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River of Exploding Durians - Trailer 【榴梿忘返】 预告片

《榴槤忘返》主要讲述一群中六生面对即将袭来的稀土厂一阵慌乱,人生产生了变化之余,在反对稀土厂的过程中,这群学生产生革命情感和一些单纯的爱慕情怀。A coastal town is turned upside down by the construction of a radioactive rare earth plant. An idealistic teacher and a group of high school students find themselves battling for the soul of their hometown. Based on real-life events, River of Exploding Durians is a sweeping tale of Malaysian history and its youth, where people are enveloped by politics and sadness while searching for love. #riverofexplodingduriansStarring: Zhu Zhi-Ying 朱芷瑩, Koe Shern 高圣, Daphne Low, Joey 梁祖仪Written, directed and edited by Edmund YeoProduced by Woo Ming Jin and Edmund Yeo Executive producer: Eric YeoDirector of Photography: Kong PahurakProduction designer: Edward Yu Chee BoonMake-up and wardrobe: Kay WongSound: Minimal Yossy PrapapanMusic: Woan Foong Wong

Posted by River of Exploding Durians 榴莲忘返 on Saturday, October 18, 2014

Monday, April 30, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Before We Fall In Love Again 念 你 如 昔'

poster of BEFORE WE FALL IN LOVE AGAIN by James Lee

Before We Fall In Love Again is the first film of Malaysian indie director James Lee's planned 'Love trilogy' (a series of three standalone films that share the same central theme and recurring cast members, something like Korean director Park Chan Wook's 'Revenge trilogy', but without the sex and violence, and with a much lower budget). The film is about two men and the woman they both love.

Chang (Chye Chee Keong), is trapped in a state of emotional paralysis after the sudden disappearance of his wife Ling Yue (Amy Len) a month ago. One night, he is visited by a stranger, Tong (Pete Teo), who reveals himself to be the lover of Ling Yue, and is just as worried and befuddled by her disappearance as Chang is. As both men have coffee in an extremely civilized manner (haha, obviously, if I were Chang, and facing such a situation, I would've tried to kick Tong's ass), their relationship with Ling Yue begins to unfold in vignette-styled flashback scenes. First, an affair with the married Tong, who was Ling Yue's superior in her office, and later, with the mild-mannered Chang, whom later became her husband.

I have seen many romantic films where two people are suddenly thrown together because their respective spouses have betrayed them by carrying an adulterous affair. In the case of BEFORE WE FALL IN LOVE AGAIN, the bond we see is forged between the cuckold husband and the er, cuckolder, a unique plot element much lauded by most positive reviews of this film. The last third of the film is almost like a buddy movie between the two, although it is also looked upon as a film noir where two regular dudes got screwed badly by Ling Yue's femme fatale.

Shot in DV, and in black and white, some have complained about the flatness of these images, yet I found myself truly fascinated by the aesthetics of this film, felt like something I've never seen before. I think I liked the cinematography, and the composition, and I think his expertise in these areas may be what separates James Lee from others in the Malaysian indie filmmaking scene. Scenes that stood out to me include a late night visit to the zoo, and wandering through a long corridor of wedding dresses (a supposedly joyous occasion feels something entirely... different).

There is no denying that James Lee has a distinctive style that makes you go 'oh, this is a James Lee film' when you watch something by him. Even Kannan, director of the TV movie I worked in, would say something like "Don't pull a James Lee" or "nope, this ain't a James Lee film" when asking an actor to emote or be expressive. Regular filmgoers and Chinese media likened James Lee to Malaysia's version of Tsai Min-Liang (... as in, a Tsai Min-Liang who remained in Malaysia to make films), or Hou Hsiao-Hsien. But conversations I had with James two years ago made me believe that his influences MIGHT stem more from early day Jim Jarmusch (one of his favourite directors), or the French New Wave (more, ah, Bresson or Godard, I think) and perhaps Michelangelo Antonioni.

Unfortunately for me, the filmmakers I mentioned above tend to make films that I appreciate more than I like, and in many ways, this film belongs to the same category, thus making me highly incapable of coming up with an eloquent soliloquy for how BEFORE WE FALL IN LOVE AGAIN has touched my heart. The voyeuristic feeling given to audiences when witnessing the relationships between Ling Yue and the two men, along with the uses of repetition and other methods to convey that both men are mirror images of each other (or even interchangeable due to their physical resemblances) can be a source of fascinated academic discussion, and the more you are into the characters, the more likely you will find yourself being drawn into the film. Unfortunately for myself, my inability to connect with anyone during the first two thirds of the film (perhaps it's really more a personal thing than James Lee's fault), along with how I couldn't get used to the stagey, stilted dialogue, diminished my enjoyment of the film, making me go 'hmmmm...' instead of 'wow!'. (characters in this film are often inexpressive and seldom raise their voices, they have no... er, fire)

These films were inspired by a play, and this particular film, BEFORE WE FALL IN LOVE AGAIN, goes for a more deadpan, stylized approach where people. Speak. Kinda. Slowly.

(Sort of reminds me of Wong Kar Wai's DAYS OF BEING WILD, where we had Leslie Cheung saying something like "this minute belongs to us" and "have you heard about the bird without legs who only lands on the ground when he dies?", which are either laughable or poetic, in this film, we have lines which go "Why do you love me?" "I love you because you love me, and I also love you because I like you" "and why do you like me?" etc.)

Thus I found myself alternating between enjoying the visuals, marveling at the composition and then feeling a little indifferent towards the fate of the characters and the unsentimental portrayal of the love stories during the first two thirds of the film. However, to me, it was the last third of the film that got really interesting, as the men stop allowing themselves to be overwhelmed by the flashbacks of this girl who screwed them over, and embark upon an all-night quest to find Ling Yue. Their only clue is a letter addressed to her first love.

As it becomes a buddy road movie, where the two unlikely companions are thrown into a series of surrealistic and darkly funny incidents, like being forced to share the same bed in a motel, meeting a mysterious prostitute who needs to hide in their room from her abusive boyfriend, suffering some highly funny insults from Ling Yue's foul-mouthed first love (who has turned into a gangster in trouble), and then running into a few dangerous Japanese goons in Hawaiian outfit at a carpark. It was at this point of the film that made me went "Damn! If only we had less flashbacks between Ling Yue and the guys, and more of this road movie thing! I think I would have fallen in love with this film!". I liked the last act (minus the epilogue) because of its humour and irony, the fact that it doesn't become repulsively self-serious, ultimately, it is a personal work instead of something that SEEMED personal and is screaming for attention because it thinks it has something profound to say. (in simpler terms: it's unpretentious to me)

Among the two films of James Lee's Love Trilogy I saw, I actually prefer this more.

Trailer of 'Before We Fall In Love Again'

Will review the second film of the trilogy next.

Watch my videoblog entry of James Lee's press conference.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


On the 26th and 27th of April, GSC Mid Valley held press screenings of two films by the Malaysian indie director James Lee, BEFORE WE FALL IN LOVE AGAIN and THINGS WE DO WHEN WE FALL IN LOVE, both part of his LOVE trilogy, followed by a press conference that featured him and three cast members of both films, Amy Len, Loh Bok Lai and Chye Chee Keong.

My dad (and I) were invited, and thankfully, James, being the cool guy he is, gave me the permission to film the conference. This video will feature some of the highlights from the conference, which I hope, will help attract more local film audiences (who are into these kinds of films) to catch both films when they are officially released on the 10th of May, 2007.

James Lee is one of the pioneers of the Malaysian Digital Film movement. My first meeting with him at a seminar was chronicled in this 2005 blog entry. I even made a point of, ahem, mentioning him too in a recent video about my SURF MAGAZINE interview. More info about his movies can be found at the Da Huang Pictures (a company he formed with filmmakers Amir Muhammad and Tan Chui Mui) website.

You can hear me start asking questions towards the 2-minute mark. The rap song used in the video is Abhisv's 'Asleep At The Wheel'.

