Saturday, April 30, 2011

A tholid thtart to the thummer movie theathon

My rating:

Thusly does the summer of 2011 begin! (Um, the summer movie season that is, Malaysia having an equatorial climate and all.) And thusly too does the Marvel comicbook film franchise continue to build its single interconnected universe, comprising every film they've made since the first Iron Man and culminating in next year's The Avengers, that will star Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, and, um, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. (Nothing against the guy, but him being the third actor to take on the role really doesn't help, continuity-wise.) It's an unprecedented and massively ambitious gambit they're attempting, dependent on creating not just one successful film franchise - a difficult enough task - but lots of them, all of whose successes depend on each other. They've only started two so far, one already proven much less successful than the other (that'd be the one with all the recasting), and they are only now starting another two.

And the first one, at least, turned out pretty nicely.

Odin Allfather (Anthony Hopkins) is king of the mythical realm of Asgard, which maintains an uneasy peace with its ancient enemy the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. When they attempt to steal an ancient artifact from Asgard, Odin's son and heir Thor (Chris Hemsworth) obtains passage from Heimdall (Idris Elba), guardian of the portal between worlds, to lead an impetuous retaliatory raid into Jotunheim with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his friends Sif (Jaime Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and Fandral (Joshua Dallas). Thor's arrogance offends Laufey (Colm Feore), the Frost Giants' king, bringing Asgard and Jotunheim to the brink of war - and for this, Odin strips him of his power and banishes him to Earth. There he meets and befriends astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her research team comprising Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy (Kat Dennings) - whilst his mystical hammer Mjolnir lands somewhere else in the New Mexico desert and attracts the attention of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) of SHIELD.

No, I'm not familiar with the Thor of the comics (I've always been more of a DC fanboy myself), but I can't imagine any longtime reader of the title being disappointed with this adaptation. It does everything a comicbook movie franchise starter ought to do: establish the world, get the tonality right, develop the main character, have plenty of eye candy and action, and lastly, make audiences eager for more. And no less importantly, be fun; one of the neat things it does is balance the seriousness with humour, nicely timed. It is, in fact, pretty much the exact same formula of Iron Man and its sequel (with none of the messy story issues of the latter), and if this one feels like it's cast out of the same mould, I count that a strength rather than a weakness. It makes its own success look easy.

Which is not to say that it's a carbon copy of Iron Man, of course. It's got a lot of things it needs to get right to carve its own identity, one of which is its own unique look. Asgard is frikkin' gorgeous, capable of evoking an utterance or two of "fwoar!"; the frequent intercutting between the techno-fantasy Asgard, dark and ruined Jotunheim, and plain old Puente Antiguo, New Mexico establishes the galactic (or is that realm-ic?) scale of the story. It's interesting how the popularity of comicbook superhero movies have really broadened the definition of superheroes; Thor does not fight crime, has no secret identity (except for a shout-out to the one he had in the comics), and does not have easily-defined superpowers. And it's primarily the Marvel heroes and their movies that have spearheaded this.

Think about it: X-Men is superheroes-as-allegory-of-racism. Iron Man is superhero-as-weapon-of-mass-destruction. (Fantastic Four should've been celebrities-as-superheroes, but the movies sucked.) And now Thor is mythological-figure-as-superhero, which the film succeeds at bringing to life. Myths of ancient gods have always resembled family soap operas, and the Norse pantheon is no exception. Thus we get the father-son dynamic between Odin and Thor and Odin and Loki, as well as the brotherly love-hate between Thor and Loki, which all work well courtesy of effective dialogue, good performances - including a surprisingly affecting one from newcomer Tom Hiddleston - and smart direction. Kenneth Branagh directing a Thor movie probably surprised everyone, but it turned out the Shakesperean actor-director was just the right choice for this particular superhero.

And while Hiddleston gave unexpected dimension and pathos to the villainous Loki, it's Chris Hemsworth who's the breakout star here. His was a really tricky role, and Thor - the godling who speaks in fancy-shmancy "thee"s and "thou"s - the trickiest Marvel hero to get right. But Hemsworth is immensely charming and likable, even when he's being an arrogant dick. The movie turns into fish-out-of-water comedy after he gets banished to Earth, and Hemsworth plays it up - but he also takes Thor's lesson in humility and nobility seriously. Just as Iron Man found its heart in Tony Stark regaining his humanity, so does this film hinge on the effectiveness of Thor's character arc. It's fleshed out in broad strokes, but there's enough meat to it to make it work. (And to anyone who thinks Thor learns his lesson a little too quickly: number one, he's a god, that's how they do things, and number two, comics.)

It's a pity that the Thor-Jane romance doesn't work nearly as well. It's the film's biggest weakness; it's limp and inert, there's little chemistry between the two actors, and Natalie Portman phones it in (although, to be fair, so do the writers). In fact, has anyone noticed how high it's stacking its deck in terms of casting? It becomes clear when one sees how underused all these actors are; getting Anthony Hopkins to play Odin is almost unfair, Kat Dennings deserves to be more than generic comic relief, there's Rene Russo in, like, two scenes - but at least Stellan Skarsgard gets to do a rare comedic performance. But having an over-ambitious casting agent (or maybe an over-inflated budget for it) can sometimes pay off, in Hemsworth and Hiddleston - and also Idris Elba, who is impressively badass and cool as Heimdall.

In case you haven't already noticed, this is a pretty dense movie, with a lot of backstory and a detailed world and a massive cast of characters; it's inevitable that some of it will get short shrift. (Sif and the Warriors Three were kind of just there.) But Branagh and his writers distill it all into a comprehensible two hours, and keep the proceedings enjoyable and action-packed to boot. And yes, there's a post-credits scene, and yes, there's a cameo by Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye - but while all these may raise anticipation for next year's Avengers movie, this one doesn't need any of it to make audiences look forward to another Thor instalment. Which is the only real brass ring for a franchise-starting comicbook superhero adaptation, and this movie wins it handily. Yay for the summer blockbusters of 2011! May they all be this good.

