The Golden Compass (05-12-2007)

Light version of LotR

Call it whatever you want, kiddie, pre-teen version of Lord of the Rings, or if SowYau switch on his bitchy mode: A dumb-down LotR version. But it doesn't prevent movie studio - New Line Cinema to fund the movie, estimated production budget at whopping USD 180 millions.

Ever since the gargantuan success of Lord of the Rings movies, every studio heads have been salivating with the prospect of making their own epic fantasy adventure movie adapted from an existing material. No, they are not just interested in ONE smash movie, they want the money spinners come in the form of THREE or more movies (does Harry Potter ring any bell to you? How about Narnia?)

The Golden Compass is based of Philip Pullman’s first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It is a tale of heroism, friendship, compassion, courage, redemption, betrayal, faith… common themes found in teen novella. Add it with multi ethnic consists of Gyptians, witches,talking bear (voiced by LotR's Gandalf) ..., a one or two huge battle sequences over a
lavish landscape, and there you are, a Lord of the Rings wannabe.

The pivotal character is a young orphan girl named Lyra (adequate performance by new girl Dakota Blue Richards) and her quest to save her best friend and many other kids from being conducted in a dangerous experiment. The movie is set in a parallel universe, meaning, the parallel world is almost the same things as our world, except for example, every soul exists outside the human body in the form of an animal, called Daemons, They also sort of act like an external conscience.

Before the release of The Golden Compass, an outcry from Christian community cited it as an anti-religious and atheistic theme movie, is it? Given the outline of the plot, one will probably agree. SowYau came across a bitchy remark by Conservative British columnist Peter Hitchens, who labeled Pullman as "The Most Dangerous Author in Britain" and described him as the writer "the atheists would have been praying for, if atheists prayed." Haha, what a stinging remark!

SowYau’s wish it could have feature more of Agent 007, ‘Cos Daniel Craig steal every scenes with his screen presence. SowYau is sure he will have more pivotal role in the sequel. Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman is captivately playing as the sinister but yet elegant antagonist - Mrs Coulter. But o
verall, this movie does not really have an mass appeal like the other movie of epic fantasy adventure genre, it is solely target at pre-teen audience. To be honest, only a handful of moments SowYau can remember after watching it, notably, the literally jaw-dropping bear fighting scene is too good to be ignored!

P.S.: Special thanks to SowYau’s friend – L.C.W. for his special complimentary screening pass.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List


New Movie Review: 1408 (2007)

"Do not enter Room 1408", Tell that to Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack) is like forbid Loic LeFerme to perform extreme sport feat of "no-limit" free diving or stop Homer Simpsons from eating donuts. Anyway, despite fervent warned by the hotel manager - Gerald Olin. Gerald even bluntly told Mike the reason is, he don't want to clean up another bloody mess after grisly suicide incidents, which had claimed over 50 lives since the opening of Dolphin Hotel.

But Mike is no ordinary hotel guest, we are told through flashback that he has a grievous past (He lost his daughter) before he became a paranormal phenomenon debunker cum writer who offer trashy reading thrill to his readers, by writing "10 Nights in Haunted Hotels" (Something similar to our neighbouring Singaporean, Russell Lee who is the author of famous " Singapore's True Ghost Stories" series of books). He stays from one to another so-called haunted hotel rooms/inn to record and rate them for their spookiness.

As you all may know, this movie is Stephen King's short stories adaptation. basically the whole movie is set in this room, it is a one man show from John Cusack, just him versus the evil room, and oh not forgetting some CGI as well. Once Mike check in to room 1408, SowYau had prepared himself for the worse things could happen to Mike, how he will survive the night of terror. Prior to this, we were told how the previous occupants took their own lives, some jump off the building, one drown on his own chicken soup, another slashed his wrist and then try to sown it back all because of him being a tailor, another incident involving a maid survived but gouged her own eyes out laughing hysterically..... We know about the room's dreadful history, but we do not know why the room itself is evil.

Now here's the revelation: This room is capable of tormenting people who stay there, drive them to the verge of madness and take their own life. Witness how the room dig into Mike's past, his estranged, late father appeared before his eyes, there's something about his daughter's death as well..... By the time Mike realized this could be his last ever chapter in his book, the room refused to let him out. The wall is bleeding, Is it hallucinations? The sudden appear of chocolates at his bed, is it really happen? Mike watched the replay scenes (ala The Ring's Sadako visual style) of previous suicidal occupants on his way "out". Not to mention the possessed clock radio who played "We Have Only Just Begun" by The Carpenters will change the song's perception forever once you walk out from the cinema. A spine chilling moment scare the shit out of SowYau. Wait, there's more to come, for people who suffer acrophobia, (even SowYau do not has) will feel extreme agony over the scene of Mike hanging on the building's ledge when he tried to climb out of the window.

