Thursday, 27 March 2008


Movie Review: Ratatouille

Year or Release: 2007
Country of Origin: USA
Directors: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
Cast: (voices) Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Peter O'Toole

Plot outline: Remy is a young rat in the French countryside who arrives in Paris, only to find out that his cooking idol is dead. When he makes an unusual alliance with a restaurant's new garbage boy, the culinary and personal adventures begin despite Remy's family's skepticism and the rat-hating world of humans (IMDb).

In terms of technological achievement in 3D animation, this movie is very well made - the most recent that comes out from Pixar studio. The story is also very well scripted. But, one little thing that bothers me is the story (a rat who wants to be a chef) is fundamentally similar to other stories (e.g. a pig who wants to be a sheepdog, a penguin who wants to be a tap dancer, etc.) that have been told so many times before. In terms of this, the story lacks originality. Nevertheless, Peter O'Toole gives an outstanding, memorable voice-over as menacing Anton Ego, the hard-to-please food critic from The Grim Eater. Still and all, this is a very good movie for the whole family.

My judgement: **1/2 out of 4 stars

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

To Catch a Thief

Movie Review: To Catch a Thief

Year of Release: 1955
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly

Plot outline: When a reformed jewel thief is suspected of returning to his former occupation, he must ferret out the real thief in order to prove his innocence (IMDb).

Compared to other Hitchcock's masterpiece, this movie is ligther and has less suspense. Nevertheless, several things undoubtedly mesmerize audience. Here working with Cary Grant - his favourite leading man, and Grace Kelly - his favourite leading woman, Hitchcock creates delightful escapism. A retired (reformed?) thief living in a beautiful villa overlooking magnificent French Riviera ... it makes me really want to be (and this is the only time I really want to be) a retired thief! A rarefied atmosphere and panoramic breathtaking view of southern France in the 50s - the people and the place: wealthy people with expensive jewelry, haute couture, nights at the casinos, ever-flowing Champagne, the sun and the beaches, the mountains and the winding roads. After all that, Hitchcock completes this fantasy with an intriguing copycat case of a mysterious cat burglar and snappy dialogue that hightens sexual innuendo between already got great chemistry Grant and Kelly. The scene of Kelly speeding, swerving along the cliffside roads is eerie (considering what happened to her later). This is the movie people would love to watch over and over again.

My judgement: *** out of 4 stars

Monday, 24 March 2008


Movie Review: Hairspray

Year of Release: 2007
Country of Origin: USA, UK
Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken

Plot outline: Pleasantly plump teenager Tracy Turnblad teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show (IMDb).

I previously thought that "Hairspray" didn't seem like something I would enjoy; and this is not the first time in my life that I was wrong! This movie turns out to be one of the most fun and enjoyable musicals since "Grease" in 1978. Set in the early 60s when hairspray rules the hairdos and candy palette colours the teenage fashion, underneath all the glitz and glitter there lies an important message of tolerance - acceptance of things that are different. The future is certainly coming and it is unstoppable. The future is represented by the newcomer Nikki Blonsky - she is unstoppably spunky, determinant and yet adorable. In today's world where Hollywood dictates that beauty is skinniness, it's good to see a big girl takes centre stage. John Travolta is queerly motherly big and yet agile, Michelle Pfeiffer is perfectly obnoxious as a villainess, while Christopher Walken is eccentrically charming and hilarious. The ending is a pleasant surprise. The soundtrack is for sure lovable.

My judgement: *** out of 4 stars

Sunday, 23 March 2008

La Vie en Rose

Movie Review: La Vie en Rose (La Môme)

Year of Release: 2007
Country of Origin: France, UK, Czech Republic
Director: Olivier Dahan
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Gérard Depardieu

Plot outline: An un-chronological look at the life of the Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf (1915-1963) (IMDb).

This life story of legendary singer Edith Piaf is skillfully told in flashback - moving back and forth between internal analepsis (a flashback to an earlier point in the narrative) and external analepsis (a flashback to before the narrative started), and yet it doesn't confuse the audience. At this point, I could only guess where the story would end. Despite the risk of becoming melodramatic, the movie perfectly portrays her lifelong struggle against misfortune and heartache. And then, there comes a great relief when the story finally ends ... in high spirits with her singing one of her signature songs "Non, je ne regrette rien" (No, I regret nothing) as if to sum up the whole of her extraordinary life. Marion Cotillard wholeheartedly gives the performance of a lifetime as Edith Piaf, relegating all her supporting cast to the background and all other contenders of 2007 Academy Award's Best Actress category to next year's hopefuls.

My judgement: *** out of 4 stars

Monday, 17 March 2008

Children of Men

Movie Review: Children of Men

Year of Release: 2006
Country of Origin: Japan, UK, USA
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine

Plot outline: In 2027, in a chaotic world in which humans can no longer procreate, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea, where her child's birth may help scientists save the future of humankind (IMDb).

The problem with some of science fiction movies is they don't have enough degree of detachment from reality, they are pseudo-reality. And how our minds work is: it's easier for us to put ourselves in a world of fantasy (e.g. children's stories, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, etc.) than to relate to pseudo-reality. This is the problem with this movie. I have difficulties to find emotional connection with the story. Britain in the future looks more like something from the past; it reminds me of the middle-ages; can society actually go backwards? With humankind on the brink of extinction (zero fertility rate), I don't understand why people (poor illegal immigrants) even bother putting themselves through all the trouble to go to gloomy-looking, depressing Britain. What's the point? It's useless. I think the story is better classified as a nightmare than a science fiction, because it's irrational.