Expectations: better than the other one, hopefully

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Filem yang telah menunggu terlalu lama

Penunggu Istana
My rating:

Is it true that local film producers have no say in their films' release dates? That it's entirely in the (entirely arbitrary) hands of FINAS? Jika ini benar, maka nampaknya filem Penunggu Istana telah disenggama, i.e. got screwed. Tagline dia "Realiti Seram Paranormal Pertama Di Malaysia", tapi satu minggu lepas filem ini mula ditayangkan, Seru pulak akan keluar, dan jika dilihat dari trailernya ia juga memakai formula "found footage". (Tolong guna nama ni boleh tak? Calling it "realiti" is just plain false.) So it's "Pertama Di Malaysia" by a week. But never fear, TMBF is here to review them both and make entirely factual and objective judgments on which is the better movie!

Sad to say, right now it doesn't look likely to be this one.

Mus (Mustaqim Mohd Zaki), Amar (Amar Asyraf Zailuddin), Sara (Sara Ali), Fira (Nor Zafirah Abd Rahim) and Yaya (Nadzirah Ahmad Nadzri) are five students conducting a research paper on the paranormal. With the help of Uncle Seekers and his team of (kononnya) professional ghost hunters, they arrive at the supposedly-haunted Istana Billah in Perak and set up cameras thoughout the building. But after the Seekers leave them to their own devices, the five get greedy for more sensational footage, and employ various means to provoke the spirits that reside in Istana Billah - a move that will ultimately lead to tragedy.

Dear Cik Wan Hasliza, you dah tengok Haunted Changi belum? Filem seram buatan Singapura yang juga bergenre "found footage"? I rasa kalau you tengok, pasti you bengang sampai nak cabut rambut sendiri. Because Haunted Changi came out 4 months ago - probably while your completed movie was sitting on FINAS' shelves - and made Penunggu Istana look like a ripoff. I ingat you dari Janin and Hooperz, and I readily named you one of the best local screenwriters working today - so I tersangat bersimpati untuk you. Basic plot you pretty much sama dengan dia, dan ending pun similar. I think what's - or what should be - especially galling to you is that (even though I didn't even like the movie) Haunted Changi is a pretty comprehensive primer on how your movie could've been better.

See, I've always thought that your strength is in writing dialogue. And it's evident here, although I don't know if you gave the cast an actual script or just let them improv. (I'd guess the former; I tak yakin ada mana-mana pelakon tempatan yang pandai improv.) Itu saja kelebihan filem ini dari Haunted Changi, yakni lima pelajar yang nak buat paper ni lebih believable dari kru filem dokumentari yang tak reti macane nak bikin sebuah dokumentari. Interaksi diantara barisan pelakon juga nampak cukup natural, dan kita boleh terima ilusi bahawa mereka ni orang benar dan semua ini benar-benar berlaku. (But I gotta say, this Uncle Seekers fella comes across as a bit of a dick.)

Tapi dimana plot-nya? Dimana substance-nya? Cerita ni macam tak tentu hala, tak cukup berisi dan akhirnya tidak memuaskan. Lama kita tunggu sebelum apa-apa yang menyeramkan berlaku - and when it finally does happen, it happens without setup or warning. At one point, seorang dari lima tu tiba-tiba menghilang, and it's never explained. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to what these characters do; waktu malam takut giler, siang hari teruja sebab dapat tangkap gambar hantu dan ingin nak balik kesana malam nanti. You tak pernah terfikir ke nak reka sebuah sejarah gelap bagi this Istana Billah? (It is a fictional place, after all.) Sepertimana Haunted Changi takes place in a former Japanese army base? Bolehlah jadi bahan untuk cerita ini - instead of just a bunch of kids running around in the dark, tetiba jumpa hantu, mati, tamat.

To be honest, I can't find it in me to be too harsh on this movie. I hesitate to say I liked these characters - although Sara Ali is kiut giler - but as I said, I found them believable as a bunch of (naive and clueless) college students, so I never found them annoying. And again, the whole cast did a generally good job; bukan senang nak berlakon secara natural, tambahan pulak in the long takes common to this type of film. Tapi I kecewa sekali lagi dengan Wan Hasliza, whom I thought juga mahir dalam membina perwatakan; mana personaliti diorang ni? Ada suatu babak awal dimana mereka berdebat antara satu sama lain, dan saya sangka disinilah characterization mereka di-establish-kan: Fira yang alim, Yaya yang logikal dan rasional, Sara yang tomboy, Mus dan Amar yang reckless dan foolhardy (maklumlah, lelaki). Tapi akhirnya, none of this has any bearing on the story. Again, Haunted Changi was better at this.

Therefore I cannot in good conscience give this a higher rating than I did for Haunted Changi. I want to, honestly, and that just points to how biased I am in favour of filem tempatan. It's partly because I like "found footage" movies; there's something about a first-person camera stumbling about a dark room that's just inherently scary. It may also partly be because of Sara Ali (by the way, syabas atas keberanian anda melakonkan satu adegan dengan hingus jelas kelihatan meleleh dari hidung). But ultimately, it is in too many ways a poorer film than Haunted Changi, even if that isn't really its fault. If only it had come out first.

Expectations: pretty ekthited!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Twilight versi Melayu yang sama kelebihkurangannya

My rating:

Okey, bagi mereka yang belum tahu, Senjakala adalah judul bagi siri novel Twilight karya Stephenie Meyer yang diterjemahkan ke bahasa Melayu. Siri ini memang fofular giler dikalangan pembaca Melayu, khususnya perempuan remaja, dan sepertimana saya katakan dalam ulasan filem Eclipse, saya yakin fenomena ini mengatakan sesuatu tentang psikologi kaum Melayu kini. (Pendek kata: fantasi pengakuran kepada lelaki seperti Twilight ini hanya popular dalam masyarakat dimana kaum wanita masih dikongkong kaum lelaki. Bincangkan!) Walaubagaimanapun, bila keluar berita filem terbaru Ahmad Idham berjudul Senjakala, maka ramailah yang menuduh filem ini meng-ripoff-kan Twilight. Namun kenalah tonton dulu baru tahu, kan?

Tuduhan ini ada benarnya - tetapi ia gagal menyalin ciri paling penting yang membuat Twilight berjaya.

