Sunday, July 24, 2011

3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy [ Movie Review ] ★★

After the election is over, Golden Village Pictures finally released the dates for 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy. Singaporean, mark your calender down. On 21st July 2011, we can finally unleash our desires for the big screen version of this highly anticipated 3D soft porn film that features the likes of Japanese Adult Video stars like Saori Hara (who had suddenly retired from showbiz after the recent tsunami) and sexy Hong Kong actress Vonnie Liu.

According to Channelnewsasia, we will be getting the International version with no cuts and obviously this 3D soft porn will be getting the R21 rating. International version will be 102 mins long while the version shown in Hong Kong was 129 mins long. There will also be another longer version of this movie that will be released on the Director cut DVD eventually.

The Pitch

Sex sells and Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy sold like hotcakes in Hong Kong when it was first released. There were even reports of tour groups for the poor China folks (who won't be getting this movie in the mainland) to watch this movie in Hong Kong. Elsewhere, major media like Reuters are featuring news on Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy as the world's first IMAX-3D erotic film (not Asian first 3D erotic film, that honors would go to the Korean's movie Natalie) and Hoyts cinema in New Zealand and Australia were showing it in full IMAX glory (but not in Singapore IMAX tsk tsk tsk).

But of course the perks of getting this movie way later than Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand would be that we would be more informed about the movie through reviews and the words had not be kind. Ranging from your average movie goers who posted one liner in forums to this extremely crude and funny Hong Kong review (read by Chapman To)(with English translation), it's pretty easy to get the general feel of the folks who had watched this movie. Bottom line, it's bad.

It's so bad that people are going all out to tell one another to avoid watching this soft porn flick. But called it good advertising or curiosity, I for one would like to see bad this movie can get and why it caused CNNGO's Zoe Li to decide on never to have sex again because its (Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy) message of "true love doesn't need sex" was so convincing.

Yes, sometimes we head into bad movies so that we could see the wreckage with our own eyes. Or perhaps I am just simply sadomasochist. anyway let's head on to ...

The Plot

Wei Yangshen (Hiro Hayama) was a scholar who believed in pursuing the ultimate pleasures in life and had no inclination to settle down so soon. Things changed when he accompanied a friend to a matchmaking session. After meeting his friend's potential bride Tie Yuxiang (Leni Lan), the daughter of a well-off family, he quickly changed his tune as both of them fell in love at first sight. They got married quickly but their bedroom activities weren't that enjoyable as Wei Yangshen couldn't control his ejaculation and later on, we discovered that he wasn't really well-endowed down below.

To make matter worse, Wei Yangshen started to "investigate" Prince Ning (Tony Ho)'s crime by visiting the Tower of the Rarities. He became bewitched by the ladies in Prince Ning's Pavilion of Ultimate Bliss, especially Prince Ning's prized girls Reizhu (Saori Hara) and Dongmei (Yukiko Suo). Reizhu helped Wei Yangshen to overcome his premature ejaculation problem and finally our hero could finally enjoy sex.

Wei Yangshen became obsessed with having sex in Prince Ning's pleasure dorm that he neglected his wife. It became so bad that the Tie family force Wei Yangshen to agree to a divorce. After the divorce, Wei Yangshen returned back to Prince Ning's lair and helped him to discover another treasure in his vast collection. As a reward, Prince Ning allowed him to have sex with Dongmei but his micro-penis couldn't satisfied Dongmei and that gave him an inferior complex.

Meanwhile in the Tie's household, Yuxiang started to have sexual urges and lust after a coolie. 

To overcome his micro penis problem, Wei Yangshen seeked Elder Bliss (Vonnie Lui) help and he underwent an unorthodox penis transplant. With his newly acquired penis, Wei Yangshen is now able to satisfy many women.  What he didn't know was that this is all part of Prince Ning's evil plan.

The Perspective

Sex and Zen Extreme Ecstasy turned out to be as bad as what the detractors are saying. Personally, it wasn't the violent and gore that turned me off. It's a weird norm that most of Hong Kong erotic Category III infuse gory stuff into their sex scenes so it came as no surprise. I am not really a fan of Leni Lan and Vonnie Lui so there were no expectation on them to give an arousing performance. Saori Hara and Yukiko Suo are two Japan Adult Video actress who had done plenty of hardcore porn so there very little anticipation for them to top their arousing act in a softporn flick.

Putting those letdowns aside, my personal displeasure with Sex and Zen Extreme Ecstasy would have to be the plotting and characterization.

Before you question the sanity of reviewing a Hong Kong Category III (3) soft porn flick, I am comparing Sex and Zen Extreme Ecstasy with Amy Yip's Sex and Zen 玉蒲團之偷情寶鑑 (which was equally notorious back in the nineties ) and the recent The Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks 金瓶梅 (Jin Ping Mei). All three titles had similar structure but the execution differs greatly.

