Saturday, January 21, 2012

Movie: Where Got Ghost? 吓到笑 (2009)

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Directed by the famous Singaporean director/producer Jack Neo, this is a movie made to explore the borders that lie between the beliefs in the supernatural world and the effects on the non-believers.
The movie was not intended to make everyone believe that the supernatural exists, but rather to create an awareness that there are certain lines to keep to toe and that respect is to be observed at all times when dealing with the unseen.

This is Jack Neo's first attempt at horror movies, and consists of three short stories depicting the different types of supernatural encounters in our daily lives.

First story: Roadside Got Ghost
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Cai is a swindler, along with his two sidekicks; Fu and Shou and they were depicted to be performing a ritual during a funeral where they were convincing the deceased's family to purchase more paper offerings to appease the wandering spirits among them, which they claimed could bring misfortune to the family. After their successful attempt at the funeral, the three returned to their house where Cai ordered Fu and Shou to get him supper and some oranges. The disgruntled duo set off to buy supper and forgot about the oranges until they were halfway home.
Lazy to make their way back to the shops, they spotted some oranges at the roadside which were actually offerings to the lost spirits.
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They hastily took the oranges, and prayed to the unseen spirits that it was not them who wanted the oranges and that they respected the spirits, but it was their leader, Cai, who insisted on having oranges and that he was not afraid of the spirits.
As they made their way back, they were unaware that they were being followed by an old lady ghost who seemed displeased with them taking her offerings.

Cai tasted the oranges and made snide remarks about how awful it tasted; much to the fury of the old lady ghost. At the same time, they were watching the TV showing the revelation of the latest lottery results and Cai came up with a new scheme to make money.
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They will make phone calls to all the numbers in the telephone directory to offer lucky numbers 0000-9999 from the God of Prosperity; to create all the different possible combinations as out of all the possible numbers, there would definitely be a few who would win the main prizes and even consolation prizes. The condition is for the winners to contribute 20% of their winnings to Cai; claiming it to be part of the donation to the God of Prosperity and threatening bad luck to those who do not do it. Their plan succeeded and soon their business grew.
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It was then that Cai received a phone call from someone who gave him a number and told him to pay commission if he wins. Cai was furious as he deemed the caller as his competitor, but he just tried his luck anyway. To his delight, he struck the lottery's first and second prize in the same draw. Happy with his wins, Cai was more complacent than ever.
A pale looking man approached Cai on the day he collected his winnings, and asked Cai to pay him his commission for his tip. Cai ignored him, and the mysterious looking man told Cai to beware that a car will knock him down. Cai was arrogant and walked to the middle of the street, showing him that no car will knock him. It was then that a car from the elevated highway above fell after overturning and hit Cai.
As he lay there dying and drenched in blood, the driver of the car emerged and it was actually the old lady ghost who warned him never to take her oranges again.
Cai was then surrounded by Fu and Shou and lots of oranges were seen to roll towards him.

2nd Story: Forest Got Ghost
Nan and Lei are two NS army reservists attending their camp training in the forest, and they were told to get to a checkpoint through the jungle. The mischievous duo who are lazy, decided to go against their officer's warning and used a shortcut through the jungle to get to the checkpoint; despite the rumors that the jungle was supposedly haunted. The duo were joking around when they realized they got lost and darkness had started to fall.
It was then that they stumbled a young woman's tomb, and they felt that they were being watched and followed. They were scared when they spotted the long-haired woman ghost dressed in red and ran away, as fast as they could, only to find that they were still unable to get out of the jungle.
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On the next morning, during the rain, Nan and Lei were still trying to find they way out, but to no avail and it was when they bumped into Yin Yin, a plump young lady, selling bottled water in the jungle, and holding an umbrella at the same time. They asked her for directions, and realized that her instructions further confused them. As it was raining, they followed Yin Yin back to her house to seek shelter for the night.
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At her house, due to their peeping tom nature, they were trying to steal a peek at Yin Yin taking a shower, and were scared out of their wits when they saw the ghost in red staring back at them and ran for their lives out of the house into the dark jungle.
As they were still trying to catch their breath, they spotted Yin Yin running after them and she told them not to be afraid as it was her and not the ghost. They were skeptical, but not wanting to be left outside in the jungle either, they followed her home and fell into her trap where they allowed her to tie them to the chairs to learn her magic tricks.
They were then hanging on a tree, while Yin Yin and the woman in red; apparently they were both ghosts, were departing happily as they have found their 'substitutes'.
After a while, the next scene depicted another batch of reservists arriving for their training and two reservists were trying to use the shortcut to reach their checkpoint, like Nan and Lei, and they got lost.
They found themselves stumbling upon Nan and Lei...

