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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kimmy Kiew is Zoey, a Dawson's Creek character with ice powers

Memories of the Legendary Chicken Rice
Kimmy Kiew in Chicken Rice Mystery

You know that the main actress of your short film had turned into a star when, aside from scooping up the Best Acting honours from BMW Shorties, she was chosen as the 'face' of the film by the Dubai Film Fest in their film catalogue. (I sent them two photos: a above photo of Kimmy, and a photo of the kid, Ming Wei, they ended up choosing Kimmy's photo... sorry Ming Wei)

Chicken Rice Mystery in the Dubai Film Fest catalogue


Her face was also on the big screen during the Closing Ceremony:

Chicken Rice Mystery on the big screen, Dubai Film Fest 2008 Closing Ceremony


And not to mention the fact that photo of hers had appeared in numerous Dubai newspapers and websites like this one, and this one.

In the greatest "WTF" moment ever, Kimmy had even appeared on Cracked.com's The 8 Most Misguided Sci-Fi Versions Of 2008 article. By listing the 8 stories set in the "futuristic" year of 2008 that completely dropped the proverbial ball.

Number 2 on the list is the year of 2008 in Dawson's Creek's series' finale.

'Star James Van Der Beek (AKA Dawson, “The Daws” or “Dawes Butler”) returns to his hometown in 2008 after becoming a successful television producer and creator of the fictional series The Creek, based on 60-minute segments of his life. This is extra meta, because the actual creator of Dawson’s Creek based the show on his life, creating a never-ending Oroburos of schlocky crap.'

Accuracy:
Only in the sense that we still breathe Oxygen. The last memorable thing James Van Der Beek did was play himself getting the shit beaten out of him in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Since then, he’s bounced around from sitcom guest appearance to sitcom guest appearance, most recently One Tree Hill, or Dawson’s Creek: Remix. Meanwhile, 2008 primetime television is populated by counter-terrorists, smoke monsters, and spiritually conflicted robots from space. Any show based on a show we already watched ten years ago would have to under go some major changes. I’m thinking ice powers for Zoey, the fictional Dawson’s Creek character I’m pretending to reference. "


And they added a picture of 'Zoey'.

Zoey the fictional Dawson's Creek character with ice powers!


So there we go, aside from her massive face time in Dubai, Cracked.com had turned Kimmy into 'Zoey' (or, based on the blog tag, 'Zoey 101'), a fictional Dawson's Creek character they're pretending to reference.

Well done, Kimmy!

Mom (Kimmy) is angsty

Monday, December 29, 2008

I DO have a clearer photo of Brigitte Lin from Dubai Film Fest!

Looking for photos to use in an email interview, I sifted through some remaining photos of the Dubai Film Fest closing ceremony that I haven't uploaded in my earlier post.

And I found a photo with Taiwanese filmmaker Chang Rong-Ji, who made the short film '天黑 The End Of The Tunnel', also in the same category as I was. His film is a mixture of fact and documentary, focusing on a real-life blind pianist and his (fictional) relationship with a pretty schoolmate who is healing a broken heart. The short film was his first attempt at narrative fiction as his previous works were all documentaries (one won the Golden Horse two years ago)

With Chang Rong-ji ("The End Of The Tunnel"), Dubai Film Fest 2008 Closing Ceremony


I also found another photo I took with Tsui Hark, this time only by myself. I double-clicked the photo to check it out properly again as I haven't done that before. To my surprise, Brigitte Lin can actually be seen standing in the background, on the far right of the photo.

Prior to this, I had regretted that the photo I took with Brigitte Lin was so blurry. Now I realize I still have another photo with her in it! Awesome!

With Tsui Hark (and behind me was Brigitte Lin!), Dubai Film Fest 2008 Closing Ceremony



Some Brigitte Lin fan video


Recap of Brigitte Lin's legendary career (in Mandarin)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Swifty Reviews 'Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In)'

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN


Not that many people I know (non-film buffs who don't keep track on foreign film news) have heard of this beautiful Swedish film directed by Thomas Alfredson, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. When I was asked to explain the premise of the film, I was a little hard-pressed, the best I could come up with was...