Basically, Sex and Zen Extreme Ecstasy is some sort of reboot of Amy Yip's Sex and Zen. The story flows better in Sex and Zen and they don't do U-turn on characterization. In Sex and Zen Extreme Ecstasy, it's like a marathon of sexual episodes with little effort on their linkage. They also tried to do too much with one movie. Sex and Chopsticks was at least wise enough to split the movie into two so that the changes that happens to the protagonist(s) could happen slowly. Here we get a crammed session of changes to the main characters that would make you roll your eyes. Personally it's hard to imagine why would anyone be affected by the morale of the story because the execution was really bad.

If there's anything that Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy had done well, it would be to utilize the "freshness" of recent 3D Fads. It's a great marketing success but I believe it's going to be hard to repeat this kind of success again. Folks might be attracted to the gimmicky pitch that shroud this film production at first but after an unsatisfying time, they might not come back for seconds. But then again, curiosity might just do the trick for them.

3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy [ Trailer ]

Safe For Work Trailers

Singapore trailer

China trailer - provides more unseen footage from the previous trailer and showcase more of the potential 3D effects with various projectile

Another Trailer ... that comes with mosaic to cover up the notti bits. But from this trailer, you can get a rough idea what to expect from the Movie

3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy [ Video ]

Press Conference with the Actress (Vonnie Lui, Saori Hara & Yukiko Suo)

A Look at Behind the Scenes cum Making Off

Just wondering if anyone need translation? I can try and write out the gist of what they are saying. Just let me know by posting a comment on this post. Cheers RLJ

Gantz 2: Perfect Answer

The Plot

The Battle Continues in Gantz 2 Perfect Answer !

Masaru Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama)'s death changes Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) 's view of life completely. He decides to keep fighting until he earns 100 points so that he can bring back Kato.

GANTZ calls back Ayukawa (Ayumi Ito) and other GANTZ alumni who'd left once after scoring 100 points. In the meantime Kurono works on getting 100 points. But before Kurono succeeds in resurrecting Kato, Kato unexpectedly turns up.

Another strange man (Takayuki Yamada) appears and he appears to be investigating GANTZ and the fighters while the fighters take on the most terrible enemy (Go Ayano). To complicate the situation, GANTZ starts acting up. GANTZ chooses the next target... this time it's not an alien but a human girl, Tae, who is in love with Kurono.

Some GANTZ members go after Tae to score points while Kurono tries to protect her. In turn, Tae tries to protect Kurono who fights for her. A love story between their characters blossoms and Kurono must stop his teammates from getting to Tae.

Each teammate has a different motive for fighting, whether to protect a loved one or to do what they think is right. Whatever their cause, they end up sacrificing something important... 

Go Ayano - Kurofuku Ichi
(Plot Outline taken from Gantz - Singapore & Malaysia Facebook Page

Coming Soon (18 Aug 2011)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wu Xia | 武侠 [ Movie Review ] ★★★★

The Pitch

Director Peter Chan is back with another movie and this time, he attempted to approach Wu Xia films (a broad genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists) with a new angle. With a touch of forensic science mix with traditional Chinese medicine theory and acupuncture, he team up with Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro to present a tale of a reclusive martial artist and his clash with an upright detective.

This film also features two interesting individuals in supporting role. Tang Wei who started her career with Lust, Caution had caught Peter Chan's attention with her performance in Crossing Hennessy. She have been cast as Donnie Yen's wife and it's been said that her performance was so good that the director had extended her role / screen time.

The other individual would be the legendary actor Jimmy Wang Yu who is well known for movies like The One-Armed Swordsman and the Chinese Boxer. A dream project come true for Peter Chan and Donnie Yen as they grew up idolizing his swordman movies.

The Plot

Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) with his wife Ah Yu (Tang Wei) and their sons lived a normal life in a remote village.  He appeared to be a ordinary unremarkable paper mill worker until he intervened in a convenience store robbery and killed the robbers.

Detective Xu Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is tasked to investigate this case and his detective skills gave him a hunch that there's something more than meets the eyes here. Baijiu's relentless pursuit in uncovering Jinxi's true identity and past opened a can of worms. The head (Jimmy Wang Yu) of the fearsome criminal gang "the 72 Demons" became interested in Jinxi's identity and send his killers to verify Baijiu's investigation. 

Character Poster Set

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Four | หลุดสี่หลุด [ Movie Review ] ★★★★

Four innovative demented suspenseful comedic horror stories. This Tom Yum blend of Twilight Zone rocks.