3rd Story: House Got Ghost
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This is where we see the three popular characters; played by the director Jack Neo himself, Mark Lee and Henry Thia. The third story is a sequel from the famous Money No Enough 2, where the three brothers; Bao Hui, Bao Qiang, Bao Huang are depicted in their lives after their mother's death. They gathered around their mother's altar and were praying, telling their mother about their misfortunes and how she had not been helping her own sons from the other world.
At the same time, the brothers also heard rumors about the time of their mother's death could have affected their lives in luck and finances; and that their mother's dying at night could lead to bad luck for the descendants.
The three brothers then started to experience weird happenings in their houses; and were convinced that their mother is not resting in peace.
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The younger brothers then pressured Bao Hui; the eldest brother, to bring their mother's remains in the urn to a temple to perform a ritual to appease her spirit and bless her sons. Bao Hui, reluctantly, brought her mother's urn to the temple.
However, he was surprised to find it reappearing in his car shortly after leaving the temple.
Convinced that his mother is not happy with the arrangements, he informed his brother who naturally disbelieved him.

The brothers were traveling from Malaysia for business, and on their way back, the trio were shocked to see their mother's apparition appearing in front of their car; causing Bao Huang to swerve their car immediately and the car almost fell off a cliff. The brothers escaped from the car unharmed, and were astonished to see that a landslide was happening right in front.
It was then that they realized that their mother was trying to save them from the tragedy.

My review/opinion:
As with all Jack Neo movies, each of the story contains a moral value and is set to educate the public; particularly the younger generation on the social, family, general responsibility.
It is an enjoyable, not to mention entertaining watch and I liked how each story depicted the realities of life; another specialty of Jack Neo's movies as well.
A recommended watch; it's not really to scare the daylights out of you, but more towards educating on the attitudes of the people these days.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Movie: The Bling Ring (2011)

Based on a true story, this movie is about the infamous bunch of teenagers who robbed the rich and famous in Hollywood and baffled the authorities and the cops during the one year of their series of robberies.

Also known as "Hollywood Hills Burglars Bunch" or "Hollywood Hills Burglars", this group of young adolescents reportedly broke into the homes of Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox/Brian Austin Green and Lindsay Lohan.
Names of these young delinquents have been changed in the movie due to legal matters.

The Cast:
Austin Butler - Zack Garvey
Yin Chang - Natalie Kim
Tracey Fairaway - Cherry Cox
Alix Elizabeth Gitter - Moon
Tom Irwin - Detective Archie Fishman
Sebastian Sozzi - Detective Jenks
Jennifer Grey - Iris Garvey
Wendy Makkena - Celia Fishman

The movie starts off with the story of Zack Garvey (Austin Butler) who had just been transferred to a new school and his shy personality led to difficulties for him in making friends with his new high school classmates. He met Natalie Kim (Yin Chang), and was determined to keep her impressed by making up a tale about being invited to a party at Paris Hilton's place.
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What started up as a game of lies, turned into a dangerous web of greed and crimes as Zack and Natalie successfully stole clothes and cash from Paris Hilton's house and even managed to capture photos of themselves.
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Naming their activity as "shopping", Natalie and Zack soon embarked on a high-risk yet adventurous night activity of breaking into the houses of the rich and famous on their list of targets and selling their loot to a guy named "Savage".