Selepas kematian tunangnya, Karlisa (Liyana Jasmay) sering bermimpi tentang kampung halaman ibunya (Aida Aris), Kampung Senja Lama, yang belum pernah dia pulang sejak kecil lagi. Walaupun ibunya melarang, Karlisa tetap ingin pulang ke kampung itu bersama kawannya Bella (Faezah Elai). Disana, mereka berjumpa dengan Opah Maimun (Ruminah Sidek) - walaupun Karlisa telah diberitahu oleh ibunya bahawa opahnya telah meninggal. Tetapi bukan itu sahaja misteri yang perlu diungkap; penduduk-penduduk kampung menghindari malah mengancam mereka, dan Opah Maimun juga sering berkelakuan aneh. Ada juga seorang pemuda bernama Armand (Zahiril Adzim), yang menolong dan menyelamatkan Karlisa tetapi segan untuk mendekatinya - dan Karlisa mula jatuh hati dengannya.

Satu kelebihan filem ini yang perlu saya puji ialah jalan ceritanya, yang perlahan-lahan mendedahkan misteri disebalik keturunan Karlisa serta peristiwa lama yang telah dirahsiakan darinya. Saya tak pernah rasa bosan atau jengkel dengan cerita ini, malah saya teringin hendak tahu bagaimana kesudahannya - walaupun keseluruhan ceritanya sudah di-spoiler-kan oleh sinopsis yang ditayangkan di mana-mana sumber media. Dengan tegas saya nasihatkan supaya jangan baca sinopsis itu. Kekuatan filem ini ialah pada elemen misterinya yang tak patut anda rosakkan sebelum menontonnya. Ini filem pertama saya yang ditulis oleh Meor Shariman Meor Shafie, dan saya pasti akan mengambil perhatian namanya nanti.

Tetapi kelemahan yang paling lemah ialah pada kisah cintanya yang langsung tidak menjadi. Saya suka Zahiril Adzim, semenjak kemunculannya dalam filem Gadoh dua tahun lalu. Tapi kali ini, lakonannya tak ngam sama sekali. Armand ni creepy gilebabi; langsung tiada pesona dan ketampanan watak hero romantik, dan langsung tak macam Edward Cullen. (Ya, ia ada tiru Twilight sikit; Armand menyelamatkan Karlisa dari dihempap kereta, dan juga ada men-stalk-kannya, tapi mujurlah tak sampai curi masuk biliknya waktu malam tengok dia tidur.) Pendekatan Zahiril buat watak ini memang tak betul, tapi salah juga terletak dalam skrip yang tidak mengembangkan kisah cinta Armand dan Karlisa. Dimana saat mereka mula jatuh cinta? Dimana babak romantisnya? Cuma ada adegan musical montage dimana kedua-duanya berjalan-jalan, tak banyak bercakap, senyum pun tak senyum; kalau ini first date diorang, ini first date yang amat kekok dan janggal.

Sebenarnya pujian saya untuk skrip Meor Shariman ada syaratnya; bukan hanya unsur cinta yang tidak berkesan, malah plotnya juga berlubang-lubang. Apabila misterinya terurai, masih tinggal soalan-soalan yang tidak dijawab. Apakah punca permusuhan antara Opah Maimun dengan Armand? Mengapa Opah Maimun merasuk Bella untuk tujuan menggoda Armand - ataupun adakah Maimun yang merasuknya? Kalau Armand benar-benar cinta Karlisa, mengapa cepatnya dia setuju melakukan sesuatu (yang tak boleh saya cakap kerana spoiler) yang membahayakan Karlisa? Lubang yang terbesar ialah ketika penamatnya, jadi sini ada SPOILER ALERT, sila jangan highlight kalau belum tonton: senang je nak buang saka ni? Panggil ustaz baca doa je? Abih kenapa tak buang awal-awal, masa Opah Maimun nazak? (Ini satu masalah dengan cerita seram tempatan yang pernah saya sebut: jika segala hantu dan puaka dan syaitan boleh ditewaskan dengan Kehebatan Islam Yang Hebat, mana seramnya?)

Walaubagaimanapun, seperti yang saya katakan, saya cukup tertarik dengan jalan ceritanya - itupun sebelum lubang-lubang plot muncul lah. Ini juga kerana lakonan Liyana Jasmay yang mampu menarik kita untuk mengikuti perjalanannya. Tidak boleh dinafikan lagi beliau adalah pelakon wanita tempatan yang paling unggul; tak pernah saya tengok filem dimana lakonannya tidak menjadi (walaupun filem itu teruk). Serius saya memujinya bukan hanya kerana dia lawa dan saya lelaki yang heteroseks; Liyana betul-betul ada bibir montel dan mekar lagi mengghairahkan bakat. Lihat saja wataknya dalam filem seram arahan Ahmad Idham yang sebelumnya, lain sekali dari watak Karlisa disini. Dan speaking of Ahmad Idham, Pengarah Feveret TMBF (Sebenarnya Bukan) - tak ada apa-apa nak dikatakan pasal pengarahannya. Tiada pembaharuan atau pembaikan dari filem-filemnya yang dulu. Malah saya sedia mengatakan dia yang memberi arahan salah kepada Zahiril.

Saya akui, mungkin saya yang kurang faham dengan amalan saka, membuat saya kurang faham plot filem ini. Kalau ya pun, ia sepatutnya menerangkan ceritanya dengan lebih baik lagi. (Bagilah tolak ansur sikit untuk penonton bukan Melayu!) Sebenarnya, semasa saya menonton filem ini saya asyik terfikir, cerita ini hampir boleh dikatakan ada unsur-unsur Lovecraftian. Korang kenal tak H.P. Lovecraft? Pengarang cerita-cerita seram klasik yang amat berpengaruh dan mempunyai ramai peminat - termasuk saya. Wahai pembikin-pembikin filem tempatan, korang patut kaji selidik mamat ni. Karya dia sedap giler! Banyak idea-idea segar yang korang boleh adapt-kan untuk filem seram tempatan wei! Cuba try! (Okey, cukuplah saya ber-fanboy buat seketika.) Akhir kata, ini sebuah filem dimana kelebihan dan kekurangannya lebih kurang sama - maka samalah rating yang saya bagi kepada filem Twilight yang pertama. Hampir tapi tak sampai baik, tapi taklah teruk juga.

NEXT REVIEW: dunno yet, stay tuned

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mo brains mo problems

My rating:

Okay, let's get one thing straight: the thing about humans using only 20% of their brain's potential is a myth. (The fact that you may have heard it as 10% should be your first clue.) Different parts of your brain are used for different things: basic bodily functions, motor functions, sensory inputs, math calculations, creative thinking, fantasizing about a naked Summer Glau in your bed, etc. And whenever you perform these actions or think these thoughts, that part of your brain will be utilized. We only use 10-20% of our brains at any one time, which is as it should be. If an abnormal amount of neurons in your brain - say, 100% - are firing, well, there's a name for that: an epileptic fit. So yes, it's a myth that has been thoroughly debunked, and anyone who mentions it as a bald-faced fact is just being stupid.