No one has ever stay alive in that room for more than an hour, if they manage to withstand all the delusions created by the rooms, they will be treated with endless terror of one hour loop until they surrendered and take their own life. That is how all the previous occupants did. Room 1408 even has the guts to inform Mike through intercom/phone that: he can choose to repeat this hour over and over again, or he can take advantage of hotel's so called express checkout system AKA kill himself! Did Mike succeeding in overcome the loop? SowYau think he did make it out, but the dubious ending suggested otherwise as well, *cough* *cough* dictaphone *cough* (enough hint already!)

The problem with 1408 is, once the movie venture into conventional horror movie territory, it all starting to fall into familiar sight, cheap scare tactic: sudden loud music accompanied by scary spirits, unneccessary fake ending, SowYau felt it contains too many moments of: Is it really happen or is it a delusion kind of things.

It is definitely not The Shining 2007 but a good psychological horror movie nonetheless. No gore and very little blood involved. The startling exchange words between the hotel manager (played by Samuel L Jackson) and John Cusack fueling by the unnerving description of previous deaths in Room 1408 is the pivotal scene. No doubt, John Cusack has a tour de force performance here, we saw him succumb slowly from paranoia to insanity, and how heart rending he was to lose his daughter for the second time.


Movie Little Thought (Part I)

SowYau's friends have been asking him, whether he can:

1) Post more reviews
2) Be quick about it!
3) Post new movies only

Ok, the first 2 is due to time constrain, no doubt about it, unless SowYau is unemployed, or else, he is fully aware that during weekday, he only got about 3 hours of leisure time after deducting working hour, ZZZzzz hour, eating hour... the 3rd one, well, he is going to write both yesteryear and current movies.

Don't know why, SowYau has a surge of nostalgic feeling suddenly. Alright, he is going to write about some of the interesting memories from watching movies on big screen.

The First movie: hmmm, SowYau has try to put heads together, but really cannot remember. it's either Romancing the Stone or Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom.

Family splitting movie: It refer to our family members saw it in different occasions, the movie is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. 1st, upon days of released, SowYau and his younger sister bought tickets for RM 7.00 each from the ticket tout! tsk tsk tsk, that was in year 1991! (Please take note that the average price at that time was about RM 3.50 to RM 4,00 in his place). After that, they came back and told their parents that the movie is so good, they will pay RM 50 to watch it again. So, their parents went, and father gave a thumb up after watching it, normally, he does not appreciate sci-fi movie. And, my elder sister went to watch it as well, with her friends.

The last movie SowYau's parents "brought" him to a movie: It was Robin Hood: Prince of Thives in 1991 (or 92), it's SowYau's sentimental moment. After this movie, SowYau mostly went with his friends and ... you know, he was kinda reaching coming-of-age, don't know how to explain, well, as a child, it was the last movie his parents brought him to, and bought him KFC's french fries and other snacks. Don't know why, SowYau can relate to the same feeling as Zach Braff's character in Garden State(2004) when Zack said: "You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some place where you can put your stuff, that idea of home is gone. You'll see when you move out it just sort of happens one day, one day and it's just gone."

The photo above shows some of many SowYau's movie stubs collected since don't-know-when.

The "father and son" movie moment: aaawwww... a great moment for SowYau and his father. The movie: Van Sant's Psycho Remake, date: 14.02.1999. Why? His father watched Hitchcock's Psycho way back in the early 60s, and if you told his dad, 30 years later, he will watch the remake, but bastardize version of Psycho with his son, he would rather believe a pig can fly. P.S.: Both of us fully knew the great twist at the end, when the girls in front us shrieked their heart out towards the end, we were just laughing our ass off! haha!

"Free" Movie moment: The movies, Shallow Hal and The Time Machine, date: 18.03.2002. SowYau watched it back to back, but he only paid for one, how? he sneaked into other movie hall after the first movie end! Some guts he had! SowYau is not condoning the act, but hey, hey, it's fun if you are not caught red handed.

The least-audience movie moment: The movie, That Thing You Do! Dated 15.10.1997, The cinema hall is at GSC, Ipoh. Only SowYau and a friend named W.S.K. it's a shame because it's a great movie. No, SowYau knows what you are thinking, W.S.K. is not girl, end of story.