The motive behind their actions is mainly to fulfill the fashionable tastes of the daring Natalie, who selected her targets based on their clothes and accessories which she has a penchant for and desired to make them her own. Zack would then be the one to track the celebrity's house address and their activities via Facebook and Twitter, to check when they would be out of town; for them to commit their crime.
They managed to make money out of their prized possessions from all their successful attempts, and Natalie decided to share her joy with her girl friends; Cherry, Moon whom she shared the secret with and recruited them into the gang, much to Zack's anxiety.
Zack was starting to worry when they were captured on the surveillance camera's footage in Audrina Patridge's home and she uploaded it into her blog.

When nothing seemed to happen, the gang got complacent and continued to rob houses of the celebrities the girls targeted for their fashion tastes or their desires for the clothings/accessories they spotted on the media.
The gang got bolder as the police did not seem to be able to track them; and continued to rob the homes of the rich and famous.
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Zack then befriended a new girl at a neighboring school; Maddie whom he was portrayed to have a romantic interest in and it was then that Zack wanted to pull out of the gang.
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Natalie was unhappy with his decision and when he refused to join in their 'shopping' at Lindsay Lohan's place, Natalie invited Maddie to join them for a fun night out and brought her to their target's house. Maddie was quite drunk and even threw up in the bathroom and insisted on going home. Zack showed up to take her home, but Maddie was furious that Zack was involved in the illegal activity and that he had betrayed her trust.

Detective Fishman, was a veteran transfer, and was often ridiculed by his fellow colleagues for not being up to date with the Hollywood buzz. However, he was the one who started identifying the trends in the burglaries; from the sweet wrappers to the types of stuffs they took that he finally led his team to believe that the criminals could be teenagers which was the main reason they could not match most of the fingerprints to their database.
His careful investigation, teamed with his intelligence brought him hot on the tracks when he found Zack on Facebook from his video in Youtube and then linked him to his friends.
He followed Zack's status updates in Facebook and even set up a trap by creating a fake Facebook account to lure Zack into believing he was a potential buyer for his celebrity goods.

The detective contacted Zack, and offered to help him if he was willing to cooperate with the police but at the same time, Savage threatened Zack that he would harm his family if he were to go to the police. When Zack did not show up for his appointment with Fishman, the detective was adamant to nail the gang red-handed and tracked them on their Twitter to learn of their next target. They were conned the first time, but they obtained warrants of search and arrest and managed to uncover the loot at Zack's house. Zack worked with them to trap Savage; on the condition that Maddie is to be cleared of the crime.
When they arrived at Natalie's house, she was on her way to the airport to fly to Las Vegas to live with her dad, and she pleaded with the police to offer them information about the gang.

The gang was finally arrested; making them one of the most prolific burglars in history due to their successful one year of robberies in Hollywood.

My review/opinion:
This is a high-profile series of robberies, and the reasons are obvious; as their targets are all the rich and famous in Hollywood. There was so much publicity about their activities and it took the cops some time to be on their tracks.
Newspaper reports that some of the celebrities were even robbed more than once; due to their exquisite fashion tastes and also the easy accessibility into their homes.
This is a rather good adaptation of the actual events; although they have changed the story a little but the the group consists of mostly popularity/attention-starved bunch of teens who just wanted excitement and to be noticed by others in their lives.
However, they used the wrong way to fulfill their needs, and the worse is, they got complacent and even greedy when they thought they are above the law.

A good movie to watch on teenagers; and the influence of media and parents' education have on their behavior. Although most of them came from good homes, but they still got themselves involved in such activity. Was it because of their parents or they were responsible themselves? Also, how could young adults like these be sucked into so much fashion trends and owning luxury items, that they could turn into idolizing these materialism to turn it into crime?