"Um, it's like TWILIGHT, a love story between a human and a vampire, but maybe better and more poetic, and it's Swedish, the roles are reversed, and the characters are younger."

Unfortunately, I can never complete my sentence, once I say TWILIGHT, I'll be interrupted by one of the following:

"TWILIGHT? TWILIGHT sucks!"

"FEH! TWILIGHT? ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT TWILIGHT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WE ARE TALKING ABOUT TWILIGHT HERE? TWILIGHT?"

"It's like TWILIGHT? Oh no, TWILIGHT? What, TWILIGHT?"

And so, by mentioning TWILIGHT, a film I haven't seen as it hasn't reached Japan (a country obviously untouched by the hype) I assume I have most probably done LET THE RIGHT ONE IN a gross injustice. Perhaps next time I'll just skip the TWILIGHT mention and pretend to be entirely oblivious to pop culture.

But I've explained the premise of the film, which is based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay. It centers on the relationship between a bullied 12-year-old human boy Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and a vampire girl Eli (Lina Leandersson) who looks 12 but is obviously much older than that. It's also a human drama and coming-of-age film that is simply resplendent in its handling of atmosphere, mixing melancholy and ominous dread effectively. One says that this film is this year's PAN'S LABYRINTH, especially with the foreign awards it's been sweeping in recent weeks, but I prefer LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (I enjoyed PAN'S, admired the filmmaking, but I never really understood its hype, thought that DEVIL'S BACKBONE was a better non-Hollywood Guillermo Del Toro film). Unfortunately, the film will not qualify for the Oscars as Sweden didn't bother to submit it for the Best Foreign Language Film category. Ouch!

Story takes place in the snowy Blackeberg, a suburb in Stockholm. Oskar, being a pretty boy, often gets bullied in school, so he practices with his knife at the courtyard every night, fantasizing a violent revenge on his bullies. One night he meets Eli, a pale and mysterious girl who recently moved in next door with an old man, Hakan.

Hakan's job is to capture victims in the town and drain their blood for Eli, but as old age is catching up with him, he finds his attempts constantly being foiled, which will later lead to tragic consequences that are more haunting and tragic than you can imagine.

There is growing attraction between Oskar and Eli. He constantly asks her to 'go steady' with him despite her repeated subtle warnings that she is 'not a girl'. Buoyed by the power of love, Oskar also finds himself the courage to fend for himself against the bullies. Ah, prepubescent love, what an innocent and beautiful thing it is. Everything is captured sensitively in the film, the brief moments of exhilaration, the illusion of invincibility, the awkward moments of shyness... I remember when I was 12, and felt some sort of affection towards a girl, my advances were cruelly rebuffed because I was an ugly fat nerd and a class clown whom she had never taken seriously...




(Note: caption for the pics were written 3 years ago, but they are pics of me taken when I was 10 and 11)


Okay, fine, I was going to lash at her for being shallow. But digging up old pics of myself again, I realize she's just being... sane. I WAS hideous. A classic tale of ugly duckling. Not a pretty boy with golden hair like Oskar.

Oskar from Let The Right One InFilm's title LET THE RIGHT ONE IN in sounds like a generic Hollywood teen movie or romantic comedy but it actually refers to a part of vampire mythology where a vampire can only enter a house when invited. The film does not explain its rules in boring exposition dialogue. Scenes play out quietly and patiently, allowing us to see the consequences of a vampire who is forced to enter a house without being properly invited.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN works for me because it is so sensitive and unexpectedly emotional. Some images and scenes linger (but I won't reveal which), the characters feel real, even for Eli, when you realize that turmoil of remorse and even trauma she seems to experience after a kill. And you try to imagine whether she feels like that throughout her lengthy existence as a vampire. You know she wants nothing more than to be a normal girl again without any need for her to tell us in a weepy scene.

Things are often left unsaid, character backstories are thankfully not shown on lengthy flashback sequences, allowing us to guess and assume, and feeling disturbed because of the subjectivity of our assumptions.

This is a film that dares to take upon a done-to-death genre and does new things with it, loyal enough to stick with some genre conventions, but showing how they can be properly executed, yet when the time comes, it defies expectations. Films like this I admire much more than those that try too hard to 'play it safe'. (I'm not just dissing mainstream cinema, I'm not a fan of self-indulgent films that seem to try too hard to be an avant garde work of art either.)

Highly recommended.


LET THE RIGHT ONE IN trailer

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Swifty Reviews 'K-20: Legend of the Mask K-20 怪人二十面相・伝'



I didn't even know that this film is already playing in the cinemas until I saw the trailer on TV yesterday (or rather, early this morning, 4am), and I immediately decided to see it because, aside from the film festivals I attended, I haven't been to the cinemas in Tokyo for a long time.

K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK (also known as K-20: THE FIEND WITH TWENTY FACES) is, in my opinion, Japan's attempt at the superhero genre, or to be more precise, the HOLLYWOOD superhero genre, because when I was seeing this film, I can't help but noticed many similarities between the film and the many superhero films that came out in Hollywood this year, especially with its admirably high production values.

And that's my problem with it. By trying to play Hollywood's game and make films following mostly the blueprint of Hollywood blockbuster popcorn flicks, like their recent attempts at disaster flicks, I feel that K-20 comes off as nothing more than an imitation (albeit one with, again, good production values). As I was watching K-20, I couldn't help but felt that it invited comparisons to the likes of DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN, which isn't doing itself any favours, and because of this, K-20 suffers in comparison.

Female director Shimako Sato, a London International Film School graduate, did a competent job with the film, especially one with such a big budget. (read her interview on Japan Times) The film tries to encompass everything, charismatic performance from Takeshi Kaneshiro, a cute turn from Takako Matsu, more cool badassness from Toru Nakamura, it has comedy, romance and some genuinely nice action scenes which opt mostly for semi-realistic parkour stunts instead of distractingly bad CGI. Let me copy and paste the synopsis I got from Nippon Cinema as it's the most accurate one I can find.

A mysterious criminal with the power to change his appearance tricks the police into thinking a circus acrobat named Heikichi Endo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is the real criminal. Endo must then break free from his cell and take on the man called "K-20" to clear his name and save a young heiress named Yoko Hashiba (Takako Matsu) from becoming the next victim.


(Takako Matsu does NOT play a female detective as mentioned in some websites)

Story is set in 1949, in the fictional capital city of Teito, which has a tower that looks like Tokyo Tower (before researching online, I had assumed that the film is set in a stylized version of 1949 Tokyo) where aristocrats monopolize most of the wealth, and the K-20 dude is like a mix or Robin Hood and Zorro (costume looks like a homage). I wanted to see more of the city, actually. Or to know more of the characters, stronger characterization, or more character growth. Yet character and story just feel underdeveloped, and while there are some plot twists, they do feel somewhat contrived. The film isn't entirely influenced by superhero films, as it is also a crime/ heist film with some plot twists, but most of the twists I saw from miles away despite understanding only 10-20% of the dialogue, yup, no subtitles again)

When the real identity of K-20 is revealed, and the devastating moment is followed by long chunks of expository dialogue, I wondered whether they were done deliberately to pay homage to older films and anime. But then, despite some humourous scenes, film's tone is mostly serious, so I doubt it.

It is what it is, nothing more. The best praise I can give it, aside from the well-executed action scenes (and the really good sound design) is that while the first third is somewhat slow, I found myself engaged enough once the training montage kicked in (Kaneshiro learns parkour skills!) And by the time I left the cinema, I was more than a little surprised to find out that the film actually ran two and a half hours. Which is good. As the film aspires only to entertain audiences, and not to alter lives, I'll say that, for the most part, it succeeds.

The film's ending leaves possibility for a sequel. I don't really look forward to it, but since I'm easily impressed by a cool trailer (I'm already excited about next year's WOLVERINE film because its trailer was badass), so don't mark my words yet.

Here are the trailers from Nippon Cinema.



Friday, December 26, 2008

Senso-ji (Asakusa Temple) does not celebrate Christmas

I don't celebrate Christmas, but I decided to do something for the day. The plan was simple. Meet up with my friend Sen-san (she's from China, her surname's Sen, and somehow 'Sen-san' is more catchy than her actual Chinese name, so that's what I always call her), have sushi at Ueno, and then go to cool places with Christmas decorations where I can snap some photos, and she can test her Nikon D70.

So we had sushi at Ueno in the evening, and when the sun was gone, we headed for Ueno Park, because after visiting the place a few weeks ago and taking dozens of awesome photographs, I just knew that decorations SHOULD be spectacular at one of the biggest parks in Tokyo.

After all, the obvious choices were Roppongi or Ginza for the beautiful Christmas decorations, most people were going there. Being who I am, of course I wanted to go against the grain and uncover some unexpected treasures at Ueno Park.

I was wrong. Only the solitary tree near the entrance of Ueno Park was decorated. Although it did look nice, it wasn't what I expected. I was expecting lines of light covering each and every single tree in Ueno Park. No such luck.

Christmas decoration outside Ueno Park


I decided to be even more creative. I suggested to Sen-san that we should visit the famed Senso-ji, or known as the Asakusa Temple, because even though it's unlikely that there would be CHRISTMAS decorations in a BUDDHIST TEMPLE, I assumed that being a festive period, the place would be crowded and filled with life.

This temple left the deepest impression for me during my numerous visits to Tokyo as a child. I remembered mostly the shops of Nakamise-dori, the street that leads to the temple. My mom used to buy souvenirs here, and I once bought a Dragon Ball Z game for the Famicon when I was 9. It would be a wonderful trip down memory lane.

The shops would all be open until late at night with hundreds and hundreds of people shopping, buying stuff and just having fun. That was the atmosphere I craved.

So we took a quick subway ride to Asakusa and hurried to the Senso-ji, past the famed Kaminari-mon.

Kaminari-mon, in Christmas


It was only 7pm. But all the shops of Nakamise-dori were closed.

The stalls of Senso-ji were still closed early on Christmas


We continued walking past the shops and to the Hozomon gate, famous for the huge lantern hanging in the middle.

Hozomon Gate, in Christmas


It was so quiet.

Senso-ji, in Christmas


Sen-san then tried to take photos of the Nisonbutsu. A pair of seated Buddhist statues dedicated to Senso−ji Temple. They are two of the most magnificent Buddha statues created during the Edo Period.

Sen-san tries to take photos of the Nisonbutsu


On the left is a Mahasthamaprapta (Seishi Bosatsu) statue, guardian of Buddha wisdom.

Mahasthamaprapta statue


On the right is a Kannon (Guan Yin) statue, the goddess of mercy.

Kannon statue


The temple was nearly empty. My gaze wandered to the pagoda of Senso-ji, and the surrounding bare trees, and then to the starless black sky. The winter wind blew, it was suddenly a little chilly. Sen-san put on her scarf and her hat, making a remark about our fruitless photo-taking expedition.

I frowned.

Another quiet Christmas has passed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 in Review: Swifty, Writing's Top 20 Most-Viewed Posts

2008's drawing to a close, and it's Christmas Eve right now. Not that Christmas really means much to me, but I thought this will be the best time to take a look at the top twenty most-viewed posts of the year. As much as I intend to lessen the number of film reviews I write (I find it increasingly difficult to write them), they are still, ironically, the most popular posts in this blog, especially the Japanese films.

I was also surprised by the sudden surge of readers from Philippines in recent months, most were here for the KURUS-related (also known as DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY) posts. Have to thank Carmen's ascent to superstardom in the country. If we ever make a KURUS sequel, perhaps we'll make it in Philippines.

1) Swifty Reviews 'Cyborg She / My Girlfriend Is A Cyborg 僕の彼女はサイボーグ'


Although the film performed only modestly in the box-office, my review of it is (by far) the most-read blog post of the year. You see the expression on that guy's face above? That's how perplexed I was too.

2) Awesome Photo Stills from CINTA TIGA SEGI, An Important TV Event In Malaysia!

CINTA TIGA SEGI poster 1


CINTA TIGA SEGI, a telemovie I co-produced and edited was first aired on NTV7 in January. People either really loved the stills, or they came in thinking it was something else...

3) [OPEN THREAD] Cinta Tiga Segi telemovie

CINTA TIGA SEGI poster 2

However, the telemovie did generate some rather nice responses on the day it was aired as seen on the open thread I started.

4) Swifty Reviews 'Kung Fu Dunk 功夫灌籃'


People probably liked to see how I ripped this film apart. Even the biggest Jay Chou fans weren't too happy with the film, I guess.

5) Swifty Reviews 'Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea 崖の上のポニョ'

Hayao Miyazaki's latest film does not disappoint. At all.



6) "I came to Japan to make porn."

People really thought that I came to Japan to make porn. Haruko Ayase disapproves.

Haruka Ayase


7) Swifty Reviews 'Shaolin Girl 少林少女'

Shaolin Girl poster

The first film I saw in Tokyo this year was really pretty bad.

8) The 3 phone calls I received after the Akihabara (Tokyo) stabbing rampage

The concerned phone calls I received on the day of the Akihabara Massacre.

9) Remembering The Day I Met Lydia Sum


When Hong Kong legend Lydia Sum passed away earlier this year, I recounted the day I met in Singapore, 4 years ago.

10) Photos from KURUS Press Conference

KURUS group photo
Oh, I'm sure people were really interested in seeing photos of me in this post, and not the lady in white next to me.

11) Swifty Reviews 'Gone Baby Gone' And Discusses Its Ending

A really good film elevated by its much-discussed ending.


12) Carmen Soo and KURUS Featured on Metro Harian (2 Feb 2008)

Carmen Soo and KURUS in Metro Harian 1

Fine. I guess Carmen had really stolen my thunder in my own blog.

13) Swifty Reviews 'An Empress And The Warriors 江山美人'

I wasn't really kind with this film



14) Babes of Tokyo Game Show 2008

People were definitely reading this post because of the quality of my writing and not because of photos like the one below:

I don't know which booth she's from


15) Swifty Reviews '20th Century Boys 20世紀少年'


Good enough for me to look forward to part 2, which is coming out end of January 2009, but I might have returned to Malaysia by then :(

16) *sigh* Dawn Yang and I Are Irrevocably Linked.

Dawn Yang

After Carmen stole my thunder, this blog's unofficial mascot Dawn Yang came in to steal my thunder too.

17) SPEED's reunion segment at Nippon Television's 24 HOUR TELEVISION / LOVE SAVES THE EARTH

Speed appears 2

That day, I was glued on television, watching that 24-hour show, waiting for the return of my teenage love. I have mixed feelings about their latest single though.

18) Swifty Reviews 'CJ7 長江七號'

Decent film, but somewhat underwhelming due to the hype and anticipation. On the other hand, I'm not really that interested at seeing whether Stephen Chow's gonna do GREEN HORNET. The Hong Kong film industry probably needs him more anyway.

19) Quick thoughts on the Spring 2008 Japanese doramas I'm watching now

Last Friends

Spring 2008 was the last time I actually bothered to follow the TV doramas here. Haven't touched the TV much since then.

20) Swifty Reviews 'The Sky Crawlers スカイ・クロラ'

Another brilliant animated film I was fortunate enough to catch in cinemas this year. Funny that two of the best Japanese films I saw this year were animated ones. Mamoru Oshii's latest is now playing in festival circuits (including the recent Dubai International Film Festival). I try to pretend that the omnibus film Mamoru Oshii was also involved in, KILL, had never happened.