Wrong movie: Have you ever in the wrong cinema hall? well, SowYau has had numerous occasion, but this is beyond stupid and top it all, the date is 24.11.1995, he was supposed to watch Beverly Hills Cop III with a friend. They checked the showtime in the newspaper, whole day show BHC III, they went for early bird session, they came, they saw, they cussed and puked! You know why? It's because the before-noon session is showing some Hong Kong movie about AIDS, and it stank!

Ok, that's about it for the time being, of course SowYau got plenty more to tell next time. In the mean time, please share with us what are your memorable movie moments, we would love to hear it.

And oh, next, SowYau will publish review for Grindhouse (2007) or maybe 1408 (2007), stay tune.


Movie Review: Jaws (1975)

Thank you, Bruce!

Yes, we all should thank Bruce The Mechanical Shark, but none more so than Mr. Spielberg. During filming, Bruce(named after Spielberg's lawyer)was so erratic and often malfunction, leaving Spielberg with no choice but to shoot the movie as the shark's POV, rather than reveal the whole damn things.

Fear of the unknown. That's where Jaws really work. We, as audience do not know what is really attack those victims, are we seeing from the shark's view when we roam underwater through the paddling kids? Our imagination kick in, the tension keep rising which keep us on edge. In fact we didn't get a proper sight of the 25 footer until 80 mins into running time! that's where Chief Brody uttered the immortal line: "Your're gonna need a bigger boat".

The movie was adapted from Peter Benchley's same name bestseller. It was inspired by a real event known as The Jersey Beach Shark Attacks in 1916 (4 fatalities within 12 days!). Jaws is about a small resort island, Amity Island, terrorized by a gigantic Great White shark. The town mayor refused to close the beach due to the lucrative tourist business. but body count is rising. Later, a group of trio, a perfect casting consists of a police chief- Brody (played by Roy Scheider), shark expert- Matt (Richard Dreyfuss) and seasoned fisherman- Quint (Robert Shaw) set out to battle with the creature.

Who can forget the opening young girl skinny dipping scene?! Perhaps one of the most horrifying movie moment SowYau have ever seen! There are so many memorable scenes such as, when Matt bump into Ben underwater, or the near ill-attempt by two half-baked fishermen to catch the shark or Quint's memorable U.S.S. Indianapolis speech. Jaws was Spielberg's template to stretches his full ablility in a few pivotal scenes, namely the reverse tracking zoom scene (1st used in Hitchcock's Vertigo), where Chief Brody realized the Kintner boy is being chewed up. Also, SowYau in particular like the cleverly switching between floating cam and steady cam on the 3 men in a boat scene.

SowYau asked his sister, "hey, what can your recall of watching Jaws in the theater?"

"what do u expect? i was only about 3 years old at that time, the only thing i remember is the shark is always playing hide and seek." My sister uttered.

What she didn't mention was, that fateful night (according to SowYau's parents), she was wandering around in the hall, lost her direction until an usher helped her find our parents. All these happened while our parents are among the packed audience terrified by this brilliant piece of moviemaking.

SowYau wish he had the privilege to watch Jaws in the big-ass theater. The truth is he was not even born in 1975 when Jaws single-handedly introduced the concept so-called summer blockbuster event which develop the movie release pattern today (you know blockbuster movie? heavy marketing campaign, huge number of screen open simultaneously, movie merchandise etc etc). Jaws was such a pop culture phenomenon, it inspired 3 inferior movie sequels. For the record, SowYau with the whole family watched the 4th part - Jaws The Revenge, coincidentally, his friend, K.S.H. was there as well. Haha. Also, John Williams' effective score was constantly spoofed in movies, there is a Unversal Theme Park, endless of movie merchandise products such as this lovely limited edition Jaws "Attck Shark" Figure" http://www.bigbadtoystore.com/bbts/product.aspx?product=DMC10683&mode=retail , SowYau want it badly! can it be his next year Valentine's Day present?

SowYau has a secret: he has been fascinated by sharks ever since the first time he watched Jaws on TV, he was about 7 years old and was immersely traumatized by it. All these years, SowYau read books about sharks, watch NatGeo or Animal Planet's shark documentary, knew the amazing story about Rodney Fox, despise "shark finning" act (Google it, will you?) therefore refuse to serve shark fin soup on his wedding dinner (but eventually the idea was vetoed by his parents). SowYau learn a lot about sharks, but no matter what, SowYau still get scared every single time he swims in the ocean.