I'll review both films soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Mr. Bean's Holiday'

Rowan Atkinson in Mr. Bean's Holiday

I was amazed by the popularity of this movie, judging from the fact that it's still showing in the cinemas after more than a month, and still having difficulties trying to get a ticket even though the movie's been in cinemas for that long. (Attempted to see it with family during opening weekend, but to no avail)

I can't call myself a Mr. Bean fan. To me, he can be both repulsive and funny, and I sometimes had problems trying to decide whether I liked him, or hated him. Despite thus, like most people here, I did grow up watching his TV show, so, naturally, watching this new film, Mr. Bean's Holiday, is like a reunion with someone from your past whom you don't really like and haven't met for quite a while (it's been exactly ten years since the first film, BEAN).

Situations like these can be either an annoyance, where you are reminded why you didn't like him at the first place, or it can be a pleasant surprise, when you realize that Time might have dull whatever negative feelings you have towards the person, and find that the person isn't that bad after all, or perhaps this person has already changed, not a major, 180 degree character transformation, yet he possesses things that surprise you. It's like meeting an old high school classmate, and his mannerisms are still as annoying as I remembered, but all of a sudden, he engages with me, deep heartfelt conversations about filmmaking and literature. And with that, he doesn't seem that bad anymore.

MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY is no masterpiece, it's not the kind of movie that makes you laugh until you can't breathe, I'm not even sure whether I can call it a good comedy, yet I enjoyed the last fifteen minutes of the film so much that it just seems to make up whatever shortcomings the film had earlier. The idea of Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), winning a trip to Cannes, and then stumbling into the Cannes Film Festival, plugging his video camera to the projector during the premiere of a self-serious art film starring and directed by an egoistic, pretentious director Carson Clay (Willem Defoe), where his video diaries ends up matching the narrative of the film, is, to me, comedic gold. (that's because Carson Clay's film within the film, 'Playback Time', is so overindulgent and arty that not only did I laugh, I also got a bit worried about my own filmmaking style...) The feel-good musical finale comes after that part of the film is so surrealistic and fun I can't help but think that this is the most perfect farewell for the Mr. Bean character.

This film is more European than its predecessor (which, for some reason, feels as if it's really pandering to a wider, but mostly American audiences with its broad and slapstick humour), relying more on long, drawn-out sight gags, with Mr. Bean being more a well-intentioned bumbling idiot than an amoral anarchist (it's really up to you to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing). Unsurprising, since Rowan Atkinson did say that the character of Mr. Bean is inspired by Monsieur Hulot, a creation of French filmmaker Jacques Tati (incidentally, I caught a few scenes of MONSIEUR HULOT'S HOLIDAY when my dad was watching it few days earlier), and this film (prior to the Cannes Film Festival part) does feel like something from an earlier era, not just Hulot, but also a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film. Although, to my disappointment, Mr. Bean never came up with a rousing speech like Charlie Chaplin did in THE GREAT DICTATOR.

Charlie Chaplin's legendary speech in THE GREAT DICTATOR

That speech was what made THE GREAT DICTATOR a classic, maybe Mr. Bean talking during a climatic moment in MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY would have been special as well (just like how I can't remember a damned thing about the first Mr. Bean movie, except the part where he gave a speech about the Whistler's Mother painting). But then, this will become a much different type of film, and I guess I'll have to accept the fact that his hijinks at the Cannes Film Festival scene is the equivalent of the 'rousing speech' scene.

What do you people think? Would having him talk (not the whole movie, just the climatic moment) destroy Mr. Bean's character? I don't see it damaging Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character. Hey, even Buster Keaton had sang and dance too.

Buster Keaton singing and dancing

Hah, this has turned into a tribute to comedic greats of yesteryear. Now, a trailer of the actual movie.

Mr. Bean's Holiday trailer

Monday, April 23, 2007

10 Things To Do After A Break-Up (PS I Hate You list)

[kingyo] A nocturnal conversation at the carpark

(Edmund: In case you cannot read the name of the author at the bottom of this blog post properly, I would like to point out that this blog post, despite remaining as one of the most popular blog posts of all time here, is written not by me but by the self-published author May Zhee)

Don’t you just hate it when you find yourself still itching to go back to the daily life with your partner even after The Breakup? This especially pertains to those close-knit couples, who will go crazy and pull out their hair or something if they are away from each other.

Why would such a great couple break up in the first place I wouldn’t know. Maybe they grew bored. Maybe their parents got in the way. Maybe I stole their boyfriends. Etc etc.

Since the book PS I Love You tells about the list a girl followed to free herself from the cage of all things lugubrious due to her husband’s death, my list PS I Hate You will tell about what you can do to keep yourself from running back to your ex just minutes after The Breakup.

Apart from building a wall out of potatoes in front of your house, I mean.

Actually, I think that goes into the list too.

1. Visit the nearest karaoke (who cares if it’s shabby! You’re heartbroken, woman!) and sing from morning till night. Drown out the temptations in your head from The Ex with your own voice! Suggested songs include Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne – it’s a real mood lifter, Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani – this shit is your bananas, and any Jay Chou songs – just advertising my favorite singer.

2. Buy a new piece of outfit, put it on along with loads of make-up and spend a day out! Camwhore as much and as shamelessly as you can. Camwhore with everyone. Camwhore with everything. Break my record. I can take 1000 photos of myself in 15 minutes.

3. Start a brand new blog. It always makes people feel good. A brand new beginning ma! Or a photo album, Flickr and whatnot. Upload your best photos and think of all the the most outlandish captions to write beneath it. If you have nice captions but no photos, then whip out the camera and take more photos la! Duh!

Tell yourself this face and this body needs to stay single.

4. Believe it or not, this works if you’re willing to try it: read a book. Choose one that is stubbornly unputdownable. Even the best sellers can deceive you sometimes. I won’t recommend Vanitee Bee, I don’t think I’m up to that standard yet (but my next book will. Stay tune for that). From my personal experience, it would have to be Dan Brown books - Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons etc, the Shopaholic series – Confessions of a Shopaholic, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, many many more …for now that’s about it. These are the only two series that I am indubitably confident of proposing here.

Oh of course! Harry Potter! Man that book was so ubiquitous I now have this tendency to think everyone has Harry Potter surgically implanted into their head so I wouldn’t need to remind them.

Once you get hooked on the book, the last thing you will want to do is pick up your phone and SMS The Ex.

5. Piss off a friend who is in the relationship. Show her how you can go round kissing guys in photos or letting guys kiss you in photos and not worry about getting jealous that the guy you like will do the same to make you angry because you no longer have a guy you like. Hah! Take that!

Okay that didn’t make a lot of sense but nevermind, you get the gist.

6. Write e-mails to all of your friends. The anticipation of having a written e-mail from your friend which is not a stupid forwarded chain letter or funny photos can be quite pleasant. Might as well let them know you broke up with so and so to avoid potential embarrassing moments in the imminent future, right?

Sometimes it’s plain annoying to read e-mails. Okay forget this plan then.

7. What would you do if you were really, really scared after watching a horror movie? Do you keep yourself occupied by blogging? Do you make up a little sketch involving you and Brad Pitt naked, rolling around in bed, hot, hot HOT in your head?

Do it. I realize I’m equating The Ex to the ghost in your heart/mind, but it’s the same right. You can keep your mind distracted.

8. Friends. Friends. Friends. Friends are damn important when it comes to kicking The Ex out of your mind, which is why you should never sideline them. (And this is a case of talk big, no action, because I always sideline my friends for my boyfriend.)

Your friends are sure to lend you a helping hand if you tell them you want to forget The Ex. That’s because first, girls are ke poh chi people. Second, friends in need are friends indeed ma. Shopping, hanging out at another’s place, turning lesbian for a day … your pick.

Now, now, I do notice that this list is mostly for women, but it’s not my fault! You can’t expect me to don on a dick and think like a man, can you?