This movie, however, is very enjoyably not stupid.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a mess. He's a writer who hasn't written a word of his novel, he lives in a crappy New York apartment and is behind on his rent, he spends his days and nights drinking and procrastinating, and his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) has just dumped him. Then one day he runs into his ex-brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who gives him an experimental drug called NZT-48. One pill boosts his brain power to such an extent that he finishes his book in 4 days, makes a fortune off the stock market, wins back Lindy, and attracts the attention of the wealthy and powerful Carl Van Loon (Robert DeNiro). But as smart as NZT makes him, Eddie soon finds that his new, upgraded life comes with a price. The Russian thug (Andrew Howard) from whom he borrowed money wants his cut. Van Loon is not a man to be trifled with. And the drug's provenance is shady, and may have potentially deadly side effects.

Oh my, what a seductive premise. I'm not the only one, am I? The notion that a pill can unlock your boundless potential, give you instant recall of everything you've ever seen or heard, make it trivially easy to make millions, allow you to charm the pants off anyone you talk to - literally! - hits me right in my Fatal Flaw, and I’m sure it would in lots of other people too. What makes its depiction of drug-induced super-intelligence so beguiling is that it’s not like some magic genie’s wish-granting powers; once Eddie becomes super-smart, we see exactly how super-smart he is. We see step by methodical step how he turns his life around, and although it takes place within a dizzying amount of time, it all seems thrillingly plausible. What also makes it seem plausible is that NZT makes you smart, but does not make you infallible. In Dungeons & Dragons terms, Intelligence is not the same as Wisdom.

See, both James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert think this movie isn’t as smart as it depicts people on the drug to be. And having read their reviews before watching it, I thought I was seeing proof of this when Eddie – who is definitely on the drug at the time – borrows money from the Russian thug to fund his stock trading. (And forgets to pay it back even after he makes his millions!) I thought this was a very jarringly stupid thing to do, and was all ready to shout “Hah! Movie about smart people is dumb!” But after a bit of thought, I realized it’s not – it’s a very unwise thing to do, because again, INT and WIS are different things. NZT boosts your intelligence but does not change your basic personality, and the proof of this when we see other people besides Eddie on the drug. One of whom is Lindy – and what does super-intelligence lead her to do? Break up with Eddie, knowing his dependence on NZT will only lead to trouble. Because Lindy is a prudent and sensible person, whereas Eddie is most decidedly not.

Yes, the movie is smart, smarter than Berardinelli and Ebert gave it credit for. Most synopses and reviews you’ll find will lead you to think that the drug’s side effects – which include blackouts, memory loss, withdrawal symptoms and possibly death – are the main conflict that Eddie has to face. But while they are scary and dangerous, Eddie figures out how to mitigate them right quick – and then he gets plenty of other problems thrown at him. The plot is really quite dense, and there’s an almost episodic feel to the storyline that keeps the proceedings nicely unpredictable. At one point, Van Loon mentions "the classic smart person's mistake of assuming there's no one smarter than you", and unfortunately for Eddie, he makes it quite a few times. But again, Eddie is not infallible, even when he's super-smart. Nor are the other people we see who take NZT, and among the most fun parts of the movie is when all these super-smart people engage in deliciously enjoyable battles of wits.

The film largely belongs to Bradley Cooper, who is perfectly cast for the role (and he apparently knows it too, because he's also an executive producer). Abbie Cornish is sweet and completely different from the last role I saw her in, and Robert DeNiro is nicely menacing as the one man who, with no artificial enhancement whatsoever, is probably just as smart as super-smart Eddie. But Cooper is front and center here; he somehow manages to make a cocky, strutting yuppie sympathetic. Oh, and I really ought to mention director Neil Burger's visual flourishes. By no means is this a dry and dusty movie about people talking using a lot of big words (although they do sometimes talk very fast); Burger utilises quite a few flashy camera tricks to visualise what it's like to have a hyper-active mind, chief of which is the spectacularly dizzying "deep zoom" effect.

The one misstep the film takes is in its ending. See, it's first and foremost a wish-fulfillment fantasy, and boy is it ever effective as just that. It does, however, lead you at times to think it's also a cautionary tale about drug addiction and unfettered self-interest, and its ending abandons any sense of consequence as quickly as Eddie gets over the side-effects. So if you're gonna enjoy the fantasy, give a thought to the moral issues under it - because again, it is an extremely seductive fantasy, at least for me. Y'see, in that scene where Lindy breaks up with Eddie, she says it's because if he is dependent on a mind-altering drug, he has essentially become a different person - no longer the Eddie she loves. This is prudent and sensible, except that the movie's depiction of NZT is not that at all. It doesn't make you a different person, it makes you the best you you can be. That seduces me more than Helen of Troy offering me a coupon redeemable for 1 Free Awesome Sexytimes.

NEXT REVIEW: Senjakala
Expectations: lagi-lagi Ahmad Idham

Friday, April 15, 2011

Forbidden (to make a movie that looks like horror but isn't scary)

Dilarang Masuk
My rating:

Our local filmmakers clearly have a problem with fresh and original ideas - namely, no one has any. Which isn't unique to Malaysia actually; Hollywood plays the bandwagon-jumping game aaaall the tiiiime, as does any reasonably-sized entertainment industry. The thing is, most countries' film industries are much bigger than ours, so they usually have several bandwagons to jump on. But here, there are only two: horror movies and horror-comedy movies. (Which isn't exactly two, more like one and a variant.) And whether serious-scary or funny-scary, they'll always have the same old same old: the long-haired jembalang with bad skin, the evil black magic practitioner, the wise old imam who busts ghosts with the Power of Islam, and the lesson for all good Muslims that this amalan syirik stuff is totally not cool. (But watching movies about it is. Keep watching!)

So along comes Dilarang Masuk, a movie that tries to be fresh and original - and unfortunately, turns out mediocre.