In Sowyau's opinion, Jaws is Spielberg finest hour, it creates the perfect combination of suspense and sheer terror. (His Schindler's List and Jurassic Park are SowYau's favourites as well). Forget about SowYau's 5 stars description below, it's already a proven classic, one of the best, period. But when comes to categorize what genre is Jaws, is it Thriller? Horror? Adventure? Or all roll into one? Answer on a postcard and sent to SowYau, please.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List


New Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Finally, Jason is going back to his home ground - U.S.of A.

Jason Bourne is still running, but this time, the tide has turn around, he is running towards CIA home turf in New York.

We know we are watching an episonage/spy movie when a cool character/hero:

(a) try to outwit other pursuers,
(b) the hero make use of sophisticated gadgets,
(c) bangs every chicks he met, or
(d) churns out awkward/cool liner (pick one, will you?)

Our hero here ticks the boxes of (a) and (b) only. But don’t be fool by the lack of typical spy’s character. Jason is no ordinary spy, he is a deadly assassin, trained to adapt and escape from cul de sac situation, Forget about the evergreen James Bond who are adored by our fathers, forget about the NATO (No Action, Talk Only) Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan, Move over, the un-funky and laughable Vin Diesel’s XXX. Jason Bourne AKA David Webb is in fact, the coolest spy since the turn of the new millennium, SowYau will tell you why, and oh, by the way, in Bourne definition, item (b) is refer to MacGyver-ism, meaning the ability to turn a common stuff to a weapon or a handy object.

First thing first, SowYau do not read any of the adapted novels wrote by Robert Ludlum (the movies loosely based on). In this latest installment and part 3 of the Bourne Series, the hero here Jason Bourne is an amnesiac whose main objective is to search for his real identity. This holds true as the basic plot for all 3 movies. The 1st one, Bourne Identity is the introduction, the next one, Bourne Supremacy is about how Jason was framed for a crime he didn’t commit and his subsequence quest for vengeance.

An interesting note you should know before you watch Ultimatum is, the ending of the first sequel, Bourne Supremacy, is being use as the main premise for Ultimatum. i.e. Why Jason went back to New York City to look for CIA agent, Pamela Landy(well played by Joan Allen)? Please look out for the impressive Waterloo Station sequence, an intense, nail biting piece of action.

A Bourne movie is never complete without a car chase sequence. This time, it’s involving motorcycles in tight, Tangier’s streets. And later in the midst of busy New York City traffic, we are treated with another great car chase sequence whereby Jason driving a police patrol car. Nevertheless, SowYau’s favourite so far is the Moscow’s messy, nauseating car chase sequence in Bourne Supremacy.

Talk about nauseating, many are complains about the shaky camera work, especially during action sequence. SowYau actually prefer it that way because without it, the hand to hand combat fighting between Jason and Desh The Assets will not be realistic enough, realistic as if we, as audience are closely involve in the fight, the seemingly chaotic but efficient editing during the 2 men fighting also contribute to the authentic effect. Needless to say, you do not need the great kung fu master Yuen Wo Ping to choreograph Matt Damon how to fight as long as you know how to use camera and well, scissors for editing. Anyway, between a Neo (Keanu Reeves) fighting so “woodenly” in a simulation room in The Matrix, and Jason Bourne using a hardcover book frantically striking opponent's stomach, of course you will know which one SowYau prefer, right?

There are some plot's flaws SowYau observed, notably ***medium spoiler ahead*** how and why Jason Bourne can easily access to CIA operation office building, please do not tell me he has the access card to enter, it must be the CIA staffs sleeping on the job, eh? Also, he does not need to disguise himself while passing through the US custom checkpoints, i can understand he is able to roam freely in Europe by using different passports, but here is USA, surely he is one of the most wanted man in US by CIA or FBI? no? ***end of spoiler***

Ultimately, SowYau is giving The Bourne Ultimatum a solid 4 stars out of 5. You may ask is it the best in the series? are we expecting a 4th part? the answer is yes, it is the best among 3, but by no means belittling the previous 2 installments. We also can expect a next sequel due to the over whelming box office success worldwide, grossing more than US 400 millions (The highest among 3). By the end of this movie, we finally knew who he is, what was the cause of the operation he enlisted for? who are the real big wigs responsible for it? blah blah... therefore, a full circle comes round for the third act of trilogy. By the time the next adventure awaiting the ever-ready Jason Bourne, you bet SowYau is ready as well.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List.