Feel free to add on more in the comments!

9. Do nasty things to The Ex but do not let him know. I believe that there is no harm in venting your frustrations in the form of writing medical letters about his erectile dysfunction and filming down your scathing comments about his dick size, as long as no one knows about these lies.

I repeat, do not send the letter/video to anyone. But if you want to, my e-mail is

Once you let out all these anger, I’m sure you’ll feel much better. Or maybe you don’t feel anger. In that case, forget this plan.

If you find this boring and interminable, have no fear, it’s coming to an end.

10. Do whatever you can to steel yourself for a new relationship. You don’t have to rush headfirst into a relationship because I know some of you might consider this being on the rebound. Get to know some guys, and you will realize that it’s much better to have many guys caring for you than to just have one. And I am positive the ‘care’ given by these guys will increase in amount and intensity if you don’t have a boyfriend. *wink*

Sorry lor. It’s not my best. I wrote this in like half an hour I think. I felt really bad not posting anything as a guest blogger and I knew if I delayed this I will never get it done.

Okay, you caught me, I did this list bad on purpose. That’s because I want ideas from other people! Um, yeah, on purpose, you know.

By the way, VOTE FOR MY BLOG at SG FRIENDS! you will see it when you get there.

Now I better run before Swifty kills me for my advertising. And for the damn long post. -_- Sorry lar. Make up for my absence. (Eh, Swifty said I provide youthful energy to this blog! Youthful energy!!! Youthful energy comes in long posts.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

How I Survived Writer's Block When Writing My New Screenplay.

Dawn Yang wants to marry Swifty

Thanks, Dawn.

Anyway, I've announced in this entry before that I was going to start working on a new short film. A conventional love story that takes place in contemporary KL, its mood similar to the jun-ai works of Japan (and Korea), told using my own filmmaking styles. I'll be revisiting some themes (loneliness, memories, unrequited love, regret, mortality) that I explored in my previous short, GIRL DISCONNECTED.

Well, it's already been two weeks since I first started work on the screenplay. While doing this, I had numerous discussions with friends, either face-to-face and online, for the sake of shaping something to my liking. It had already been nearly a year since I last completed a screenplay (GIRL DISCONNECTED's, which I completed last June, and two months prior, I had this incredible streak of finishing three screenplays for three short films, one of them being VERTICAL DISTANCE's, I was somewhat amazed by my own productivity). I've gotten rusty. Or perhaps, I'm not used to writing something lighter on plot and heavier on characterization and mood.

GIRL DISCONNECTED, despite much larger in scope (c'mon, it's about a girl who FLEW TO THE MOON ON A TRAIN to seek her Internet boyfriend) was something much easier to do, because it was right up my alley, fantasy sci-fi, with a dash of romance thrown in. I was also suffering from some really major heartbreaking girl problems then, making it much easier to, ah, draw something from real life.

Back then, I really had something to say.

This new film, unfortunately, was conceived as merely a challenge. A dare I took from my friend, Peng Shien, who said he wanted me to do something mainstream, instead of overindulgent arthouse fares (... it never occurred to me that GIRL DISCONNECTED was THAT arthouse!). I came up with a story, drawing a bit of inspiration from recent happenings (... more girl problems, despite my brilliance, girl problems are things that constantly happen to me) yet I continued struggling.

As I SLOGGED through the screenplay of this new upcoming film, I knew very well the events that would happen in the film, yet I myself couldn't understand the WHYS and HOWS. WHY would this character do this? HOW did that character do that? What would they say to each other? Character development is impossible if I knew so little about the characters ("An angsty quiet dude of few words, a cheerful wacky girl of many words... oops, isn't that GIRL DISCONNECTED again... noooo, I'm a one-trick-pony!!!!!")

So, after a few days without much progress, I opted to write a film treatment instead, which was really what I should have done before I started to write an actual screenplay. But writing outlines of each scene was pointless, and impossible, when, I STILL couldn't understand the characters well enough.

Their thoughts, their motivations, their backstories etc etc.


One method I used back then was to write page-long character backstories, things that helped shape their (the character's) personalities. These were usually given to my actors before their first rehearsals to help them with their acting.

Hence I came up with a much different method to shape the storyline and the characters for my new film.

I decided to write everything in prose form. To actually write A SHORT STORY, and not A SCREENPLAY. So that as I shape the events, I can also attempt to fill in the blanks about the characters' thoughts, personal backgrounds. It was a method borne out of desperation, but to my surprise, it actually worked. By setting up the atmosphere, retaining the usual whimsicality present in the majority of the works, adding an undercurrent of melancholy for the settings, the two main characters gradually come alive before me on the computer screen, and with that, things became more cinematic in my mind. I wrote the story as if I was working purely on a story, and not waiting for it to be adapted for screen (by myself).

Scenes that I originally thought to toss into the film, I excised, because I knew that this character, or that character, would not act like this, or say something like that. And as my mind was allowed to roam free, I could reinterpret the story myself, and realize that this was becoming something just as personal as GIRL DISCONNECTED, and not merely some challenge I took from a friend.

This is becoming a film I have to make because I have something to say, and not because I'm making a film for the sake of making a film.

Progress is slow, because, well, I am easily distracted, and I've gone off on Thursday and Friday to check out the editing progress of KERAMAT (the TV movie I served as assistant director for) with my director, Kannan. But as I discuss more with other people, images in my mind become more apparent, the story I have to write becomes much clearer.

Maybe that's why director Shunji Iwai (one of my MAJOR influences!!!!!) would usually come up with either a novel or a novella first (or even an interactive online novel when he did ALL ABOUT LILY-CHOU CHOU!), before adapting them into a screenplay for his movies.

By the way, tentative titles for new short film are "WINTER IN KL", "KL WINTER", "KL SONATA", "RED BEAN SOUP" or maybe even "BOY DISCONNECTED".

Karen Kong wants to marry me too

Someday, Karen. Someday.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Sunshine'

A screenshot from Sunshine

Sunshine, the newest film by Danny Boyle (director of Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later etc.) and written by Alex Garland, is a sci-fi film unlike most others you usually see in cinemas. Belonging more to the 'hard' sci-fi subgenre (2001, Solaris etc.) than Cyberpunk (Blade Runner, Minority Report, Matrix, DEMOLITION MAN!) or Space Opera (Star Wars, Star Trek, The Fifth Element), this film, while visually spectacular, relies more on character development and slow-burning tension than cheap explosions.

It's kinda like a better version of EVENT HORIZON. And I'm seriously risking my credibility for saying this, but for reasons I cannot comprehend, the horrible 1998 sci-fi movie, LOST IN SPACE, reemerged from the deepest recesses of my mind while I was watching SUNSHINE, maybe because it was also about a group of people learning to live with each other in outer space. I also thought of SUPERNOVA, this excruciating film starring Angela Bassett and James Spader and directed by Walter Hill (under the Alan Smithee designation, Thomas Lee) that I blocked from my memory as well, because it's also about a few people trapped in this spaceship, and then having horrible stuff happen to them. I have no idea why SUNSHINE could stir so much memories of other horrible sci-fi films I have seen in the past, it's almost disturbing.

50 years in the future, the Sun is dying, which means that Earth is screwed as well. The spaceship, Icarus 2, featuring a multi-ethnic crew, is charged with the mission of delivering this really large bomb to the Sun, hoping to re-ignite it with this massive explosion. Tensions are high as they reach the Dead Zone, where they are unable to communicate with Earth anymore.

And then, they receive the distress beacon from Icarus 1, a similar ship sent on a same mission seven years ago, before all contact was lost. They have to make a choice in whether to

Capa (Cillian Murphy!!), the physicist who designed the bomb, sends a video message to his family, saying manfully: "If you wake up one morning and it's a particularly beautiful day... you'll know we made it."

