Sunday, September 18, 2005

"I don't believe!"

Watched The Skeleton Key last Thursday.

Spoiler alert - but I would try to keep it minimal

The story: Young nurse Caroline (Kate Hudson) is moving in to Ben and Violet's (John Hurt, Gena Rowlands) house to take care of the old man, who recently had a stroke and have only a month to live. She soon realised that the house is perhaps haunted by a couple who practised "Hoodoo" magic in the house almost a hundred years ago. The ghosts may also be the cause of Ben's stroke. Caroline decided to learn the arts of Hoodoo and save the old man, but could her magic skills save herself? Truth is perhaps the last thing she should know.

It is not really a thriller, but more like The Sixth Sense, a horror/drama with a sudden twist at the end. The plot had certainly been thought over, and is much more logicial than most other movies of similar genre. There are not many frightening scenes, but a creepy "Hoodoo" atmosphere runs throughout the movie but was perhaps too disturbing for me.

I don't know what I should add without spoiling too much, so I'd just stop here. Impressions on The Skeleton Key: 6.5/10

Question: what was the chicken soup supposed to do?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

梁祝下世傳奇 by 何韻詩



對近來在香港流行的故事式概念大碟不太喜歡,因我其實都只是將CD 轉成mp3 來放,一段一段半分鐘的音樂放在library 裡很難辦!還好,這張CD壓成128kbps的音樂檔還可以放得下一張64MB 的SD card,否則要將一張CD 分兩次聽實在太可憐了。



「舊愛」講完了,「新歡」要數來自奧地利的Christina Stürmer。走的也是Pop/Rock 路線。我開始聽何韻詩的時候她剛25歲,今年Christina Stürmer 也是25歲,真巧。

Friday, September 09, 2005

Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand, wer ist die schönste im ganzen Land

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all"

It is probably the most famous quote from Snow White. It is in Christina Stürmer's song, "Spieglein". It is also in The Brothers Grimm, a 2005 Miramax title. Yes I went for this movie today after seeing the trailer in Apple's web site a few weeks ago despite poor reviews from IMDb.

In this purely fictitious story, smokes and mirrors were about only what the brothers knew. They were two con-men who made money out of unknowing villagers by "killing" fairy tale monsters which they themselves have created. Wilheim (Matt Damon) never believed in fairy tales or scary monsters, but deep inside Jakob's heart (Heath Ledger) he had strong faith, that such fairy tales exist, that some day he would find authentic magic beans, that he would climb high up the sky, meet giants and find the gold that would have helped their family when they were young. Without giving them a choice, fate soon forced them into a real fairy tale. It was with Jake's faith, that gave them a chance to forge their own happy-end by bringing out true love and genuine courage from within themselves.

Overall I find the movie ok. It was funny, but I would not call it good, and there are moments when I find it boring. The idea behind the story was very interesting, but the execution was not. They picked a number of famous Grimm fairy tales, Snow white, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and many more, but other than the main plot, the fairy tale characters were just shallow paste-ups. Fairy tales provided colourful costumes for the characters, but other than that, they were just patch-work and served no real purpose. Even though the movie was allegedly a British-Czech production, it looked very like a Hollywood show. Lots of visual and sound effects, lots of witty dialogues, little plot. With so many fairy tales weaved together, the story still looked empty and could probably be condensed a bit. The effects where ok but is common in current American movies. Nothing new. It is not on par with other shows which redesign fairy fales. The Shrek series were much more hilarious. Remember that quote "... and they lived uglily ever after"? Did it make you laugh, that they placed a godzilla sized gingerbread-man in Shrek 2? The gingerbread in the movie was disgusting. Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story was one very good TV series which had been shown locally on both TVB Pearl and ATV World. Jack's ancestor stole something from the giants. He must correct that mistake before his 40th birthday, or he would perish like his father and grandfather. Or perhaps you would like to try Sleepy Hollow by Tim Burton, whose feel is completely different, but the story backbone surprisingly similar.

A colleague told me there is a place where you can find lots of Fairy Tales by the Grimm Brothers. There are different editions, with original german versions, and also english translation.
And I believe it was called Prussia, not Germany, in early 1800....

Impressions on The Brothers Grimm: 5/10.

Friday, September 02, 2005

My ratings formula

When I make movie recommendations to friends, either because they asked me about advices, or if I was selling some movies that I thought too good to be missed, I am often asked what does a "8-point" movie mean.

I started logging and rating movies at IMDB since 2004. I have now rated 64 titles. I intentionally scale my ratings such that the median score is not higher than 6. I try also to be as objective as possible, but movie is a form of art. I am never good at arts, and I believe there is always a personal preference in deciding what is good and bad, and it could not be purely objective.

The ratings here might be slightly different to the rating on IMDB because IMDB does not allow half point scores. So, my rating system:

  • 10 points means "perfect".I have never given any movie this score.
  • 9 points: exceptionally good. There might be some very minor flaws, but it must have a good cast, a good and often unusual plot, nice music, and the cinematography must be visually appealing. I may consider viewing the movie again if time and money allows. I would also start persuading everyone to see it.
  • 7-8 points: good to very-good. There are often some very strong merits. On my recommended list if someone so asks. I may also talk about it to closer friends.
  • 5-6 points: not-so-bad. I found that I have a stronger temper than before. As a side effect my emotions against movies are also stronger, and I have been giving fewer movies this rating. This may change.
  • 3-4 points: mediocre. I don't really usually regret having seen it, but it is something that I would have watched only if I had lots of time.
  • 1-2 points: it was a mistake watching it. Since I am not a film critic I am not obliged to see bad movies, and I would usually avoid them at the first place. Mistakes do happen from time to time, however.
There is usually a minor penalty if I don't speak the language they use in the movies.

What movies got what ratings?
For different reasons, Matchstick Men, Girl with a Pearl Earring and Finding Neverland scored 9. Recent movies which deserved 8 include Sin City and Tian xia wu zei (天下無賊). I gave 4 to Land of the Dead and House of Wax. The Touch was the only movie that had such a low rating as a 2.

P.S. I wanted to take an arts appreciation course at the Arts Centre when time allows.

Girls meet Jazz!!!

I am not fond of Japanese movies, but in a bad mood I wanted to see something funny with a happy end, so I went for Swing Girls anyway. It had the exact same formula as Waterboys, a previous movie by the same director. However in this movie there are lots of cute girls instead of boys, and the music is rather good. I wonder if the girls performed the music themselves?

The story: A group of students accidentally food-poisoned the school orchestra. As a compensation, and also as a means to escape from summer school, they formed a Jazz band to perform in place of the orchestra, when none of them had any interest or love for music. Without them realizing, passion began to grow inside them, and they were very upset when forced to disband. Their passion soon brought them back together, and you probably guessed the ending already.

The actors and actresses are all very good and fit their roles nicely. No more 30-year-old men posing as high school kids. Or perhaps Japanese people look younger than americans at the same age? Like the predecessor, there are lots of comical singing and dancing. Very funny, very entertaining, and visually appealing as well. Did I also say the music was nice?

The story was very warm and touching. The plot is simple and straightforward. For me, simplicity is always good. There are no sudden twists and nothing was very illogical, if you care about logic in film plots. It was too similar to Waterboys, but it is still a very good choice if you want to see a comedy and are sick of cheap US B-movies full of dirty jokes, or Hong Kong movies full of nothing. That and if for whatever reason you do not like love-comedies.

First impressions on Swing Girls: 7.5/10

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It was the best of youth

It did not make me weep.