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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oh! Mikey

Oh! Mikey is the best thing to come out of Japanese comedy in years. Check this one:




It's SO much funnier if you've actually been to a hostess bar/kyabakura and know what they're talking about.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Invisible Target 男兒本色'

poster of Invisible Target


Director Benny Chan Muk-Sing is sort of like the Michael Bay of Hong Kong cinema. I don't mean this as an insult, but he's really the go-to guy for big-budget HK actioners with explosions and crazy stunts. Most of the time, when it comes to action scenes, he seldom disappoints.

He is behind some of the finest Hong Kong action movies of the 90s, like the awesome BIG BULLET (you won't see great ensemble cop films like this anymore), but he also has a penchant for sappy melodrama like his debut film A MOMENT OF ROMANCE and its (unrelated) sequel.

His works since the late 90s (1998's Jackie Chan film WHO AM I? and 1999's GEN-X COPS) are often characterized by some thrilling action set pieces and a dash of heavy-handed sappy melodrama that either makes or breaks the film. And because of that, to me, his output since these two movies, while often well-produced, is rather uneven.

GEN-Y COPS (2000) was a putrid piece of trash (this film is also Edison Chen's film debut).

HEROIC DUO (2003) was fairly entertaining before it choked me to death with its sappy ending.

NEW POLICE STORY (2004) was one of the best Jackie Chan films in years (though the whole romantic subplot between Jackie Chan and Charlie Young felt... awkward, and don't even let me go to the proposal scene)

DIVERGENCE (2005) is noted for resurrecting Aaron Kwok's career with his critically-acclaimed Golden Horse award-winning performance (which to me, was still pretty damned over-the-top). I enjoyed it, but mostly because of Daniel Wu's charismatic performance as the badass assassin.

ROB-B-HOOD (2006) is a really good film. While it's also marred by a ridiculously sweaty and weepy ending which had Jackie Chan and Louis Koo overacting like hell, its humour and entertainment value managed to balance things out.

The reason why I'm going through Benny Chan's post-2000 filmography is to illustrate my struggles when watching a Benny Chan film. These star-studded films are often frivolous and fun, and the action scenes are always staged well, and I would always be having the time of my life... before his films are ruined by angsty melodrama, and thus diminishing my enjoyment. Everytime he tries to turn his film into tearjerkers, I feel disgusted.

His latest film, INVISIBLE TARGET, starring Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yu and Jaycee Chan (son of Jackie) is no different. The action scenes are thrilling to watch, you see characters being smashed into, well, stuff, a lot. Glass windows, tables, walls, cars etc. Sometimes, it's pretty wince-inducing when I saw Nicholas Tse performing a Jackie Chan-esque stunt in an intense chase sequence (running down the crowded streets, on car roofs, then being slammed by a bus in mid-air, and then slammed by another car, and then continues running) and seeing a character being sent flying backwards by a kick, and then falling down the stairs, and crashing into splintered tables, it's pretty hardcore stuff.

The film made sure you wouldn't miss any of these stunts by often having 'instant replays' of what just occurred from another angle, it felt really like an old-school Hong Kong film... or Ong Bak.

But at the same time, it felt really corny.

There's a story, of course. The paths of three heroic cops Chan Chun (Nicholas Tse), Fong Yik-wei (Shawn Yue) and Jaycee Chan's Wai King-ho intersect when they are tracking down a merry band of murderous bank robbers led by Tien (Wu Jing). Chan Chun wants to avenge the death of his fiancee, who was collateral damage during one of Tien's bank robberies. Fong is also out to redeem his hurt manly ego after getting his butt kicked by Tien and then being forced to eat bullets (... literally). Wai King-ho is investigating the mysterious disappearance of his brother (cameo by Aaron Kwok... who appeared only in photographs, most bizarre film cameo ever!)

There's really not much of a story here, nor character development, Chan Chun spends most time looking angsty, Fong spends most time looking angry and Wai, well, to my surprise, his role has the most dramatic pathos, and Jaycee Chan has definitely improved much since the days of... TWINS EFFECT 2.

