Monthly Archives: May 2008

Weiqi and Surfing

Back from a 5 day trip to Bali which was very enjoyable. It is such a culturally strong place and I thoroughly enjoyed myself basking in the sun surfing the waves and immersed in Balinese culture which is strongly influenced by Hindu culture.

At the same time I was in Bali, the 29th World Amateur Go Championship (WAGC) is being held in Japan and Zaid Zulklifi is representing Malaysia in this top Go event of the year. Last year Boon Ping went and achieved a very good result and Zaid looks like doing quite good after the first 3 rounds. He is ranked 5 dan and have been playing Go for only the past 5 years. As such his achievement is rather good after picking up the game while studying in London. Read his own account of how he started playing Go here: http://msiago.wordpress.com/

As for myself, I am now in the midst of preparing myself for the Beijing Go event this October and begin to start to study and play more seriously. Have been slacking for the past couple of years or so. Am now working on the Train Like A Pro series and replaying pro games, plus games on KGS (under a new name so no one will recognise me and interrupt my games and/or start to comment on my moves which most of the time I don’t think is valid comment and uncalled for). I hope to achieve 4dan with this new KGS account by this October.

On yet another note on Go, there is a couple of “tests” designed by a Alexander Dinerchtein, a Russian Pro with a ranking of 3danprofessional from Korea. One is a test on an estimate of your Go strength and the other is a test on your Go playing style.

I took the test and here are the results:

On Go Strength: http://play.baduk.org/

*****
Thank you! Your score is 148 from 200.
You are about European 1-dan (you can convert this grade to other ranking-systems by using this table )

Please don’t be disappointed if this mark is lower than your real grade.
We were mainly trying to test your understanding of the game.

Your actual rank depends on your reading skill, your ability to make decisions under time pressure, your state of health and many other factors.

*****

Based on the rough estimate of Go strengths, European 1 dan is more or less equivalent to Japanese 4dan, American Go Association’s 3dan and KGS 2dan. This looks like about right but when we discuss on Go strength, it is always an estimate and like the disclaimer in the test above, it really depends on your reading skills and decision making under pressure.

On Go Playing Style: http://style.baduk.org/

*****

Your style is flexible

Your Go style is flexible: you can play for territory as well as for influence.
Usually you make such decisions according to the whole-board situation or the playing style of your opponent.

You may force him to choose the strategy he hates. For example, if he likes moyos, you can play for influence yourself, just for making him angry.

Your Go style is actually the best one.

You may improve your Go by studying different things, but I suggest paying attention on yose and positional judgment.

*****

Sounds like the test is quite accurate but that i probably because it says my style is actually the best one. But the truth is that the suggestion that I should pay more attention to yose (end game moves) hits right on the point. I have a huge problem wrapping up a won game.

Well, sounds like a lot more to do before hitting 4dan on KGS by this October (i.e. roughly equivalent to European 3dan, Japanese 5-6dan and American 5dan).

Like they said in the book Built To Last, we must aim for BHAG!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel, Weiqi/Go/Baduk

Man of Marble

Man of Marble, 1977

(Czlowiek z marmuru)

dir: Andrzej Wajda

Halfway into this movie, three things come to my mind. First is Citizen Kane. Second is Mao Tse-dong and third is Amir Muhammad. Of course many other things got my mind to work, and movies like this one is great because it sets my mind free. It let’s me ponder on history, philosophy, politics, economics, film techniques, aesthetics, all at once. And by this, I mean real history, real politics, not some imagined settings which are not only biased but totally wrong.

There are not many Polish directors that are well known. One can actually count them with one hand. Roman Polanski is Polish but I don’t consider his movies really Polish, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi. Anymore that one knows, one then can be considered a learned world movie buff (actually there are a couple more names that should be quite familiar to people who digs world movies). These bunch of directors made some really interesting and good movies, including Polanski. Here’s a sample:

Polanski: KNIFE IN THE WATER; THE PIANIST (non-Polish films: ROSEMARY’S BABY; CHINATOWN)

Kieslowski: THE DECALOGUE; Three Colours trilogy; NO END

Wajda: ASHES AND DIAMONDS; A GENERATION; LANDSCAPE AFTER BATTLE; MAN OF MARBLE

Holland: EUROPA, EUROPA; A WOMAN ALONE

Zanussi: YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN; CAMOUFLAGE; POSSESSION

In fact, Wajda’s new film, KATYN, actually made it to the nominee list in the recent Oscars, so one should be quite familiar with him (in fact, I was offered the acquisition of the rights to KATYN and THE DECALOGUE plus a few other Polish movies, so stay tuned to the channel).

MAN OF MARBLE is about a young lady, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), who is making her diploma film and picks a subject that interests her but the “authorities” would rather forget (reminds me of Amir Muhammad). Told in the CITIZEN KANE style, her subject is a person, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), a bricklayer who has been identified by the authorities to be used as propaganda tool to show the people the power of the labourers and the potential growth and prosperity of the nation under Stalinist rule. However, Birkut soon fell into disfavour and is then conveniently forgotten. Agnieszka is interested to know what happened to Birkut and went all out to look for witnesses and the people involved to get a true picture of this once hero. As she went further into the investigation, the authorities put an end to her work and stopped her from using the camera and films. Once steely and determined, we finally see her breaking down in the presence of her father who encouraged her to go locate where Birkut is now. Encouraged, she found his son and got to know what happened to Birkut.

This film is a study on the Polish society under Stalinist rule and how they manipulate and create icons and idols to support their political agenda. We see the same thing happening in Communist China under Mao Tse-dong as well, where a particular common citizen is chosen to be the example to the whole country. Sometimes, whole towns are made model-towns for propaganda purposes. Propaganda songs are sung everywhere (one particular song actually mentioned Malaysia, I think it is talking about Ching Peng’s struggle in Malaya – that gives an idea on what era this film is set). At the end, Wadja showed us how he reconstructed a made icon and found a man whose only objective is to be honest and work for the welfare of the people but is a sad victim of political propaganda and agenda, and then had to live a broken life which he didn’t really recover from.

Wajda is widely acknowledged as to be the forerunner of a new generation of Polish filmmakers after the second world war and shortly after Stalin’s death, made his first movie A GENERATION. The movie is a marked move away from the propagandist films made before and Wajda continued to push the boundaries further and further with his next movies such ASHES AND DIAMONDS. Together with Zanussi, they sort of started a movement called “Cinema of Moral Concern” with the expressed objective of morally examining modern Polish history and and modern Polish life.

