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Siew Lup (2017)
Where carnal pleasures and vengeance are the key ingredients to create the best roast meat., 25 February 2017

Inspired by Korean director Park Chan Wook's Revenge Trilogy, Singaporean director Sam Loh creates Angels of Vengeance Trilogy, which combines food with abused female victim turned femme fatale. Siew Lup (Roast Meat in Cantonese) is the second chapter of Angel of Vengeance Trilogy, preceding the 2015's first chapter, Lang Tong (Boiled Soup in Cantonese). Featuring new and young actresses, the trilogy serves to push the boundaries of sex, violence and cannibalism in Singapore film history.

Siew Lup focuses on Mia (Rebecca Chen), an ex-prostitute who was rescued from Quan (Sunny Pang), a roast meat shop owner from the pimp who terrorizes her and Mia's mother. Mia enters a loveless marriage with Quan, which his sexual impotency leads to poor self-esteem, hence venting out his frustration through physical violence and rape on her. An encounter with Wu (Louis Wu), the owner of a funeral service company, Mia decides to live with Wu forever and leaves Quan for good. When a sinister plot of getting rid Quan and Wu's encounter with Xuan (Melody Low), a beautiful lady whose days are numbered due to terminal illness, Mia is out on a road of revenge and cannibalism is making its way to the roast meat shop serving unsuspecting diners.

Premiered in Singapore International Film Festival 2016 (SGIFF 2016) with a sold-out screening, Siew Lup seems promising when it comes to pushing the boundaries of graphic sex and violence on Singapore's big screen. Never before did any Singaporean film-makers dare to make a film which promises large amount of carnal pleasures and bloodshed on the big screen, considered that this is a taboo which not only challenges the censorship regulations in Singapore, but also makes us question if Singaporeans are ready for such content. Hence it is no surprise Siew Lup fills the curiosity among Singaporeans to see how the country is ready to make a movie which lashes out sex and violence openly.

While graphic sex and violence is the main selling point of Siew Lup, the story line was however, needs much substantial content to strengthen up the overall presentation of the film. Though the plot seems to be easy to fill up a film with duration of only 82 minutes (5 minutes shorter than the original 87 minutes SGIFF 2016 version), there are some pointers which were left unexplained. Quan's attraction towards Mia and Wu's affair with Xuan were quickly featured without deeper explanation.

Being a newcomer in Singapore film industry, Rebecca Chen has what it takes to portray the role of Mia: hot figures, beautiful looks. While it seems that Chen's Mia was a ready-made femme fatale, not much reason was given to justify her sudden change of personality and her penchant of killing her victims and turns them into roast meat. As the story develops, we can see how the people around Mia drives her to where she is: Pang's Quan is like a typical average Joe, whose profession and low-self esteem turned hot tempered individual, draws the attention of the audience. Not only did we see how it helps him to bring Mia into his life, but also drives her to become a femme fatale. Wu and Low's respective role of Wu and Xuan serves as a fuel for Mia to seek her freedom and paving the road for revenge.

Siew Lup may not suit everybody's palate, considered that it is an 82 minutes worth of sex and violence. Though the story is easy to understand and pretty straight forward, an expansion on the duration to build up the development of the story will definitely serve as a bonus to the audience, which marks a sweet and delicious end to a meal.

Who Are The Shatin Martins?, 1 February 2017

While Hong Kong may not be well known for its sports development, many people may not know the existence of The Shatin Martins, Hong Kong's first government baseball team. First time director Chan Chi Fat brings the story of The Shatin Martins onto the big screen, where Weeds on Fire answer the question: Who are the Shatin Martins?

The story is told from the perspective of Lung (Lam Yiu-Seng), a teenager growing up in Shatin during 1984. Coming from a neighborhood high school well-known for its poor disciplinary control, the students are enthusiastic in sports. The school principal, Mr Lo (Liu Kai-Chi), decided to turn a bunch of students with poor disciplinary records into Hong Kong's baseball team pioneers. Lung and his classmates were recruited by Mr Lo, where the boys undergo harsh training from the iron fist of Mr Lo. The harsh training builds up strong discipline among the boys, which not only makes the team enter the final round in the baseball tournament, but also creating an unknown glory in the sports history of Hong Kong.

