Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hobbit director CONFIRMED!

Guillermo Del Toro, director of Cronos, Mimic, The Devil's Backbone, Blade 2, Hellboy 1 & 2 and Pan's Labyrinth will helm the two-parter prequels to Lord of the Rings! TheOneRing.Net was the first to break the news (link here).
Apart from the physical resemblance to LOTR director Peter Jackson pre-diet phase, Del Toro is more arthouse than a Spielberg like Jackson. His knack for putting interesting visuals and themes onscreen (and his love for creatures and assorted monstrosities sure helps) usually more than covers for his shortcomings in pacing and editing (exception: Blade 2). I still think Jackson is the better choice for keeping the Middle Earth universe consistent with the trilogy, which is what people loved in the first place. But since it's going to be Del Toro, I hope he's given free reign to do his own interpretation, and not try to ape Jackson, who was already kind of aping Spielberg. Bryan Singer, the very talented director who made two really good X-men movies, tried to ape Richard Donner, and came up with the disappointing Superman Returns (which could have used a little more of his X-men sensibilities in it). I really hope The Hobbit isn't going to be Del Toro's Superman Returns.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Review: A Battle of Wits (Muk gong)

State Wars
Set in China’s Warring States period, A Battle of Wits focuses on the small, city-state of Liang. Getting news of a massive Zhao army en route to Liang, the politicos of Liang, including the Liang King (Wang Zhiwen), his prince Liang Shi (Choi Si Won), adviser Si Tu (Wu Ma) and General Niu (Chin Siu-Hou) must decide to either defend their keep, or surrender to the enemy. Before General Niu manages to officiate their surrender with Zhao general Xiang Yanzhong (Ahn Sung-Kee), a special Zhao regiment has already reached the gates of Liang. Moments before, aid from Liang ally, the Mozi tribe, came in the form of Mozi brethren Ge Li (Andy Lau). Before you mock his name, I should warn you that the Mozi are known for their deft in strategic warfare, and Ge Li proves this by successfully repelling the Zhao regiment. His accomplishment earned widespread adulation, including those from the Liang prince and female soldier Yi Yue (Fan Bingbing), much to the chagrin of the jealous king. He suspects that Ge Li may try to usurp his throne, and plots to do away with the Mozi after the Zhao army has given up on invading Liang. Taiwanese star Nicky Wu plays the Chinese Legolas, Zi Tuan.

A Battle of Wits is another one of those “against all odds” movies like Lord of the Rings, Troy and 300, with a city of 4,000 up against an army of 100,000. Most of the fun in Battle is from observing how Ge Li overcomes wave after wave of attacks from the Zhao. Actually, Ge’s defensive maneuvers are more about brutality than strategy - employing many cheap, gruesome tactics like spike traps and fire pits to kill as many enemies as you can within the shortest amount of time. Although the Zhao army lost only a fraction of their men, the psychological impact is severe, demoralising Xiang’s troops who were supposed to be on their way to a bigger, more important battle up north. But Xiang himself is no idiot, and devised some sly maneuvers of his own. It’s interesting to note the Mozi’s inner conflict between the two key components of his religion - “universal love” and cold pragmatism. It’s his love for humanity and peace that brought him to Liang’s aid, but cruel logic dictates that in order for Liang to survive, Zhao soldiers must die.’s Kozo described Ge Li as resembling a Jedi Knight. Apart from trudging about a sandy landscape in a brown, hooded robe, the Mozi is also very monk-like, keeps a short crop of hair, and abstains from material possessions and even a disrobing Fan Bingbing. You can say that his ability to outguess his opponent’s movements is a kind of Force power. The only thing missing is elegant sword skills and a lightsabre, though Ge is pretty wicked with a bow and a specially modified arrow.

My only gripe with the movie - the romantic subplot, which involves an improbable female soldier character in 5 B.C. China, who is porcelain-fair and pretty to boot. (Why couldn’t they just make her a Liang princess?) Admittedly, Fan Bingbing provides some much needed eye candy in a sea of grimy, ragged people that are the civilians of Liang. Either ways, it’s still leagues smarter and more entertaining than 300, and loses out to Troy only from a lack of star power (unless you see Fan, Wu and Super Junior member Choi as “stars”). It’s also better than the messily edited theatrical cut of Seven Swords. (I’m still waiting for the five-hour epic version, Mr. Tsui Hark.) Of course, in the biased eyes of this Rings fan, nothing beats Lord of the Rings. - BMF


Written and directed by Jacob Cheung Chi Leung (Never Say Goodbye, Midnight Fly). Stars Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Wang Zhiwen, Fan Bingbing, Chin Siu-Hou, Choi Si Won, Ahn Sung-Kee, Wu Ma and Nicky Wu. Based on the novel Bokko by Sakemi Ken'ichi.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Missing out on the "Oscar" movies, part 2!

