Fifty Shades Darker – Here We Go Again

Two years have passed since I have written my thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey. How time flies. It is funny that whenever I talk about Fifty Shades in public, people either not that comfortable talking about it or some give me that weird look.

Fifty Shades Darker

Truth be told, as comfortable as Dakota Johnson going naked in the show, I have no problem talking about it in public.

I think First Shades Darker is artistically done. Think on this. This show could have gone wrong in so many different ways. It could have been so awkward to watch. Even if it was as “good” as the previous installation – whereby good or bad is totally subjective of course – it would have been acceptable for me.

Fortunately, this one is better.

  • The character Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan is more relatable this time around. More human. Less weird. Indeed, Anna Steele played by Dakota Johnson is changing him for the better. Thank goodness.
  • Jamie is more buffed up this time. Wow, his muscle. I am inspired to work out. With the beard and all, he looks like a real man! I always thought that he was kind of vampire-ish in the last movie.
  • I don’t think Dakota is the prettiest actress in Hollywood. But her being so comfortable with her body … there is something very empowering about it. As though she has developed this aura of command.
  • The chemistry between the two has become much better than before, which is understandably so from a storytelling perspective.

In short, I love Fifty Shades Darker, though I still have no clue as in what gets darker in this installment. I am looking forward to Fifty Shades Free.

Warm Bodies – A Highly Anticipated Zombie Romance

A zombie romance story.

Ever since I have watched the trailer of this movie, quite some time back, I have always been wanting to catch Warm Bodies on a big screen.  Cynthia and my buddy TK’s response to my overwhelming enthusiasm has been lukewarm.  Until they have watched the show with me.  They love it.

I am unsure why the global fascination on zombies and the undeads.  Online games like World of Warcraft have them.  They have been the prime targets in many shooter games.  Even in Call of Duty and Saint Rows 3 whereby I don’t see how zombies get into the stories, but they are there.  As though in our mind, the apocalypse happening in the future would turn many of us into the rotting zombies.  Dead, but not quite dead.

Warm Bodies in essence is a story about a zombie named R and a human girl called Julie.  And R has a friend called M.  Do the names like Romeo, Montague, and Juliet ring a bell?  It seems that Shakespeare would continue to inspire, all the way to the apocalypse and beyond.

This story is interesting because it is told from the perspective of a zombie.  R narrates most of the plot.  The way he sees things, the first time he falls in love and somehow manages to suppress his hunger for Julie’s brain.  Zombies eat human brains for the memories within, and to feel human again for a short while.  There seems to be a constant yearning for the zombies to feel human.  Indeed, this love between R and Julie has triggered an effect to the zombie community and turning them warm.  Hence the film’s title, Warm Bodies.

The relationship between zombies and human is slightly more complicated than us versus them.  Zombies that have given up hope to feel human again turn into skeletons.  In this three-way relationship, zombies emerge as the protagonists while flaws from the human and the skeleton such as apathy and distrust would leave the audience something to think about.

The morale of the story if I may add would be such.  Healing between groups of different people – be it as rich and poor, healthy and disabled, different religions and non-believers, and different cultures – would start with acceptance and love.  Change is possible.  Casting away prejudice and fear so as to see things from a different perspective.  Realizing that the very thing you fear about the other one could well be the same thing the other one too fear of.  And perhaps, we are not that different after all.

Delicacy (Audrey Tautou) – Love Not At First Sight

In the opening scene, you see the back of a French actress walking down the street of Paris.  The camera stays with her and you wonder, where is she going?  Since you can’t see her face, you further wonder, who is she?  The way she walks seems familiar to you.  You may even recognize her back, her short hair, the back of her ears, and perhaps her rather petite outlook.  Suddenly you gasp, she must be Audrey Tautou!  Seldom have we seen actresses who exude such aura that is instantly recognizable.  Our friend TK recognized the actress before the camera revealed her identity.  He had no idea what movie we have chosen for him.

Delicacy has a slow moving plot.  The overall story is not what I would call entertaining.  It is about coping with losses and starting anew.  Because there is so much realism within, you ought to be someone who appreciates acting in order to enjoy this movie.  If you do, Delicacy is delicious.  Tautou is a talented actress.  We have seen her taking on different types of roles throughout her career.  This time, as a widower, she buries herself in work shutting away from most social interactions.  Can she fall in love again?  As audience, we get to witness how love not at first sight works.  Her counterpart played by François Damiens is worth a mention.  Damiens looks utterly ordinary, awkward in every little move.  He is even balding. And his character Markus has a huge crash on Nathalie played by Tautou.  The way he looks at her, the way he behaves when she is nearby, and the way he spaces out when she is not around – all these moments accentuate how awkward the relationship development is.  But the beauty is that it feels so natural looking at how the two interact and drown in this intolerable awkwardness.  It feels so real.