The movie is not just a bunch of rowdy underdogs into a champion with remarkable results. Rather, it covers a wider aspect of a teenager in his growing up years: facing the dilemma of breaking undesired truth to his best friend, crush with a girl he loves, discovering his mother's infidelity and taking care of his aging father. While this doesn't seem to have any relationship to the theme of the film, it helps the audience to understand the struggle any typical youth will undergo while juggling with training and tournaments.

Apart from showcasing the tough training the boys undergo, it also carries an important message: giving up equals to losing. The message Mr Lo wants to instill on the boys are more than just winning the competition. It is also about developing their inner characters to prepare them from the reality the moment the boys join the working society. This can be seen from the opening and closing scene, where we see an adult Lung walking on the streets of Central occupied with protesters during the Yellow Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Weeds on Fire is one of the few Hong Kong independent productions which deserves its limelight, considered that this is a lesser known indie productions which fails to get the publicity it deserves. Watch this if you are a sports lover and you have never really came across a really good baseball movie after Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own (1992).

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Seeking the Emotional Connections, 14 January 2017

What is 'collateral beauty'? Not many will know about this term, which director David Frankel is using this term as his theme for his latest feature film.

Howard (Will Smith) is a successful entrepreneur who runs a media agency together with his three best friends: Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena). After losing his daughter to a rare brain tumor, he drowns himself in sorrow and isolates himself at work and personal life. An encounter with Amy (Keira Knightley) leads Whit, Claire and Simon came across with a struggling theatrical group which was co-run bu Bridgette (Helen Mirren) and Raffi (Jacob Latimore). Howard's friend intercepted three letters written by him, which the recipient turns out to be: Death, Love and Time. To assist Howard coming out from grief and sorrow, his friends engage the help of Bridgette, Amy and Raffi to play the role of death, love and time respectively. Meanwhile, an encounter with Madeleine (Naomie Harris), the founder of a self-help group for parents who have lost their children to death makes Howard decided to start life all over again. When the trio (Bridgette, Amy and Raffi appear in the form of death, love and time) appears in Howard's life, it makes him question the meaning of life and the importance of overcoming the grief.

The term 'collateral beauty' can be simply defined as parents unable to see the damage of their child's death in full picture, but the love and beauty that comes after the death helps to bring people closer to one another. Frankel explores the definition in the film through the connections between the people around Howard. Here, we have seen how Howard has isolated himself from the outside world, which worries his loved ones and his friends (damage). Through the intervention of Bridgette's trio, it helps Howard to pick up the courage to restart his life, while at the same time seeking the possibility of connecting with Madeleine and give himself a second chance in life.

Looking at the bigger picture, Frankel also touches on the life of the people surrounding Howard: Whit is patching up his broken relationship with his ex-wife's daughter, Allison, to redeem his infidelity; Claire is seeking a sperm donor to conceive a child due to her age after spending most of her time establishing the career for Howard; Simon fears his family will be unable to support themselves financially after a relapse of cancer he has recovered. The subplot supports the story to move on, which it only helps the audience to understand the term, but also shifts the focus on Howard's grief to avoid boredom. While these subplots seems to be valid and reflects the actual life an individual will encounter, it may be heavy for some who are seeking to entertain than to reflect on their life. Towards the end of the story, audience can feel that emotional toils takes the center stage of the story, though it is not much of an emotional roller-coaster ride.

Smith carries the same usual self from his previous films in the similar genre, such as The Pursuit of Happiness, Seven Pounds and Concussion. Though he is the main focus of the story, he has unfortunately unable to engage the audience in the emotional toil he has been through. Not much explanation was given on Smith's Howard wallowing in sorrow, which audience may not be convinced on what has happened, which leads to the undesired behavior he displays when his friend is helping him. Instead, the focus has shifted to Helen Mirren's Bridgette, which she came in as a form of enlightenment to Howard. Besides applying her theatrical knowledge to the role she was given to, her age and appearance have also help the role to look more convincing without too much giveaway. At duration of 97 minutes, there isn't much room for Norton, Winslet, Pena, Knightley, Latimore and Harris to explore their respective roles. The casting is strong to draw the crowds, but it seems to be a waste since not much chance was given to explore the role.