I have yet to become a believer of Wu Jing, despite most people calling him a worthy successor to Jet Li. Since his breakthrough role as the cold-blooded assassin in SHA PO LANG, I haven't really been that impressed with him subsequent films. FATAL CONTACT was decent (its fighting scenes were good), but TWINS MISSION remains the one horrible film that made me want to gouge my own eyes out. However, as a baddie again in INVISIBLE TARGET, Wu Jing quite simply... rocked. There are many moments in the film which made me go "whoa, Wu Jing IS badass!", lots of posing, lots of impressive martial arts display. Sure, he did take a page from Jet Li's acting book in LETHAL WEAPON 4, but when he started kicking ass, I nearly squealed like a little girl.

However, this film is still much too overindulgent and melodramatic as it goes on. The 'downtime' between action setpieces are spent on having characters philosophize and rant in a non-stop monologue on the reasons behind their actions, how their actions can be justified, how the bad guys and the good guys are not that different, how a bad guy can still be a good guy if he wants to, or how a bad guy and good guy could've been best friends if they weren't on different sides, as moments like this piled up, I could only stare numbly, hoping that whatever action scene that follows this is worth the time. Thankfully, they seldom disappoint.

If the film were less indulgent and tighter in its pacing, it would've made one hell of a film. Not as good as those two post-2000 Jackie Chan films, but I probably enjoyed this just as much as DIVERGENCE (maybe enjoyment is the wrong word, since DIVERGENCE is such a downer).


Invisible Target trailer

Nice article about my dad on The Star newspaper

Two days ago, just like every other mornings, I was having breakfast with my parents. As usual, I was flipping through The Star while eating. My daily newspaper reading routine is like the following:

1) Start with The Star. Begin from the Sports section, then to the international news section, before checking out the headlines, and then finally reading Section 2, which would usually cover the entertainment articles.

2) Throw The Star aside, pick up the entertainment section of Sin Chew Daily, a Chinese paper to read the latest celebrity gossip.

3) Put that entertainment section of Sin Chew Daily aside, and check out the entertainment section in China Press, another Chinese paper for things left out by Sin Chew.

But anyway, I was reading through the entertainment sections of The Star before something caught my eye. My dad's name. And also, a hideous photo of his that was taken probably during the late 80s or early 90s.

Hideously bad photo of my dad, Eric Yeo!


"Ew! You looked SO FAT!" I remarked.

Mom and dad, interrupted from their conversation, looked at me, and then at the nice little article about my dad I was pointing at.

Apparently they were both unaware of the article, and mom couldn't believe that it was a photo of my dad, since she had never seen him with, well, that much hair before, nor look THAT fat.

She firmly believed that The Star had most probably put up a photo of some fat guy who bears a passing resemblance to dad. 25 years of marriage and she had never seen my dad looking like that.

(My dad's not bald, it's just that he often keeps his hair cropped short)

Star Newspaper article about my dad

(Chinese dude in the photo above is NOT my dad, my scanner's too small to scan the entire newspaper, so I had to fold it. Oops, sorry dad!)

My dad.

Pillar in the Malaysian music industry...?

Hmmm.

Mom and I chit-chatted about the article yesterday. We agreed that the household may have underestimated dad's reputation (in fact, we didn't expect people to leave comments about my dad's contribution on my post about Loga's passing last month). Maybe because we were so often exposed to his Homer Simpson-esque antics at home. Hah.

Anyway, once again, here's the link to The Star's article about my dad. It's mostly about him talking about the music industry of then, and now.

Some quotes from my dad.

"The music business is still business, you have to remember that. The priority has obviously changed these days. I’m old-school – I never use money to attract artistes. I’ve always maintained the philosophy that we (the artiste and I) can do something together and we’ll see the returns from the fruits of our labour."

"Twenty years ago, an artiste would require a major label to promote his music, but smaller labels are managing the same tasks today. In fact, there are even avenues for artistes to promote themselves through their own endeavours."



Yeap. Go, dad.

(This is random, but more than a year ago, China Press ran a serialized feature about my parents' courtship.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Serious Literary Fiction about Idols

I need help.

I am writing a serious literary work about idols and wota.

Someone please tell me suggestions for things they want to see in this.