A time to look into the minds of the youngsters these days...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Movie: Dream House (2011)

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The synopsis
A 2011 psychological thriller by director Jim Sheridan, this is a movie about a man, Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) who moved into a new house with his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz) and two lovely daughters, Trish and Dee Dee, claiming that they have found their dream house.
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As the family was happily settling down and adapting to the new environment, they were disturbed by their two girls's claims of spotting a mysterious man watching them from the window. Will calmed his family down by disproving their claims but he and his wife Libby found evidence on the walls of the house's previous owners.
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Upon further investigation, Will found out that the previous family who stayed in the house were brutally murdered; and the victims were a woman named Elizabeth, and her two young daughters, Beatrice and Katherine. The prime suspect in the murder case was Elizabeth's husband and the father of the two girls; Peter Ward who was the only person at home at the time of the murders. However, Peter Ward was released due to the lack of evidence.
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Will became convinced that Peter Ward has returned to haunt the grounds of his former home and worries for his family's safety; especially after stumbling upon a bunch of teenagers in his basement performing a ritual for the dead family.

Will was even more convinced of Peter Ward's presence when the teenagers muttered, "He's back" as they left his compound. Determined to find out the truth and to protect his family, Will tried to get the story from his seemingly friendly neighbor; a divorcee, Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts). When his attempts proved futile, Will continued his research on Peter Ward which then led him to an asylum or a psychiatric hospital where he learnt that Peter Ward was there for five years and that he was a a very dangerous patient who constantly bit on his own tags and even changed his own name to protect his identity.
Will was even shown a video tape of Peter Ward, and when it zoomed into the face, Will realized that he WAS Peter Ward and that Will Atenton was a name he conjured up based on his ID number on the tag: ( W1-1L 8-10-10).
It was an attempt to cope with his grief over his family's death and by coming up with a new identity he led himself to believe that he was not the murderer.
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Will refused to believe the truth and walked away, but he soon realized that his family's death was true and that he had been seeing the ghosts of his wife and daughters who was still lingering around him to find out the truth and to protect him.
Will turned to his neighbor, Ann Patterson, whom he saw visiting him in the video tape, and found out that Ann was actually his wife, Libby's best friend and she believed that Will was not the murderer.

Will was then intent to find out the real murderer of his family. Together with Ann, they found out that the real murderer was a local man named Boyce, who broke into the house and shot Libby and his two daughters. At that time, Libby was trying to shoot Boyce to protect Peter but she dropped the gun which Boyce used to shoot her, leading Peter to be accused of the crime.

At the same time, as Will had finally found out about the truth, he and Ann was suddenly attacked by Jack, Ann's ex-husband who revealed that he was the one who hired Boyce to kill his ex-wife, as an act of revenge due to her divorcing him. However, Boyce broke into the wrong house and killed the wrong family instead. Jack then tried to burn the house down, to kill Ann and to again frame Will of the murder. He also shot Boyce for his mistake in killing the wrong family, and then set the house to fire. Will saved Ann from the fire, while Boyce and Jack fought with each other and ended up killed in the fire.
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Will then reconciled with the ghosts of his wife and daughters, who told him that they forgave him and that he should save himself.
He turned and left, finding the truth and coming to peace with his own self.

A year later, Peter was seen to have published a book named 'Dream House' which tells his whole story and it was a best seller while Peter seemed to have settled in New York.

My Review/Opinion:
I find the plot a little similar to Shutter Island, another psychological thriller I have watched earlier but comparing the two, I must say that Shutter Island fared much better in the complexity of mystery and suspense.
Dream House was rather slow in its pace, and at the same time, it did not create much suspense as its pace already gave us plenty of opportunities to guess the rather predictable plot.

Anyway, if I have not watched Shutter Island beforehand, this movie may be quite entertaining, although I still think that the pace was really quite slow.

