentator but still has a long way to go before he can become an accomplished director.

Just Follow Law - Just laugh loh!

Epic Movie


Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jennifer Coolidge, Crispin Glover, Tony Cox, Héctor Jiménez, Carmen Electra
RunTime: 85 mins
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG (Some Sexual Humour)

I hate to admit it but I liked the Scary Movie series. It is at least smart? But now, who needs another movie that spoofs every other movie when you have MadTV on YouTube?

In this 'spot-the-next-movie' game, a mish-mash of latest blockbusters from Superman, X-men, Pirates of the Caribbean, Borat and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are spoofed. 4 dumb and dumber orphans on an adventure to Gnarnia to fight the White Bitch? They can do better than this.

It is more lame than funny, more crude than hilarious, more offensive than Borat. The four orphans go into a random world from libre-wrestling, finding snakes on a plane and stumbling on an hidden wardrobe. Suddenly, they can meet a "I'm so hot!" Paris or Jack Swallows. Laugh, please. Please laugh.

You get lots of babes, boobs, bums and Beyonce (and a lot more Top 40 hits). It drew laughs from how ridiculous it can get and how much more body parts jokes and urination they can show. The Epic Movie is not even big and quite pointless really.

They need four of the other six writers of Scary Movies to come out with something better.

Epic Movie – Big Problem

A Comedy of Power (French)


Director: Claude Chabrol
Cast: Isabella Huppert, Francois Berleand and Patrick Bruel
RunTime: 110 mins
Genre: Drama (French)

Rating: PG

Do not be mistaken. A Comedy of Power is no comedy at all.

In fact, it drew few laughs in this long bore, exception the "$800,000 is peanuts!" joke. And that was only because we are reminded by our dear Mrs Goh's $600,000 peanut.

Although the movie is 'fictional', it reminded the French of the ELF Aquitaine scandal and perhaps the Singaporeans of the NKF scandal with its story dealing with fraud, misappropriation of funds and a powerful CEO. The protagonist here is a female judge, powerful at home and work, who felt powerless as she moves deeper into the case.

For once in my life, I hated myself for wasting two hours of my time. The conflict of a critic – Is there something I missed since it was nominated the Golden Bear in Berlin International Film Festival 2006? Or it was really a monotonous movie with almost no action, flat lighting, and talking heads like a never ending drone. The audience was clearly disappointed and fatigued. Bags were used as pillows while Judge Jeanne Charmant explained more of her inner struggles and feminist stand.

I am sure the French would identify more with it due to its send-up take on business politics. But for an ordinary cinema goer, long dialogues aren’t exactly their cup of tea. I warn you again, this is no comedy.

A Comedy of Power – Purely for French art house fans

Miss Potter


Director: Chris Noonan
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson
RunTime: 92 mins
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG

Ms Bunny Girl Renée Zellweger doesn't need to gain any more weight for her latest role, but puts on a crooked smile (some say overly botoxed) playing Beatrix Potter. The British accent stays though.

I am not sure if children in this urbanised culture would still enjoy Petter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle Duck and Tom Kitten, all simple stories with a simple moral. No melodrama or complicated issues, Miss Potter is also a simple story about an extraordinary woman.

Beatrix Potter is not only an artist and writer but a scientist and conservationist as well. The movie chooses to focus on her love life and her joy with talking to her animated 'friends'. Critics may slam it for being saccharine sweet, predictable, and lightweight. However, I think the main appeal of Chris Noonan's movies (whose last movie was Babe the pig a decade ago) was in its childlike charm.

Do not read too much of the synopsis which would give too much away, but watch it with a big smile. The charm of the movie was infectious, and appeal of Beatrix Potter even more. A stubborn person who refuses to be tied down by society, talks to animals and lives life to the fullest – can we find such a person now?

I laughed and I cried along, enjoying the lustrous Hill Top scenery, enchanting soundtrack. Never mind the crooked smile of Renee Zellweger. Ewan Mc Gregor, Emily Watson and of course Peter Rabbit would delight and bring out the child in you.

Miss Potter – Absolutely charming

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