Fatia (Shiqin Kamal), Ronnie (Azma Aizal Yusoof), Juli (Isma Hanum Hussein) and Bad (Muniff Isa) are four friends who get lost on a hike, and find an old abandoned house in which they take shelter. But inside, they find some very foreboding things: a pair of long-dead bodies, a very large stash of money, and a still-loaded gun. It soon becomes clear that something very bad has taken place in this house, and its echoes are returning to haunt the four, whose friendships hide simmering tensions of their own.

Well, that's a very short synopsis. That's 'cos it's a very simple premise. And really, that's one of the good things about it; four characters, one spooky location, lots of interpersonal tension, throw it all in a pot and let it stew. It's also a much more universal horror story, involving the ghosts of those who have suffered and were wronged, and those wrongs coming home to roost. I say universal, because there's not a hint of Malay traditional black magic about it - no bomohs or pendatangs or sakas here. And I also say this is a good thing, because ghost stories of this sort are fundamentally moral stories; sinners pay the price for their sins, and victims find peace when justice is done. Your typical Malay horror movie, for all the lip service it pays to "ajaran agama", rarely has anything moral about it.

Unfortunately, it's not scary. I don't know what writer-director Jeffrey Chiang was thinking, because he made a movie with a spooky abandoned house and two gory dead bodies and it's not scary. It's not because he's a bad director, because he isn't; he knows how to shoot that house to maximum atmospheric effect, and his production designer knows how to dress the place up too. It's that there just aren't enough scary scenes in his script. There's plenty of exploring-the-spooky-house-in-the-dark scenes, but they rarely ever build up to anything horrifying. I'm not a big fan of jump-scares - heck, I'm very much a non-fan of jump-scares - but a few of them were exactly what this movie needed. Yet it seemed like Chiang very deliberately chose not to go to that well. The film is not scary by design.

Dude, that's totally gonna kill your box-office chances. The Malay viewers I watched this movie with were all restless and hooting with derision at every other scene. And honestly, if this were a genuinely good movie, I'd defend it to the ends of the earth - I do that, you know. But there's no excuse for making a dull movie - not even if you've got an Important Issue to talk about and a Message that you want People To Hear. I won't reveal what they are since it's a bit of a spoiler, but it is heavy-handed and po-faced and cheesy as hell. I appreciate that you have noble intentions, but... what was that philosophical discussion between Fatia and [mystery character played by Esma Daniel] all about? None of that dialogue meant anything. It was just a boring scene, and the audience's reaction? Hoots. Of derision.

Y'know what else they were hoots-of-derision-ing about? The characters. They start out as nothing more than stereotypes: The Jock (Ronnie is Fatiah's boyfriend, and an asshole), The Bimbo (Juli is Fatiah's BFF, but she's having an affair with Ronnie), The Nerd (Bad is in love with Fatiah) and The Good Girl (Fatiah is... a nice person). The fact that their characterizations are so shallow makes them all downright annoying; Fatiah is a moron for dating a jerk like Ronnie, Bad is creepy and pathetic in his affections for Fatiah, and Ronnie and Juli can barely keep their pants on long enough to hide it from Fatiah. Worst of all is that they engage in that most reviled of horror clich├ęs: going off alone in the dark. Derision-filled hoots! Even Malaysians know this is stupid!

The sad part is that later on, some of these characters developed in unexpected ways. Because of that stash of ill-gotten cash, which of course presents a moral challenge to these four knuckleheads. This is neat, it's definitely something that Malay movies don't do enough of, and it's too bad the derisively-hooting audience didn't appreciate it - but really, it was too little too late. Even if the cast was generally up to the task; seriously, Azma Yusoof, Isma Hanum and Muniff Isa were all decent-to-good, and if they were annoying it was because of the way their characters were written. Except for Shiqin Kamal. Not that Fatiah is written any better (protip: having a character that doesn't do anything bad does not automatically make him/her admirable. Or even interesting), but Shiqin is decidedly not up to the task. She was a charisma-free block of wood in Lagenda Budak Setan, and she's no better here.

So that's this movie in a nutshell. It does a few things right: it has solid production values (including original music, hallelujah!), it makes a decent attempt at character-based drama, it has a functioning moral compass, it genuinely has something to say, and its story is downright innovative for a Malay horror film. But it gets one fundamental thing wrong, which is failing to give its audience what it promises. So I reckon 2-½ stars is right, although I seriously considered giving it just two. See, I don't want to be too harsh on Chiang and his crew, most of whom I'm guessing are fresh names in the local film industry (at least, I've never heard of them before). I'm guessing local audiences - who'd probably like it better if it had a long-haired jembalang with bad skin - are being harsh enough on them already.

NEXT REVIEW: Limitless
Expectations: well, the premise looks good...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In the shadow of the Moon

Source Code
My rating:

Duncan Jones is the man, in more ways than one. There's been any number of hot young directors who made big debuts with highly acclaimed, quirky indie genre films, only to have that initial splash fizzle out. Jones' Moon came out only in 2009, but since then he's been in talks to helm big-budget franchise entries like the Superman reboot and the Wolverine sequel, which means he's riding on a pretty big wave right now. Good for him; I really liked Moon. Then again, what really separates the genuine talents from the flashes-in-the-pan is usually the second film.

And Jones' is pretty good too - but not as good as his first.

Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up one morning on a commuter train bound for Chicago, disoriented and confused. A fellow passenger named Christina (Michelle Monaghan) calls him Sean, but his last memory is of flying helicopter missions in Afghanistan. Before he can figure out what's happening, the train explodes - and he wakes up in a capsule, speaking to a Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) on a video screen. He is in fact part of a mission to prevent an imminent terrorist bombing of Chicago by living out the last 8 minutes of the life of Sean Fentress, a passenger on board the train whose bombing is the precursor to a larger and deadlier attack. Goodwin and her superior, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), send Stevens back into the "source code", reliving the same 8 minutes over and over again, to try and discover the bomber's identity. But even as he starts to fall for Christina - knowing that she and everyone else on the train is already dead, and there's no way to save her - he begins to suspect that Goodwin and Rutledge aren't telling him everything they know.

I was quite pleased to see people talking animatedly about the movie as we left the cinema. The last time this happened was with Inception, and this film is a similarly smart, complex and mind-bending sci-fi thriller. Describing it as Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap meets Deja Vu is right, and that's not pejorative; Ben Ripley's screenplay may have mixed and matched elements from all these, but the resulting concoction is pretty unique. So no carping about it being a ripoff! (Okay, I do a fair bit of "it's a ripoff!" accusation-throwing myself. But there's a difference between similar premises than can develop in wholly different directions, and similar plots that can only go through the same motions.)

