Bouquets and brickbats of Asian cinema


7 Letters (Director: Various)

A HIT-AND-MISS effort, 7 Letters is nonetheless essential viewing for a general snapshot of the current state of Singapore cinema. Yes, it's naturally sentimental as a SG50 project and the film's a hodgepodge of styles and genres that resemble our racially diverse society.

Standouts include Jack Neo's coming-of-age romantic comedy, That Girl, about a young lass's unrequited love for a street urchin; and Kelvin Tong's heartwarming GPS (Grandmother Positioning System), which pays tribute to historic places in Singapore that have long gone.

In The Room (Director: Eric Khoo)

Like last year's To Singapore With Love which was refused classification, it's unfortunate Eric Khoo's new erotic drama, In the Room, has suffered the same fate and has only been screened once at the recent Singapore International Film Festival.

The film's steamy sex scenes might be making headlines but the film is also a touching tribute to the Singapore auteur's fallen friend - the late author-poet-rocker Damien Sin who incidentally wrote Khoo's first film, Mee Pok Man.

In the Room is one of Khoo's more accessible works, so it's a shame only a select local audience ever got to watch it.

3688 (Director: Royston Tan)

When it comes to big screen musicals, trust Royston Tan to get it right. This year's 3688 follows in the same vein as his previous works 881 (2007) and 12 Lotus (2008) except he trades tears for laughter here instead. It's a nostalgic slice of Singapore cinema with familiar landscapes and Feng Fei Fei evergreens covered impressively by the angelic-voiced Joi Chua who plays a soft-hearted parking warden. 3688 is definitely a very likeable musical-comedy which hits all the right notes.

The Assassin (Director: Hou Hsiao Hsien)

Fans and critics continue to be polarised by arthouse director Hou Hsiao Hsien's "wuxia" epic The Assassin. Make no mistake that this is no Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with the film's snail pace rubbing certain sections of the audience the wrong way as they come expecting swordplay and action set pieces. But given how beautiful this looks on the big screen, resistance is mostly futile.

Lost and Love (Director: Peng San Yuan)

In China, thousands of children get abducted every year. Lost and Love explores this heartbreaking social issue and the film is based on an actual 2010 case where a father finds his son after a three year search. Andy Lau flexes his acting muscle in this touching drama, playing a scraggly farmer who travels across China for more than 15 years on his motorcycle to search for his lost child. Lost and Love is eye-opening, to say the least.


1965 (Directors: Randy Ang, Daniel Yun)

The intention is good but the execution could have been a lot better. 1965 took almost half a decade before it finally hit the big screen and went from what many thought would be a Lee Kuan Yew biopic to a historic thriller with Singapore's founding Prime Minister playing a fringe role. It's a case of over-thinking things when keeping it simple might have done the trick. 1965 might also have worked better as a telemovie especially since the cast is made up of mostly small screen stars.

Dragon Blade (Director: Daniel Lee)

Lunar New Year films are often bad and put together hurriedly to cash in on the lucrative cinema-going festive crowd. Jackie Chan's Dragon Blade feels exactly like that - lots of style and stars (including Chan's Hollywood buddies Adrien Brody and John Cusack) but absolutely no substance with its dull and messy plot. Dragon Blade is what a vanity project looks like.

Mr Unbelievable (Director: Ong Kuo Sin)

Should a viral YouTube music video bemade into a film? I think we all know the answer to this one so don't pretend to look stunned like a vegetable.

READ MORE: Picks & pans

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