The soundtrack performed by Emilie Simon is also worth a mention.  The music is dreamy and moody.  It suits the plot well.  Emilie is a French singer who plays electronic music.  If you have a chance to check out her music, I would recommend you to do so.  Her music can be found in SingTel AMPed, arguably the world’s worst designed Android app.  Alternatively, you may check out her official YouTube channel.

Delicacy does not have a thought provoking open ending like many European movies do.  However, it does have a flavor to it.  Perhaps, what the filmmakers want to tell us is that to help someone in overcoming the pain of losses hidden inside, one must relive her past, understand it, only then there is hope to moving on.  On a side note, I think the title is appropriate in every way to describe the movie, especially Tautou’s character.

The Vow – What if One is to Lose Years of Memory?

Woah.  Just imagine.  If one is to lose years of memory, how would that change his or her life and those around?  While facts of life like who the parents are do not change over time, our recent hobbies, our career, love life, recently acquired skills, friends, things that we shouldn’t have done but did, and things that we should have done but didn’t  do.

That’s why my friends, blogging is good.  While one may forget where he or she stores the diary (if you have one), a website is [more or less] always there.  I see blogging as an extension of my memory, as well as the memory of some of those who are around me.

I guess reading recent events that one has forgotten is not the same as restoring one’s memory.  It is not the same as living it, is it?  And here we are, a movie inspired by true events.  The Vow tells a story of a married couple.  After a road accident, the wife has lost her recent memory.  To the new her, the husband is a stranger and her ex-fiance still gives her butterflies in the stomach.  The recent life changing decisions, all wiped off from her memory.  Given this unfortunately event, can the husband win his wife’s love the second time?

All along, I thought The Vow was a romance comedy.  OK, comedy or not, it is a technical definition.  At the end of the movie, inside the theater, TK on my left said, “This is not a comedy”.  Cynthia on the right said, “This is not a comedy”.  Fine.  Cynthia did cry.  It is an emotional drama.  There are tons of on-screen chemistry between the main characters, in a moving plot.  We felt the pain and joy, and everything else in between.

I am a fan of Rachel McAdams.  To me, she could well be one of the most charming actresses in Hollywood.  Cynthia seems quite pleased with the rather handsome looking Tatum, whom I wish he would supplement his acting with some danceing (he is good at it I remember).  The Vow is about seeing a glass half empty or half full.  It is a story of a second chance not to be used to wipe off the past, but to relive the good and the bad once again.

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen – Good Humor, With An Enlightening Spirit Within

I overheard in the radio one evening that Emily Blunt has rejected quite a few movie proposals lately including Captain America.  Yet she has decided to take on Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  Emily is a great actress.  So I was curious.  Why salmon fishing?  When offers two movie preview choices, subconsciously I picked this one.  I am happy that I did.

This movie begins with an unusual business proposal to set up salmon fishing in Yemen.  At the same time, there are some conflicts happening in the Middle East and the UK government is desperately looking for some good news to orchestrate.  When an government official played by Kristin Thomas catches wind of this rather bizarre business idea, she immediately lends her support on this matter.  It is funny that she cares not about the salmon, but the potential political gain.  Emily Blunt plays an investment consultant while Ewan McGregor plays a subject matter expert in fishing.  It is Harriet Chatwode-Talbot versus Dr. Jones.  I chuckled at the pronunciation of the names spoken so many times with a British accent throughout the movie.  The interaction between Emily and Ewan is light and playful.  Kristin as a supporting role is quite honestly a gem to this casting.  Such good actors, they are.  I smiled and chuckled.  The story does get a bit more serious towards the end.  All in all, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is full of humor and original ideas.  Great acting, with a witty script.  If British romance comedy is your cup of tea, this film is not to be missed.

On a more serious note, for those who are not familiar with the world map, Yemen is somewhere in the Middle East.  To create a fishing area in a desert area seems absurd.  Comparing fishing to religion also seems absurd (among many other things in the movie).  But with an open heart though, both activities require patience and faith, and a hope that something good may happen.  To think deeper, the storyteller tries to tell us that love comes from hope which requires patience and faith.  This movie transforms the simple act of fishing into something bigger, embracing lovers and a community alike.

If not for my blogger friend JoV, I would not have known that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is originally written as a novel.  Do drop by her website and check out her book review.  She highly recommends the book.  I have this belief that when the story is good, the movie is often good too.  I have not read the book so I do not know how well this book is being adapted.  In the movie, the shifting in the relationship dynamic seems a bit abrupt to me.  I may need JoV to verify for me.  I suspect it is because the movie may not have the luxury of time in the development of a love story.  Other than that, the rest of the movie flows nicely, from beginning to end.

