Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Haunted House Project | 폐가 [ Movie Review ] **

Blair Witch Project ~ Kimchi Style
The Haunted "Insert you choice of residence" movie is a popular horror film choice. Especially in Asia film industry where you can easily find a handful movies that use their location as the horror device. Needless to say, it's already a very overdone horror genre. In order to "differentiate " itself from it's Asian peers, The Haunted House Project took the Blair Witch Project way.

Ironically it does not "differentiate" itself too much from the Shaky Cam genre that The Blair Witch Project had established many many years ago.

Like many Shaky Cam horror genre, there will the initial setup of how a tape was found from a haunted venue and we are viewing what had happened horribly to some folks with a videocam. In The Haunted House Project, we get a group of six (a producer, a cameraman, a sound woman and three members from a Korean paranormal online club) investigating the haunting of one infamous location.

Rumor has it that this haunted premise has a horrible past. A successful businessman was caught having affair and it was said that the wife killed her husband lover. Dumping her in a pool nearby their factory, the ghost of the lover came back to massacre the couple and their kids. Ever since then, residents had reported weird sightings at that location. Authorities tried unsuccessfully to clear the pool. The place remained unsold and avoided until this group of six decided to venture in for some spooky adventure.

The problem with this type of shaky cam horror movies would be that it has a very rigid structure to follow and it can get rather boring (not to mention un-cinematic to watch) if you have your fair share of shaky cam horror movies. Since we are watching a tape that found at the haunted house, it's quite obvious that no one will be making it out alive. The victims can't die too soon as the panic mode (or I call it the shaky ground / feet shots) will occur and viewers won't be able to see much. Therefore we get the introduction, the exploration and the occasion spooks (which would not result in any fatality) to fill up the bulk of the movie.

Another problem with a Shaky Cam film would be the aspect of incorporating realism of an actual documentary filming gone bad. It made a mistake of adding mosaic effects to cover up possibly  objectionable images. Now while you can do it with a editing software, I am pretty sure that up to today, there isn't one videocam that could mosaic certain portion of the film so nicely (as it did in the film).

But then again, it's not that bad. The "scare a min" tactic in this film was quite well done and timed to get the maximum spook from audience. The comeuppance for this intruders were fun to watch but it's too late and too short to make it more enjoyable. There were also a few eye candies in the cast that helped make following the major bulk of this movie less dreadful.

Perhaps it's a personal dislike for this type of movies making. Using realism as an excuse, it's a cheap way of making money. Just find a remote location, a bunch of unknown actors and some camera tricks, you get a cheaply made horror flick that could rake in lots of money. In today's youtube generation that are accustom to such video would probably have no problem with it or even embrace it. There will also be fans of horror genre and this type of filming that have no problems lapping this up. For me, the novelty factor of Shaky Cam had worn off since the Blair Witch Project and REC and should be put to rest soon (that is unless they managed to find some ways to break this mold).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Skyline [ Movie Review ] ***

In the midst of a potential lawsuit from Sony and a barrage of thumb downs from movie critics ( and other disgruntled movie viewers with a imdb account), Skyline has finally arrived. Going with low expectation, Skyline wasn't as bad as one would expect. It's not the best alien invasion flicks around but frankly Skyline wasn't that bad afterall.

Much like Cloverfield, we follow a bunch of young adults experiencing a sudden attack by unknown creatures in a city. We get a glimpse of their relationship matters, their future hopes and worries. Then out of the blue, they get a rude awakening that their lives are going to be changed drastically. In Skyline, it's the blue lights from outer spaceships sucking up humans by the thousands.

Instead of running around a city that's torn by monsters, the folks in a skyscraper apartment had the dilemma of choosing whether to escape from the building that they are in or stay put while trying to hide the constant alien abduction.

There's been complains about the lack of character development, the horrible dialogues, the storyline and the far-fetched ending. It's going to vary from one person viewpoint from another but personally, I find it hard to agree with most of the complains (found @ imdb).

Skyline is about a group of people stuck in a building. They are facing a sudden doomsday scenario and the movie is basically about them making decisions with little idea on what's going on. The movie did enough by presenting us with a little background information about this group of people and even though it's slightly one dimension, it was enough to proceed on with the story. To care or not to care for these characters are up to individual's preference and personally, while they are not going to be my favorite movie character, the function well enough to move the story forward.

Then there's the complains about the dialogues being cheesy, unoriginal and badly written. As again, Skyline is not trying to win award for scriptwriting. It's not deep or impressive but it does well to convey the sense of emotions that the characters are going through. One complain highlighted that the group actually said "run" when they were attacked by a big alien and I wonder why isn't it possible? It felt pretty real to me. When tentacles are zooming in to capture you and you are running for your safety, wouldn't you yell something to make your group move a little faster?

Last but not least, there's been complains about the storyline and the ending of Skyline. Most of the complains are aimed at how the folks are stuck in the apartment and the story going in circles (while showing off their special effects) that seems to be heading nowhere but the seemly inevitable doom. Personally, that's the point of Skyline. It's about a group of everyday people stuck in a situation that the odds seems to be overwhelmingly stacked against them. It put you in their shoes and make you consider what would you do if you are faced with such scenario. The prolongation of them stuck in the high-rise apartment works (beside obviously for the budget aspect) in ways that it helps to create the sense of dreariness and difficulties of leaving the safety zone. It also shows that in such dire and hopeless moments, humans would do it's utmost to stay alive.

The ending wasn't everyone's cup of tea. Some finds it comical while others find it downright silly. It's a little bit too convenient like Independence Day and it bears some resemblance to District 9 but in a gloomy film like Skyline, it offers a refreshing sense of hope for the characters. It also reveal the ambitious goals of the filmmakers who planned a series of films / tv projects from this movie. The odds are against them now since the box office collection didn't do that well and the response from the viewers are mostly unfavorable.

Let's put it this way, Skyline won't be a District 9 but that doesn't mean it's not entertaining. The thumb downs that it had been receiving felt unfair. The relatively unknown actors did well with a script that could use a bit of polishing. The special effects weren't that spectacular but with the budget of an independent filmmaker, it was impressive enough to pass as a major studio. Recommended.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adele: Rise of the Mummy | Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec [ Movie Review ] ★★★

the Extraordinary Adventures and the Rise of the Mummy
The Singapore / Malaysia title for "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec" is rather misleading. Specially when you viewed the trailer (attached below), you might think that Adèle: Rise of the Mummy is one action packed Indiana Jones type of movies with the protagonist taking on mummified human corpses and pterosaurs. Going in with such expectation would probably result in disappointment. 

That's not to say that Adèle: Rise of the Mummy is a lousy movie. It not so much about the rising of Mummy but the extraordinary adventures of one rather feisty unrelenting and resourceful lady.

Set in Paris 1912,  A pterodactyl egg in the museum has been magically hatched through the mental power of Professor Esperandieu and is wreaking havoc in the city. News of this occurrence became the newspaper headlines and the authorities are "pressured" to solve this case soon.

In the meanwhile, Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) is "raiding tomb" in Egypt like a female counterpart of Indiana Jones (more dainty but equally venturesome). She is seeking a mummified Pharaoh's doctor to cure her sister. To complete her quest. she required Professor Esperandieu'e supernatural gift and upon returning to France, she found out that he is mystically linked to the pterodactyl and has been sentenced to death for his involvement. The relentless Adèle then set off to rescue the Professor before it's too late for her sister.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is so whimsically imaginative that it's hard to guess what going to happen next (nor would you want to). One moment, it's poking fun of police incompetence and the next, it's mystifying with weird occult-like science. Just when you think you get what this show is about, it breaks into action sequences like an Indiana Jones movie or delve into sappy romance.

It's not going to fit into the mold of your usual Mummy movies. It's a mix of Amelie and the Fifth Element. Splendid entertainment with rich imagination and attitude that should sit well with folks that are looking for something unusual. Recommended.

Beyond the Movie

There are some warnings that you should heed before getting your ticket(s) for this movie in Singapore. Most theaters are showing it in English dubbing (with Chinese subtitles). Those folks who did the dubbing did make some effort to convey the emotions of the characters but ultimately, it's just not the right way to watch a movie. The dubbing does not even match the lip movements of the actor and it felt that the soul of the characters had somehow been robbed.

But thankfully, the distributor had decided to bring a print of Adele: Rise of the Mummy in it's original language and the only place you can catch it in French (with English subtitles) would be at The Cathay Cineplex (the one at Handy Road). For your ultimate enjoyment of this movie, I would recommend you to catch it at The Cathay.

Last but not least, we managed to spot one scene that was awkwardly cut from the movie. It happened to be one of the stills that was featured on the official website. Don't seemed too raunchy to me but I guess it might incur a highly censorship rating if left intact. Anyway gawk at it while you can.
You won't be seeing me smoking in a tub in Singapore Cinema
Oh wait. There's a coda inserted at the End Credits. So don't rush out once the credits start rolling.

Movie: ***
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