There are two mysteries at work in this movie: one being who the bomber is, and the other being what's really going on with this super-secret military "quantum parabolic calculus" project. And for the most part, both are handled in exactly the way a good mystery should be - by keeping the audience curious, and slowly doling out answers to their questions whilst occasionally blindsiding them with a red herring or two. Since we return several times to the same 8-minute stretch on board the train, minor incidents take on greater significance, and it's fun to watch Stevens interrogate suspects with what he knows (or thinks he knows) about them from previous go-arounds.

I said "for the most part", because I do wish it was better in many ways. The plot isn't as tightly-scripted as you'd expect, and certain parts are left unexplained - for instance, the bit where Stevens' capsule appears damaged - and the impression you're left with is that they were simply arbitrary. A film like this leads you to think that everything is significant in some way, and while Ripley's script is clever, it's not quite as clever as it appears. For a thriller, it's somewhat lacking in good-old-fashioned nail-biting suspense; Jones' direction is smart and assured, but it isn't too far of a departure from the antiseptic tone of Moon. And then there's its ending, which several critics and viewers have decried. I didn't really mind it, but it was yet another instance of it trying to be cleverer than it was.

But a lot of its success had to do with its acting. Jake Gyllenhaal was perfectly competent, which sounds like damning with faint praise - but really, his role is pretty much to react to what's going on, and he succeeds in putting us in his bewildered shoes and getting us to root for him. Jeffrey Wright is doing something odd with his Dr. Rutledge that I can't really describe; all I can say is that its affectedness is a tad distracting. It's the women who do the heavy lifting here. Vera Farmiga's coolly professional Goodwin, whose humanity slowly thaws her icy demeanour, is a large part of what makes the "what's the Source Code really about" mystery work. And Michelle Monaghan is just adorable, which is crucial to giving a heart and soul to an otherwise cold sci-fi thriller. It's criminal that she isn't getting bigger roles.

I have to admit I was expecting more out of it than I got. I really like Duncan Jones, I hope he never stops getting showered with offers - but I also hope this movie isn't a sign that he's less comfortable with big-budget, fast-paced storytelling than he is with meditative, almost-arty films like Moon. And I have to say, what I like most about it more than anything due to the movie itself, is the fact that people seem to like it; people like talking and thinking about it, which hopefully means people like movies that make them think. So by all means, go watch it, especially if you liked Inception. It may not be as good, but intelligent sci-fi is exactly the kind of thing that needs mass support.

NEXT REVIEW: Dilarang Masuk
Expectations: well, the trailer looked good...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Penonton tempatan dalam tempurung

... Dalam Botol
My rating:

Saya pernah menggelar Sini Ada Hantu sebuah filem yang berani, tapi sepatutnya saya simpan pujian itu untuk filem ini. Saya ragu ianya filem tempatan bertemakan gay yang pertama - Bukak Api kan ada - tapi saya pasti ianya filem tempatan bertemakan gay yang pertama ditayangkan luas di panggung. Tapi keberaniannya bukan hanya pada temanya, malah juga pada pendekatannya yang jauh lebih sofistikated dari hampir kesemua filem tempatan yang pernah saya tonton sejak saya mula menonton filem tempatan. Malangnya, dari apa yang saya lihat keberaniannya tidak dihargai. Banyak rebiu yang ditulis di blog dan website hiburan yang mengecamnya bosan dan sukar difahami. (Googlelah sendiri, aku malas nak link kat diorang.) Yang paling teruknya, audiens dalam tayangan saya semuanya kuat merungut, berbual-bual, mendengar talipon dan berSMS.

... Dalam Botol adalah antara filem tempatan yang terbaik tahun ini. Diorang tak paham sebab diorang bodoh.

Rubidin (Arja Lee) ialah seorang lelaki gay yang menukar jantinanya - serta namanya menjadi Ruby - kerana ingin memuaskan nafsu kekasihnya Gaus (Wan Raja). Tetapi Gaus tidak setia dan menolak identiti Ruby yang baru; disamping itu, dia juga telah membolot wang dan harta Ruby sehingga Ruby kini menanggung hutang keliling perut. Kawannya Jem (Rosnan Rahman) cuba menolong, tetapi Ruby terpaksa juga pulang ke kampung halaman dan berhadapan dengan ibu (Normah Damanhuri) dan ayahnya (Jalil Hamid) yang mencela cara hidupnya. Di kampung, Ruby kembali menjadi lelaki - bernama Bidin - dan mengenali Dina (Diana Danielle), anak perempuan kawan ibunya Makcik Sherry (Fauziah Ahmad Daud). Dan apabila Dina mula jatuh cinta dengannya, Ruby/Bidin terpaksa berhadapan dengan soalan: siapa, dan apa, dirinya?

Sebenarnya saya dah tengok filem ini dua kali. Bukan sahaja kerana ia filem yang bagus, juga kerana tontonan pertama di Cineleisure Damansara amat menghampakan. Sound system koyak, sering diganggu bunyi bass dari tayangan World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles di panggung sebelah, serta penonton-penonton lain yang bangang. Jadi saya teringin nak menontonnya kali kedua, kerana ia filem yang mempunyai makna yang sungguh mendalam dan saya mahu menghayati maknanya. Sukar hendak dipercayai ini filem arahan Khir Rahman yang pertama; beliau lebih dikenali sebagai pelakon yang sering menyeri filem-filem yang dilakonkannya walaupun filem itu teruk. Jelaslah bahawa bakatnya tidak terhad kepada bidang lakonan. Ingat lagi basic filmmaking craft yang saya sebut dalam rebiu sebelum ini? Filem ini ada, malah jauh melangkaui tahap basic.