My judgement: *1/2 out of 4 stars

Saturday, 15 March 2008


Movie Review: Topaz

Year of Release: 1969
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Frederick Stafford, Karin Dor, John Vernon, John Forsythe

Plot outline: A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring (IMDb).

Even though this movie is not one of Hitchcock's best works, I don't understand why his fans underrate it. Despite being considered as the least Hitchcockian, I can easily find his fingerprints all over this cinematic work; e.g. the subtle suspense of the opening sequence when the Russian official with his family defect to America, the three sub-stories that can easily become distant toward one another and yet they all fall nicely into one continuous main story, the camera angle when Juanita is killed - showing the terror in her eyes and filling the screen with her beautiful red dress as she slumps to the ground, and the unexpected, witty ending of two planes side by side on the tarmack - one going to Russia and one going to America. It's an amusing ending after two hours of tension! I could only guess why this movie is so underrated. In my opinion, probably because the chief protagonist is a French agent (!) and Frederick Stafford definitely doesn't have the charisma of Cary Grant.

My judgement: *** out of 4 stars

Friday, 7 March 2008

The Bourne Identity (trilogy)

Movie Review: The Bourne Identity (trilogy)

The Bourne Identity
Year of Release: 2002
Country of Origin: USA, Germany, Czech Republic
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper

Plot outline: A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and without memory, then races to elude assassins and recover from amnesia (IMDb).

The Bourne Supremacy
Year of Release: 2004
Country of Origin: USA, Germany
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen

Plot outline: When Jason Bourne is framed for a botched CIA operation, he is forced to take up his former life as a trained assassin to survive (IMDb).

The Bourne Ultimatum
Year of Release: 2007
Country of Origin: USA, Germany
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, David Strathairn, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen

Plot outline: Bourne dodges new, superior assassins as he searches for his unknown past while a government agent tries to track him down (IMDb).

Despite having the same titles as Robert Ludlum's three spy fiction thriller novels, this Jason Bourne movie trilogy is substantially different from those three novels. Only the beginning of the first movie and the ending of the last movie are true to the plot of the first novel. Most other parts of this trilogy are either altered, deviated from its source material or even intermingled with the plot from Eric Van Lustbader's The Bourne Legacy novel. Why make a movie trilogy of a novel trilogy if most parts of it is different from its original source. Is this a typical blatant way of Hollywood to cash in on the popularity of those spy fiction thriller novels? In my opinion, the second act of the trilogy is not really worthwhile - its sole purpose is only for prolonging the action sequences; so it can be cut or incorporated into the first or the last act.

My judgement:
**1/2 out of 4 stars for "The Bourne Identity" (2002)
*1/2 out of 4 stars for "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004)
** out of 4 stars for "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007)

The Bourne Identity
Year of Release: 1988
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Roger Young
Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Jaclyn Smith

Plot outline: A man is washed ashore the beach of a small French village during a heavy storm. He is bullet-riddled and without memory. He then tries to discover who he is and why several groups, including the CIA, are trying to kill him (IMDb).

Compared to the movie trilogy this TV miniseries is reasonably faithful to the plot of the first novel. Despite lack of style of big budget and splendour of high-end special FX, the script is solid - it gives sufficient time to let the story unfold, with only occasional drags in the middle part. This TV miniseries reminds me of the golden days of Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith.

My judgement: **1/2 out of 4 stars

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Kingdom

Movie Review: The Kingdom

Year of Release: 2007
Country of Origin: USA, Germany
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner

Plot outline: A team of U.S. government agents is sent to investigate the bombing of an American facility in Saudi Arabia (IMDb).

The opening scene provides a brief but clear introduction for the audience to enter the premise of the story. But it is such a big premise and the script cannot decide whether it wants to be here or there. As a result, despite all the fast-paced and well-executed script, the story lingers in the middle ground ... neither here nor there; making it just average, not strong enough to make any profound points. While the ending scene raises a thought-provoking question about the endless cycle of violence, by now it seems too late and feels out of place.

My judgement: ** out of 4 stars

Monday, 3 March 2008


Movie Review: Dreamgirls

Year of Release: 2006
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson

Plot outline: Based on the Broadway musical, a trio of black female soul singers cross over to the pop charts in the early 1960's (IMDb).

This musical, among other things - e.g. perseverance, sacrifice, creativity and viciousness of the producer, provides a valuable snippet of the history of how black American singers break into the mainstream pop charts in the early 1960's. The casting of Jennifer Hudson seems so perfectly fit, providing her with a big break into the industry and at the same time sweet revenge after losing her chance in the American Idol contest. This movie is definitely her sweet victory (she grabbed 2007 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress).

My judgement: **1/2 out of 4 stars

Sunday, 2 March 2008


Movie Review: Gigi

Year of Release: 1958
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan

Plot outline: Weary of the conventions of Parisian society, a rich playboy and a youthful courtesan-in-training enjoy a platonic friendship, but it may not stay platonic for long (IMDb).

Despite winning 9 Academy Awards with such an extravagant production; eye-catching set decorations, beautiful cinematography, elaborate and colourful costumes and ultimately the utmost charm of Maurice Chevalier, by today's standards this movie looks corny and cheesy. But, two songs enchantingly sung by him "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "I Remember It Well" are utterly lovable and memorable.

My judgement: **1/2 out of 4 stars