Cillian Murphy in SunshineIn Malaysia, advertisements and promotions made it seem as if this film is headlined by Michelle Yeoh, but she's really just part of the ensemble cast (although Cillian Murphy's Capa is really the 'hero character' in this), however, I actually liked her performance here. After skipping her last few movies (including Memoirs of Geisha), I feel that seeing her in a non-Kung Fu and somewhat dramatic role was a refreshing experience. I'll rather see her start flexing her acting muscles and play an everyday woman (KINDA like her character Corazon here, oh, cool name, by the way).

The rest of the Icarus 2 crew includes Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada, the coolest Japanese actor in the world!), second-in-command Harvey (Troy Garity) psychologist Searle (Cliff Curtis, the modernized dad in WHALE RIDER), engineer Mace (Chris Evans, Human Torch in FANTASTIC FOUR, voice of Casey Jones in TMNT), mathematician Trey (Benedict Wong) and pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne).

There are many things that amaze me about SUNSHINE, the visuals, especially. Special effects, of the Sun from up close, are really amazing. The claustrophobic extreme close-ups when Kaneda and Capa are in their gold-coloured astronaut suits. Images from the film are so vivid that they tend to cover the shortcomings of the simple plot and characterization (the characters aren't caricatures, but they aren't that original either, good thing performances from the cast are uniformly good). Like most reviews, I agree that the last third of the movie, where the film shifts from a taut slow-burning character drama/thriller to the survival horror genre. As much as I appreciate the fact that the filmmakers aren't conforming to usual film conventions, choosing to mix and mesh different genres, the last third, which touches upon certain philosophical and religious issues about Man's relationship with nature (to alter it? Or to accept and become one with it?) feels tacked-on and unconvincing.

It's really more an arthouse fare than a popcorn blockbuster. I saw this with my dad, dad thinks the film is ultimately ruined by the last third, perhaps it is, but I'm still going to recommend this (as long as you KNOW this is really an art film) purely because of the visuals, and the cool film score (by John Murphy and Underworld). Like Stanley Kubrick had said, he wanted his films to be an experience, more than just watching a story, or seeing big-name stars oncreen. Thus to me, SUNSHINE is a unique enough experience to prevent me from calling it a major disappointment.

I'm interested to see what others have to say about this film.

Sunshine trailer

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Videoblogger Speaketh! - Interview With SURF! Magazine

SURF! Magazine had just published an interview with me about videoblogging, conducted via e-mail on February by fellow filmmaker Zan Azlee during my vacation at India.

S: Why videoblogging? Is it an extension of your interest in filmmaking?

EY: It definitely is. Videoblogging is a good exercise for me to try out some camera or editing techniques that I would use in my own films, keeps me from getting rusty.

I started doing both when I first got my camcorder before going to Perth back in 2004., of course, back then, I was videoblogging without even knowing what videoblogging was. All I did was shot anything I've seen during my days of studying abroad, then edit them together to show friends and family. My grandmother loved it!

I didn’t really integrate my these videos onto my blog until the rise of video-sharing sites like Youtube and vSocial during late 2005.

In addition to that, I think posting videos of the things I've seen, instead of trying my hardest to find words to describe said experiences, are easier to bring viewers closer to me, as if they are experiencing everything with me.

S: What is required to videoblog?

EY: Most people use mobile phones and webcams for videoblogging, I personally carry a broken camcorder around for filming. I think anyone can videoblog these days, unfortunately, due to the fact that I am not a beautiful young woman and am somewhat camera-shy, I belong to the rare genre of videobloggers who spend more time behind the camera than in front of it.

S: Do you have a fan club?

EY: Yes, my fan club is filled with beautiful women who send me glowing praises and declarations of eternal love daily. Unfortunately, this is only in my fantasy. In reality, no.

You can buy SURF! MAGAZINE at bookshops.

Surf Magazine Cover

I've scanned the entire interview if you want to read it.

Surf Magazine Interview 1

Surf Magazine Interview 2

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Thoughts On The 26th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards

Lau Ching Wan winning the best actor award at the 26th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards

I'll get into my thoughts about the results later, for now, some thoughts about the show itself.

1) The 'Memorial' segment was HORRIBLE. I seriously have no idea why the hell would they have Eason Chan performing a song while the names of the deceased were being displayed on the screen. A deliberate attempt to divert our attention? Sheesh.

2) Nick Cheung was funny as the host, Lam Tze Chung's all right. As for Bowie Tsang, while she didn't really suck, might take a while before she can reach the godly level of her dad, Eric Tsang.

3) Anita Yuen's speech about the relationship between fans and celebrities was a good one. Someone has to say something like that after the whole deal with the crazy Andy Lau fan.

4) Lau Ching-Wan winning the Best Actor award was a case of life imitating art. In the film which he won the award for, he plays a fading actor who finally decides to get his shit together after receiving some advice from Tony Leung Kar Fai (playing himself), and eventually gets nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and during the presentation, sees Tony Leung Kar Fai giving him a thumbs-up sign. In real life, Lau Ching Wan received the award from last year's Best Actor winner, Tony Leung Kar Fai.

Right, now, my thoughts on the results.

Best Picture: After This Our Exile

The night's major winner. Seeing how it had gotten both the Best Picture awards at the HK Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards, I went to check out my AFTER THIS OUR EXILE DVD just now (which I hadn't touched after buying it at Johor last month). To my consternation, the DVD was broken. AAAARGH!

Best Director: Patrick Tam Ka-Ming (After This Our Exile)

Too bad my hero, Johnnie To, didn't win this. But then, dude had won too many Best Director awards in the past few years. Haha. Patrick Tam Ka-Ming was awesome for thanking the Malaysia crew during his acceptance speech.

Best Actor: Lau Ching-Wan (My Name is Fame)

His victory, to me, was the highlight of the night. Long being a fan of Lau Ching- Wan, I always felt that he was like the Peter O'Toole of Hong Kong actors, despite the many classics he had been, the many legendary performances he came up with, he just never had the chance to win anything over the years.

My friend, Peng Shien, had pointed out recently that perhaps Lau Ching-Wan lacked range, his eyes not expressive enough to put up the kind of intense performance you see from Andy Lau or Tony Leung. But personally, I never thought that Lau Ching-Wan is a lesser actor compared to the other two, that he has his own unique brand of acting, more subtle, less showy, hidden depths. It was unfortunate that he was in that many rubbish romantic comedies these days, but this win might start to change things again. Looking forward to see him work in dramatic works again.

It's fitting that he beat major names and acting heavyweights such as Tony Leung, Aaron Kwok (well, dude IS a 2-time Golden Horse winner), Chow Yun Fat and Jet Li for this award. I think his acceptance speech was a nice moment in HKFA history, self-deprecating (pretty similar to Martin Scorsese's acceptance speech at the Oscars) about his previous losses, and really moving when you see how his wife couldn't stop herself from crying tears of joy as well.

Best Actress: Gong Li (Curse of the Golden Flower)

She didn't attend the ceremony. Which sucked. But I DID mention that Gong Li was the standout in CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. And it's not only because of the cleavage-baring costumes she was wearing throughout the movie. On the other hand, I was kinda rooting for Isabella Leong to win too, she was really good in the movie, ISABELLA.

Best Supporting Actor: Goum Ian Iskandar (After This Our Exile)

Haven't seen the film, can't really comment much. But based on the clips I saw, the kid had seemingly put up one hell of a performance. Well... probably better than Jay Chou's, haha.

Best Supporting Actress: Zhou Xun (The Banquet)

Was hoping that less-known names would be honoured (after all, that's what the Oscar does), like Crystal Tin Yui-Lei in MY MOTHER IS A BELLY DANCER, or Candy Yu On-On in MY NAME IS FAME. But guess the former will need to go through a drought of her own like her husband Chapman To is undergoing now, and the latter's role may have been too small.