By the way, I really liked Ayaka's ending song, Konya mo Hoshi ni Dakarete (今夜も星に抱かれて, Wrapped in the Stars Tonight).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The many faces of Dubai

[Warning: this post has crapload of photos that might take some time to load]

Spent the whole night yesterday revamping my blog layout. Finally made the move from the old template. A new look for a new year, I guess. Hope you guys liked its new look.

Anyway, more photos that I took from Dubai. By now, you might have some misconception that Dubai is this really huge extravagant city with new construction projects everyday, one colossal skyscraper threatening to outdo the other. I was curious about the place, I wanted to explore more. What is the real Dubai? Or rather, is there a different Dubai aside from the luxurious hotels, beautiful private beaches, huge malls I've seen during the first few days of the film festival?

Things were too pricey, that's why I asked some volunteers of the festival to recommend me places where I can buy the cheapest stuff in the city. He immediately suggested the Diera City Center, which is downtown. One day, after breakfast, dad and I decided to take a bus to Diera. The journey was nearly 45 minutes, and the further we moved away from Madinat Jumeirah, which was obviously an upscale area of the city, with its numerous grand hotels and the like, the more I saw a different face of Dubai. I call it different, and not ugly, nor poor, because that would be condescending. After all, areas like this have its charms, it's like comparing the Starhill area and Petaling Street.

Diera City Center, Dubai

Diera City Center, Dubai 2

Old building at Diera, Dubai

Apartment building at Diera


Despite being a very common sight in Tokyo, I've only spotted one vending machine in Dubai. So it was important to take a photo of it too.

Vending machine in Diera


Ultimately, I realized I made a mistake when I asked the volunteer to recommend me a good place to buy cheap things. I should have rephrased my question, I wanted cheap SOUVENIRS, and Diera wasn't really a tourist spot. Clothes were sold at unbelievably cheap prices, but I was looking for T-shirts with the word 'Dubai' on it. No such luck!

A man cycling through Diera

A few people chillin' at Diera

People at Diera

Bus passing by Diera

Plane flying past Diera


Back in Madinat Jumeirah (translated as 'City of Jumeirah'), the place continued wowing me with its insane extravagance.

One day I decided to follow the other filmmakers, Richard Legaspi (from Philippines), Akjoltoy Bekbolotov (from Kyrgyzstan) and Adilkhan Yerzhanov (from Kazakhstan) to the Koubba Bar at Al Qasr hotel. One can choose to walk there from the film fest HQ, or even cooler, take the boat. Venice what?

Taking the boat to Al Qasr

A water taxi in the sunset

On the way to Al Qasr

With Filipino filmmaker Richard Legaspi
With Filipino filmmaker Richard Legaspi

Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan filmmakers Akjoltoy Bekbolotov and Adilkhan Yerzhanov, on the boat
Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan filmmakers, Akjoltoy Bekbolotov (on the left) and Adilkhan Yerzhanov (on the right)

Scenery at the waterway

Buildings of Madinat Jumeirah 2

Scenery at the waterway 2


The view from the Kouba Bar was pretty breathtaking.

The view from Koubba Bar

Me, Adilkhan Yerzhanovand Richard Legaspi


Spending most of the time watching movies in the cinema during the festival, I think that was the one and only day when I got to see the sunset in Dubai.

Sunset in Dubai


I went back to Al Qasr later in the night to have dinner with dad, when I crossed the bridge, a man asked whether I want to let him take a photo of us standing at the beach, with the night scenery behind us. I politely declined, after all, I could just snap the photo myself despite having a much inferior camera (though it was still quite blurry...).

Burj Al Arab at night


This is the Madinat Arena, the film festival headquarters. This is the place where most red carpet events and major screenings were held. Quite a grand sight. (note, two following photos were taken a night before we went off to Diera)

Madinat Arena at night

Dad and I, in front of the Madinat Arena at night


All right, the next posts will definitely be about the films I saw at the festival!
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