In recent years, my personal favorite Thai horror movies have been the Phobia series (4bia and Phobia 2). It shows that good Thai horror might be in form of short stories and a collection of them brings in diversity and horror in the right dosage. When the trailer for Four appeared on my radar, it felt like a weak copycat aping the success of the previous two omnibus of Thai horror. But surprisingly, the only thing that was bad about this movie would be the trailer and Four was equally good as the Phobia series.

Think of it as a Thai Twilight Zone movie and you get the right level of scariness. It offers some intriguing concepts that probably would lose it's appeal if the each individual idea was to be expanded into a feature length movie.

Here's the lowdown on the plots of the four short stories and my thoughts on them.

The Noob's Human Holocaust | เกรียนหลุดโลก

Four kids hanging out at a mall, talking about Global Warming and how earth would benefit from some form of genocide. Their choice of mass massacre? It would be a virus without a vaccine. They started to diverge to how the virus could be spread through computers and other form of electronic devices. 

As their conversation gets weirder, one of the group member started to ask the most important question. Who organized this gathering?

On first impression, The Noob's Human Holocaust looked like a film school project with cinematography that felt amateurish. But for folks who are into films and film making, it won't be hard to spot that the entire segment was done in one take. That means one continuous shot of this segment with no NGs and no cuts. There was a moment whereby the camera floated away from the conversation and pans to the second level of the mall before making it's way back to the boys' table. The unsteady camerawork gave the used of handheld Steadicam away but extra points should be given to the filmmakers and cast for their various background works and coordination to make it possible to capture the whole story in one shot.

Technical details aside, the whole global cleansing conversation between this four kids was rather interesting (depending on your personal views). It felt rather nihilist and bleak but there's some truth in the overpopulation issue that these teenagers touched on. Their choice of virus seemed far fetched but innovative in it's own ways. The execution of this grand plan was both comical and horrifying. Needless to say, capturing this story in one shot just helped make it even more spooky. Eakasit Thairaat, the scriptwriter for all the four stories in Four and Paween Purijitpanya's "4Bia: The Deadly Talisman" directed this piece and personally, I will be keeping an eye on him, looking out for what is he doing to do next.

Last but not least, I personally digs how they used the virus as a form of subtle PSA (Public Service Announcement) to turn their handphones off during movies. Pretty niffy way to start a movie. this review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot. please do not shamelessly copy it and use it as your own

The Gift Shop for the People You Hate | ร้านของขวัญเพื่อคนที่คุณเกลียด

Thada (Pakkorn Chartburrirak) had just been promoted to manager in his company. While everyone is celebrating for him, there's a disgruntled colleague that had some nasty stuff to say to him. After the incident blew over, Thada decided to go for a walk and look for gifts to give his colleagues as part of his promotion celebration. He came across a shop with the name "The Gift Shop for the People You Hate". Puzzled by the shop name, he went into the shop and was told by the salesperson that this is the place to get back at rivals or enemies. They carry umbrella that comes with a lightning rod and perfume laced with the deadly tiger wasp stingers. They even provide services to sabotage individuals up to the degree that the customers wished. 

Thada dismissed the salesperson's pitch and wanted to leave. The salesperson then mention that someone already bought six gifts for him and warned him to watch out for products with their company logo. Thada naturally didn't believe that and went on to enjoy his promotion. The fun starts when he starts to unwrap and uses his promotion gifts. 

Think of it as Stephen Chow's Tricky Brains that's less playful and more mean spirited. It's innovative in the ways that they came up with those whacky gifts. The suspense here would be to see how Thada could figure out which gifts are life threatening. The beautiful of going to the movies is so that we could live vicariously through these unfortunate protagonist.  The characterization for Thada felt uneven at times but that was easily forgotten with the delivery of one heck of a comeuppance twisty ending. This piece directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri (Muay Thai Chaiya  and Art of the Devil 2 & 3) is bizarrely entertaining.

The Night to Lose Your Mind | คืนจิตหลุด

After unwittingly shooting a pregnant lady during a robbery, Neung (Ananda Everingham) became a changed. He became a reckless trigger happy manic who is causing destress to his partner Joe (Thitti Vejchaboon. Even though they were wanted by the police, Neung insisted on carrying out another robbery and bringing his brother Song (Peerapol Sehnakol) along. Joe was reluctant but was forced at gunpoint to carry out their final robbery together. 

After their robbery, they encountered a police roadblock and decided to hide in a old abandon hospital. They were about to split their booty when they encountered someone or something that lurking around. Neung in his maniac mood swing felt that his authority had been challenged and decided to chased after the shadowy individual.  Resulting in a night that ripe to lose one's mind.