It's too weird to see last year's BEST ACTRESS winner winning this year's BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS award. But Zhou Xun is definitely one of the rare bright spots of THE BANQUET. Seeing her being raped by Daniel Wu made me realize immediately that the protagonist is actually an asshole, and the one I should root for is the evil Uncle. (to the uninitiated, THE BANQUET is a loose adaptation of HAMLET)

(Other than that, it's amusing to see THE BANQUET being completely shut out from all other categories. Zero wins for the technical awards. Zero nominations for the major awards. Political reasons made this film HK's Oscar representative despite a director from Mainland China, and having only one person from the cast being from Hong Kong. We can now see that HK people didn't really like THE BANQUET much)

Best Screenplay: Patrick Tam Ka-Ming, Tian Kai-Leong (After This Our Exile)

It's probably a good script.

Best New Artist: Goum Ian Iskandar (After This Our Exile)

Not surprising to see Goum Ian Iskandar win for this one. I hope he won't disappear like those many HK child actors in the past.

Huo Siyan was good in MY NAME IS FAME, yet her role ain't showy enough. But the fact that baby Matthew Medvedev was nominated for Rob-B-Hood was a joke... okay, maybe it really was a joke, but if the baby had won, even a baby-loving guy like me would be really pissed.

Best Cinematography: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Lai Yiu-Fai (Confession of Pain)

I thought CONFESSION OF PAIN was bad. But I won't deny the fact that the film has really good cinematography.

Best Editing Kong Chi-Leung (Battle of Wits)

Don't really agree. I thought the film could've been tighter. I couldn't finish my DVD because I ended up feeling too bored. But never mind.

Best Art Direction: Huo Tingxiao (Curse of the Golden Flower)

No contest.

Best Costume Design and Make-Up: Yee Chung-Man (Curse of the Golden Flower)

No contest either. Yee Chung-Man is a genius for designing those, ah, eye-popping costumes.

Best Action Design: Yuen Woo-Ping (Fearless)

I DID mention that the action scenes in FEARLESS are pretty good.

Best Original Film Score: Peter Kam Pui-Tat (Isabella)

Yeah, ISABELLA has a pretty good film score.

Best Original Film Song: "The Chrysanthemum Terrace" (from Curse of the Golden Flower)Composer: Jay Chou Lyrics: Fang Wenshan Performer: Jay Chou

One of those rare Jay Chou songs that I actually liked.

Best Sound Design: Nakom Kositpaisal (Re-cycle)

I gave Re-cycle a positive review. Maybe I was affected by my cousin's constant sobbing during the ending scenes, maybe I was pretty creeped out back then by the scary parts (cousin and I were whimpering and gasping). But once I think of it again, I realize that it really isn't THAT good a film, though it has some really awesome set designs and such, I did feel a little cheated. The Sound Design must have been good, but wasn't such a big deal for me.

Best Visual Effects: Ng Yuen-Fai, Chas Chau Chi-Shing, Emil Yee Kwok-Leung, Alex Lim Hung-Fung (Re-cycle)

This one, I definitely agree.

Best Asian Film: Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (CHINA)

This winning over THE HOST? No way. I never understood the whole fuss about RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES, I thought it was pretty generic, shallow and manipulative. But maybe they just needed to give Zhang Yimou something since he wasn't going to win any of the major awards for CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER.

Best New Director: Daniel Wu (The Heavenly Kings)

Yeah, the mockumentary, THE HEAVENLY KINGS, is pretty genius. Daniel Wu deserved this.

Century Achievement Award
- Sir Run Run Shaw

Without him, HK cinema and television would never been the same. If you've been watching HK films and TVB drama serials all these while and NOT know who Sir Run Run Shaw is, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Read his Wikipedia entry here.

Professional Spirit Award: Man Yuen-Ling

Man Yuen-Ling is a make-up artist. It's awesome to see people like her being honoured since their efforts are often overlooked by public. The video clip of Chow Yun Fat presenting the award to her was really cute.

But ultimately, this post is really about my joy after seeing Lau Ching-Wan win his long overdue award. This was his 9th nomination (... hence the Peter O'Toole comparison). Great to see him finally cementing a place in HK cinema history.

Lau Ching Wan and wife, Amy Kwok
Lau Ching Wan and his wife, actress and former Miss HK, Amy Kwok

Monday, April 16, 2007

Film Students Spoofing David O' Russell's 'I HEART HUCKABEES' Flip Out

3 weeks ago, a video (below) of David O' Russell flipping out on Lily Tomlin at the set of I HEART HUCKABEES was leaked out and posted on Youtube:

The original

Until now, I'm not sure whether I should think of him as a badass, or an asshole, for doing something like that. I'm leaning more to the former, because I'm afraid that he'll fly all the way over to Malaysia to beat the crap out of me if I call him an asshole on this blog.

But that video did prompt me to watch my I HEART HUCKABEES DVD (that I bought during Chinese New Year), and I enjoyed it quite a lot (possibly even more than I enjoyed THREE KINGS), and with everyone looking so happy in it, I can't really tell the fact that David O. Russell was deliberately trying to keep tensions high on set.

Anyway, Sebastian had recently sent me two videos of his coursemates at the LA Film School re-enacting the now-famous incident. (read Sebastian's original post to know more details about the following videos)

I thought the second one with the German guy is funnier. Too bad the entire thing was planned beforehand, would've loved to see the directors actually flipping out on the other students without any prior warning.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Eimi Yamada

Eimi Yamada, or Amy Yamada

The above is a picture of Eimi Yamada.

Eimi Yamada is a popular author in Japan; I was hanging out with a girl the other night who was reading one of her books. She often writes about sex; here is an example of her prose style:

"It's not as if she's some priss who doesn't know a thing about men, but the first time Chika saw me spit in a guy's mouth, she had to run to the toilet. I mean, really. She's the one who came to me begging, Shinobu, Sis, I need to make some money. Help me find a job. What was I supposed to do? I was the same way at first. When I got started in the business, seeing men humiliated like this made me want to puke. But after a few years it's like any job. Your own craft is the only thing you can believe in. If it makes guys salivate and snuggle up, or if it makes them shit before my eyes, it's all the same to me. Men look up to me from all fours and I pity them. I grind my high heels into their pitiful little cocks and watch their faces twist while I drag on a cigarette. And then I say: Kneel down and lick my feet."

This is a from a story in which she later inserts needles into a man's erect penis until it resembles a pincushion and then pulls them out and watches the blood leak out.

Needless to mention I find Eimi Yamada hilarious and can't stop smiling if I imagine her walking around and thinking up things like that.

Eimi Yamada is also a judge for the Akutagawa Prize; she rejected some guy a while back because he was putting too much fake slang in his book.

I think I feel like Eimi Yamada's existence and writing is inherently absurd, which somehow makes me like her more.

I'm planning to do other posts like this about other authors whom I feel to be absurd but also lovable. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Defending Fanfiction. Was It Worth It?

More than a year ago, I posted an entry called 'In Defense of Fanfiction'. Earlier on the day it was written, Swifty sent me a link to an article by fantasy writer Robin Hobb - someone I knew of but had never read, my interest in American fantasy-genre fiction being comparatively low. The Hobb essay, which attacked fanfiction and its writers on principle, seemed distinctly petty, childish, and reactionary - in need of a good thrashing, in other words. Although I didn't hold any particular interest in fanfiction at the time, neither reading nor writing it, the Hobb essay seemed to be opposed to not only fanfiction but, more broadly, creativity in general. So without even really thinking I tore through a rebuttal, easily demolishing the numerous straw-men and outright fallacies Hobb had put forth. I posted it and then proceeded to think nothing more of it: seeing as it was written in less than fifteen minutes and our readership at the time was probably less than a hundred people, I expected it to be quickly forgotten.

Over a year later, though, that entry, now largely drawing traffic from Wikipedia, has become this site's biggest draw. The response has been surprising and, to put it bluntly, overwhelming: I'm continually amazed by how many readers continue to post comments at it. The total is up to something like fifty now, and the most incredible thing is that each new comment usually rivals the length of the original essay. I feel as if this entry alone has created a community larger than the one that regularly reads this blog.

Reading these comments over, I'm fascinated at the passion contained within them - much more passion than really existed in me when writing the original entry, in fact. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the comments agree with my stance - but more than that, I feel as if their agreement is almost more valid than my original points, which, it has to be said, were fairly academic: issues of copyright and creative use, influence and pastiche. But the commenters reveal the human reality behind fanfiction, rebutting Hobb in a way far more convincing than my argument: these are people who care deeply about writing, and not in an abstract way, either: the issue of ownership or creative control is completely moot, because to these writers there are just books, characters, and worlds they care about - and want to participate in. Hearing people unfold their lives in a completely unrestrained fashion, describing how they came to fanfiction writing through school, friends, or the internet, the ways in which they use community and criticism to build up fictional worlds, is more interesting to me than any kind of argument or debate could ever be. In fact, I have to say that I'm more interested in these commenters' responses and emotions while participating in fanfiction than I am in actual fanfiction itself.

Every time I find new comments on the entry, I expect them to be simple 'Right on, rock the fanfic' or 'robin hobb is god fuck you' one-liners - but they're invariably long, thoughtful, and usually autobiographical reflections on the personal meaning of fanfiction, the role it's played in either preparing the commenter for entirely original writing or allowing them to connect with new, like-minded friends. In a recent comment, someone named Svan wrote:

"But once again, I want to insist on what writing fanfics gave me. It taught me to cling to an idea and finish to write a story I started ; it gave my writing a rythm ; it allowed me to see the same characters through different points of view, thus better fathoming the depth of their personnalities, and being less manichean. So I won't give up on this anytime soon."

Later, a Jamie (sympathetic to fanfiction, but joking about some of the lesser works) writes:

They'll cross it over with other stories, many of which it won't make much sense to cross it over with. They'll pair up characters that would NEVER get along together, they'll insert themselves or Mary Sues based loosely on thesemvles into the story to talk down to your female lead and improbably steal the male lead's heart, or else they'll create a dashing young Gary Stu to steal her heart away while he gets portrayed as a whiny, petty nincompoop. They'll turn it into a soap opera, they'll randomly set it at the local shopping mall, they'll make characters sing popular songs as a testament of love to each other at a Battle of the Bands or karaoke bar, they'll do any number of hideous, stupid things to it. They'll have your female characters get raped and fall in love with their rapist, they'll have the gentle, caring male lead do the raping half the time, or they'll turn your straight characters gay (or vice versa). Cultural differences - including those you took pains to create or remark upon in the original - will be removed or ignored. The characters will be stuffed into an American high school, or outfit themselves in Hot Topic clothes and accessories while still in Europe, or they'll randomly become a werewolf or vampire. They'll have children that will turn out to be Mary Sues; they'll be turned into Mary Sues themselves. All manner of horrible things will happen.
Even though the examples are risible, their accuracy suggests a kind of loving familiarity with them that I share. But what's more important to me now is the ethos of fanfiction; that is, the idea that writing can be a collaboration, that two writers can write together just as seamlessly as the dual guitars fall into place in a Hum song; that a writer can pick up another writer's characters and world and play upon them like a ragtime piano on a staid set of well-known notes.

Justin's part of this entry above was actually written quite a while ago, but I never really had a chance to write my own side of things until now. So, there you go.

I think Justin's Defense of Fanfiction post shows one of the greatest strengths of this blog, the fact that our content is mostly timeless. And even though that entry was posted back in November 2005, it's still getting daily visitors, new comments, linkbacks and such until this very day. Creative ownership, collaborative creation and identity theft, topics that were discussed in that entry remain as relevant to us now as it was when Justin posted the entry nearly a year and a half ago.

It's undeniable that posting time-sensitive articles, e.g. a rant against the latest political and social issues, will most likely generate higher traffic and attention, I don't think they will last long. It's also the same reason why I refuse to whore myself out by attempting to become a 'blogebrity' with pitifully laughable attempts in toilet humour, posting photos of myself looking as silly as possible, or well, regurgitating everything everyone else had been talking about.

I write film reviews because I like to share my views on a particular film with other people, what's the point of forgetting about a film I've just spent money on watching? The best creative works should live forever, unravaged by time. I post videoblog entries because I don't want my editing (and filmmaking) skills to become rusty, it also makes me feel reassured that certain moments of my own life that I've recorded with my camcorder can be preserved.

Art (be it drawing, writing, filmmaking etc.) is one of the only ways for one to attain immortality.

The realization that the timelessness of a fanfiction piece is based entirely on the 'shelve life' of its source material was very depressing for me back then, not long after I retired from writing fanfiction in 2005. I was bitter, so I ended up posting three blog entries on why I thought writing fanfiction sucked. The first was on those authors of shitty yaoi/slash fics who pose as gay activists, viewing all criticism of their work as acts of homophobia. The second was on Mary Sueism (I was beating a dead horse, yeah, but I was really pissed off with their delusional authors, who, like their Yaoi fanfic counterparts, are incapable of accepting criticism). And the last was on what I discussed above, that a work of fanfiction, unlike most other works of art, cannot live forever based solely on artistic merits, and that it is really at the mercy of its source material.

Funny that just a few months after posting those, I would quickly reverse my stance and defend fanfiction instead. Perhaps it really wasn't the existence of fanfiction themselves that irked me, nor the act of writing fanfic, what I disliked about fanficdom was the behaviour of irrational hardcore fans (a subject of our ire that had been discussed numerous times here in the past), who are so delusional that they just can't seem to open their minds to accept other things. Anyone heard the news of Andy Lau's crazy fan lately?

Ultimately, fanfic writing, just like blogging, and all things Web 2.0, is a part of our ever-increasing 'Open Source' culture, where the one-sided relationship between producer and consumer is obsolete and that everyone has to adopt both the role of producer and consumer, where everyone's sharing and creating something together. Similar to when I had a pretty fiery debate with a couple of published authors on a mailing list about the merits of fanfiction last February, I still can't see what's so bad about this. After all, collaborative creation isn't exactly plagiarism, perhaps if fanfic writers are starting to make money off their fanfics, the original authors can have much to complain about, hey, if someone makes a spin-off of my short film, GIRL DISCONNECTED (haha) and starts making millions off it, I'll be pissed too. But condemning the mere action of writing fanfiction is, to put it bluntly, pretty stupid.

Since when does one has the right to stifle creativity?

(And this question isn't directed only towards fanfic-hating authors.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'TMNT'

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Back when I was 8, there was this costume performance event in my primary school where participants are supposed to dress up in costumes of their choices and perform for the Standard 6 students during their Graduation Ceremony. The numerous preliminary rounds leading up to that event remain my most vivid memories of my primary school days.

I remembered a girl dressed up as a pop star. (she had some pretty mad dancing moves)

I remembered some performing a Malay dance.

Then some performing an Indian dance (naturally, it was a huge hit).

And then, a few girls dressed in kimono, performing some traditional Japanese dance.

There was also a Korean dance, but I might have mixed it up with the Japanese dance.

And then, there was me, who dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

It was 1992, the TMNT phenomenon was near its end, to most children growing up then like me, TMNT was a way of life, somehow overshadowing whatever cartoon franchises that came out during that period (I doubt the Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man and the likes were ever as huge as the turtles were in Malaysia during the late 80s to early 90s). I was a hardcore fan then, collecting anything TMNT-related. Action figures, colouring books, picture books, comics, video games (for the NES and the Game Boy).

So my mom thought, hey, what better way to leave a mark in this performance than to dress up as a Ninja Turtle? She then approached a tailor friend of hers, and they made me this really neat costume. I chose to be Raphael, since he had always been my favourite turtle. Less crazy than Michaelangelo, less nerdy than Donatello, less goody-two-shoe and overbearing than Leonardo (god, I can't stand him), Raphael was the one turtle I could relate to. Constantly angry with the system, hating orders, wanting to solve things with his own hands. So rebellious, cynical and hot-tempered!

Maybe, in some ways, he influenced how I grew up.

My performance (which involved me going onstage, swinging my weapon, which was actually Leonardo's katana, I couldn't get myself a pair of sais, and dancing to the TMNT theme song from the first movie) was a tremendous hit. For the remainder of my primary school days, there were people who called me 'Ninja Turtle'. Sometimes, being a mini-celebrity in school made me beam in pride, sometimes, it made me cringe.

In many ways, THAT was the highlight of my acting career. (this melancholic blog entry written back in 2005 chronicled in detail the numerous tragedies I encountered in my attempts to act, a must-read)

Trying to catch an episode of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series every week was an unforgettable childhood pasttime, watching the first live-action TMNT movie was a powerful experience (watching Raphael being severely injured by hordes of foot soldiers, and then being tossed through the glass ceiling, was an experience more intense than THAT Anthony Wong/ Martin Sheen scene in Infernal Affairs and The Departed). The two lesser sequels were more forgettable, but I remembered enjoying them. Vanilla Ice singing 'Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!', Casey Jones trying to teach ancient samurais ice hockey, were the two most memorable moments in the two sequels.

Growing up, I ceased paying attention to TMNT's latter incarnations since then. I never gave them a chance, believing that nothing could top the original movie or the cartoon series. Even so, I was still very intrigued by the idea of this new TMNT film when I first heard about it last year, and then watched the trailer. How is writer-director Kevin Munroe going to resurrect the Turtles for the 21st century? Can he help revive the now-grownup fans' love for the Turtles (while introducing them to new and younger audiences)?

Since the film was going to be a 3D animated film, I was excited by its possibilities and potential. Of course, it's not going to be something like a Pixar film, nor will it be something like HAPPY FEET, being more action-oriented and all.

Entering the cinema, I was eager to see whether this film could do for the Turtles what FINAL FANTASY 7: ADVENT CHILDREN did for FINAL FANTASY 7. Will it have badass action scenes as mindblowing as FF7: AC?

Sadly, no.

TMNT is quite a disappointment. And I didn't even enter with sky-high expectations. I just wanted to have some fun, have some laughs, watch some nice action scenes, then walk of the cinema with a smile, mildly content about this brief reunion with old friends, to experience this source of joy from a long-ago childhood. Was that too much to ask for?

The story happened way too quickly, with too many things happening at once, to the point where I gave up trying to follow what was going on anymore. Without any buildup and attempt to establish the settings and characters, it was impossible to feel anything at all. The story happens after the defeat of Shredder, the Turtles had seemingly lost all meaning in life. Boring Leonardo was sent off by Splinter to Central America to train his leadership skills. Donatello and Michelangelo got boring dead-end jobs (the former as tech support, the latter works birthday parties in a turtle suit, calling himself Cowabunga Carl). Badass Raphael became a masked vigilante at night called the Night Watcher to save the city from crime, kinda like Batman.

Oh, and for some odd reason, April O'Neil (voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar) had turned into a Lara Croft-like bounty hunter who knows martial arts and stuff. Probably underwent the transformation since she started going out with Casey Jones (voiced by Chris Evans, who played the Human Torch in Fantastic Four). As for Casey Jones, his relationship with April kinda made him weaker compared to his earlier incarnations. Pussywhipped.

And then, there's also Karai (voiced by Zhang Ziyi), leader of the Foot Clan after the death of Shredder, who has some cool gestures when ordering her minions about. Oh, and there's this bald and immortal tech-industrialist Max Winters (voiced by the bald Patrick Stewart), who hired April to help him retrieve four 'Stone Generals', who were, well, powerful generals turned into stone, or something, I'm starting to get confused here. I think Max Winters resurrected his four Stone Generals to recapture thirteen monsters to do something, I don't know, lift the curse of their immortality or something.

Urgh. Headache. Maybe I'm too slow to follow the plotline of TMNT.

But basically, there are SOME good (but not great) fighting scenes, nothing near FF7: Advent Children level, not even as thrilling as THE INCREDIBLES, but serviceable.

Film picks up a little when Leonardo returns from training, only to realize that his relationship with Raphael is already strained. The latter's pissed that he could just march back after such a long absence and starts ordering everyone around. Leo, being the goody-two-shoe he is, has to keep Raphael in line. (even as a child, I hated 'leader-type' characters like Leo and X-Men's Cyclops)

The simmering tension between the two brothers erupted into a pretty nice fighting scene, with an outcome that had me, for almost the only time in the film, feel like cheering.

Other than that, there's nothing much to say about this film. See it or not, your life wouldn't be any different.

If there really will be a sequel, it better be damned good.


Oh, and I'm also pissed that we never get to hear the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song.

Swifty's Short Film, Girl Disconnected, Screening At KL Jam Asia Tonight!

Production Photo 20- Maya Feeling The WindYes, after being screened at FILMMAKERS ANONYMOUS 2 (videoblog here, watch me babble non-stop about my film, includes snippets of the film itself) on February and MALAYSIAN SHORTS on March (videoblog here, watch me babble less about my film, and watch famed Msian filmmaker Amir Muhammad presenting the films), my short film, GIRL DISCONNECTED, is going to be screened at KL JAM ASIA this month (... er, wow), which, I believe, is a special REPEAT SCREENING of FILMMAKERS ANONYMOUS 2. (FILMMAKER ANONYMOUS and CINEJAM are sister events/ close allies/ best friends etc.) tonight (12th of April), at 9:30pm.

This MALAY MAIL article features screenshots of GIRL DISCONNECTED.

It's unlikely for me to attend the actual screening since I'm having dinner with some family friends (where I will seize the opportunity to convince this friend of mine to be the main guy in my upcoming short film), but I'll see whether I can make it to the Q & A session after the screenings.

(of course, even with my absence, enthusiastic viewers eager to know the secrets behind the romanticism and poetry of my last short film can always leave their questions here)

I will now copy and paste the line-up from CINEJAM's site:

While CINEJAM hunts heads for its next gig, Cinejam's best friend,
FILMMAKER'S ANONYMOUS, invites you for a special repeat screening of
their February session:



No. 19-1, Jalan 22A/70A
Plaza Crystalville
Desa Sri Hartamas
50480 Kuala Lumpur

This is a by-invitation event, so please RSVP to
before Thursday of this week. Entry is free, but we are grateful for

If you are a film addict yourself, please feel free to bring a DVD
copy of your film to the screening and pass it to us.


1. 'Girl Disconnected' by Edmund Yeo, 14 mins/color/2006

A young woman takes a train to the moon to seek her Internet love.
She is accompanied by her platonic male buddy/ sidekick who secretly
loves her. Throughout their journey, they meet all sorts of strange
denizens of the moon, an eccentric gardener who speaks in rhymes,
Chang-er the Moon Goddess, ballerinas who dance for an eternity and a
mysterious rabbit fairy who seems to be pop out everywhere.

Director's Statement:
Can still be considered a 'work in progress' as there is still a
desire to tweak with the film in the future. Made with a shoestring
budget and a crew of three (including myself), Girl Disconnected is
the final project of my Graduate Diploma course I wrote, directed and
co-produced. Story revolves around the themes of unrequited love,
mortality and loneliness. Nominated for Best Screenplay and Best
Visual Effects at the NASS Awards 2006 (Open Category).

Director's Profile:
Edmund 'Swifty' Yeo had just returned from his studies in Perth last
December. Initially a self-taught filmmaker, he made a few short films
with friends just for fun, but ended up taking a Graduate Diploma
course on Media Production during his last year in Australia after
finishing his degree for the sake of sharpening his skills and
fulfilling a lifelong passion. In addition to writing and filmmaking,
he is also a videoblogger.

2. 'Taking Precautions' by Audrie Yeo, 1 min 30 secs/color/2006

About the precautions a women in the mere future should take, if the
misuse of technologies in exploiting women's right, continues.