My TVB Drama list in 2011

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The list of all the TVB series I have watched last year; of course, again, there's more than that, as I just love TVB dramas.
I think there are still lots of the dramas which I have yet to review, but I will work on that soon ;)

My favorite/Top 5 TVB dramas of the year 2011:
1. Only You
2. Mysteries in Love
3. Every Move You Make
4. Suspects in Love
5. Sisters of Pearl

May I add one more; Links to Temptation as well :)

There will be more reviews coming up and also more TVB Dramas to watch, hopefully ;)

TVB: Cupid Stupid ( 戀愛星求人) (2010)

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Main Cast:
Steven Ma Chun Wai - Chi Yat Po
Tavia Yeung - Twinkle/Kan Ngo Lam
Michael Tse Tin Wah - Jeff Koon Sing Ho
Mandy Cho Man Lei - Anna/ Fong Cheuk Kei

Supporting Cast:
Lau Dan - Chi Kam Kwai
Kingdom Yuen - Josephine/ Chi Kam Kiu
Albert Lo - Kan Wing Chung
Ruco Chan Chin Pang - Frankie/Chung Kin Pong

This is a story about how people of different horoscopes live their lives and how their horoscopes affect their perspectives of life, work, and love.
The focus is on the three main characters whose lives intertwine with each other when they meet through friendship and work.
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Chi Yat Po (Steven Ma) is a simple and honest guy who worked as a fishmonger with his dad and aunt at the market and harbours feelings for his childhood friend, Lam (Tavia Yeung) whom he always helped to bail out of her failing romances/flings.
Their platonic friendship was constantly put to the test as Po tries to confess his feelings for her and yet it never materialize; and as his name means, "One step late"
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The duo met Koon Sing Ho (Michael Tse) who was an aspiring toymaker with a loyal girlfriend, Anna (Mandy Cho). Their relationship was unstable despite Anna's patience towards her temperamental boyfriend.
Both Sing Ho/Jeff and Lam/Twinkle are avid believers of their star signs and the readings on their lives each day and that was how both found common interests with each other and the friendship took on to the next level when Twinkle started working in the same company as Jeff.
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Twinkle then found out about Po's long-hidden feelings for her and starts to face a dilemma between Po and Jeff.
The story also revolves around the other supporting characters; such as Po's estranged aunt, Josephine who despised her ex-husband and at the same time, face pursuit of her fortune teller, Greeny. Jeff's ex-girlfriend, Anna also embarked on a relationship with his rival co-worker, Frankie.

The relationships and romances developed between the characters in the story, mainly focused on their star signs and characteristics. Who did Twinkle chose in the end?
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Po or Jeff?
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It was all in the star signs...

My Review/Opinion:
The star signs/horoscopes form the backbone of the plot of this drama, and moulds the characters.
I find the drama starting on a rather good note; focusing on how certain people choose to believe strongly in their star signs and readings, to the extent that it could affect their decisions in their daily lives. However, as the drama progresses, I was disappointed to see the direction the drama took as some of the characters just got rather out of hand.
At the same time, I just could not help but feel frustrated with all the three main characters who seemed to be rather spineless in their decisions at times.
Po is the timid type but yet I find myself pitying him as he lost Twinkle to Jeff, then at the same time, I felt frustrated because it was not that Po was not good enough for Twinkle but he never dared to take that step to just tell her!
Jeff, on the other hand was a totally different guy who dared to take risks and speak his mind and I guess, that's how he got his girls.
Twinkle was the most frustrating of the lot; she already knew that she had feelings for Po, and she was finding it hard to deal with Jeff, so what is there to think about when it comes to who to choose anymore?

Overall, I find the drama a little slow, but not too bad in its romantic storyline, though, if my warning is, don't root for any character/couple as they are all too indecisive in their romance!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Movies I have watched in the year 2011

A quick review of the movies I have watched in the past year!
Not all of them are the latest movies in the year; as you can see and some of them are from the older releases.
Well, I am not the type who watches movies on the spot, and I tend to read more than I watch sometimes.
Of course, this is not the FULL list as there are still many more movies which I did not squeeze in:p

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How has your year 2011 been, in movies?
I think I may compile another list on dramas/TV series ;)

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012 and to many more good movies to come!:D