This is not a joke, I am a published author.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Kind Old Man At The Train Station


(Photo by Nighthawk Photoworks)


Two nights ago, after finishing a shoot, I went to a KTM train station to take a train home.

It was nine thirty and the ticket counter was closed, so I could only buy my tickets through either one of the two ticket vending machines.

One accepted exact change only.

One accepted coins only.

The train ticket was RM1.

I opened my wallet and was a bit miffed that all I had were two RM10 notes.

I popped one of the notes into the first machine, it spat out my note.

I popped it in again, the same thing happened.

After the third time, I cursed a storm and punched the machine, everyone else were indifferent, it was a regular occurence anyway, the sight of an angry person punching the ticket vending machine in annoyance.

Sighing, I started scraping for coins so I could buy the ticket from the second machine.

I managed to compile RM1 from the assortment of 5 cent and 1 cent coins I had. Grinning gleefully, I headed towards the other ticket vending machine.

Turned out that the machine could only 10, 20, 50 cent coins.

I was so frustrated that I contemplated headbutting the machine, but I knew that I would end up plastering the machine with bits and pieces of my brain, so I stopped.

"Hey, these machines don't accept RM10 notes." A hoarse voice called out to me from the side.

I turned and saw an old man, his face weathered by time and the sun. He took out RM10 worth of small change from his wallet and exchanged with me. I said my thanks and bought my ticket immediately.

The ticket gate was slow to react when I inserted the ticket into it.

"Is KTM trying to KILL me?" I snarled.

Fearing my wrath, the gate opened, I ran towards the platform. The train arrived.

The old man was there, we had a chat. He was a truck driver who had just finished his shift, my eyes strayed to his hands, they were filled with calluses. Few moments later, I reached my destination, thanking the old man again, I walked out of the train. As I was near the exit, I caught a glimpse of him through the window, falling asleep as the train continued its way into the night.

Once the sounds of the moving train had faded into nothingness, I returned my attention to the station, and realized that my heart was suddenly filled with disappointment and sorrow towards the country's public transportation system.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Traffic Accidents Are Morbid.

It is currently 3:14AM. There will be a TV movie shoot tomorrow. I'm involved as production manager/ assistant director... hence the lack of updates.

Right now, I am cutting newspaper articles of ghastly traffic accidents. It's for a prop. This is very morbid.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chomu

Chomu.

Quentin S. Crisp and I have started a new writing magazine. It's writing what we like, when we want. Other contributors are coming soon.

There is a new short story from me up, so go read it.

And tell your friends and family.

Here is a picture of Shinohara Ryouko sitting on the toilet:


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni Blows Up The World

Antonioni proves himself one of the greatest filmmakers of all time with 'Zabriskie Point'. Like the best movies, no explanation is necessary. This literally destroys shittier films, like 99% of everything released now.




Tuesday, July 10, 2007

[OPEN THREAD] Why Suanie Is AWESOME!

This post is dedicated to my most favourite person in the world (for the day) Suanie. Selflessly sacrificing her time to help me translate a script from English to Malay for a TV movie audition/ casting session tonight, Suanie has proved beyond a doubt that, she's awesome in many different levels.



Suanie is so awesome that she broke off the Merlion statue's head and played futsal with it, then put it back to its original place, and Lee Kuan Yew could not say anything about it.



Suanie is so awesome that after taking these photos, she karatechop all these bronze statues into pieces because she couldn't hear what the hell were they saying.



Suanie is so awesome that when she wasn't happy with the food in NY Pizza, she decapitated the chef with a giant slice of pizza, placed bits of his brains on the pizza and ate it.

That's Suanie. Now is your turn to tell me why Suanie is awesome, whether you know her or not. Because, even if you don't know her, you MUST know of her awesomeness.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Red Bean Soup - An Abandoned Short Film Project

I have made several mentions as early as April that I was trying to make a follow-up to GIRL DISCONNECTED (that's my last short film). It was planned to be a Jun-Ai (Pure Love) short film. By Pure Love, I meant a wholesome romantic tearjerker which would involve terminal illness, self-sacrifice, tragic separations, doing everything for love, the all-conquering power of love, shy holding of hands, subtly poetic declarations of love etc. Its tentative title was RED BEAN SOUP, which was really a code name, I was planning to really call the film WINTER IN KL. But since I'm used to referring to it as RED BEAN SOUP, I'll refer it as RED BEAN SOUP throughout this entry.