Original posting here.

The Oscar nominations were announced on 21 January (22 January here), and their selections for the Best Picture categories are Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Total number of Best Pic nominess - five. Total number of Best Pic nominees that I've seen - zero.

Michael Clayton has been reduced to one show a day, at 9.30pm, so too bad, I can't possibly watch that anymore unless I'm willing to pay $2.50 extra and let it eat up my weekend. Not so looking forward to Atonement, and it isn't looking forward to me either, since it has placed itself in the weekday evening 6.30pm slot (impossible for me to make it). Both No Country For Old Men and Juno debut on Valentine's Day, while there are no news about There Will Be Blood's release date.

For the other Oscar nominees: I managed to catch Eastern Promises and American Gangster, and they didn't disappoint. The Assassination of Jesse James is showing only in the city and at odd times on weekday evenings; 5.35pm and 8.55pm, so I guess I'll have to pass. There's still a window of opportunity for 3:10 to Yuma, which has 6.50pm shows in the following week, provided my wife allows me to watch this and Rambo 4 on the same week. Elizabeth: The Golden Age has stopped screening (at GV, at least).

Ben Affleck's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone was a critical favourite, and debuts on 31 January. I hope it lasts till after the Lunar New Year celebrations, during which The Big Movie Freak site and blog will be on a one-and-a-half-week hiatus. (I'll catch it as soon as I'm back.) I'll probably try to watch CJ7 in Malaysia during that time, and hope that it's not a censored version. The E.T. vibe of Stephen Chow's latest looks censor-friendly enough.

Maybe I should start taking my moniker more literally and watch only the blockbuster movies. Following up on these critically acclaimed movies has proven to be quite a chore! I mean, aren't movies supposed to be leisurely entertainment?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RIP Heath Ledger

Just only a week after Brad Renfro died from presumably an overdose, we have another actor fallen victim to drugs. It was pretty shocking news, because I was so looking forward to his take on the Joker in the upcoming Batman movie, The Dark Knight. Admittedly, I was also skeptical about his casting at the beginning.

I first noticed Ledger on the teen flick 10 Things I Hate About You, which was a teen version of The Taming of the Shrew, with Ledger playing the role of the tamer and Julia Stiles the shrew. He seemed quite fitted for these types of teen hunk role. But subsequent career choices (Monster's Ball, Ned Kelly, Candy) indicated that Ledger was trying to avoid typecasting. His greatest success finally came when he took the role of Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee's highly acclaimed gay romance Brokeback Mountain.

Recently, Ledger was in another critically lauded movie, playing one of several interpretations of Bob Dylan (along with Cate Blanchette, Richard Gere, and Batman co-star Christian Bale) in Todd Hayne's I'm Not There.

He was easily one of the few rising young actors whose works were worth taking note of, but sadly we'll no longer be able to see what other exciting contributions to cinema this man was going to make.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


This is not a post about movies, but about the recent commotion regarding the firing of Jeff Gerstmann, revered former editor of because he gave video game Kane and Lynch a thumbs down. Kane and Lynch producer, Eidos, was previously advertising the game on premium spots on the front page of Gamespot. You can sort of guess what went down.

I've been waiting for a while for somebody to put together an article about this, that compiles all the events that have transpired since Gerstmann's departure and maybe bring further clarity to the whole thing. Sam Kennedy from may have just done that with this posting on his 1UP blog. It's pretty substantive, up-to-date (it includes Alex Navarro's recent resignation) and also revealed what Gerstmann and former Gamespot founder Vince Broady are up to next.

Anyway, check it out if you care.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I Am Legend - Book and movie comparisons (Spoilers!)

(Warning! Spoilers ahead!)

Just finished reading I Am Legend. Looking at the thickness of the book, I thought it was a novel, but in fact it's a short story. The rest of the book is a compilation of other short stories by the author, Richard Matheson. I didn't know this until I finished reading the I Am Legend portion. Imagine my surprise when less than a quarter through the book, the story suddenly ended!

The big difference between the book and movie is not just that the original hero wasn't a black dude, but the book is really actually about vampires! Fear of garlic, crosses, sunlight, the works. The great thing is that the author uses scientific reasoning to explain how vampirism works, and why they feared the abovementioned objects, which at first glance seems a little illogical. The movie used very, very little of these stuff, but concentrated more on the "last man on Earth" concept. Also, I think it's probably the best and ultimate vampire story I've ever heard or read about. It makes Anne Rice look really stupid.