MAN OF MARBLE is a truly fascinating film. Watch it if you can and if you are interested in history, politics, movies, you will love this film.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Movies (Highly Recommended)

Polish Films

Talking about Andrzej Wajda, it reminds me of an incident which is very funny and which I still remember to this day. In fact, this is one of the many, many incidences like this which truly brightens up my day. We have this so-called, often self-appointed and self-projected illusion, movie expert in the company and this person needs to be seen as knowing everything about movies, especially in front of the bosses. We were having dinner, with the boss of course, and a movie came up in the conversation when we were talking about movie censorship in Malaysia. The movie is PROMISED LAND and apparently it was banned in Malaysia. When the boss asks which movie is that, the person, who obviously doesn’t know about the movie, struggles and spoke some crap and I came in and ask if it is Andrzej Wajda’s THE PROMISED LAND. This person, in the trademark move, blinks the eyes continuously and said yes yes, it is Andrzej Wajda’s movie (pronouncing Wajda’s name exactly the same way I pronounced which amused me big time).

There are many moments that happened in the course of my work here with this person and whenever I caught that person bullshitting (which is a lot of times and characterised by an incessant blinking of the eyes and/or looking at other people around the table for rescue, and then giggle then change topic) I find myself laughing loud inside and definitely made my day.

So with this, here’s some notes on Wajda’s MAN OF MARBLE, a very remarkable film.

Man of Marble, 1977

(Czlowiek z marmuru)

dir: Andrzej Wajda

Halfway into this movie, three things come to my mind. First is Citizen Kane. Second is Mao Tse-dong and third is Amir Muhammad. Of course many other things got my mind to work, and movies like this one is great because it sets my mind free. It let’s me ponder on history, philosophy, politics, economics, film techniques, aesthetics, all at once. And by this, I mean real history, real politics, not some imagined settings which are not only biased but totally wrong.

There are not many Polish directors that are well known. One can actually count them with one hand. Roman Polanski is Polish but I don’t consider his movies really Polish, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi. Anymore that one knows, one then can be considered a learned world movie buff (actually there are a couple more names that should be quite familiar to people who digs world movies). These bunch of directors made some really interesting and good movies, including Polanski. Here’s a sample:

Polanski: KNIFE IN THE WATER; THE PIANIST (non-Polish films: ROSEMARY’S BABY; CHINATOWN)

Kieslowski: THE DECALOGUE; Three Colours trilogy; NO END

Wajda: ASHES AND DIAMONDS; A GENERATION; LANDSCAPE AFTER BATTLE; MAN OF MARBLE

Holland: EUROPA, EUROPA; A WOMAN ALONE

Zanussi: YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN; CAMOUFLAGE; POSSESSION

In fact, Wajda’s new film, KATYN, actually made it to the nominee list in the recent Oscars, so one should be quite familiar with him (in fact, I was offered the acquisition of the rights to KATYN and THE DECALOGUE plus a few other Polish movies, so stay tuned to the channel).

MAN OF MARBLE is about a young lady, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), who is making her diploma film and picks a subject that interests her but the “authorities” would rather forget (reminds me of Amir Muhammad). Told in the CITIZEN KANE style, her subject is a person, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), a bricklayer who has been identified by the authorities to be used as propaganda tool to show the people the power of the labourers and the potential growth and prosperity of the nation under Stalinist rule. However, Birkut soon fell into disfavour and is then conveniently forgotten. Agnieszka is interested to know what happened to Birkut and went all out to look for witnesses and the people involved to get a true picture of this once hero. As she went further into the investigation, the authorities put an end to her work and stopped her from using the camera and films. Once steely and determined, we finally see her breaking down in the presence of her father who encouraged her to go locate where Birkut is now. Encouraged, she found his son and got to know what happened to Birkut.

This film is a study on the Polish society under Stalinist rule and how they manipulate and create icons and idols to support their political agenda. We see the same thing happening in Communist China under Mao Tse-dong as well, where a particular common citizen is chosen to be the example to the whole country. Sometimes, whole towns are made model-towns for propaganda purposes. Propaganda songs are sung everywhere (one particular song actually mentioned Malaysia, I think it is talking about Chin Peng’s struggle in Malaya – that gives an idea on what era this film is set). At the end, Wadja showed us how he reconstructed a made icon and found a man whose only objective is to be honest and work for the welfare of the people but is a sad victim of political propaganda and agenda, and then had to live a broken life which he didn’t really recover from.

Wajda is widely acknowledged as to be the forerunner of a new generation of Polish filmmakers after the second world war and shortly after Stalin’s death, made his first movie A GENERATION. The movie is a marked move away from the propagandist films made before and Wajda continued to push the boundaries further and further with his next movies such ASHES AND DIAMONDS. Together with Zanussi, they sort of started a movement called “Cinema of Moral Concern” with the expressed objective of morally examining modern Polish history and and modern Polish life.

MAN OF MARBLE, one of the films from the “cinema of moral concern” movement, is a truly fascinating film. Watch it if you can and if you are interested in history, politics, movies, you will love this film.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Movies (Highly Recommended)

Here In My Home – Malaysian Artistes For Unity

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Wl3firJQk
This is a very good message and a very nice song. A Malaysia like this is likely to be a better Malaysia. Why isn't Yusoff Haslam here? That will be a breakthrough ;-)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Recent Film Industry Trends – Indonesia

The Indonesian film industry has seen some dark days, with annual film releases reaching a low of only about 12 movies in 2003. However, since then, the number of productions have increased, from 31 titles in 2004 to 50 and 60 titles in 2005 and 2006 respectively. It has then maintained at around that level in 2007. This industry cycle has been sustained mainly by romantic teen movies, starting from the fire that was started by the movie ADA APA DENGAN CINTA (2002) which broke box office records with a total admission exceeding 2.5 million tickets followed by EIFFEL I’M IN LOVE (2003) with a total admission exceeding 3 million tickets. Since then, teenage romance movies ruled the box office, with more than one third of all movies released in the cinemas belonging to this genre.

However, the year 2007 is a landmark year for the recent Indonesian industry. There are three main events that demarcates this year from the previous years. These are:

1. About 30 Citra Awards (Piala Citra) was returned as a protest for the Best Film award that went to the movie EKSKUL, directed by Nayato Fio Nuala. The Citra Awards is the top movie event of the year and the reason for this protest is that EKSKUL has violated music copyrights by ripping off music from movies such as GLADIATOR, MUNICH and TAEGUKGI. This is a tip of the iceberg situation where the government’s inability to control piracy and regulate the film industry is the key target point. These filmmakers that protested later formed the Masyarakat Film Indonesia (Indonesia Film Society) and its purpose is to demand that the government return the regulatory issues back to the film community, from censorship laws (moving towards the classification system) to the revoking of laws regulating the film industry, UU Film. The MFI is led by a team of progressive filmmakers, being Mira Lesmana, Riri Riza, Nia diNata, et. al. As such, the formation of the MFI is a key milestone in Indonesian filmmaking where the community has spoken and taken on their own hands the key decisions and regulations involving their industry. To date, this is still a battle.