Director's Statement:
The purpose of this short campaign is not asking women out there to
take precautions as such, but instead, to think why women should
resort to such silly precautions and not come together to stop the
misuse of technology… the funny thing is, when we were shooting this,
it feels like we are the bad guys…

Director's Profile:
Audrie started involving herself in filmmaking when she was doing her
diploma in 3D animation and visual effects. Although not majoring in
film making, that became her true passion. Still new in this field,
she constantly looks out for unusual inspirations and ideas to create
her own style of story telling.

3. 'Hello Goodbye' by Chi Too, 5 mins 28 secs/color 16:9/stereo/2006

A study on the mobility of time and space.

Director's Statement:
Eventually, I'll have to say hello to goodbye.

Director's Profile:
Chi Too sometimes makes films for fun, love, and activism. His films
have traveled to various film festivals around the world. He one day
hopes he can travel the world like his films do. In his spare time,
chi too ekes out a living editing video in hopes of financing his
dreams of becoming a
filmmaker/photographer/writer/artist/environmentalist/escatic. chi too
is also a capitalist marxist, however, he is not ashamed of his
penchant for McDonald's and Starbucks coffee. See Chi Too in action at

4. 'Lost and Found' by Roy Vimalan, 8mins 53 secs/sound/ 2006

Based on a true story of a foreign student who had a berserk
experience while studying in Malaysia. The issue in which seems to be
so less cared, still affected him in many ways. Lost and Found depicts
a story based on Human Rights. Did you lose it? Or are you still
looking for it?

Director's Statement:
The film is about an experience that turns into an idea and comes out
as a story and then ends with a question mark.

Director's Profile:
Roy Vimalan, just finished his studies in Bachelors Hons in
Multimedia System (Napier University UK) at Sunway University College.
Currently free lancing while waiting for his results.

5. 'The Blind Girl and the Thief' by Johan Arif Mazlan, 4 mins/color/2006

Story about a blind girl and a thief who didn't realise that they
need each other more than what they can see.

Director's Profile:
Born & raised in Cheras,KL. Studied multimedia where interest in
video making sparked. Made a few shorts like Halun & Halus where Halus
was shown on RTM1 in the program Generasi Digital. Now working in a
production house as freelance editor.

6. 'Aunty Wahid' by Umi Salwana Omar, 26 mins/color/2006

'Aunty Wahid' is about the life of an unconventional transvestite,
who lives life passionately, and full of determination. Follow him on
his journey as he struggles to find out his true self, overcomes
painful obstacles in seeking acceptance, and finding a place to stand
in a prejudiced society.

Director's Statement:
What does it mean to be different? Differences have been damned by
segregation of race, religion and country. Differences have been
divided us all. I think differences should be celebrated. Would it not
be a boring world if we are all the same? Differences teach us that
although we do things differently, we do it for the same purpose and
reason. To celebrate life.

Director's Profile:
24 year-old Umi is a final year student of Center for Advanced Design
(CENFAD). Graduating in December, she is currently doing her
internship at Motion Effects Studio. Her documentary Aunty Wahid won
the Best Art Work in CENFAD and shown at Malaysian Documentary and
Freedom Film Festival.

7. Fairuz Sulaiman: WHERE IS MY INDIE ROCK DARLING (3mins/color/music/2006)

A film about the ever continuing search for reason and purpose in life.

Director's Statement:
This is the director's first attempt at music video making for a
local indie band. It's a simple story on how we must not give up on
our search for something, because we will never know what will happen
next. The production shoot was for 2 days, spanning across familiar
locations in Kuala Lumpur.

Director's Profile:
Fairuz Sulaiman is a videographer involved in experimental video
performances, theatre productions, video installations and
productions. He lectures part time in video making in a local art

8.'Red Drawing' by Margaret Bong, 13 mins/color/ 2004

Fo You, a 10 year old boy, grows up in the theatre of his
grandmother's Chinese Opera. He amazes his teacher by drawing the
first act of each opera that he ever forget.

Director's Profile:
Margaret Bong, born 1981, has a Degree in Cinematography from
Malaysia University Sarawak (UNIMAS) and a Diploma in Broadcasting.
The filmmaker has been involved as director, writer and producer for
the following films: Tudtu (short documentary), Lie Beneath (short
fiction) and Red Drawing (short fiction).

9. KG. CHUBADAK by Mokhtaruddin Lasso, 3 mins/Colour/2006

Selepas 50 tahun merdeka, inilah nasib kaum miskin kota atas nama
pembangunan After 50 years of independence, this is the fate of the
urban poor in the name of development.

Director's Statement:
Jikalau kamu tak suka dengan berita yang kamu lihat setiap hari di
kaca TV, ambil kamera video, keluar, dan bikin berita sendiri.
If you don't like the news you see everyday on TV, take a camera, go
out and shoot your own news.

Director's Profile:
Mokhtaruddin Lasso bukan seorang pembikin filem, tapi percaya bahawa
dengan kemunculan kamera video murah, software komputer ciplak, akses
pada internet, dan kehadiran laman web seperti youtube bakal
mendemokrasikan medium video dari tangan elit pembikin filem, ke
tangan rakyat jelata.
Mokhtaruddin Lasso is not a filmmaker, but believes that with
emergence of cheap video cameras, pirated computer softwares, internet
access and websites like youtube can democratize the video medium from
the elite filmmakers' hands to masses' hands.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Back From TV Movie Production Shoot. Working On New Short Film!

Yup, I'm back after a week in Port Dickson for my assistant director gig.

Actually, I came back on Sunday evening, but was too lazy and obsessed with destroying super secret boss Yiazmat in Final Fantasy 12 tired to update the blog since then.

Went to the A'Famosa Resort with my mother too yesterday for a Buddhist conference. Surprised that the place was a resort, whenever I heard A'Famosa, I thought it was just the ruins of a once-mighty fort. I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to local tourist attractions. After all, prior to the TV film shoot last week, I've never been to Port Dickson before either, and the place is less than two hours away from Kuala Lumpur. Sheesh.

There will be video diaries, of course.

By the way, I've finally decided to start work on my first short film since Girl Disconnected. It will be a love story set in contemporary Kuala Lumpur. I'm going to attempt something really close to the Jun-ai (pure, innocent love) trend (epitomized by Korean drama Winter Sonata, or the Japanese movie Crying Out Love Center Of The World, or the book/ movie/ j-drama Ima Ai Ni Yukimasu). Read more about Pure Love here and here. If they can pull this off in Japan and Korea, I'm pretty intrigued to try something like this that takes place in Malaysia.

The whole idea was conceived the night I came back from Port Dickson, when I was having dinner with my buddy Peng Shien, and the dude challenged me to doing something more mainstream, something that can be heart-wrenching and touch the hearts of wider audiences. He was probably thinking of something more similar to 80s-early 90s Taiwanese soap adapted from Taiwanese novelist Qiung Yao (man dies suddenly in a violent car accident, woman embraces him as he gasps his last words, he dies, a puddle of blood forms beneath them, she screams, tears mingle with blood... or girl suffers from heart problems, guy donates his heart to her, guy dies, guy lives in girl forever), I shuddered a little, but was intrigued to see what I can do with stories like that using my personal filmmaking style, hence, I started developing a story for this.

Obviously, I'm keeping the details under wraps.

Have contacted Ywenna of the Jazz group, RHAPSODY, to help me with the composing (I've used their songs for the opening and closing of my short film, VERTICAL DISTANCE), and also Grace (who played the rabbit fairy in GIRL DISCONNECTED, watch her in this clip, pics below) to be my main actress.

Production Photo 12 - Wiler and The Rabbit Watch The Ballerinas

Production Photo 11- The Rabbit Sees Poor Wiler

I might be reduced to a one-man film crew again though. But other than that, everything seems pretty promising.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The poisoned and mortal wound of the civilised world

Manic Street Preachers knew it.

"You're obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretences of your civilization, which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That's the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilised world."
- Octave Mirbeau
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