Arguably the weakest installment of the whole lot. This segment relied heavily on Ananda Everingham's performance to keep this segment going. While he did a decent job, it's hard not to feel that it dragged the story out a bit too long for it's own good.  It felt like an rendition of the Saw franchise which was enjoyable and decently filmed to get the type of reaction to torture porn.  The twist at the end was somewhat predictable but still satisfying even after the long wait. 

Who R Kong? | ฮูอากง

The grandfather of a Thai Chinese family had passed on but before he died, his last words were "Don't burry me or cremate me until...". His children obeyed his last wishes and left his corpse in his ancestral home. Years later, the family had problem hiring maids to watch over the body as it tends to walk around, scaring the hell out of the maids. 

They hired a fortune teller / exorcist to solve the problem and the family was told that the grandpa wanted to pass a message to his favorite grandchild. The message was said to contain hidden treasures in the ancestral home. The head of the household then decided that all the grandchildren would stay over to look after the grandfather's body.

The grandchildren were made up of an effeminate guy who refuse to admit that he is a homosexual, a brainy doctor who is quite an asshole, a internet porn addict teenager and a little girl who is constantly texting with her blackberry. Lastly, there's Song (Alice Tsoi), the granddaughter who seemed to be the most decent and sensible among the bunch.

This segment got the whole cinema laughing out loud and stomping their feet. The over the top comedic performance and situations made it hard to sit through without laughing. The effeminate grandson will bring the house down with his dance moves and his strenuous denial of his homosexuality. In between moments of laugh out loud comedic situations, there's the suspenseful ones involving one grandpa who can't keep still even after he is dead.

This "homedy" segment is wonderfully directed by Chukiat Sakveeraku (who also directed Love of Siam, one of my fave movies of 2009).  It's impressive that he was able to deliver a well blend of scary horror and riotous comedy. In an unexpected way, he was able to close this whole segment with a sweet ending. Personally it was a terrific way of ending a fun rollar coaster ride.

Beyond the Movie

I came across a set of four individual Thai posters for the respective segments here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Larry Crowne [ Movie Review ] ★★1/2

The Pitch 

Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, two of the Hollywood heavyweights (and Academy Awards winners) partner up for a romantic comedy about picking oneself up after suffering from one of the worst fallout of the economic downturn. A plot device that resonate with the current economic status in USA and other parts of the world.

Not forgetting that Tom Hanks had a great turn out when he directed That Thing You Do! Larry Crowne might just be able to cement his capability in directing movies.

Sound like a win win situation except that this movie is co written by Nia Vardalos who had seen big flops with her last few screenwriting efforts after My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

The Plot

Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) was a superb worker in U Mart and was expecting his 10th employee of the month award. Instead, he got fired and had a huge mortgage that he couldn't pay. Listening to his neighbor's advice, he went back to his local college to upgrade himself so that he could improve his chances at finding another job.

At the college, he became a part of a community of outcasts and individuals from all walks of life. In the public speaking class, he developed a crush on his teacher Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who has lost both the passion for teaching and her husband. 

The Perspective 

If you have gone to watch this movie, expecting portrayal of realism in unemployment, you would probably be disappointed. According to Tom Hanks, they did their research on the current economic downturn and unemployment, but it didn't translate well onto the big screen. The whole unemployment issue was dealt in a sloppy manner and it became a side dish to what this movie is actually about.

Larry Crowne is actually about the unlikely romance between Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts characters and the whole movie hinge on whether you buy their romance or not. Personally, the romance didn't work for me. It was hard to see how their characters tried to restrain their feelings for each other when there's hardly any chemistry between them.

But then again, the stars are worth the money that they are paid for this movie. The likeability of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts help eased sitting through this meandering romantic comedy. There's something about their star factor that helps them charms the audience when the material wasn't constructive enough and in this case, it was a big contribution to this movie. If it isn't for Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts, I could hardly find any reason to recommend this.

Definitely a big drop from his directorial debut, That Thing You Do!

ScreenSingapore Tom Hanks @ Larry Crowne Press Conference

Tom Hanks was in town recently for the premiere of his movie Larry Crowne at first ScreenSingapore. During the press conference, he spoke about various aspects of Larry Crowne, his career choices and his "favorite five movies". One of the most entertaining press conference that I have been to. After getting so many awards for acting in serious drama movies, I had long forgotten that Tom Hanks started off as a comedian until this press conference.

Photos from ScreenSingapore Facebook Page

Instead of typing the content of the press conference down, I chose to podcast the press conference so that folks could somehow experience the very funny and entertaining Tom Hanks. Click on the audioplayer bar below.

^Might have to wait a while for the audioplayer bar to load! ^