2. The year 2007 saw the end of the dominance of the cinema chain controlled by the Group 21. For many years, the country’s exhibition industry has been dominated by the Group 21 and they have the ultimate say in the film’s theatrical distribution economics. As you will realise, this monopoly is not good for the industry and is also a reason why many key statistics and information such as box office numbers for movies are so hard to get, even by the major distributors themselves. This end of domination is foretold by the establishment of the Blitz cineplexes in Bandung and Jakarta (two locations in Jakarta now). Although this cinema chain is still relatively small, Group 21 has taken quite an offense by it and started taking its own counter measures such as the reduction in ticket prices as well as upgrading cinemas or building new cinemas that is posh and comfortable. Cinema going has definitely changed from mere entertainment to a lifestyle and the Blitz cineplexes saw this and capitalised on this change in lifestyle. They promised more of these cinemas in the future, cinemas that not only is part of the lifestyle of the young (teenagers and first-jobbers) but also cinemas that brings in intelligent and interesting foreign movies for more variety. This is definitely a very interesting development in Indonesia.

3. Teenage romantic movies have dominated Indonesian cinemas for many years now but from 2007, we see an end to this and is replaced by the horror genre. If more than one third of movies produced before 2007 are teenage romance flicks, now more than one third of the movies are horror movies. Horror flicks such as POCONG, KUNTILANAK, have all scored big at the box office and this horror trend do not seem to be seeing a sunset anytime soon although the recent release of AYAT AYAT CINTA, a movie with religious themes, again broke box office records, selling almost 3 million tickets in three weeks.

Besides the above, it is worth mentioning that Indonesia has seen some really good quality movies in recently, such as Garin Nugroho’s OPERA JAWA, Nia diNata’s BERBAGI SUAMI, Riri Riza’s TIGA HARI UNTUK SELAMANYA, Joko Anwar’s KALA, CHANTS OF LOTUS (directed by an ensemble of female directors – Nia diNata, Upi Avianto, Fatimah Rony and Lasja Susatyo) and Dimas Djayadiningrat’s QUICKIE EXPRESS which is written by Joko Anwar.

In 2008, one can expect another wave of interesting movies and these are BABI BUTA YANG INGIN TERBANG by debutant but acclaimed shorts director Edwin. The movie is about the story between two Indonesian Chinese friends who had to deal with the racial tensions in urban Indonesia. Rudy Soedjarwo’s IN THE NAME OF LOVE is also a movie to look out for. Do remember that he is the one that gave us ADA APA DENGAN CINTA. Also on the plate is Riri Riza’s and Mira Lesmana’s LASKAR PELANGI, an adaptation of the hugely popular novel by the same name.

In short, the current Indonesian film industry is uptrend and is vibrant. Expect some really good stuffs coming out of Indonesia.

1 Comment

Filed under Movies

Channel Promotion

I have been avoiding to do this for a long time because in principle I do not like to mix my personal blog with work. But the setting up of the channel website is taking a lifetime for reasons I cannot understand, so maybe once in a while, I can blog about the channel’s programming highlights. There are over 100 movies played on the channel every month, of which about 20% of them are fresh titles and the balance 80% repeat titles. Out of this 20% fresh titles, there is about 4-8 titles every month that is the key highlight and these titles are further programmed in a way that will appeal to a large target market, from the aunties to the young, from urban to rural. So here it is:

A. For those who loves to watch locally made Malay movies:

1. HARU BIRU – a Que Haidar drama action. It didn’t make a lot of money in the box office but this movie deals with the social problems in Malaysia and the spoils of youth in contemporary Malay society. I will consider this a relatively high grade Malay movie compared to some other dumb but more successful movies in the box office.

Premieres 4th May. Repeats: 9, 13, 19, 25,31 May.

2. ZOMBI KAMPUNG PISANG – this is a wonderful movie from director Mamat Khalid. A comedy which is more of a social satire and B-grade movie spoofs, it is a very smart and well made movie with an ensemble cast headed by Awie, who, in my personal opinion, is a more talented comic actor (as seen in BAIK PUNYA CILOK) rather than a macho romantic as in SEMBILU.

Premieres 9pm 18 May. Repeats: 23, 27 May.

I will consider the above two movies the better made of the local Malay movie crop of craps.

B. For those who loves a more “niche” type of movies (which more me means more intellectually stimulating type):

1. SANCTUARY – a movie by Malaysian Ho Yuhang of which I have previously reviewed on my website. Go there to read more. Yuhang is one of the more talented local filmmakers. Although sometimes loud-mouthed, he is smart, intellectually disciplined and has some sense of humour that is lacking in many other filmmakers.

Premieres: 7th May. Repeats: 17, 20, 26 May.

2. HOLIDAY DREAMING – this movies hails from Taiwan, a land where the local film industry has been suffering for a long time from the onslaught of Hollywood movies but is recently seeing a revival.

Premiere: 31 May

C. For those who loves Bollywood movies:

1. GURU – This Mani Ratnam movie stars Aishwarya Rai and hubby and is a sure Bollywood entertainer.

Premiere: 2 May. Repeats: 7, 12, 21, 31 May.

2. ANTHONY KAUN HAI – translates as Who is Anthony, this movie by Sanjay Dutt (Sanju Baba) is an action comedy. Sanjay Dutt is quite a good actor and seeing him in LAGE RAHO MUNA BHAI is really fun, for example. We see his normal fun and charm in ANTHONY KAUN HAI as well.

D. For Hong Kong/Japanese/Korean movie lovers:

1. DOG BITE DOG – Edison Chen (heh heh!!) acting in this action thriller. Sam Lee is good in this movie. But beware, the intense action may upset your stomach.

Premiere: 16 May. Repeats: 21, 26 May.

2. 200 POUNDS BEAUTY – A very entertaining Korean Rom-com. Good movie to watch to unwind after a day of work.

Premiere: 10 May. Repeats: 13, 21, 29 May.

3. THE GREAT YOKAI WAR – by the ever great Takashi Miike, this action-fantasy is a welcome change from Miike’s who is more well known for his violent flicks (although this is not entirely true).