Ini bukan cerita rekaan semata-mata; ini adalah filem yang menyelami dunia sebenar, serta watak-watak yang rumit bahkan insan manusia yang sebenar. (Menurut penerbit Raja Azmi, ia berdasarkan kisah benar seorang kenalannya. Saya tak ambil kisah semua itu, saya hanya lihat filem ini sebagai filem.) Ruby/Bidin adalah seorang yang lemah, keliru dan bebal; tetapi kelemahan, kekeliruan dan kebebalannya realistik. Dia bukan watak yang senang disukai, tetapi filem ini menjadikannya watak yang boleh difahami. Kita faham bahawa, walaupun dirinya sebagai perempuan tidak menjadi, namun dia sudah tidak boleh menerima dirinya sebagai lelaki. Kita faham mengapa dia tak berani memberitahu Dina tentang operasi tukar jantinanya, sedangkan Dina sedia menghulurkan rahmat kemaafan kepadanya. Dan kita (sepatutnya) faham mengapa Arja Lee melakonkannya sebagai seorang yang tertutup emosinya semasa di kampung - bukan kayu, seperti yang dikecam rebiu-rebiu dari orang yang tak faham.

Seorang lagi watak yang menarik ialah Gaus - tapi dia menarik bukan dari ertikata "baik" orangnya. Malah dia seorang bastard gred tertinggi - penakut, pendusta, pencuri dan penganiaya. Dia seorang yang pandai cari alasan untuk segala perbuatan kejinya. Bila menolak kekasihnya, dia kata "I tak suruh you buat!"; bila ditangkap basah ketika curang, dia kata "dia macam goda I"; bila melari dari tanggungjawab, dia kata "I tau I salah" (macamlah mengaku salah itu sama ertinya dengan menebus dosa); bila berkhianat dengki, dia kata "I kena jujur". Sekali lagi, semua ini adalah sifat yang realistik. Tiada siapa yang menganggap diri mereka jahat, atau sengaja melakukan sesuatu dengan niat jahat; masing-masing ada rasional dan justifikasi sendiri. Yang buat aku hairan ialah mengapa semua rebiu yang saya baca tidak menyebut betapa laknatnya watak ini. Korang tak sedar ke? Korang ingat dia okey ke?

Satu perkara lagi yang disebut dalam rebiu-rebiu lain ialah bagaimana ironinya filem tentang lelaki gay menampakkan lakonan pelakon wanita yang lebih hebat dari pelakon lelaki. Ini bukannya tidak benar - Normah Damanhuri, Diana Danielle dan Ogy Ahmad Daud semua memang hebat - tetapi sekali lagi, kritikan ini menunjukkan kurang faham dengan cerita ini. Watak Ruby/Bidin dan Gaus rumit, berbanding watak Sal, Dina dan Sherry yang lurus. Fungsi mereka hanyalah untuk bereaksi dengan Bidin dan pilihan-pilihan yang dibuatnya. Namun mereka juga berjaya dihidupkan oleh pelakon-pelakon dan skrip, menjadi watak-watak yang amat menyayat hati. Bukan saya seorang pengulas yang memuji adegan dekat pengakhiran diantara Ogy dan Diana, dimana perbuatan mengelap muka membawa makna yang dahsyat. Pedih mata saya menonton babak itu walaupun buat kali kedua.

Tapi bintang sebenar filem ini ialah Khir. Sofistikasi pengarahannya terletak dengan betapa teliti dia membikin filem ini; skrip, lakonan, sinematografi, lokasi penggambaran, runut bunyi, semuanya membawa makna. Dalam pengarahannya, kita lihat bagaimana masyarakat kampung ini terasa asing bagi Bidin. Dalam pengarahannya, kita lihat selitan humor yang ringan, yang juga menunjukkan keasingan Bidin dengan dunia kampung. Dalam pengarahannya, kita boleh rasa keperitan Ruby/Bidin serta ayahnya dalam babak mereka bersama. Dalam pengarahannya, kita percaya perasaan cinta Dina buat Bidin yang memekar. (Cuma bukan Bidin yang cintakan Dina, seperti yang dinyatakan dalam sinopsis yang salah. Ini penting!) Dalam pengarahannya, kita boleh rasa saspens dalam babak perkahwinan di akhir, hasil dari muzik pilihannya. Sekali lagi, bagi pengulas dan blogger lain yang jahil: ini bukan muzik rock, bodoh, ini muzik ominous!

Jujur kata, ini bukan filem yang sempurna. Mungkin kerana potongan yang diarahkan dari Lembaga Penapisan Filem, ada beberapa suntingan yang tidak kemas dan mendadak. Bahagian awal semasa di kota juga tidak sesedap ditonton bahagian di kampung, kerana plotnya agak perlahan; juga semasa bahagian ini, raungan dan tangisan Ruby yang tak henti-henti adakala menjengkelkan. Ya, ini sebuah filem seni atau art film, dimana bila orang bercakap, kena berhenti sejenak selepas setiap ayat. Tapi saya rasa bukan kelemahan-kelemahan ini yang membuat penonton kurang menyukai filem ini. Saya rasa ia kerana filem ini mencabar segala praanggapan dan prejudis mereka sebagai penonton filem tempatan dan masyarakat Melayu Islam. Filem mengenai golongan gay dan transseks yang tidak menghakimi mereka; dimana watak utamanya bukan hero; dimana kampung bukan penyelamat dan penyuci bagi orang kota; dimana agama bukan penyelesaian bagi segala-gala; dimana ada watak lelaki yang tak minat Diana Danielle.

Inilah sebenarnya kuasa sebuah filem, bahkan mana-mana hasil seni, untuk mencabar pegangan kita dan mengemukakan pandangan lain kepada kita. Bukan hanya sebagai hiburan kosong - dan bagi mereka yang mengkritik filem ini kerana gagal memberikan hiburan kosong, lantaklah diorang. Ini bunga, dan diorang hanya kera. Syabas Khir atas karya anda yang benar-benar groundbreaking dalam industri filem kita, dan moga anda berpeluang membikin banyak lagi filem tanpa batasan dan cacimakian. (Kalau nak buat filem hiburan semata-mata pun boleh; teknik-teknik perfileman anda boleh digunakan dalam genre komedi, seram, thriller, dan banyak lagi. Dan hiburan itu tak semestinya kosong.) Pedulilah mereka yang tak faham dan tak reti. Kita yang tak hidup dibawah tempurung hargai apa yang anda ingin katakan.

Expectations: yay Kevin Macdonald

Update: Sigh, once again I have to reneg on a movie I promised to review. The Eagle has pretty much ended its run here, so apologies to Malaysian fans of Kevin Macdonald (all one of you).