It all came from a discussion with my friend, Peng Shien, who wanted me to do something more mainstream, as a reaffirmation that I am not disconnected from popular sensibilities and the like, that I won't stick to doing self-indulgent works too inaccessible for everyone else except for film scholars. And my reply was "damn it, why not? I'll PANDER to the masses by making a weepie!"

I started working on the film, developing the story (which I tried to write in prose form after suffering from writer's block), and then, offering a cameo role for the winner of the Hottest Blogger Award that I judged (also in April). The eventual winner, Anna, unfortunately, lived in Sabah Sarawak, so she had no choice but to turn down my offered prize.

Since then, I got involved in a couple of producing gigs (one of them being Chewxy's short film, where I had the pleasure of meeting a horrendous method actor who went VERY sour when he wasn't chosen for the role). And with all these juggling, RED BEAN SOUP was put aside for a while (which was unsurprising, since I still wasn't really making that much progress with the story).

What was wrong with RED BEAN SOUP? It just felt too impersonal for me, as if I was going through the motions of filmmaking, and not pouring my passion into something I could believe in. The female protagonist, as quirky as she was, was a caricature, based more on video game, anime or film characters I've seen. She was amusing at first, I had this role tailor made for Grace (in terms of looks, in real life, Grace is far from quirky):


Grace


I didn't like the direction I was going, nor was I enjoying the creative process... I knew something was seriously wrong with the project. I tried writing in prose form, and then writing in screenplay form, I couldn't complete either one.

I knew I was screwed.

For a few times, I voiced my anxiety to film director Woo Ming Jin and his intern Lesly (I'm working with them now, including an upcoming TV movie project, which I will get into detail in a future post).

"Dude, dammit, write something more emotionally honest! Don't try to do something that people can see on TV all the time, and if you're targeting film festivals... don't make something aimed for housewives!" Ming Jin said. (I'm paraphrasing him)

Then, he added:

"And... are you seriously going to make Grace a terminally ill girl who goes around, coughing blood? Do you know how many students of mine had attempted the same and ended up looking stupidly amateurish?"

That stopped me. I started thinking... how the hell was I going to let Grace play a terminally ill girl?


Grace... playin' a terminally ill gal?


And with that, I knew I had to rethink the entire story. It didn't seem to work. I couldn't do a blatant Jun-Ai.

Right now, I'll get into details about what RED BEAN SOUP was about, since I'm discarding the whole idea entirely.

The story happens in a span of a day. JIN, a songwriter, is stuck at home, trying to compose his new song, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, a girl, QING (her original name was JING, just so I could derive amusement from the fact that both protagonists share a rather similar name, but I'm trying to avoid confusion here) takes a train to visit an ex-boyfriend. She has brought a tin container of red bean soup with her. But when she reached the place, she's horrified to find out that her ex-boyfriend has already moved on, seeing him walking out of his house with a new hottie girlfriend.

Qing immediately hides in the bushes, not wanting to let her ex-boyfriend see her.

Jin continues angsting and sulking at home, not knowing how to finish his piece.

Qing, not wanting to waste her red bean soup, starts calling random people from her phonebook (Chungking Express homage) to help her finish it. No one gives a crap, until she calls an old classmate from primary school... Jin.

But Jin, being a cold jerk, shuts her down, saying that he was busy composing. He declines her offer and puts his phone aside, continuing to ponder about his composition, staring at his piano with sheer intensity. Some moments later, he's interrupted by light tapping on his window. He goes over to open his window, only to find Qing standing at the balcony outside, how she climbs up his apartment is unexplained.

Qing looks around, finds that Jin's place is much too gloomy, decides NOT to offer him the red bean soup unless he gets out of the place with her, to Kuala Lumpur. He says no, Qing shrugs and walks out of the place. Jin is angsting by himself, before running after her.