Premiere: 17 May. Repeats: 20, 28 May.

For more comprehensive synopsis, please Google them or search on IMDB.

The above movies will be my pick if you ask me for a handful of movies to look out for in the channel.

Coming up in June, it is also quite exciting. We have:

1. FLOWER IN THE POCKET
2. AFTER THIS OUR EXILE
3. PAN’S LABYRINTH
4. MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER 3
5. BAIK PUNYA CILOK

So look out for this. Am in the process of closing a bunch of very good movies, which I will announce when the deed is done! Very excited!

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Movies

Thai Cinema, Recent Trends & The New Wave Directors

Thailand has in the past few years made its mark as the post production hub in Asia, with post production companies like Kantana, Siam Lab, Cinecolor Lab etc. achieving international standards and at the same time, able to offer these services at a relatively lower cost. Many production companies in this region has their post production work done in Thailand and a lot of laboratory work is done there as well due to quality as well as cost considerations. It also helps that the government requires that all movies that is shown in Thailand need to have their release prints coming out of a Thai lab. With all these factors, many international distribution companies print their release prints in Thailand for theatrical distribution in the region.

However, as far as the Thai film industry is concerned, the picture is not as rosy. Production has gone down to only about 48 titles as year in 2003 and 2004 and dipped further to 37 in 2005 but finally got back up to 45 titles in 2006 and finally to about 50 titles in 2007. Looking back, it is actually a rather sad scenario as the Thai film industry had great promises, producing movies such as NANG NAK, THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI, BANG RAJAN, etc. and the entry of very talented directors which formed what is considered now as the Thai New Wave. Instead, the Thai industry succumbed to pure commercialism and started to produce B grade horror and action movies and the very upbeat feeling begin to fade, and hopes for greater movies from Thailand begin to disappear, despite such efforts by reputable production companies such as Sahamongkol Films, GTH and Five Star who have consistently in the past supported good quality movie making.

However, putting aside the local Thai movies, the general cinema market remains upbeat as with the situation here in Malaysia, with significant increases in the total number of admission, 32.65 million in 2006 compared to aout 27.00 million in 1996, a more than 20% increase and the trend is still going upwards. In terms of number of cinema screens, it is standing at about 670 screens in 2006 compared to a mere 268 screens in 1996. Again, the trend is still going upwards. In short, the total cinema market looks upbeat despite the rather lackluster local industry.

I have mentioned about the positive outlook at around 1997/1998 and the general positive feeling that the Thai film industry is going places. This follows the new blood of directors who are formally in advertising and brought with them new perspective and ideas that fueled the boom. Forefront in this movement is Nonzee Nimbutr, whose movie DANG BAILEY AND THE YOUNG GANGSTERS (1997) and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s FUN BAR KARAOKE reset the industry by not only directing movies of artistic quality that is praised by film critics around the world, they also set box office records. This inspired a new blood of filmmakers and other talents from advertising such as Oxide Pang, Wisit Sasanatieng who made his mark with very colourful movies such as TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER and CITIZEN DOG and Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, the baby of art cinema.

Api’s (as he is known) movies do not really appeal to the general audience, not only because his movies are considered slow but because the Thai cinema goers have become addicted to B grade horror, action and comedy flicks and considered Api’s movies more suitable for arthouse cinemas and film festivals. Api’s first big time success comes in the form of TROPICAL MALADY which became the first Thai movie that went to Cannes and won the Jury award at that. His works continue to make waves at film festivals but at the same time, still under-appreciated by his own compatriots.

Anyways, despite the recent disappointments, the Thai film industry is still far from gone and if you ask me, that industry is definitely still more solid than our Malaysian film industry. In fact, relatively speaking, the Thai film industry is the most solid among the film industries in South East Asia with a healthy domestic film share of about 30% plus minus plus a reasonable export market. The year 2007 also saw big movie projects such as the KING NARESUAN trilogy as well as Nonzee Nimbutr’s QUEEN OF LANGKASUKA which is due for release this year. The other new wave directors have also come out with some great movies, such as Pen-Ek’s PLOY and Api’s SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY. Moving forward still, one of the new Thai directors Aditya Assarat has shown promise by winning the Best Film award at the Pusan Film Festival with his directorial debut WONDERFUL YEARS.

In conclusion, the Thai film industry is still far from dead and by the looks of it, great times can still come from the Thais. However, like many of their Malaysian colleagues, the Thai filmmakers are also struggling with outdated censorship laws (dated back in 1931) despite many protests by directors such as Apichatpong, Wisit and Pen-Ek and if nothing is done to correct this, it will only serve as a barrier to the industry’s growth.

Some Thai movies that I will recommend:

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: TROPICAL MALADY, BLISSFULLY YOURS, SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY

Wisit Sasanatieng: TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER, CITIZEN DOG

Pen-Ek Ratanaruang: FUN BAR KARAOKE, SIXTY9, MONRAK TRANSISTOR, LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

Nonzee Nimbutr: DANG BAILEY AND YOUNG GANGSTER, NANG NAK, BAYTONG

Yongyoot Thongkongthun: IRON LADIES

Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom: THE SHUTTER

Chatreechalerm Yukol: LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI

Thanit Jitnukul: BANG RAJAN

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Price and Pricing

One of the most enjoyable aspect of my job is tweaking the scheduling strategy. The impact on the channel’s performance is direct and scheduling is more of a science backed by in-depth analysis of data. Eventually, a pattern will emerge and the gaps are as glaring as daylight. Another aspect of why this is so fascinating is because the scheduling landscape moves all the time because the competition is not dumb. They react accordingly, whether by accident or by design, and therefore it is necessary to be vigilant on the changing landscape and put in counter strategies. It is really like playing chess and when the numbers show positive results, it is very satisfying, just like winning a good game of weiqi.

As people who knows me knows, I am quite interested in economics and pricing does interest me too. In the course of my work, I have heard detailed analysis on pricing strategies employed, or should be employed and both of these arguments aims at the same aspect of our organisation.

One argument is such that when the ratings of a particular programme is consistently very high, one should raise the price of advertising slots to maximise advertising revenue. For timeslots or programmes that is not popular, the price should be reduced or bundled and sold as a package together with the high ratings programme. This, to many people, is actually common sense but common sense is actually a rare commodity. The real question here is this: what is the maximum price can one put in relation to the ratings numbers? Say, in the standard price list, a 30 seconds spot costs RM4,000 no matter where the spot is placed in the channel. Now, say the 7am slot has a low ratings number of X and the 9pm slot has a high ratings number of Y. Is it possible from here to construct a mathematical equation to shows the path to the optimum pricing for advertising for both these slots?