As for the ending, well, it's like those Twilight Zone kind of ending. It's not something stupid like I woke from a dream or he goes into the next dimension or something. Though a little shocking (and an ironic joke), it still makes perfect sense that it ended that way. But it's also very sad and depressing. Everybody seemed to like the book's original ending, but it might be too much for regular folks at the cinemas, because they'll be so disappointed at the outcome after all the hard work and sacrifice Robert Neville made.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Terminator - The TV Show!

I did enjoy Terminator 3 as an above-average sci-fi action flick, but I can't deny it still felt watered down, like, you know, Terminator for kids. Not only was it PG-fied, they also made Arnold do a "talk to the hand" joke. Past Terminators had jokes, but they're often cool ones (e.g. "He'll live."), not silly shits like this. But what could be worse than a Terminator Part 3 is not Terminator Part 4 (which they're actually making right now, with Christian Bale as great military leader John Connor), but an even more watered down television series.

But reactions have apparently been positive for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. There are still criticisms about the show's disregard for certain Terminator lores established in the movies, while completely ignoring everything that happened in Terminator 3 (e.g. Sarah Connor is still very much alive). No idea whether anything from the show would eventually tie up with the upcoming movie sequel (this is not a Terminator fansite... Google up one, you lazy bum). I'm not really hot about the series' re-use of the femme bot, which has a boring design compared to the classic 800 Series Model 101's endoskeleton, ass-kicking skills aside. But then again, one of the few things I'm a big sucker for are action chicks (e.g. Resident Evil, Underworld, Alien, Aliens, etc.), which is why Underworld 1 and 2 will never get Sucks from the BMF. Ahem. The series' poster (see above) looks enticing enough... I'm game to find out how much asskickery they managed to sneak into the PG world of mainstream TV.

Stars Lena Headey (the Spartan queen from 300) as Sarah, Summer Glau (River from Firefly/Serenity) as the femme bot, the dude from Judging Amy, some One Tree Hill-typish kid (sigh) and a couple of beefy men.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Spoovans' edited review of I Am Legend

I've finally found some time to edit Spoovans' I Am Legend review. It's one of his better written reviews of late. It needs more humour though, or at least more Car Freak-related quips on the Mustang or whatever else that Will Smith drove in the movie, which is really Spoovans' area of expertise. I'd hope he writes something about cars and their relationship with cinema someday, but he has been real busy building a career (and making lots of dough) with a marine company of late, so that someday could take a while to come.

Here's the unedited review if you missed it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Movie reviews from

In case you missed them, here are some inconsequential ramblings about the movies I've seen recently:

I Am Legend
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Golden Compass
Hot Fuzz
The Wolfman (1941)
Shoot 'Em Up

And one from the inimitable Will2k:
Big Bullet

BMF Comics #2 - #4

Freakin' Star Wars in freakin' Soul Calibur 4!

Yup, it's not April yet, and the video above is the evidence. What, you're surprised that a person like George Lucas would hawk his wares like this? Play as Yoda on the Xbox360 and Darth Vader on the PS3. More details at this link.

Missing out on the "Oscar" movies

With all honesty, I wasn't really very motivated to watch all of the so-called "Oscar-baiting" movies of 2006, thus giving the Oscars 2007 a miss after many years of not missing the live telecast of the Academy Awards. But being a self-proclaimed Big Movie Freak, I guess I'm a little obligated to at least check them out, see what the fuss is about (what could be more entertaining than Shoot 'Em Up?) and perhaps recommend or warn you about what to expect (e.g. will they bore the hell out of you, etc.?).

Unfortunately, at this point I've missed at least half a dozen of 2007's movies vying for 2008's Oscars, but it's not entirely my fault. The problem with these "artistic" movies is that most people (likely you) are not always interested in watching them, thus the shows are relegated to just a handful of cinemas, and they're often always the ones around central Singapore. That's not a problem if you're working in the city, but guess what? The Big Movie Freak doesn't work in the city! Making matters worse, they always, always slot these movies into the 6.30pm schedules on weekdays, giving me less than an hour to get there after work (5.30pm) from my workplace at the other end of the island. It takes 15 minutes to get to the MRT, and then another 45 minutes to the nearest cinema showing these movies; you do the math. Would it hurt so much to just schedule it just 15 or 30 minutes later?

Sure, there are weekend movies, though that gives me three problems: 1) price - weekday shows cost me $6 per ticket (I get discounts on my HSBC credit card), weekends cost me $8.50 (remember, the Big Movie Freak is on a budget), 2) Saturday is my quality time with the wife and sometimes with my pals; I do my creative shit on Sundays, and 3) I still need to haul my ass down 45 minutes worth of train ride to watch something that's potentially boring for all I know, even though there's a freakin' cinema right in front of my freakin' apartment already!

