overall has not been terribly exciting at the
movies though it’s still quite a feat to
pick the year’s top ten movies of my choice.
the fact that I didn’t get to read the original
material, Zack Snyder’s version of Alan
Moore’s unfilmable Watchmen
is a mind-blogging experience. It certainly brought
the comic genre into a whole new level even if
it doesn’t suit the tastes of the masses.
This year is a quiet one for Chinese productions.
And the sole entry is Overheard,
a low-key thriller from the creators of Infernal
Affairs starring one of my fave HK leading man,
Lau Ching Wan. From Peter Jackson and a director
by the name of Neil Blomkamp making his feature
film debut come District 9, an
amazing blend of sci-fi and engaging story-telling
filled with eye-popping visual effects. Made on
a measly $30 million budget but has the capacity
to stand alongside any classic Sci-fi movies ever
made for the past decades. Motor-mouthed Quentin
Tarantino finally turned in his version of a war
movie, the weirdly spelled Inglorious
Basterds. The talky movie definitely
fired out more words than bullets and it sure
made Christoph Waltz the next star to look out
for. Sorry about that, Mr. Pitt.
swear I was never a Trekkie, I was more of a Star
Wars-Luke Skywalker kinda of guy since age seven.
But J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the flagging
franchise converted me. With a fresh cast consisting
of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho and Simon
Pegg, I can’t wait for the sequel to Star
Trek. When you think of stop-motion,
A Nightmare Before Christmas comes to mind, Wes
Anderson adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic
Mr Fox uses the same old technology but
instill it with his usual quirky storytelling
and there you have it, this comes highly recommended
for wholesome family entertainment. Most people
love to be surrounded with Funny People
perhaps not the movie. The third Judd Apatow’s
feature and Adam Sandler starrer received a lukewarm
response when it was released but it never deter
me from embracing it for Apatow’s personal
views, jokes and gags about the world of standup
here comes the top three. Disney/Pixar’s
Up scores with it’s unbelievable
adventure of an old man and a chubby kid. The
one and only animation this year that excites,
charms and warms your senses all at once. Well,
it’s Pixar, just like what Jimmy Choo does
to heels and what Louis Vuitton does to leather
goods. The magical touch. I’m sure there
will be bunch of haters waiting to stab me for
the next announced entry, Transformers:
Revenge of the Fallen. Do give credit
to Michael Bay and his team for the massive carnage
ever concocted onscreen despite the flaws. You
can’t deny the movie earned millions if
not billions and Transformers 2 is one movie that
almost everyone around your cubicle has watched
this year. And drumroll please… Finishing
the top spot is James Cameron’s Avatar.
While Robert Zemeckis took an average of two years
to come up with a motion-captured CG movie, Cameron
took more than a decade to bring his vision to
the screen. The plotline is nothing exceptional
seriously but the King of the World compensates
by creating an entire splendor world of creatures,
flora and fauna (all created in CG) and important
messages of environmental conservation that we
should walk out feeling ashamed of ourselves.
And with that, here’s a toast to a better
time for that annual ritual of putting out the
best-of lists, and a pattern can be spotted each
year with the films that make it to mine. This
year though it's the rather unfortunate predominance
of Death as a theme or a backdrop, and it's no
wonder though that it had somewhat lent its invisible
hand in the shortlist and eventual whittling down
a list of at least 50 to the top 10. Here goes...
Goei's return to the cinema, The Blue
Mansion is probably the most expensive
local film ever made to date, only to be shot
predominantly up north in Penang's UNESCO heritage
site, the Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion. But that doesn't
delineate the film from its Singapore roots, given
its parallels that can be seen from characters,
moods and the issues brought up. It's a Singapore
film at its best, with veteran thespians from
both sides of the Causeway showcasing their acting
talents boosted by top class production values.
More from Glen Goei, please.
the first 10 minutes doesn't move you to tears,
then you have a certified heart of stone. I cannot
recall a film that sucker punches you at an emotional
level, like how Up managed to.