The other argument has to do with perception instead on real ratings numbers. Now, this is a lot more tricky but I can assure you that it is founded on precise mathematics as well. The key here is really competitive advantage. To what extent can a company differentiate its products based on its competitive advantages from what is available in the market will determine how much extra money they can charge. Differentiation has a lot to do with elasticity, the more differentiated, or perceived to be differentiated, the less elastic will be the price. As Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn said in their book “Competition Demystified”, there is really actually one aspect of Porter’s Five Forces that stands heads and shoulders above the other Forces and that is The Barriers To Entry.

Barriers to Entry, according to the authors, is really determined by three kinds of genuine competitive advantages. These are: Supply advantages, Demand advantages and Economies of Scale. As for my current company, although some people said that it is protected by the Government via licenses etc. looking at its history, it is exactly these three factors that see it win the competition. It has superior product supply – often exclusivity deals, a captive demand customer based on formed habits and stickinessof the programmes and the general economies of scale of its customer base and thus reducing its average cost per customer.

All the above needs further qualifications and needs to be guarded against. For example, in terms of supply, the exclusive content can easily be taken away by a player who has better connections with the supplier and/or and offer a significantly higher price. What is there to stop this from happening? In terms of demand, viewing habits can be changed via a superior product and marketing.

Ok, back to the question of pricing. If the company has differentiated its products effectively via the competitive advantages gained, the company should be able to charge a higher price compared to other players in the market. For example, say there is one channel that has its audience spend 40% of their TV viewing time on and the company decides to now start charging the customers after a period of free viewing. How much can it charge? There is a math in this and the correct number can be computed.

One fascinating way to compute the number is via equations using Game Theory. A simple example, here’s an abstract representation of Bargaining Problems:

[v1(z) + t] + [v2(z) – t] = v1(z) + v2(z),

where v1(z) is player 1’s benefit of z in monetary terms, t is the amount of money to be transfered between players 1 and 2.

The surplus in the bargain is represented by the following:

v1(z) + v2(z) – d1 – d2,

where d1 and d2 is the outcome for both players 1 and 2 if no agreement is made.

The above are the abstract and here is the standard bargaining solution. The standard bargaining solution is a mathematical representation of efficiency and proportional division (based on each player’s bargaining power). Each player is assumed to obtain his default payoff plus his share of the surplus. The mathematical equation is this:

d1 + n1(v* – d1 – d2) = v1(z*) + t,

where n1 is player 1’s relative barganing power, v* is the maximum joint value by determining the value z* that maximises v1(z)+ v2(z)

With the above equation, solve for t to find the optimum amount of money to transfer between the players.

Still with me? hmmmm…..I am not sure if I am still with myself. But if you put some effort and follow the equations carefully, it is really common sense.

Let’s try to put this into the pricing problems that we have and see if we can find the answer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Economics, Game Theory

Kungfu Movies

The Forbidden Kingdom, 2008

dir: Rob Minkoff

To start with, I have extremely low expectations of this movie. In fact, I have waited until yesterday to watch the movie, and I wouldn’t have gone to watch it if not for the complimentary passes. The channel did a joint promotion for this movie, due mainly to our good relationship with both the distributors, one of which is our sister company. But the main reason why I decided to do a tie up is because I know this movie will appeal to our main target audience, especially with Jet Li being so popular with this customer group, and with this tie up, it is a reward to our loyal customers. Indeed, it is true. The majority of the people in the cinema yesterday are Malays. And they really enjoyed it, as far as I can tell from the yells and the “Yes!”.

The funny thing is, I enjoyed it as well and thought quite highly of this movie. Maybe it is because of the low expectations. I find this movie an honest fan-boy tribute to kungfu movies. It is at once quite well made, with good-humoured and like-able characters, charming acting from both Jet Li (as Silent Monk and Monkey King) and Jackie Chan (as Lu Yan and Old Hop), superbly beautiful girls-with-weapons to kill (Li Bing Bing as Ni Chang and Liu Yifei as Golden Sparrow) while Michael Angarano is not bad too as Jason Tripitikas although his overly abundant chest hair can get a bit annoying.

It is quite nice to see familiar characters reappearing on screen – Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master and scene reminiscent although a bit short on the training on the horse stance, the Bride with White Hair (Ni Chang) – Wow! Li Bing Bing is soooo beautiful and charismatic – I wouldn’t mind her playing a sequel or prequel to THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, Cheng Pei Pei’s Golden Swallow – again, Liu Yifei is extremely beautiful too and same-same, I wouldn’t mind having her in a prequel/sequels/remake of COME DRINK WITH ME, the Monkey King etc. Weave all these together based on the story of the Monkey King, we have a well made fantasy-action-comedy movie.

How about the action and the fighting? The action choreography is directed by Yuen Wo Ping afterall. With Jet Li and Jackie Chan promising a duel, the action sequences should be top class, what more, with Peter Pau as the cinematographer ensuring that we see the actions well played out. The final result is that it is nothing much to shout about albeit fun to watch, and the various fighting sequences with the Tiger, Snake, Hawk methods is quite nice and reminds me of my own childhood where I was captivated and mesmerised by these Kungfu Stance and methods I took it on myself to perfect the snake stance, practicing with my dad who is a Chin Woo Martial Arts member.

All in all, this movie reminds me of the good old days where we, as kids, are captivated by kungfu movies. Watching this movie, I think to myself, “indeed it has been a long time”.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies

Malaysian “New Wave”

A lot of people I spoke to talk about the Malaysian New Wave, referring to the works of filmmakers that came out from the “independent” movement, filmmakers such as Amir Muhammad, Tan Chui Mui, Ho Yuhang, James Lee, Liew Seng Tat, Deepak Menon, Yasmin Ahmad and Woo Ming Jin. Indeed, these filmmakers’ works are in stark contrast to the usual commercial Malay language movies, which are targeted to the Malay market. Malaysia is a very unique country where the citizens are prominently segmented by ethnicity, and it is a fact that the majority of the people of different ethnics do not mix well with one another and do not have much idea of the other races’ culture, beliefs, way of life. This is very dangerous as it may lead to misunderstandings and distrusts.