The sun has begun setting, Jin, who used to fear the sun (low blood pressure), finds himself miraculously unharmed. With Qing, he takes a train to Kuala Lumpur.

Day turns to night, begin pretty musical montage sequence with Jin and Qing hanging out at random places in KL while having a good time. Jin warms to Qing, stops acting as if he has a stick up his butt. They find some cheesily romantic place where they can enjoy the night scenery of KL, there's a tentative 'his hand reaching for hers' scene. Qing finally offers Jin her red bean soup, Jin drinks it, watching him, Qing sees shadows of her ex-boyfriend, before she can react, Qing's nose start to bleed, and she collapses.

Still barely conscious, she admits that she's actually suffering from some terminal illness, which scares the crap out of Jin. Weakly, she turns her attention to the cityscape and waxes poetry about its beauty. Listening to her words, the song Jin has been trying to compose all these while comes to life, and starts flowing out, in his mind (... as background music).

After her beautiful monologue... KL STARTED SNOWING!!!!!!!!

She smiles and closes her eyes, resting her head on his shoulder. A look of peace crosses upon her face.

THE END


It's pretty shitty. I KNEW it was really shitty, that's why I gave up in the end. I wasn't excited enough to make a film like that. Too sappy, too contrived, too puke-inducing, if I made something like that, even metrosexuals would look like Spartans when standing next to me.

So I totally tore the story apart and decided to try something new, I've already completed the treatment few days ago, will be easier for me start work on a screenplay then. And with that, RED BEAN SOUP is officially scrapped. Good riddance.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Powermasters Optimus Prime!

WIRED's collection of best Transformers Fan Photos inspired me to dig out an old friend of mine that I hadn't touched in years. (yes, an article did this, NOT the film itself... probably because Megan Fox overshadowed everything else)

My Optimus Prime toy.

Powermasters Optimus Prime (normal form)


My dad bought this for me in Hong Kong back when I was either 5 or 6. Until today, it remains one of my most prized possessions among my huge collection of action figures. And compared to other Transformers toys I have, this one is the most, er, complete. Even as a kid, I knew enough to take care of it so that it wouldn't suffer from any broken limbs or missing heads my other Transformers toys (I'll show them to you some other time... if I can put most of them together). Getting this toy was one of the highlights of my childhood.

Now, here's Optimus Prime in his truck form.

Powermasters Optimus Prime (truck form)


Alas, despite trying my hardest, many parts of this toy are missing. A gun, a mini robot meant to be inserted into Optimus Prime's engine, possibly some laser guns that were placed on Optimus's forearms.

Some photos of Optimus Prime in his large form, which you need the trailer for.

Powermasters Optimus Prime (large form)


It's ironic that prior to writing this entry, I was searching desperately on the Net to find out what's the name of my toy's actual model. And then I found my answer at the most unexpected of places... Vincent's entry about his Powermasters Optimus Prime (which is a lot more complete than mine... or maybe he has a newer edition), and THEN I knew that I have a Powermasters Optimus Prime... after more than fifteen years.

Powermasters Optimus Prime (large form) 2


Just like Vincent (and Eyeris, who also had the toy) had stated, this toy isn't very flexible, you can only move its arms, and it wasn't even until today that I knew I could spread my Optimus Prime's legs (... sounds wrong) when he's in his large form.

Of course, one of my biggest regrets is the fact that so many parts of it are missing. Playing with the idea of customizing some new weapons for my Optimus Prime, like an energy sword or something.

Powermasters Optimus Prime (large form) 3


I'm suddenly thinking of getting myself a few different Optimus Prime models too.

Updated: Eyeris has an even more old-school Optimus Prime toy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Transformers'

Transformers poster


I enjoyed Transformers. I think it's the best Michael Bay film in a long time. For better or worse, Michael Bay has stamped his signature on the film, the slow-mo, the herky jerky editing, 360-degree panning cam (which I couldn't help but smile at, since it was parodied by HOT FUZZ as well, which I saw last week) the hyper-kinetic cinematography. Yeap, riddled with Bay-isms, film looks like a music video and a commercial, and ultimately, Transformers is really a Michael Bay film that happens to have... Transformers in it.