There aren't many films like Collateral Beauty which helps an individual to understand social terms in a layman's term. While the star-studded casting makes the movie look promising, there are many areas left unexplained, which makes the movie feel under-whelmed.

Split (2016/IX)
19 out of 61 people found the following review useful:
Split Personality, Confused Identity, 17 December 2016

After exploring the lives of the boy who sees ghosts and the man who survived several man-made accidents, director M Night Shyamalan creates a thriller based on a person suffering from Disoriented Identity Disorder (DID). SPLIT was born under this idea, which aims to gives the audience a good understanding about DID, but ends up leaving the theater feeling confused.

Three teenage girls – Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu-Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) were abducted by Kevin (James McAvoy) at a car park. Locked in an unknown underground cellar, the three girls discovered that they were greeted by Kevin in different forms under different names: Kevin dressed up and acts like a straight man, a woman, a child and a gay guy. The girls soon discovers that Kevin is suffering from DID, which he lives with 23 personalities. Meanwhile, Dr Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) is seeing Barry (one of the personalities under Kevin), a young artist who claims that he is suffering from some personality disorder. While Dr Fletcher is trying to prove that a person suffering from DID have the ability to change their physiology, the three girls are using his various personalities to rescue themselves, before Kevin's 24th personality comes after them.

As the title suggests, SPLIT was interpreted as someone with DID is living with split personalities. Though it was understood that McAvoy's Kevin was living with 23 personalities, only 8 personalities were seen in the entire film. With 8 personalities on display, this is not only challenging to McAvoy in terms of interpreting the respective personalities, it is also challenging for the audience to digest and understand the reason behind the distorted personalities. Audience were treated to McAvoy's interpretation on the different personalities he is living in, and how his respective personalities interact with his victims. However, this has starts to bore the audience, which some will find it time consuming and lack of interest, since everyone has more or less expected what will happens next.

The first five minutes of the movie gets straight to the point directly, showing how the girls were abducted without any reasons. While audience were expecting to see how the girls are finding their ways to escape from their abductors, Shyamalan works differently compared to other movies which talks about how victims find their way to escape from their abductors. Audience were given an exploration on the lives of Kevin through his counseling appointment with Dr Fletcher, which was intervene with Casey's childhood experiences. The only link that brought Casey's childhood into the movie was towards the last ten minutes, showing how is she escaping from Kevin's 24th personality. With the overall presentation not shown in sequence, it is easy to make the audience feeling confused and distorted.

McAvoy's portrayal of Kevin lives under different names through his different personalities. While it was mentioned in the synopsis that Kevin is suffering from DID and lives with 23 personalities, only 8 different types of personalities were showcased in the film. From playing a straight man, a lonely man, a woman, a child to a beast, McAvoy's performance was the only reason that kept the story from going on. Anya Taylor-Joy's performance of Casey is more of a compliment to the story. Her wit not only helps her to understand Kevin, but also serves as a way of saving herself in the times of danger. Somehow, the intervention of Casey's childhood trauma fails to compliment the story well, which overall it drags the duration of the film.

To sum up, SPLIT has a hard time to identify its identity, which the movie is rather confusing. While McAvoy's performance saves the day and Taylor-Joy gets more screen time, this is another movie which Shyamalan is having a hard time to connect with his audience and fans.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Seeking Redemption In the Midst of Confusion and Harsh Reality, 8 December 2016

Singapore short film director K Rajagopal's debut full length feature, A Yellow Bird, opens with a big bang in Singapore, since it was one of the two movies to premier in Cannes Film Festival 2016 (the other being Boo Junfeng's Apprentice). Combining his personal experiences and based on actual news, the movie looks into an ex-convict journey to seek redemption while struggling with reality upon release.