Love, A Chinese Movie

Here in Singapore – or it could well be anywhere in the world – we are suffering from a severe movie dry season.  There are just not enough movies these days that entice the Movie Review Squad to get out of our homes and do something.  For close to two months, three of us would have our weekly meeting over Whatsapp going through the agenda items of (1) are there any good movies to watch this weekend, (2) are there any good movies to look forward to the week after?  No and no.  We, at the virtual headquarter of MRS begins to wonder: has piracy finally killed off the entire movie industry?  Or is it the decline of our Singapore film distributors not willing to bring in quality films from other countries?  What happen to the Japanese or Korean movies?  European movies?  Or these markets too suffer from the same dry spell?  No idea.  We are sad pandas indeed.

Now comes the Chinese movie LOVE, staring a bunch of well known actors including Shu Qi and Vicki Zhao.  There are a multitude of characters all consciously or subconsciously looking for love, embracing love.  Each character comes with an individual story – a story that is weaved into an overarching  story of … you guessed right, love.  There is a little boy who has not met his father since birth.  A real estate agent who appears to prioritize supporting her family over anything else.  A woman who has never had a job in her life, always receives financial support from men.  A business executive who does not know what is love. Two girls, best friends of each other, and one of them is pregnant.  A young man whose dream is about to be shattered by one mistake he has made.  An old man who is rich beyond imagination but he is not always happy.  And finally, a young man whose stuttering affects his physical outlook, but well compensated by his kindheartedness and childlike attitude to life.  The story is tight, a quality piece of script writing.  The acting is good too.  There are scenes that tickle.  And there are scenes that move.

I do not know how to classify LOVE.  It is a tragedy, yet a comedy.  It is romance, yet drama.  I think it is best described as a movie about finding love through the extraordinarily unexpected.

Friends With Benefits – Mila Is Adorable

I don’t think it has anything to do with aging (I hope).  It was a pretty hectic week at work.  In some instances, you can almost measure how overloaded one is by observing the number of mistakes one begins to make.  I read the showtime of 17:30 as 7.30pm, which was obviously wrong.  Saturday traffic near Orchard area was horrendous.  We have so many cars in town.  Perhaps all we need is a second Orchard area to split the crowd.  This weekend, we are confined to our areas nearby.  Japanese sushi and sake on a Friday night, Nonya food on a Saturday afternoon and a home-cooked cod fish meal for dinner, takeaway Yong Tau Foo for lunch after Sunday Mass and yet another home-cooked meal for dinner.  All within the proximity of our home.

Back to our previous weekend, by the time we reached the cinema, we were 10 minutes late (actually, we were 2 hours and 10 minutes late).  Cynthia was starving and TK was not feeling 100% either.  So, in retrospect, it was a blessing in disguise.  We had a relaxing dinner and the cinema was kind enough to print another set of tickets for us.  Same movie, same time, but on the next day.

“Friends With Benefits” is so much better than “No Strings Attached“.  Some parts of “Friends” are a bit uncomfortable to watch.  But not as bad as “Strings”.  I do not know many celebrities who publicly admit that they play World of Warcraft.  Mila Kunis has played WoW once upon a time.  That is a good enough reason for me to be her fan.  For most part of the movie, she is irresistibly adorable.  It is the dialog and the way she carries it more than anything else.  As for Justin Timberlake, I did not have high expectation on his acting ability.  There seems to be chemistry between the two on screen.  That too is good enough for me.

Movies like these often have little takeaways.  The story seems to conclude that with girls, it is not just sex, however casual the relationship is.  I thought that we have well passed the era of sexual stereotype after all these years.

Apple Of My Eye – A Taiwanese Movie, A Nostalgic One For Me

How many of us end up spending the rest of our lives with our school day sweethearts?  Do you remember the time when love was so awkward, so childish?  We kept on reading and sending the signals wrongly, but yet our puppy love affair appeared to be  at the center of our universe, all that we could think about?  Watching “Apple of My Eye” put me right where that piece of my memory has faded.  It reminded me of what love once was.  Not only that.  This movie brought me back to the time before mobile phones were widely used, a time whereby a public phone booth was the only place to make a conversation with someone far away.  Yes, once upon a time I queued at a phone booth to call that special someone; once upon a time I was by a phone booth waiting for that one phone call.  Dating scene was quite different back then.