Many people I know, many blogs I've read have raved about the film. I'm not surprised, it's an entertaining popcorn film, a joyride for the masses. It's funny, it's action-packed, it's good eye-candy (besides the robots, MEGAN FOX provided the rest of the visual candy)

Megan Fox in Transformers!


.... and there are lots of explosions. It's not a soulless, pretentious piece of garbage like PEARL HARBOUR (a film I hate with a passion, so much that I would terminate my friendship with any friend who dares say in my face that the film's good), nor a smug, self-aware rubbish like BAD BOYS 2. (but other than that, I enjoyed BAD BOYS and THE ROCK, treated ARMAGEDDON as guilty pleasure, and thought that THE ISLAND wasn't THAT bad)

But for me, as much as I enjoyed it, I find that it's structurally flawed. The important Autobots characters (including Optimus Prime) are introduced too late into the film, thus besides wowing me with the special effects, they didn't help much with the story. Like I said before, the CGI in the film's pretty groundbreaking, to the point where occasionally, I would repeat to myself "whoa man, I'm seeing realistic-looking GIANT ROBOTS in a LIVE-ACTION film", but sometime during the explosive final battle at the last act, I started getting really confused "who is fighting who?" and then "er... why am I rooting for the Autobots again?". Doesn't help much when the fight between Optimus Prime and Megatron turns out to be such a disappointment.

It became a rare Michael Bay film where I actually cared more about the HUMAN CHARACTERS! (I most likely belong to the minority, I'm sure most others prefer the robot-on-robot action) Maybe it has to do with the amusing acting and the comedy. Shia Lebouf is really likable as the protagonist Sam Witwicky, who tries hard to win the affections of his dream girl Mikaela (Megan Fox!!!!), and while romantic subplot in Michael Bay films tend to be really puke-inducing (look at the animal crackers scene in ARMAGADDEON, look at EVERYTHING in PEARL HARBOUR), the romance in TRANSFORMERS is actually interesting enough. Maybe it has to do with Megan Fox. Maybe Shia Lebouf's character is just much more likable than the romantic leads in the other two films (... which, coincidentally, were both played by Ben Affleck).

Film is really more an ensemble film, and some characters stick out, like John Turturro's wacky Agent Simmons, Anthony Anderson's super hacker (who is completely identical to Kevin Smith's character in DIE HARD 4), and the heroic soldiers led by Sergeant Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and USAF Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson), Rachel Taylor's Aussie accent is yummy.

But who am I kidding, this film is an instant classic because of MEGAN FOX!!!!!


Megan Fox in Transformers again!

Megan Fox in Transformers again and again

Megan Fox!!!!!!!!!!

... Megan Fox...



Sorry, I think my mind had just exploded, I'm ending this film review prematurely. I can't continue writing this properly, just drop your comments and we'll resume discussion about the film.

(I cringed when the film ended with the Linkin Park song)


Megan Fox promoting Transformers at Jimmy Kemmel


Megan Fox clip in Transformers...



Sunday, July 01, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Live Free or Die Hard'

Die Hard 4.0 poster


LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (or DIE HARD 4.0 outside North America) is absolutely awesome!!!!!

The announcement of a new DIE HARD film twelve years after DIE HARD 3 made me cringe back then, when its synopsis was revealed, I was apathetic ("Right, cyberterrorists trying to take over the nation. John McClane is accompanied by a young hacker played by Justin Long... sounds verrrrrry promising"), even its casting news could only grab my attention perk my interest... for a minute ("We have Maggie Q and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whom I liked VERY MUCH in SKY HIGH back in 2005, but so wot? Summer 2007? I care only about SPIDEY 3!!"), and when Len Wiseman was announced to direct this, I started to tune out ("oh god, he's going to turn this into something like those UNDERWORLD films, with Bruce kungfuing people around in slow mo and all.")

I knew I was going to see this (unless you haven't noticed by now, I make a point in trying to watch every single summer Hollywood blockbuster flick), but I didn't expect much. Thought it was just going to be some generic action film with an aging cop, and some lame MTV-methods (unnecessary fast cuts, silly slow-mos, wannabe gritty shaky cam, er... John McLane with wire-fu) to try make DIE HARD hip and cool again for the new post-MATRIX generation.