NEXT REVIEW: Source Code
Expectations: yay Duncan Jones

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kedah cun, KL tak

My rating:

Man, this did not look good. Judul yang tiada makna. Poster yang sewel. Trailer yang menggunakan typeface Comic Sans. Tagline yang tak senonoh. (Abende tu "try-test"? Apa maksudnya hero kampung "try-test" awek glamer? Aku "try-test" adik pompuan kau boleh tak?) Serta premis lelaki miskin/kampung/bawahan bercinta dengan perempuan kaya/kota/atasan yang dah kita tengok banyak kali giler, sampai saya tak tahu apa yang ada dalam psikologi lelaki Melayu yang gemar sangat cerita ini. About the only thing it had going for it was that director Osman Ali made Bukak Api 11 years ago. A local filmmaker willing to make a film about transvestite prostitutes ought to be cut from a different cloth from the Ahmad Idhams and Razak Mohaideens and Syamsul Yusofs of our industry.

Well, he is, in one important respect. But just one.

Luna Latisya (Maya Karin) is the host of gossip TV show Meletops, but she's grown tired of it all - especially when she catches her fiance Ryan Hidayat (Jehan Miskin) cheating on her, and her producer Candy (Ning Baizura) only thinks of it as more fodder for the show. Luna flees KL with her assistant Tom (Faezah Elai) and goes to Tom's hometown, Kampung Mata Ayer in Kedah. There, she meets Tom's grandmother Tok Chah (Kartini Aziz), her mentally-retarded cousin Manis (Nadia Nissa) - and Atan (Remy Ishak), Tom's other and hunkier cousin. As the city girl learns to love the country life - and weathers the jealousy of village gossips Bedah Tonggek (Mislina Mustaffa) and Eton Gebu (Siti Nor Faridah) - she also starts to fall for Atan, and him for her. But Ryan and Candy soon catch up with her, meaning to persuade her back to the life she left behind.

Kepada pembaca-pembaca saya yang berasal dari negeri Kedah, anda patut segera menonton filem ini. Ianya ibarat sepucuk surat cinta buat masyarakat kampung Kedah, dan ia berjaya memaparkan Kampung Mata Ayer sebagai sebuah tempat yang giler seronok, serta didiami watak-watak yang giler kelakar. The kampung scenes are a truckload of fun, and the actors in them seem to be having just as much fun with their hilarious Kedahan accents; jika ada diantara barisan pelakon yang memainkan watak orang Kedah sebenarnya bukan orang Kedah, maka tertipulah saya. Komedinya walaupun broad dan slapstick, namun cukup berkesan kerana ia tidak mempersendakan atau memperbodohkan sesiapa. There's a good-naturedness to it all, and a great deal of affection for the characters and their way of life, that's rare in Malay films and that I certainly wasn't expecting from this one. It works.

You know what doesn't work? The storyline. The plot. The ham-fisted dialogue whenever it tries to get emotional. Anything other than the comedy, frankly. Inilah masalahnya dengan industri filem kita, dimana pembikin-pembikin filem masih kekurangan basic filmmaking craft - dan malangnya, Osman juga tidak terkecuali. Hakikatnya, kisah cinta dua darjat ini adalah cerita yang usang dan formulaik, namun formulanya memerlukan prinsip penceritaan asas untuk disampaikan dengan berkesan. Perubahan dari benci kepada cinta antara Atan dan Luna tidak menjadi. Perwatakan kedua mereka tidak konsisten. Dilema Luna antara cinta dengan karier tidak terasa. Ini semua elemen yang crucial bagi keberkesanan filem ini. Usah nak mintak idea yang baru dan segar, sedangkan premis yang lapuk macam ni pun tak boleh bikin elok-elok.

Akibatnya, filem ini sering berayun dari adegan yang seronok ke adegan yang membosankan. Dan memang jelas bahawa kebanyakan adegan yang membosankan melibat watak-watak warga kota. Candy dan Ryan Hidayat adalah dua watak yang sama over-the-topnya dengan warga kampung, tetapi anehnya, dialog mereka jauh kurang lawak jenakanya dari dialog masa di kampung. Without any real humour to their scenes, Ning Baizura's and Jehan Miskin's schtick is just annoying. Satiranya mengenai media hiburan juga kurang tajam giginya; banyak lagi sasaran yang boleh awak tembak, En. Osman, kenapa cetek sangat? It's clear Osman has a lot more feeling for the kampung scenes than the kota ones; saat klimaktiknya di studio rakaman Meletops menampakkan klisye Slow Clap yang dah kita tengok sampai jelak dah. Audiens dalam tayangan saya ketawakan babak ni.

Namun bila filem ini seronok, ia memang seronok. And the acting has a lot do with this, because it's clear the entire cast is having the time of their lives. Nadia Nissa is amazingly natural as Manis, the girl with the mind of a 5-year-old; in many ways, she is the heart and soul of the kampung scenes. (Dan Osman tidak sesekali menjadikan kerencatan akalnya sebagai bahan ketawa.) Kartina Aziz rocks as the cigarillo-smoking Tok Chah, but she has one emotional scene near the end and she absolutely sells it; kenapa saya tak pernah tahu betapa hebat lakonannya? Even Faezah Elai, who has been typecast as perky and bubbly types, shows a glimpse of real dramatic ability. And finally, the stars of the show: Remy Ishak is better here than I've ever seen him, and he brings a real down-to-earthness to the kind of role that's often used as male wish fulfillment. (Wei Farid Kamil, belajar sket!) Maya Karin pula mempunyai karisma yang mampu menyerikan layar perak, tapi dia masih perlukan bimbingan seorang pengarah yang pandai mengarah pelakon; her approach to a couple of scenes is a little off.

The clear affection that Osman and his cast have for the story, the characters, and the movie they're making, is infectious. Dan inilah yang menjadikan Cun! istimewa diantara filem-filem tempatan yang sering bernada bengis. Kelemahannya jelas dari segi penceritaan (dan juga pengarahan; En. Osman, sila lihat semula adegan "minah rempit" tu, dimana sebuah motosikal jatuh ke dalam parit for no apparent reason), dan saya cukup kecewa kerana ia sudah hampir menjadi filem yang benar-benar bagus. Namun pada akhirnya, saya gembira dapat menghabiskan masa bersama penduduk-penduduk Kampung Mata Ayer. Inilah beza antara filem yang dibikin dengan penuh kasih sayang, berbanding sekeping taik macam Semerah Cinta Stiletto. Bezanya amat ketara.

NEXT REVIEW: ... Dalam Botol
Expectations: heard a lot of good things about it