I cannot recall how many guys in this movie were chasing after the same girl.  Looking at the movie poster, there must have been five.  The background of the story was set in 1994, with boys chasing after girls in school and beyond.  Some of the silly things that boys do are so real that watching them made me cringed (in a good albeit embarrassed way I suppose).  It is a comedy, with tons of drama.  Some bits are quite exaggerated, probably due to the fact that the story was retold from the memory of a first person perspective (boys are really not that gross, at least most of us are not I hope).  These scenes are a good laugh nevertheless.

It is quite rare to see such honesty in a movie.  Cynthia and I enjoyed watching it.  Once upon a time, love was so innocent, so pure.  It is a film about growing up too.  If I am to directly translate the movie title, it would called “Those Where The Years When We Chased After The Same Girl”.  I suppose “Apple Of My Eye” would be a better choice for the English speaking crowd.

Watching Break Up Club The Second Time

If you recall, one night I had a terrible insomnia.  And one of the few activities I did awake in my supposed sleeping hours was to watch the Blu-ray version of a Hong Kong movie called “Break Up Club” on my TV (wearing my wireless headset of course).  I love it so much that when the Movie Review Squad could not think of which movie to watch for the weekend, I suggested to watch “Break Up Club” at my home.  I really wanted to watch the new Shu Qi movie in town.  But why would local cinemas think that showing Shu Qi’s latest production twice a day on the smallest possible theater is enough to quench the desire of millions of Singaporeans?  I do not know.  And why would the world wants to see yet another Hairy Porter installment?  That baffles me whenever I think about it.

I like “Break Up Club” because the onscreen chemistry between Fiona Sit and Jaycee Chan – son of Jackie Chan – is convincingly heartwarming and heart wrenching.  As someone who was born in Hong Kong, I can totally relate to the drama and the emotion involved.  Fiona Sit is charming, there is little doubt about it.  I grew to like Jaycee Chan towards the end of the story.  They are both good actors.  This film is directed by Barbara Wong, who was also starring in “Break Up Club” as the director.

The story begins with a director wanting to source for a true breakup story for her next movie.  People are interviewed and are handed with a camcorder to record a story of their own.  Joe (played by Jaycee) has decided to give it a go after his recent breakup with Flora (played by Fiona).  Joe is like your average Joe who has no goal in life, does not have a plan, and he picks up part time jobs as they come.  He is stubborn and is quite lazy at home.  But Joe is a good person with a good heart.  And he loves Flora.  Flora is an ambitious salesgirl who takes up night classes and works long hours for her career.  Time and time again, she is fed up with Joe’s never changing character (and to be fair to Joe, his love to Flora is never changing as well).  After the breakup, Joe has found a website that can break up other relationships so as to reunite his own.  But will that change anything?  Viewers have 104 minutes to find out.

I bought this Blu-ray almost one year ago when I was holidaying in Hong Kong.  Today, “Break Up Club” is showing in Singapore as one of the programs for the Hong Kong Film Festival 2011.  If you enjoy romance and drama, “Break Up Club” is not to be missed.  I would strongly recommend watching this movie in its original Cantonese format, rather than being dubbed in Mandarin like many movies here in Singapore.

A French Movie “Beautiful Lies” Starring Audrey Tautou

Oh yes.  I absolutely adore Audrey Tautou.  Has it been two years since she graced our local theaters?  It certainly seems so.  One time, I met one of my readers in person, all because of Audrey Tautou.  He is a fan of Audrey; I am a fan; our movie buddy TK is a fan; and Cynthia is sort of a fan by influence, not quite by choice.  We watched “Coco Before Chanel” together – my very own meet-the-reader session.  Around the same time, I brought him to buy a dSLR because he happened to like photography too.  I have not seen him since then.  Hey buddy.  If you are reading this, drop everything you do and watch “Beautiful Lies”.  It is beautiful.  And Audrey Tautou is in it.

It is a pity that some local viewers remember Audrey as Sophie Neveu in “The Da Vinci Code”.  She is so much more.  In “Beautiful Lies”, she plays a character who seems to have little in common with her separated parents.  She is manipulative, but yet deep inside, she loves them.  She is the co-owner of a new salon.  She seems cold, bossing people around.  But from within, she can be inferiority complex, especially with someone who may have a much higher education than hers.  Romance does not seem to be on her priority list.  She does not seem to be aware of any admirers around her.  But yet, her heart can be touched in the most subtle way.  And it reacts too in the same subtle manner.  She lies, with good intent.  And yet, most lies backfire.  Summing all up, I would say Audrey Tautou is perfect for the role.

“Beautiful Lies” is a lighthearted movie.  Cynthia and I had a good laugh throughout the show.  I like this one a lot.  Retailers should package all the Audrey Blu-ray movies in one box.  I would gladly grab one.