So, to the people responsible for Michael Clayton, Eastern Promises, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Lust, Caution (R, not NC16), my apologies for not catching your movies; blame the loss of my $6 ticket on your distributors. American Gangster and 3:10 to Yuma, hold on, I may still be able to catch you guys. The Darjeeling Limited; well, Wes, I've seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but man, wtf? I don't feel so stoked about you, The Savages and Atonement. No Country For Old Men, not even Singapore? And will there be blood here?

On second thought, there's a strike going on in Hollywood, which has affected the awards shows, to the point that the Golden Globes had to be reduced from a three-hour glitzy event to a one-hour press conference. The Oscars might end up in a similar predicament, who knows? Then perhaps I won't feel so guilty not watching them now, hehe.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spoovans' edited FF2 review!

Recently, the Car Freak a.k.a. Spoovans posted a rather bizarre review of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Bad writing or insane genius? You be the judge! I've uploaded an edited version of his review here. It might give you an understanding of how this movie freak thinks, or it might only give you a headache! Best of all, he managed to squeeze one short automobile-related comment near the end! Click on this link, if you dare!

New Transformers cartoon

Back to haunt every parent's wallet - the new Transformers Animated! Haven't seen a single episode yet, but based on the artwork on its site, the style is just not right in conveying the metallic giant robots' mass and weight. Looks more rubbery and plasticky, just like the toys, but maybe that's the intention. Anyway, I was quite skeptical about the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars series' use of Powerpuff Girls' art-style, but the cartoon made me eat my own words by having Jedi battle scenes that are far, far more awesome than any of the live-action movies'. Maybe this Transformers will be another Clone Wars-type of awesome. Who knows?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

An (unedited) review on I am Legend-comparison between old and new

HI Guys,

Before I proceed to the review, I do admit that living in solitude with all the cool stuffs in the world is rather cool.
This movie is based on based on the 1954 novel "I am Legend" by Richard Matheson. The first silver screen adaption of this book was the 1971's 'OMEGA MAN', with Charles Heston (a.k.a the NRA Taiko in USA) as Richard Neville. In this version, Richard Neville,the doctor,due to an experimental vaccine, is the only survivor of an apocalyptic war waged with biological weapons. The plague caused by the war has killed everyone else except for a few hundred deformed, nocturnal people calling themselves "The Family". The plague has caused them to become sensitive to light, as well as homicidally psychotic. In this version, Richard Neville is trying to get out of the city and find a human colony. In terms of execution, the movie is somewhat similar to sic-fi movies of its time, esp. Planet of the Apes etc.

Fast forward to 2007, in latest adaption of the novel, the producers decided to name the movie as the novel title, I AM LEGEND, and I do have to admit, it is definitely an improvement in comparison to its predessor. In this version, The movie begins with a newspaper interview with Dr. Kripper (Emma Thompson) who is speaking about the her scientific breakthrough. She has taken the Measles virus and altered it at a genetic level so that it attacks only cancerous cells. The treatment has proven 100% effective in over 10,109 clinical trials. The film then cuts to three years later and we see that New York is deserted. Grass is breaking through the concrete, cars are rusting in the streets, and entire buildings are covered in titanic sheets of plastic with Biohazard signs plastered all over them. Our Hero, Richard Neville (Will Smith), comes blazing in his Mustang GT500, hunting deers in downtown, run down NY (In Omega man, Charles Heston breaks into a deserted dealership and drives out the Mustang from the store window).
As in the earlier version, Neville is the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. For three years, Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Mutant victims of the plague -- 'The Infected' -- lurk in the shadows

In a nutshell, the special effects of this movie is ok, not that it is bad or anything, but after watching Beuwolf, playing countless gory video games such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill etc; 'The Infected' looks nothing more that 100% CG characters, fresh from the PC. I really wished the Director paid more attention on this. As for the storyline and cinematography, the pace was good and there were times I was on the edge of my seat, especially when Neville was entering an Infected hideout trying to get his dog back. The other character are Alicia Braga (Anna) andCharlie Tahan (Ethan), though their contribution didn't matter to the to the movie plot, they were in the movie till the end.

The movie centered on Neville's coping with his solitude life, that is constantly in battling to stay away from 'The Infected'. And by potraying the effects in embarking in risky genetic biotechnology projects with inadequate safety protocols, I believe the movie highlights the state of our modern hightech biotechnology industry, where company rush to produce cures for major ailments from the most unlikely sources, in order to claim novel discoveries and patents, in order to attain instant fame, glory and monetary rewards that comes with it.

In short, I would say that this is one cool movie, and I am definitely getting a DVD copy of this movie.