The works of these new wave directors tries to counter this by either providing a different perspective of the lives of the other non-Malay people such as the works of Ho Yuhang (SANCTUARY), Deepak Menon (CHALANGGAI) and Tan Chui Mui (LOVE CONQUERS ALL) or by showing that the different communities can actually live together and respect each other and this is clearly seen in the works of Yasmin Ahmad (SEPET) and a recent addition to the new wave directors, Liew Seng Tat’s debut feature FLOWER IN THE POCKET.

One sometimes wonder if we can really call these directors as a “new wave” because in my opinion, their work is still relatively obscure to the Malaysian public at large, even to those communities that these films targets. Except for Yasmin Ahmad whose movies reaches a wider audience, the works of the other directors are mostly confined to arthouse cinemas and has limited distribution within the country although they are critically acclaimed in overseas film festivals. With such a limited effect on the people of Malaysia, can they, in fact be called a wave or would it be more appropriate to only call it a ripple? Contra this to the other “waves” such as the New Korean Cinema or even the French New Wave in the 1950s and 1960s, these waves affect whole countries and communities and their impact is strongly felt worldwide. It seems like there is still a lot to do so that these new Malaysian wave can really touch the life and thoughts and way of life of the general public at large.

The cool that is with these new directors is the way they work, often with a puny budget and shot on digital, they formed a strong bond with one another and often volunteer their talent to help each other out. With this method, they experimented with new techniques and tackles issues, some of which are deemed sensitive by the authorities and are ultimately banned, such as the famed Banned Trilogy of Amir Muhammad (BIG DURIAN, LELAKI KOMUNIS TERAKHIR, APA KHABAR ORANG KAMPUNG). Also, they have made numerous shorts before making their feature movie and as such, the shorts compilation of these directors is a treasure trove that lets one peek into the mind and heart of these directors.

All said, this remarkable band of filmmakers have almost singlehandedly put Malaysia in the world map of filmmaking and they are also remarkable for having the spirit and will to break out from the crowd, overcome financial and regulatory hurdles and offer the Malaysian public an alternative to the sometimes very mind-dumbing Malay commercial fare (in fact, this is so serious that we find that almost no other races would want to fork out money to go and watch a Malay movie, not because they do not have the money but rather they opined that the quality of Malay movies is decidedly bad and is a waste of time).

Some “New Wave” movies that I can recommend:

Amir Muhammad: LELAKI KOMUNIS TERAKHIR, THE BIG DURIAN

Ho Yuhang: RAIN DOGS, SANCTUARY

James Lee: THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE, BERNAFAS DALAM LUMPUR

Tan Chui Mui: LOVE CONQUERS ALL

Liew Seng Tat: FLOWER IN THE POCKET

Woo Ming Jin: MONDAY MORNING GLORY, THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA

Deepak Kumaran Menon: CHEMMAN CHAALAI, CHALANGGAI

Yasmin Ahmad: RABUN, SEPET, GUBRA, MUKHSIN

7 Comments

Filed under Movies

Bullying Happens Everywhere

Our Prime Minister, Badawi, is really having his plate full. A few top line issues:

1. Terrible show at he recent election – calls for him to resign. Mounting pressure to resign and the signs are not good. The party is fragmenting and the house is collapsing.

2. Following from 1 above, about 30 MPs were said to want to cross over to the opposition. If that happens, the opposition will form the government. Anwar Ibrahim will most likely be the next Prime Minister. However, I don’t think Anwar will act rashly and will only act when everything is in place. If not, there is sure to be chaos and his coup won’t last. But he is surely working on something…. just that the time is not ripe yet.

3. The Lingam case – the report from the Royal Commission of Inquiry is out and it sort of confirms that the allegations are true. The judiciary system in Malaysia is quite messed up. Now the ball is in Abdullah’s hand to clean it up, but how many people’s heads will roll? Whose heads will roll first? I am pretty sure the list of people involved will be quite a roll-call of Malaysian who’s who.

4. Altantuya murder case – this case has been dragging on for a very long time. Raja Petra who wrote the article “Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell” have exposed some top level names and have since been charged with sedition but is now out on bail. The murder is a horrible case and I also really hope that we can get to the bottom of this and really send those murderer(s) to hell, no matter how big name he/she is.

The above is really disgraceful. How could Abdullah overcome these? Passing the baton to Najib is not the solution as Najib has his own set of ghosts to deal with. For sure, the so-called “political tsunami” in Malaysia is far from over.

Closer to my home, we see the bullying of the citizens clearly. The residents of Bandar Mahkota Cheras have been protesting over the erection of a barrier that blocked the access road to the housing estate. The barrier was there for quite some time already but despite many appeals, nothing has been done. When the opposition took over control of the state, the residents, emboldened, started to remove the concrete barriers themselves. The new Menteri Besar of Selangor said that the land belongs to the state and therefore the company, Grand Saga, does not have the rights to put the barriers there.

However, somehow, Grand Saga managed to get the Federal Government involved and then sent the Federal Reserve Unit to spray water and gas at the residents who are just merely protesting their rights. The fact that the company Grand Saga can get the Federal Government and use their powers in this is just amazing. There must be some really powerful people in Grand Saga. Plus, the FRU is supposed to protect the rakyat (citizens) and not to protect greedy corporations. But instead, the rakyat are the ones who is suffering now.

The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. This is the deal: The residents of Bandar Mahkota Cheras are forced to pay an extra RM0.90 sen toll, drive an extra 6km, and get stuck in a traffic jam that can last 30-45 minutes while at the same time, a beautifully paved road can give access to the residents without having to pay toll, save petrol and relieve the residents from having to get caught in the jam. The fact is that the access road has already been beautifully built, it is just that the greedy company just put concrete barriers there to force people to pay the toll, and to calculate the cost, it can be really expensive.

Then we come to a point on whether Grand Saga has a right to put the barrier there, maybe the agreement with the stupid government is that they can just do that. But whatever is written in the agreement, whatever is agreed, it is just simple stupidity and bullying. The government in the interest of the rakyat should revoke whatever clause, if there is one, that permits Grand Saga to extort money from the people.

And whichever ministry or minister that approved the agreement, to hell he goes for ignoring the welfare of the people and instead fattening the pockets of already fat people.

And we thought the bullying that is happening in the office is serious. Pales in comparison. May all those who bullies based on their position and power go to hell.