Siva (played by Singaporean actor Sivakumar Palakrishnan) was released from eight years of imprisonment due to smuggling contraband goods. Unable to find his wife and daughter who have not seen him during his imprisonment, Siva was struggling to get a stable job while living with his mother (Seema Biswas, as seen in Shehkar Kapur's Bandit Queen). While working as a musician in a Chinese funeral company, he met Chen Chen (China actress Huang Lu), an over-stayer who takes up various odd jobs so as to repay debts back in China. Siva's hot temper not only almost got him into trouble with the law again, but also puts a strain on his relationship with his mother. While working as a odd-job worker, Siva develops affection with Chen Chen, who works as a prostitute in a illegal brothel den at a bush. Hoping to help Chen Chen, Siva was in crossroads between seeking help from his estranged mother and getting money through illegal means.

By no means A Yellow Bird is a sugar-coated version of Victor Hugo's Les Miserable set in modern day Singapore. More rather, it is a view of an individual living in the underbelly of the developed society. To help the audience digest the movie, K Rajagopal and Jeremy Chua (producer) co- wrote the script and presents it in three parts: -The first part looks into Siva seeking for his wife upon his release from the prison and his strain relationship with his mother, who works as a cleaner and rents out the only bedroom in the government apartment to several China workers for survival. Through the different peoples he met, it helps to lay down the development on Siva seeking his wife, with his fury temper getting himself close to bar again. -The second part looks into Siva spending his time with Chen Chen earning a living through illegal ways. This is a unique development in the story, where both communicated through body languages, since Siva doesn't speaks Mandarin and Chen Chen doesn't speaks English. -The last part deals with Siva being mistaken as a rioter and escapes from the police, while trying to find his wife and daughter. This is more of a presentation on how Siva resorting to his old ways after being driven to the corner of the law.

Siva's experience is just one of the ex-convict story, which represents a fraction of ex-convicts who are unable to readjust themselves back to the society upon release. Not only do they undergo an emotional torrent, their love ones are trying to find ways to readjust their lifestyle upon his release. From the jobs Siva take up for survival, not only do we see how an ex-convict were unable to secure a full time job, but also how he was ostracized for being an ex-convict. His lack of understanding on the protocols the civil servants has to adhere when asking for his wife's contact detail not only almost got him into trouble, but also makes him heading to seek his wife aimlessly.

Sivakumar's performance as Siva not only brought the audience the harsh reality, but also makes you empathized with his loss and seeking for redemption. The encounter of Sivakumar's Siva and Huang Lu's Chen Chen is a unique combination of two people living in the underbelly of the society. Chen Chen was taking a risk of being an over-stayer when she is unable to earn enough money to repay debts. Right from the beginning where she quarrel with a funeral service supervisor after she was underpaid to working as a prostitute in a illegal brothel den, Chen Chen's encounter was a reflection of the other kind: illegal immigrants seeking for survival in Singapore.

For Indian actress Seema Biswas, playing Siva's mother is a great challenge. As mentioned by K Rajagopal, Seema Biswas takes up the challenge through blending in the lives of commoners in Singapore. Through observation, speaking with the common folks to making her own sari she wore in the movie, Seema Biswas has not only successfully plays a commoner from Singapore, but has also develops a character that serves as a big contrast to Siva's character in the movie.

A Yellow Bird is not your usual feel-good Singaporean movie that looks into how ex-convicts are able to restart their lives all over again upon their release. More rather, it takes the reality into your face value. At the same time, it looks into the struggle of people who are unable to make ends meet, and resorting to desperate means to meet their basic needs. This is a movie that should be watched by anyone who wants a deeper view of the reality in the developed society.

White Ant (2016)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
When Perversion Hides in the Corner of Everyone, 2 December 2016

Being the debut feature by Taiwanese documentary director Chu Hsien-Che, White Ant explores the darkest side of every human being, which shines the light on people requiring assistance when they are being driven to a corner of the society. Using the theme of sexual fetishism, it explores how a sense of righteous, if used in a wrong way, can lead to unexpected and undesired results on the parties involved. White Ant revolves on Bai Yide (Wu Kang Ren), a young man who lives alone and works in a bookstore in Taipei. Being alone and unable to blend himself into the society, he steals lingerie from his neighbors in the neighborhood and develops sexual gratification from it. One day, he receives a DVD from an unidentified sender, which the DVD contains a footage of Yide stealing lingerie from his neighbor. Feeling worried that someone will expose his acts, Yide went on a search to identify the sender. The sender turns out to be Junhong (Aviis Zhong), a female university student who had just broken up with her boyfriend. While she perceived her act to be righteous, it not only leads to Yide's life spiral out of control, but also affects her and Yide's mother, Mrs Bai (Yu Tai-Yan).

In general, the movie can be divided into two parts: the first part focuses on the effect. The showcase of Bai Yide's sexual fetishism and his isolated personality was intervening with Junhong's act of attempt to expose Yide's perverted act in the public. The first ten minutes of the film starts with Yide stealing lingerie from his neighbor in the late evening, where no one was around. This is continued with Yide getting a sense of gratification through wearing the lingerie and masturbation. What follows next was how Yide began to hide the lingerie in a box of various several stolen lingerie. This gave us an introduction on the movie, which leads us to find out more about Yide's distorted personality at the later stage of the movie. For Junhong, she was seen as a heroine in the beginning for exposing Yide's perverted act. However, it eventually leads to Junhong being seen as a person who makes Yide's life spin out of control and ends with a disaster.

Towards the second half of the film, Junhong steps into the main picture. Through an internship, she met Mrs Bai (Yide's mother), a bridal dressmaker. Under Mrs Bai's apprenticeship, Junhong not only seeks to find out more about the life of Yide, but also their personal experiences and hardship they went through after the death of Yide's father. This is where Junhong seeks redemption and self-forgiveness through understanding Yide and Mrs Bai's hardship, which explores the cause of Yide's perversion and distorted personality.

On the reason why the movie is name White Ant, director Chu Hsien-Che explains that white ants/termites tend to live in a dark and moist area, which allows them to breed and gnaw. Yide's personality is just like termite, where he constantly in darkness, whether it is his environment or personality. As a social drama, it highlights to us that there are many people who requires assistance due to the environment and incidents they went through in their life. As a psychological drama, it is more than just a cat and mouse game between Yide and Junhong. While one was choosing to live in darkness, another chooses to seek redemption. This is something that might happen to anyone, including you and me.

White Ant is not your usual popcorn movie. It serves as both a cautionary tale on perversion acts, while at the same time, it tells us that there are people who requires our assistance at any time.

Shaw Brothers Studio's Rare Portrayal of Singapore in the Late 1950s., 20 November 2016

While fans of Shaw Brothers studio Hong Kong knows that the studio is famous for martial art films and erotica during the 60s and 70s, not many people knows that Shaw Brothers studio has a division which specialized in black and white (B/W) Cantonese melodramas, which it began in the 1950s. The Merdeka Bridge is one of the title under their wing. Shot entirely in Singapore, this is a rare gem that is available for public screening today. (Another movie shot in Singapore by Shaw Brothers studio is The Fragrant Durian, which unfortunately the prints were damaged and unable to be salvaged from their library.)

Shot in Singapore in 1959 and directed by Chow Sze Luk, The Merdeka Bridge follows the life of popular nightclub singer Sit Yin Mui (played by the late Patricia Lam Fung). Living with her mother, her good-for- nothing younger brother Sit Kei (played by the late Mak Kei) and younger sister, Yin Mui was always seen hanging around with Mr Lee, a married businessman who is fond of her and pays for her expenses. A road accident at The Merdeka Bridge brought Yin Mui and artist Cheng Man Wai (Cheung Yin Choi) together, which soon both of them falls in love. When Man Wai wants to further his art studies in France, he promised Yin Mui he will get married with her upon completing his studies. However, afraid that their living expenses will come to an end when getting married to Man Wai, Sit Kei and his mother demanded Man Wai to leave Yin Mui, so that she can get married to Mr Lee and ensure the family lead a life without worrying about living expenses. To worsen the matter, Sit Kei was in cahoots with Mr Lee, where he sets a trap for Yin Mui to sell herself to Mr Lee while Sit Kei gets the money. Having paid for Man Wai's school fees and living expenses, Yin Mui unwillingly accepts the proposal from Mr Lee (which was the trap set by Sit Kei). Tragedy falls on Sit Kei and his mother shortly after Yin Mui follows Mr Lee, which droves her world to the dark end.

This is a typical story line that was commonly seen in B/W Cantonese melodramas, which mainly portray the lives of commoners struggling to meet ends meet. Such stories tend to be popular among the common Chinese folks in Cantonese speaking regions, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, for the folks find the story tend to their daily lives. While the plot seems to be complex, it is rather straightforward and easy to understand. In terms of presentation, the movie mainly explores the romance and relationship between Yin Mui and Man Wai, while the story development were supported by Yin Mui seeing Mr Lee as her sugar daddy to support the family, and Sit Kei constants trouble with the law.

Compared to Cathay Organization's The Lion City (1960), The Merdeka Bridge pales in utilizing Singapore as the location to shoot the movie. With most scenes shot in the studio, fans who are looking forward to see the pre-independence Singapore will be disappointed, since it doesn't feature much outdoor shots. However, this is the only movie which features the housing estates in Queenstown, Punggol Jetty, the streets of Orchard Road before development and the lesser known Orchard Police Station, which has been replaced by major shopping mall today.

While Patricia Lam Fung's is the main attraction of the film, it was Mak Kei's performance of Sit Kei that makes the movie memorable. Playing the young man who constantly got into trouble with the law, Sit Kei can be seen as the root of the downfall in the Sit Family. For fans of the late Patricia Lam Fung, they are in for a treat, since she performs several songs in the film, on top of her beautiful looks. Cheung Yin Choi's portrayal of Man Wai seems to draw less attention, which there isn't much chance for him to explore his role. It is also worth mentioning that the late James Yi Lui, who was well know for Hong Kong's independent production in the 1970s, make his debut feature in The Merdeka Bridge with a minor role.

To sum up, The Merdeka Bridge is one of the rare hidden gem from Shaw Brothers studio which the film was shot entirely in Singapore. However, they missed the opportunity to fully utilize the location, since it wasn't a trend for Hong Kong studios to shot the movie outside Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it gave the younger generations a good opportunity to see Singapore in the midst of development before coming to where we are today.

Elle (2016/I)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Female Dominance at its Best, But Pales Compared to Its Predecessor, 18 November 2016

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is back with his latest full length feature film, Elle, after taking a ten's years break in full length film since Blackbook (Zwartboek, 2006). Once again, he uses feminism as the lead of the story, which showcases a different side of female dominance. Based on the novel Oh! written by Philippe Djian and features acclaimed actress Isabelle Huppert as Michele LeBlanc, the leading protagonist, the combination is definitely worth looking forward to.

When Michele, the CEO of a computer game development company, was sexually violated by a mysterious intruder who breaks into her home, she began a hunt on the identity of the intruder. Starting from her worker where she recently had a conflict with, she began every single step in self-protection. At the same time, she experiences family and relationship issues, a crush on her neighbor and sexual deprivation after remaining single for years. What she may not realize is that the intruder might be someone she is closed with, and it can be the person whom she trusts.

Generally, Elle can be divided into three components: the actions taken to prevent herself from further violation; repairing her estranged relationships with her family members and fulfilling her sexual deprivation from the people around her. In the three components, female dominance takes the leading role to control the situations that falls within the three components. For instance: changing the locks at home, getting an axe and pepper spray, learning how to fire a gun through the assistance of her co-worker displays a sense of security and protection needed for herself. Having a say in how her family members ought to behave, according to her standards, is another showcase on how female dominance applies on her personal relationships with her family members. This can be seen as how she wants her son to meet her criteria before she sponsors a new home for her son and pregnant girlfriend; telling her mother the types of boyfriend she should look for herself while paying for her living expenses. In terms of fulfilling her sexual needs, female dominance will only come in at the later part. Here, we can see how she gave in to her co-worker's request for sexual acts in the workplace, secretly admiring at her neighbor while pleasuring herself till how she fail to resist and constantly fantasize of being rape by the intruder.

While the plot focuses on how Huppert's Michele hunts down the intruder and engage in a cat and mouse game with the suspect, the development of the story has somehow distorted and went wayward from the initial plot. At an duration of 130 minutes, the story focuses mainly on how Michele's dominance and sometimes perverted personality came about. While this has provided us with a good understanding on Michele's background which leads to her personality, audience may find it rather redundant, and sometimes, bored, in terms of how this leads to the development of the whole story. Her personality was seen to only be useful at the last 40 minutes of the film, which opens a surprise to everyone. Isabelle Huppert has delivered an excellent performance in Elle, where she was seen as the next female role which uses female dominance as the center stage after Sharon Stone in Verhoeven's classic, Basic Instinct (1992). Audience can find some shadow of Stone's Catherine Tramell in Huppert's Michele, such as how she seduces her neighbor for sexual favors. While Tramell dominates and manipulate the people around her through intelligence and sex, Michele uses her personality to dominate the people around her.

To sum up, Elle marks the return of Paul Verhoeven to the big screen with a full-length feature thriller surrounding feminism and dominance. While this can be seen as one of the best foreign feature film of 2016, it is not exactly the best film from Verhoeven. Elle can be seen as a successor to Basic Instinct, but it has some way to go in order to achieve the cult-classic status earned by Basic Instinct.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
When Puccini Meets the Killer and Monty Hall's Probability., 2 November 2016

Based on the novel 'The Killer Is Still Awake' written by script writer Erica Lee, Hong Kong acclaimed director Herman Yau works together with Lee (who co-wrote the script) for the fourth time, hoping to give something new to the audience.

Primary school mathematics teacher Brian (Andy Hui) befriends the founder of Beloved Dogs, Jasmine (Janice Man) when she looks after Brian's pet dog. Working as a volunteer with Beloved Dogs, a non-profit organization which takes care of unwanted dogs, Brian and Jasmine soon falls in love. However, Jasmine unwilling accepts the proposal from a rich businessman, Vincent (Gordon Lam), under her parent's pressure. A week before the wedding, Jasmine seeks to patch up with a heartbroken Brian, but to no avail. Shortly after that, Jasmine was kidnapped by a mysterious man who strips her naked and tied her up on the bed, playing the song 'Nessun Dorma' from Puccini's Turandot. Things take a drastic turn when Jasmine escapes from the kidnapper, and Vincent found out about the kidnap and abuses her, ending with the kidnapper telling Jasmine that Vincent is the real target behind the kidnap.

This review is based on the 88 minutes version released for commercial purpose, instead of the original director's cut which premiered in Hong Kong during March this year. While the plot seems promising and packed with solid details, it has somehow failed to get audience's attention. The first 10 minutes explains the relationship between Brian, Jasmine and Vincent and their individual characteristics. This helps the audience to easily absorb the first half of the movie, where Jasmine were kidnapped and violated, intersected with a deeper background on the three characters.

Yau and Lee seems to focuses on Monty Hall's Probability Theory to tell the story, hence we can see the theory was used. To begin with, Brian explains the theory to Jasmine through a game in a classroom. This is followed by Jasmine making a dream, where she opens of the three red doors and see herself becoming a victim of Vincent. Lastly, when Jasmine argues with Brian that he can't apply the theory to explain some unanswered questions in life, the theory was used to answer the ending for Brian, Jasmine and Vincent. This has somehow made the story and the ending predictable, though some twists were made in the ending to change the overall perception of the movie.

Janice Man's performance as Jasmine is the main highlight of Nessun Dorma. Being the victim of the kidnap, she sees herself as Princess Turandot, which it explains her relationship with Brian. From a lovable and jovial individual, her world began to change after the kidnap, which Man has did a excellent job in the changes of Jasmine's character and emotion. While Gordon Lam did not disappoint the audience as Vincent, a rich businessman into shady business turned wife abuser, Andy Hui's Brian failed to impress the audience. Compared to Lam who got a lesser screen time which leaves the audience with deeper impression on his various emotional changes, Hui's expression were rather bored and seemed indifferent most of the time.

Overall, Nessum Dorma is a popcorn movie which doesn't require one to use Monty Hall Probability to think through, since it has been explained and applied in the movie. While fans of Janice Man will like the breakthrough she had in this film, this is one of the weakest film from Herman Yau, compared to his recent titles.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Tenants Downstairs – When Sliver Meets The Untold Story Meets Audition, 10 October 2016

Based on the novel of the same title written by Taiwanese author Giddens Ko, better known as his pen name Jiu Ba Dao (Nine Knives) to the Chinese community, he brings the novel to live with the help of the first time director, Adam Tsuei. Under the directions of Tsuei, TheTenants Downstairs serves as a symphony of people from different backgrounds, or more rather, a mass orgy on the dark side of human nature.

A homeless man turned landlord (Hong Kong veteran actor Simon Yam taking up the most challenging leading role) inherits an old abandoned apartment building from his relative. He rents out the rooms to 'normal human beings', which he believes they are flawed in certain way. Thus, the rooms were rent out to: A single father (You An-Shun) and his young daughter (Angel Ho), a lusty gymnastic teacher (Kaiser Chuang), a married lecturer (Taiwanese veteran actor Lee Kang Sheng) and his male student lover (Malaysian actor Bernard Ho), a geeky student (Hou Yan-xi) who believes he has the power of tele-portation, a office worker (Li Xin) who believes in making use of her body to climb up the corporate ladder, and a young lady (Shao Yu-Wei) who always carry a trolley luggage around into her room. With CCTVs installed in their respective rooms, the landlord satisfies his fetish for voyeurism. Making use of the individual's living habits, the landlord decided to manipulate everyone, which leads to mistrust, mayhem and murder.

Rather than seeing it as a usual suspense thriller, The Tenants Downstairs serves more of an exploration on the dark side of human nature. Simon Yam taking the leading role of the landlord serves as a bystander to the daily life of his tenants, which he carefully records down their daily activities in order to bring the game up to the next level. While Yam was well known for his various roles in the Category 3 movies during his early days, his experiences helps him to take up the challenging role, which leaves the audience with a twisted mind.

The story can also be seen as a darker side of the society, where the apartment is a micro-society by itself, with the tenants and their behavior forms the reflection to the current society. For instance: the father develops a sexual attraction towards his young daughter (incest and pedophilia); the gymnastic teacher engaging in a sexual relationship with the office worker, which in return, induces physical violence towards her (domestic violence); the geeky student indulging in his own world (socially awkward), which ends up being seen as a intruder in the homosexual relationship between the lecturer and the student; the gay couple living in a secret lifestyle (one is married and dominant, another waiting to be enlisted into the army and submissive). However, Taiwanese actress Shao Yu-Wei seems to be a scene stealer from here, where she chooses her victims through seduction and kidnapping. Beneath the kind- looking face holds a twisted personality, where her role is a reflection from the role of Asami portrayed by Eihi Shiina in Takashi Miike's Audition (1999).

With the mayhem created due to manipulation, it is no surprise that audience will get to see a movie filled with several adult contents. The Tenants Downstairs is not only something that is disturbing to the adult viewers, but also challenges the tolerance level, social norms and censorship regulations around the world. With the elements of voyeurism from Philip Noyce's Sliver (1993), murder and cannibalism in Herman Yau's The Untold Story (1993) and Audition, The Tenants Downstairs takes the strength from each film. With an unusual way of storytelling and unexpected twists, be warned and beware. Watch it only if you are ready for the unusual storytelling method from Ko, who also wrote the script. And no, this is a far cry from Ko's sweet teenage romantic drama, You're The Apple of My Eye (2012).

Note: The review is given based on the revised version created for Singapore market.

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