Tuesday, 26 February 2013

First look at The Amazing Spiderman 2

Courtesy of Disney, we received an e-poster this morning in our mail.

It's a profile picture of Andrew Garfield in his Spiderman costume from the upcoming sequel, which is due for in May 2014 for an early Summer release.

It's interesting to note that the rubbery texture of Spidey's costume as been de-emphasised and its colours are far warmer in tone. The s spider emblem has changed from black to silver, and its legs are much shorter, far less menacing.

We'll just have to wait for more clues from Disney to see if this costume change is emblematic of a change in tone in Part 2... or whether the Green Goblin will lead Peter Parker to an even darker corner.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A farewell and a welcome

Dear readers

Near the end of January, I received word from Fridae concerning the cessation of the weekly Fridae Movie Club newsletter and all movie reviews, as it develops its next business model. Last week, the official notice went out to subscribers of the newsletter as well as our friends and collaborators - the exhibitors, distributors, and marketers from the film industry.

I have had an eventful and memorable experience at Fridae as its resident film critic from October 2009 to January 2013, keeping in mind that Fridae Movie Club counts amongst this region's best read online movie newsletters, operating in one of the highest movie-watching countries in the world.

What does this mean for this blog?

You may have noticed that I haven't updated it since May 2010, with the Iron Man review capsule. That was when Fridae.com switched domain names to Fridae.asia. I looked at the number of reviews I had to go change the links on this blog as well as IMDB, and decided I'd deal with it some day. When it was more convenient.

In between writing film reviews for Fridae, I found myself writing scripts for the second season of The Noose, stand-up routines for local comedians, and even plotting a return of The Video Renegades with my long-time creative collaborator, Marcus Lim.

Our work at The Noose was cancelled mid-season (we suspect not because we were a team of really good writers trolling the establishment) but won some awards the next year. The second project is a story that bears telling elsewhere as a cautionary tale regarding the cowboy town nature of Singapore's entertainment scene. The third project? Marcus and I had re-presented Misgivings at The Substation, making their shortlist of the month again. We had half a dozen short scripts written and ready for a burst of production when Marcus had a fatal swimming accident.

I found myself deciding again and again that I'd deal with all these movie review capsules one day. But not now, please.

That day is now. I'll be backfilling capsules for the reviews I wrote for Fridae from May 2010 to January 2013. If and when Fridae takes down the entire movie review and lifestyle section, I'll post the full reviews here.

When that is done, I expect to continue reviewing films on this blog - either as an independent (so you get to read full reviews here) or under another enterprise (in which case, you get more capsules and links to the full review hosted on its original site). Until then, there won't be reviews for every film that gets released - just the ones that really interest me as a typical moviegoer with limited means - but the good news is I'll have the time to explore DVDs and film retrospectives entirely of my own devising.

This will be an exciting journey, and I hope you're all on board.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Jesus Henry Christ (2011)

The scoop: Dennis Lee, like his elder brother Ang*, continues the trend of Asian filmmakers producing quintessentially American films.

Imagine The kids are all right done and C.R.A.Z.Y. with far younger, irresistibly cuter kids. And directed by Ang Lee. You’d come close to Jesus Henry Christ, an affirming alternative family film by Dennis Lee. The writer-director’s creative output may well lead many to question if he is indeed Ang Lee’s younger brother. After all, they are both Asian directors who understand American culture and family better than most Americans, and make gently humorous prestige indie films about dysfunctional American families.

A thematic follow-up to his debut film Fireflies in the Garden, Jesus Henry Christ again explores the themes of genius and dysfunctional families. Henry James Herman (Jason Spevack) is immaculately conceived in a petri dish and brought into the world by his feminist, hardline liberal soccer mom Patricia (Toni Collette). Blessed with a photographic memory and a genius only seen once a century, if at all, the precocious 10-year-old embarks on a quest to find his biological dad – who turns out to be Slavkin O’Hara (Michael Sheen) one of those nutty professors who has raised his daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein) to be free of society’s gender codes and norms and wrote a book about it and went on Oprah to promote it.

In the hands of a lesser director, this maelstrom of liberal bait would be a recipe for disaster, or a very annoying film. Dennis Lee however manages to mine great comedy from this material. Beneath its twee Sundance veneer and collection of self-parodying liberal stereotypes (there’s a clearly Caucasian man who speaks, dresses and thinks like a stereotypical angry black man!), there’s a fine family film which pokes gentle fun at a parade of families conservative and liberal, mainstream and otherwise, while at the same time celebrating the good intentions behind every family unit.

That he manages to achieve all this while delivering some very dark comedy where people often do mean things to each other for the laughs, where often bad things happen despite or maybe because of our good intentions, is a sign of Lee’s growth as a director since his debut feature. The cast too is to be commended for their very rare chemistry, which brings out the positive side of a difficult script with very offbeat humour.

Reviewer's note: I watched Jesus Henry Christ in June 2011 when it had its world premiere in Singapore as part of the (failed) ScreenSingapore festival. The film was not released commercially in this territory or it seems in any other, aside from a very limited Stateside release followed by an immediate DVD and Netflix launch.

*: Ang Lee. Well, that's a running joke I kept going with Dennis in our interview in 2011. Which I'll post here one day if my readers (whoever they may be) insist.