Read more here:
http://www.malaysia-today.net/2008/
http://www.malaysiakini.com/
http://blog.limkitsiang.com/

Photos from MalaysiaKini

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Thoughts & Commentaries

New Korean Cinema

Although the New Korean Cinema era started some years earlier, its impact, at least in Malaysia, was only felt upon the release of MY SASSY GIRL (2001) and from there on, the wild fire started spreading faster than cancer cells. This revival of Korean cinema is largely a result of two key events in Korean history. Firstly, it is the return to democracy (although still very fragile) in around 1987 after almost three decades under the authoritarian rule of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan and the 1997 financial crisis which forced conglomerates like Samsung and Daewoo to divest their movie business. The situation in South Korea sort of stabilised around the year 2000 where a more solid democracy emerged from the chaos and the movie business fell into the hands of more enterprising companies and venture capitals which started to produce movies that are more in tune to the market and allow ample opportunity for new directors to come up with movies that are more matured, interesting and entertaining, often getting inspiration from the events that happened in Korea’s turbulent past. With the relaxation of new censorship laws, the maturity in the movie-making infrastructure (thanks mainly to the conglomerates), the changes to the Motion Picture Law and measures put in to support the local film industry such as the Screen Quota system and the expansion of modern theatres (more than doubled between 1997 and 2002), the New Cinema wave emerged and triumphed.

By New Cinema, what it really meant was the production of movies that made it big at the box office (for example in 2001, the top five grossing movies in Korea are all Korean movies), exportable and also critically acclaimed. If in 1993 local movies only accounted for about 16% of total box office collections, by 2001, they account for almost 50%.

The movie that started this new wave has been widely credited to be SHIRI (1999). This movie draws from the Korean Cold war between North and South Korea and is an action thriller based on the idea of espionage. This movie captured the hearts of audiences, not only with its theme but also the superb technical achievements that is said to be able to rival the production quality of Hollywood movies. SHIRI is then successfully followed up with ATTACK THE GAS STATION! (1999), PEPPERMINT CANDY (2000), JSA: JOINT SECURITY AREA (2000), FRIEND (2001), MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER (2001), MY SASSY GIRL (2001), one after another, churning out movies that hits box office highs. Not only that, the movies produced during this period are also critically acclaimed, such as MEMENTO MORI (1999), VIRGIN STRIPPED BARE BY HER BACHELORS (2000), TAKE CARE OF MY CAT (2001), FAILAN (2001), OASIS (2002), etc.

Herewith, the 25 Korean Movies to watch that I can recommend:

1. SHIRI (Kang Je-gyu, 1999)

2. JSA: JOINT SECURITY AREA (Park Chan-wook, 2000)

3. OLD BOY (Park Chan-wook, 2003)

4. FRIEND (Kwan Kyung-taek, 2001)

5. MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER (Jo Jin-gyu, 2001)

6. ATTACK THE GAS STATION! (Kim Sang-jin, 1999)

7. CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST (Hur Jin-ho, 1998)

8. FAILAN (Song Hae-seong, 2001)

9. MY SASSY GIRL (Kwak Jae-yong, 2001)

10. PEPPERMINT CANDY (Lee Chang-dong, 2000)

11. TAKE CARE OF MY CAT (Jeong Jae-eun, 2001)

12. MEMORIES OF MURDER (Bong Joon-ho, 2003)

13. POWER OF KANGWON PROVINCE (Hong Sang-soo, 1998)

14. CHUNGYANG (Im Kwon-taek, 2000)

15. BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE (Bong Joon-ho, 2000)

16. THE ISLE (Kim Ki-duk, 2000)

17. SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (Park Chan-wook, 2002)

18. THE HOST (Bong Joon-ho, 2006)

19. TAEGUKGI (Kang Je-gyu, 2004)

20. 2009 LOST MEMORIES (Lee Si-myung, 2002)

21. OASIS (Lee Chang-dong, 2002)

22. THE DAY A PIG FELL INTO THE WELL (Hong Sang-soo, 1996)

23. THE MAGICIAN (Song ll-gon, 2005)

24. THE PRESIDENT’S LAST BANG (Im Sang-soo, 2005)

25. REPATRIATION (Kim Dong-woo, 2003)

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

China’s Sixth Generation

It is indeed quite a long road since the premiere of RED SHORGUM, Zhang Yimou’s masterpiece that won the Golden Bear in Berlin. Zhang Yimou is part of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, whose other members include notable directors such as Tian Zhuang Zhuang and Chen Kaige. The classification of “generations” of Chinese filmmakers is not really clearcut and is based loosely on the generations of students that graduated from the Beijing Film Academy and the relative age of the directors. So as to the title of this post, the members of the 6th generation of Chinese filmmakers are actually independent, underground filmmakers to start with but is termed 6th generation for convenience of reference.

There are many differences between the 5th and the 6th generation. From the historical point of view, the 5th generation filmmakers went through the hellish experience of the cultural revolution while the 6th generation filmmakers are younger and matured during the post-Mao period. Aesthetically, the works of the 5th generation are beautifully crafted while the works of the 6th generation are very independent spirited and often very raw, depicting the changes that China is going through in its quest to be a first world country.

One of the earliest, if not the earliest, 6th generation work is Zhang Yuan’s BEIJING BASTARDS (1993). The movie depicts the world of sex, drugs and the underground and tells the soul-searching of the lead characters amidst the chaos. The movie was officially banned by the Chinese government but acquired a strong following and was critically acclaimed overseas, fueling the already strong independent spirit of the new generation of filmmakers. Zhang Yuan followed up that movie with some still stronger materials such as a documentary on the Tiananmen Square incident (THE SQUARE, 1994) to the exploring of homosexuality in EAST PALACE, WEST PALACE (1997). After a period of getting his movies banned, he proceeded to make something a little bit more subtle and along came SEVENTEEN YEARS (1999). A superbly crafted movie, it is in effect a subtle criticism of the Chinese political system but narrated through the story of a Chinese family. This movie is followed by GREEN TEA (2003) and LITTLE RED FLOWERS (2006) but many critics begin to feel that Zhang Yuan have lost the independent spirit and the underground fire as promised in BEIJING BASTARDS.

Another 6th generation director of note is Wang Xiaoshuai. A Beijing Film Academy graduate, he found himself unable to make a decent living, let alone make a decent movie. Realising this, he started out shooting on his free time with the help of his friends. He made several films but started to get noticed with his film SO CLOSE TO PARADISE (1994), a movie where the struggling characters got themselves involved with the crime world. That was followed up by BEIJING BICYCLE (2001), a Chinese version of de Sica’s BICYCLE THIEF, sort of and after a couple more projects, was followed up by the internationally acclaimed SHANGHAI DREAMS which tells the story and fate of a girl and her family in the 1980s.