A reminder that we should live life to its fullest
and to continuously create our own adventures.
It takes a lot of guts to have a senior citizen
anchor a children's film, but Up has proven that
it has appeal for all ages.
learn and acquire knowledge, not just for the
sake of passing exams. This Bollywood film, 3
Idiots starring one of the Khans, Aamir
Khan, tells the story of a group of varsity friends
who get influenced by the live-wire of the trio,
with all the ingredients that make that perfect
masala movie. Containing deep themes of friendship
and learning balanced with crowd pleasing entertainment
that only a Bollywood film can offer, Aal Izz
Well for this film.
Yasmin Ahmad's final feature film, it has all
the hallmarks of the sentimental director in tackling
race and religious issues without shoveling them
down your throat. With a mixture of fresh faces
and the usual suspects in its casting, Talentime
will make you laugh and cry at the same time,
where the multi-racial school serves as an analogy
for the society that we live in, that tolerance
and appreciation of our differences were always
meant to be celebrated, never scorned at or looked
City of Life And Death - There
are a number of Nanking themed films out there,
but Lu Chuan's version provides that comprehensive
look at the atrocities that were reportedly committed,
and provided a stark unflinching portrayal of
those horrors, having in place an iconic scene
involving a baby that will definitely shock you
to the core. The excellent capturing of Fear through
mood and countless of facial close-ups make this
The Hurt Locker - A war film
like none other, Kathryn Bigelow dispenses with
the usual routine red-blue wire bomb nonsense,
and crafts a film that deals with the addiction
of war amongst its combatants. It's edge-of-your-seat
stuff gripping from the get go, with ace performances
and chemistry shared between leads Jeremy Renner,
Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty. joined by a
host of notable cameos.
District 9 - Science fiction
has a new classic, and it took a rookie feature
filmmaker to breathe freshness into the genre
with a tale that entertains and puts you deep
in thought about the negativity in humanity's
flaws, tackling larger issues such as discrimination.
But that doesn't mean that it lacked some eye-popping
action sequences when the narrative called for
it, with some of the most inventive battles ever
seen in a life-action film involving humans, aliens,
and mechas too!
The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film,
Departures is achingly beautiful,
about a man finally finding his calling in life,
only to be shunned by his wife for being in a
taboo profession. Wonderful characterization,
and a fantastic insight into a rarely seen ritual
that honours the dearly departed.
Sell-Out - Multi-talented Malaysian
filmmaker Yeo Joon Han wore plenty of hats here
in order to make his debut feature film, a musical
comedy that has one of the most rip-roaring opening
sequences I've experienced in a long time. Its
brand of humour is broad, from slapstick "mo-lei-tau"
to witty dialogue, and there's never a dull moment
in this film that has so much going for it that
it begs for multiple viewings to catch all the
visual gags and easter eggs contained within.
A definite delight
(500) Days of Summer - It's still
quite a painful film to sit through, for me at
least, not that it was badly made, but because
it cut extremely close to the heart. A love story
that wasn't, and one that had its chance whittle
away long before it even began. One simple line
was all it took about the inability to feel for
someone the same way every morning, to hit the
nail squarely on the head with its brutal, honest
take on relationships that don't work out.
continues to amaze in its ambition to represent
the most trenchant notions of humanity shown through
the eyes of its animated characters – there's
a montage in Up that is at once
so grand, so uplifting and so yearning that it
carries its entire film through with the grace
of compassion that Pixar seems to understand the
best, if not the most consistently. From the story
of one septuagenarian connecting to the world
around him to another; Gran Torino
is one of Clint Eastwood's most personal and transgressive
film of his hallowed career that carried him through
as a true man of his generation. Preparing the
transition into the great unknown ether of death
is a ceremony that's not typically detailed in
films but in Yojiro Takita's Oscar-winning Departures,
it is a sacred and tender ritual that inspires
the reassuring insight that evokes the sadness
inherent in life and the contemplative peace found
nothing traditional about Hayao Miyazaki's resplendently
hand-drawn Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea,
a watercolour celebration of childhood's gaiety
that's as buoyant as it is breathtaking. But in
an increasingly digital world, there has to be
room for J.J. Abrams' reboot of the iconic Star
Trek universe – an endearing and
genuinely cinematic space adventure. But a comeback
is on the cards for more than just a sci-fi franchise
as Sam Raimi returned to his horror roots in spectacular
style with Drag Me To Hell, a
film so full of invention and verve that it deftly
weaved together powerful scares and rib-tickling
humour. In another adroitly realised adulteration
of horror that resulted in a welcome transcendence
of the genre, Tomas Alfredson creates an entrancing
netherworld from the isolation of suburban 1980s
Sweden in Let the Right One In,
where a young boy falls for the undead pubescent
girl next door.
is a harsh thing to comprehend as anyone will
tell you, but in Marc Webb's stupendous (500)
Days of Summer, it sears in its observations
about the affairs of the heart and mind that it
actually devastates – listen to the protagonist
when he tells you that 'this is not a love story'.
In Katheryn Bigelow's fabulously kinetic and visceral
The Hurt Locker, we have one
of the greatest films about war ever made –
it's an existential look at the headspaces of
a bomb squad grunt in the Iraq War and his fellow
technicians as they courageously nullify the explosives
in their sights but plainly avoid the perilous
circumstances they create in their lives.
on in the year, Jonathan Demme's Rachel
Getting Married stupefied with its stark
honesty of human contradictions and pulsating
depiction of the vibrancy of life. It was a razor-sharp
antidote to the overly-emotional and twee multitudes
of family dramedies of the past couple of years.
It is the human urge to light up the dark corners
for answers on other people and Demme brings that
illumination to a marvellously indelible performance
by Anne Hathaway playing the bruised and barely
rehabbed daughter returning home for a sister's
deliriously multicultural wedding and the ensuing
Pandora's box of emotions that it opens. Sensitively
written and directed, the things that go unsaid
resonates the most in this masterful film.
Mentions: Mother, Avatar, District 9,
Milk, Man on Wire, Coraline, Paranormal Activity,
Inglourious Basterds, Halloween II, Pandorum
2009 was quite an exciting year for movies and coming up with my final Top 10 was not an easy one, especially in determining the number 1 movie of the year. Alas, when the dust had settled, the likes of Avatar and The Informant! just barely missed out on being in. In the case of Avatar, I'd like to bestow it with a special mention considering that it is a movie-going experience not to be missed. Sure, the 3D was awe-inspiring and the action sequences out of this world but not much could be said about the rest of the story. There were however, ten other movies that I liked better in 2009.
I think my list is a fair one considering at least one foreign movie, a documentary and two animations made it in. From the morning after shenanigans that tickled my funny bone, to the best bloodthirsty affair of 2009 and disturbing dilemma faced by dolphins in Japan started the ball rolling in my list in the form of The Hangover, Thirst and The Cove respectively.
Coming in at #7 was the rom-com that could have been. the heart-breaking (500) Days of Summer, for its ingenuity and for its superior wit and painstaking stop motion animation about a particularly Fantastic Mr Fox made it to #6. Not a fan of the sci-fi genre in general, it has now started to grow on me even further. The Star Trek reboot was such a fantastic experience that it had to make it into my list and has found itself at #5. This was followed by the best movie Pixar has ever made, Up, coming in at #4. The movie pulled at our heartstrings so forcefully that it was hard not to be touched by it.
Quentin Tarantino's version of Inglorious Basterds makes its way to #3 guns ablazing and madcap mayhem to go along with it. It was Tarantino at his A-game yet again. At #2 is the most intense movie of the year, The Hurt Locker, which should also be garnering awards galore once the awards season kicks in. And topping off my list is District 9. The effects felt so seamless, the one-man show by Sharlto Copley was probably one of the best of the year and Neill Blomkamp had a fantastic first feature outing that everything just fell into place so nicely.
timely that The Treasure Hunter
has decided to open on the very last day of
2009, just in time to qualify for a top ten
list of 2009- though I’m hardly sure that
is the intention of the filmmakers or the distributor.
I can think of so many other ways one can spend
US$15 mil than on this terrible misfire, an
East-meets-West Indiana Jones so awful it made
the earlier Jay Chou-Kevin Chu collaboration
Kung Fu Dunk look like an Oscar winner.
Not far behind is the long-awaited sequel to
The Storm Riders that is literally
all sound and no fury. Apparently, the Pang
brothers were so caught up with their CGI that
they forgot a movie still needs to have a story
to tell. That’s not the only laughably
bad Aaron Kwok movie this year. Coming off a
high from his two Golden Horse Best Actor wins,
Kwok defied logic by starring in the unintentional
comedy hit of the year Murderer.
Yes, its last third must be seen to be believed.
There were also other high-profile movies that
were utterly disappointing. Hollywood’s
remake of the classic musical Fame
turned out to be a slick feature-length MTV
video with little style and no substance, more
likely to be remembered for its infamy than
its fame. Another reboot that also took the
cake was Street Fighter: The Legend
of Chun Li. Packed with cheesy dialogue,
stilted acting and tedious fighting, it left
one wondering whether the filmmakers were just
updating the 1994 Van Damme dud for contemporary
Not forgetting of course Rob Zombie’s
sequel to his own 2007 reboot, Halloween
2 - a movie that was just as disgusting
as its lead character, Michael Myers, with nary
a scare to be had throughout its interminable
length. Another equally bland movie was Aliens
in the Attic, that seemed like it was
made in the '80s and dusted off the shelves
to be released only this year.
Two anthologies also made it to this year’s
list. The Taiwanese pop idol movie L.O.V.E.
had a cast of young-bies and new-bies but with
material so flimsy, there was little the pretty
young things could flaunt onscreen. Singapore’s
most prolific filmmaker, Jack Neo, also proved
that he was fast exhausting his creative juices
as his 'hor-medy' Where Got Ghost?
turned out so incoherent it made a mockery out
of Singapore audiences who actually support
Oh, there was of course a spot for a movie whose
poster wins hands down the tackiest of the year.
Well, at least the poster was an accurate reflection
of the movie- let’s just say it was Beyond
a Reasonable Doubt, one of the worst
movies of the year. In fact, it would have been
the worst- if not for the last-minute addition
(yes, Treasure Hunter, you know who you are).
Assassin –If you are slightly
pickier on how Ninja should be, then this movie
will be filled with insults to the world of
Ninjas. Ninjas behaving like schoolboys taunting
their victim by whispering how he had done wrong
by betraying the sect, Grand Ninja Master getting
sneak attack by a 'Librarian' and the who Ninja
fraternity getting a surprised frag by the gun
throttling SWAT team are just some things that
hard to swallow as a Ninja fan.
Rachel Getting Married - Just
imagine getting stuck in a god damn awful family
outing with a problematic child that seeking
attention to herself and you get this movie.
The unpleasant fly on the wall handheld camera
works definitely made this movie so much harder
The recent classic supernatural slasher reboots
(Friday the 13th and Halloween
2) were a dismay bunch too. They are
basically deprived of any scary scenes (not
even a scare a moment scene as the you can see
the slasher coming from a mile) and generally
filled with characters making silly cliché
mistakes (that are already been pointed out
in the Scream trilogy). The characters are so
disposable that it’s hard to care who
dies or who doesn’t. Friday the 13th at
least gave us a 'stupendous boobs cum sex scene',
Halloween 2 pushed our patience to the limits
when Rob Zombie went overboard with musing on
the gothic music video vision that’s haunting
Michael Myer and his sister.
Over at Asia, these are the few movies that
make one want to bolt out of the theatre as
soon as they are done with what they are set
out to do. Claustrophobia was
so vague on the affair between the leads that
it made viewing this movie an unsatisfying and
unpleasant wait. Kung Fu Chefs
excel with it’s bland presentation on
the blend mixture of culinary and kungfu in
a badly patch up story. Plastic City,
a Pan Asian arty farty film that suffered from
uncomfortable dialogue delivery by the lead
actors and meandering plot tried to be too smart
for it’s own good.
The last 3 movies were products of a childhood
long gone. They were in many ways unfaithful
and unworthy representation of what made them
so memorable back in the past. DragonBall
Evolution wasn’t that bad as
a standalone story but when the original manga
creator gave support and approval to this horrible
rendition to the manga series, it definitely
deserved a mention here. Street Fighter:
The Legend of Chun-Li was just plain
horrible, even as a standalone story. It’s
a testament to how filmmakers have 1) no respect
to the source material or 2) didn’t know
how to bring out the essence of the popular
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
– Simply put it this way, what was wrongly
with the first movie was magnified in this installment.
Most critics who were swept away by the first
wham bam finally wise up to see the hallow shell
of a sorry excuse to make money out of a beloved
toy franchise. It’s loud, it’s pointless,
it’s numbing experience and it made a
lot of money and for that, I feared for the
future of mankind.
And don’t knock this movie off because
of it originated as a child’s plaything.
Just look at what the Batman franchise was like
when filmmakers didn’t take the characters
seriously and take note how amazing it became
when the characters were given loving care and
treatment. If you call yourself a fan of Transformers,
do as least have the foresight to recognize
that the potential of this franchise had been
brutally truncated by this current team of filmmakers.
And the other duds of 2009 are:
Look for a Star (HK), The Pink Panther 2, Inkheart,
My Bloody Valentine 3D, Hotel for Dogs, Obsessed,
Fighting, Aliens in the Attic, Blood Ties (Singapore),
Poker King (HK), Jennifer's Body, Amelia, Raging
Phoenix (Thailand), 2012
disgruntled can a reviewer get at this time
of the year when he is required to wrap up the
bad things he has seen and heard throughout
the year? Very, apparently.
Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai may be eye candy,
but that didn’t salvage the unfunny The
Pink Panther 2 from being one of the
most uncalled-for sequels in movie history.
And don’t you singger, teenage fans of
The Twilight Saga: New Moon,
the snooze-fest which had young girls screaming
in delight every second a pale Robert Pattison
appeared on screen was so mind-numbing, this
reviewer wished there was a remote control in
the cinema which allowed him to fast-forward
to the scene where Dakota Fanning and her astonishing
eye shadow appeared.
Two very B-grade Hollywood productions (disguised
as intelligent thrillers – what audacity!)
The Conspiracy and Beyond
A Reasonable Doubt got this reviewer
quite upset this year too. You know, these are
the types of movies which you walk out remembering
absolutely nothing but the dinner you had before
being conned into the cinema.
Talking about dreariness, Dragonball
Evolution and Street Fighter:
The Legend of Chun Li were two unnecessary
adaptations which did nothing but disappointed
the loyal fan in this reviewer.
And you thought things would be better in Asia?
No, Thailand gave us two bombs: the really un-horrifying
horror flick Coming Soon and
the un-gratifying action flick Fireball
Muay Thai Dunk. Japan gave us the been-there-done-that
April Bride, which had this
reviewer yawning every ten minutes or so. Really,
it was that bad.
Right here in Singapore, what was popular director
Jack Neo thinking when he made Where
Got Ghost? The self-invented genre
'hor-medy' is nothing more than a lame marketing
stunt, and the movie deserves nothing more than
a place in the dumps.
So there, this reviewer’s irritation and
dissatisfaction is justified. 17 hours and 7
minutes. That’s how much time he could
spend talking to friends at a café about
the deeper meanings of life if he hadn’t
watched these 10 bad movies.
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