The original DIE HARD was so influential became a blueprint for many action films to follow during the 90s (you know, the type about an everyday cop facing fighting against terrorists). Keanu in a bus, Seagal in a ship, Van Damme in a... hockey arena. Even many films of Hong Kong and Korean cinema are influenced by this. But actions films have changed much since the last DIE HARD film came out in 1995. Gone where the days of wise-cracking macho action heroes battling evil terrorists (post-9/11, too sensitive to have terrorists appearing in films again), now we have sensitive angstful heroes who emote about the complexities of life more than having just a good time while killing baddies, and balletic martial arts scenes choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping are always involved.

When most big-budget popcorn blockbusters this year had drowned so much in their self-seriousness, along their attempt to be smarter than they are supposed to be by having multiple subplots going on at once, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD's simplicity is a breath of fresh air, and brings back memories of the fun popcorn action films of the 80s and 90s, but with action set pieces so over-the-top and thrilling that the audience members in the cinema today were cheering and laughing and gasping the whole time (people seemed more involved with the action scenes of this film more than they did when I was watching Spidey 3 or Pirates of The Caribbean 3). I guess that's the appeal of this film, the fact that it's less CGI-heavy compared to the aforementioned films, thus making people less aware of the eye candy and enjoy the old-fashioned thrills. Sure, suspension of disbelief is still needed, but the world LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD is set in feels more realistic and less stylized than a fantasy-ish world like PoTC3, or a comic book world of superheroes in Spidey 3 (the first two films were much believable), great thing that Len Wiseman went for action scenes similar to something like CASINO ROYALE, without using any of the flow-mo, wire-fu stuff he did in the UNDERWORLD films.

Thanks to its balance of humour (yes, John McClane's one-liners and taunting remain awesome) and action (so outlandish can it can sometimes be viewed as comedy), film is paced well, it never drags once John McClane appears in Matt Farrell's apartment, it's just one action scene after another, each bigger than the one before, which you will read about in numerous other reviews of the film but I myself will not spoil here (though anyone who have seen the movie trailer would have already saw the part where McClane 'kills a helicopter with a car after running out of bullets').

Film is essentially a buddy film between the old-school John McClane (he's a Timex watch in a digital age, who knows nothing about computers and the Internet) and the Gen-Y Matt Farrell, who is a super hacker who is shocked by the sudden action and explosions he is embroiled in. Worlds apart with a major generation gap, the film obviously ends with them having more respect for each other, with the supposedly cowardly Farrell finally doing something heroic. I'm so used to seeing Justin Long in comedic roles (or playing some effeminate) in films that it's refreshing to see him playing a normal believable guy trapped in a crazy situation. Meanwhile, John McClane views everything with world-weariness and bemusement, it's not the first time he's saving the country, and main baddie Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) is no Hans Gruber (even though his motivations are very relevant to today's world)

The first three DIE HARD films had foreign terrorists threatening the safety of United States, this film's villain is a security expert who once worked with the US government, who tells America that all hope is lost by broadcasting a video cut together from the speeches of various US presidents, from Roosevelt to Bush. Pretty obviously telling us who have become the real threats to the United States after 9/11.

Maggie Q's great as the femme fatale Mai (guess we aren't going to see her in crappy Hong Kong flicks anymore), but Sebastian's review sums up better why she's good. Kevin Smith's funny as the hacker Warlock. Mary Elizabeth Winstead shows audiences that she's really... John McClane's daughter.

One thing that really took me out of the film is its hideous ADR (automated dialogue replacement, which means... dubbing) job. In order to make the film PG-13 instead of R, some efforts were taken to replace the dialogue with, probably, less profanity, but there is this one scene with Justin Long at the power plant (where he gives up in winning) which is so horrible (I hear dialogue even when his mouth wasn't moving) that was pretty hideous. Was one of those rare moments when I was took out of the film... well, before the next explosion.

Other than that, yeap, great movie, go see it.


Japanese trailer of Die Hard 4


Random Maggie Q video... (from the crap flick Naked Weapon)



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