Another 6th generation director of note is Jia Zhangke and although he made only a small handful of films, each one of them have received critical international attention. His short Xiao Shan Going Home which he made while still a student at the Beijing Film Academy has already garnered some attention and when his first feature Xiao Wu (1997) was released, he sprang immediately to the forefront of the 6th generation crop of directors. This is followed up by PLATFORM (2000), UNKNOWN PLEASURES (2002), THE WORLD (2004) and STILL LIFE (2006).

After introducing the above three directors, as a conclusion, here is a list of movies that I will recommend if you want to explore more of the 6th generation and beyond Chinese directors:

Li Yang for BLIND MOUNTAIN; BLIND SHAFT.

Zhang Yang for SHOWER; SUNFLOWER; GETTING HOME

Jiang Wen for DEVILS ON THE DOORSTEP; THE SUN ALSO RISES

Jia Zhangke for STILL LIFE; THE WORLD; UNKNOWN PLEASURES; PLATFORM; XIAO WU

Wang Xiaoshuai for SHANGHAI DREAMS; BEIJING BICYCLE; SO CLOSE TO PARADISE

Lou Ye for SUZHOU RIVER; PURPLE BUTTERFLY; SUMMER PALACE

Zhang Yuan for BEIJING BASTARDS; SEVENTEEN YEARS; EAST PALACE, WEST PALACE

Ning Ying for ON THE BEAT; FOR FUN; I LOVE BEIJING

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Attack Station

Attack the Gas Station!, 1999

(Juyuso seubgyuksageun)

dir: Kim Sang-Jin

The Korean New Cinema begins with movies like this one. They are unconventional, edgy and stimulating. Box Office takings soar, film exports increased and artistes get recognition at international festivals. As time goes by, Korean movies became more and more formulaic and thus getting more and more boring and unimaginative. The production quality has improved, no doubts, but the creative quality has gone down a mile.

The year 1999 is an important year for Korean cinema. It is the year where Koreans flock the cinemas and kick started the revival of the Korean movie box office hit phenomena. The movie that led this was SHIRI which eventually beat TITANIC at the box office but that same year also saw the release of TELL ME SOMETHING and ATTACK OF THE GAS STATION! The year also marked the release of critically acclaimed movies such as NOWHERE TO HIDE and MEMENTO MORI.

ATTACK THE GAS STATION! is a black comedy and is set in the course of one night, like Johnnie To’s PTU. It also reminds one of movies like Guy Ritchie’s LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS. Four friends, each with their own dark history, got bored and decided to rob a gas station. They have actually robbed the station the night before but since they are so bored, they decided to do it again. However, the station’s boss is smarter this time and hid the cash.

Seeing that there is not much money in the till, they put the boss and his teenage employees captive and run the station themselves under the direction of their leader (played by Lee Sung-Jae). Clumsy as they are since they do not know how to pump gas, they manage to get some cash out of the station’s customers, and in the course of doing so, also kidnapped customers that annoys them.

The situation becomes more chaotic when local gangs are involved and the four guys, who are all excellent fighters, made captive of these gangsters. By now, you will imagine what it is like in the room where all these people are held captive, the station employees, the arrogant customers and local gangsters, one of whom has a grudge against one of the station employees. It is quite a spectacle to see the shift in power among the captives which is at once comical but is so true to human behaviour.

Then the four guys decided to order Chinese food and got the delivery boy involved in the chaos. The delivery boy felt that he was insulted and gathered his big gang of delivery boys to teach them a lesson. Here, we see the role of the “lower” income group/blue collar workers in affecting the politics of the country, that is if you wish to see this as a metaphor and commentary on the state of the Korean society.

The final scene is a huge ensemble of gangsters, delivery boys as well as cops and the standoff is comical. Of course, the four guys got away and the incident was then forgotten but the movie sticks in my mind. The shooting style and look and feel is edgy, one cannot but see the decay of youth and the rise of the lower income class and all these within a movie that many will consider comedy. Movies like this one makes my heart pump faster and leaves me feeling refreshed. They make me love the movies more. It is very satisfying.

1 Comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Movies (Highly Recommended)

Iron Man

Iron Man, 2008

dir: Jon Favreau

IROM MAN is hugely popular with many people. In fact, last checked, the IMDB registered a 8.4/10 ratings based on 20,305 votes. Some people even equated it with BATMAN BEGINS. Luckily I have yet to read anyone equating it to SPIDERMAN 2. I have high regards for both BATMAN BEGINS and SPIDERMAN 2.

To be honest, this is quite an entertaining Hollywood blockbuster movie to kick start the “summer”. It has all the ingredients, the typical Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell in his seminal book, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”, a thumping soundtrack, superb visual effects, romantic moments, etc. But it is just that, popcorn entertainment.

Popcorn entertainment, however, can be dangerous if some people tries to read too much into the movie and could not differentiate fictional entertainment with the real world. If we use what is happening in the real world as a measure of how real the movie is, the movie is far from real. In the real world, the villain is the USA since they are the ones supplying the weapons to Afghanistan to fight the Russians. They are also the ones that supplied Iraq with weapons to fight Iran. In fact, they pretty much supplied all the problems in the hot spots around the world, just like Brendan Fraser’s character in THE QUIET AMERICAN, or the economic equivalent as described in the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman written by John Perkins.

Ok, let’s steer clear of all the holes in the misleading reality that it tries to portray but what about holes in the story? I just have a couple of plot questions:

1. If the “bad guys” or the terrorists from the Ten Rings can easily buy the Jericho missiles as shown later in the film from the inside-man in Stark Industries, why then supply Tony Stark with all the firepower and equipment etc. to build one, knowing that he is a genius and can basically blow his way out of the hole? They even failed to properly supervise him because to anyone who has some IQ, what Tony Stark is building is obviously not a missile, and we are not talking about people who knows nothing about weapons but terrorists who have stocks of advanced weapons at their disposals. I am therefore not convinced at all and to me it is just a necessary thing to do to facilitate the story flow.

2. Later in the movie, if the inside-man is double dealing and supplying the weapons to the terrorists, why then he later kills all of them? Who then is going to buy the super-suits from him except the USA maybe? So then it defeats the double-dealing, fast money motive. By killing the terrorist, he is in fact killing his customers. Why would one kill their own customers? You think other terrorists around the world will now want to deal with this guy? If he is afraid that the terrorist will be powerful beyond control, he can easily build a devise where he can blow up those suits at will, or something like that.

I may have missed some plot twists but based on what I saw, I am not convinced by the plot.

By the way, Jericho is a town in the West Bank and has a chapter in the Bible, so if people really wants to read this film, go read this up and think what this means. Tell our censors this and they may start to ban the movie. Good luck!

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies