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  • Friday, 21 Feb 2014

Vampire Academy


IMAGINE that you’ve tricked your unsuspecting friend into opening a shaken bottle of soda. You wait with eager anticipation for the burst of foam. He begins to open the bottle but stops halfway and the gas just fizzles out. That’s exactly what watching Vampire Academy felt like – it’s a movie filled with potential but it ends up failing on most fronts. Based on a book, it follows Dhampir-in-training (guardians of the Moroi, mortal vampires) Rose Hathaway and her Moroi friend Vasilisa Dragomir at St Vladimir’s Academy, a Hogwarts-esque school that trains both Dhampirs and Moroi to battle the Strigoi, undead and evil vampires.

Trouble starts when the girls discover that there might be an enemy within the school. On the performance front, the actors seem to be channelling Kristen Stewart and the uninspired dialogue does not help – Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) comes across as just another annoying, smart-alecky teenager. As for the plot, one important ingredient is missing: a credible threat! The stakes (no pun intended) are just not high enough. The only moment that brought me close to the edge of my seat was the final scene. If the filmmakers had taken the formula they used here and applied it throughout the movie, we might have had a decent film. – By Dinesh Kumar Maganathan (**)


WHEN a film revolves around a real event, the audience pretty much knows where the film is headed.

So it makes sense that director Paul WS Anderson would want to pay attention to digitally recreating the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed an entire town and its citizens. While some bits of the recreation are pretty impressive – like the thick volcanic fumes that black out the sun, and the terrain falling to pieces – other parts feel like the director held himself back in bringing this unstoppable force of nature to the screen.

This is a little disappointing especially after all that over-the-top destruction in films like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. Then there is the awful dialogue and the many one-dimensional characters littering the film – despite having a number of decent actors giving the script some substance including leading man Kit Harington. Pompeii does have well-choreographed gladiatorial fights and action sequences, but otherwise it has very little meat to make us invest in anything that’s happening on the screen. – Mumtaj Begum (**)

Bullets Over Petaling Street

MALAYSIAN gangster movies seem to come a dime a dozen. Nonetheless, Bullets Over Petaling Street attempts a fresh take on this tried-and-tested formula.

Ditzy movie star Angel (Debbie Goh) finds herself accidentally becoming a triad leader to replace her ex-boyfriend, who fakes his death and runs off to Thailand. It sounds a little far-fetched but the fashionable starlet taking on the role of lady gangster provides more than a few laughs in this Mandarin film.

There are also some jokes that only Malaysians will get especially when the triads meet to elect a new overall leader. There is clearly no shortage of action as the lead actress goes from being a target for assassins to someone not afraid of mixing it up with the other gang bosses.

The movie – helmed by directors Sampson Yuen and Ho Shih Phin – can get a little confusing at times with some movie-within-a-movie scenes (such an Inception moment, I know). At the same time, it almost feels like not enough care was given to properly flesh out the characters as some of the dialogue is a little redundant.

On the bright side, though, the fact that Irene Ang, who plays the mother of Angel’s former flame, makes a straight-faced joke about her resemblance to Phua Chu Kang’s wife – pretty hilarious. Overall, it is watchable. – Ann-Marie Khor (***)

That Awkward Moment

“SO ... where is this going?” Yeah, I don’t get it either. When three best friends who find themselves at That Awkward Moment in every dating relationship, circumstances tell them that it’s time to grow up.

Jason (Zac Efron), Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) are living their lives as bachelors in New York City. However, problems in Mikey’s marriage cause a rift in the trio’s licentious lifestyles. When his divorce becomes imminent, Mikey and his buddies enter a pact to always stay single and avoid commitment at all costs.

Mikey is secretly trying to rekindle his lost love, while Jason is juggling dates between Ellie (Imogen Poots) and Alana (Addison Timlin), and Daniel has fallen for Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis).

This film shows you that dating was something these guys weren’t ready for and that they were still stuck in the “fun zone”. Filled with typical buddy comedy moments and innuendo, it deserves some credit for the lead actors’ chemistry. – Ron J. Backus (**)


THIS is a film of many hats.

It’s about how big industry tries to manipulate the public, as seen when multinational corporation OmniCorp tries to create a public-friendly product in order to repeal a certain law that stands in the way of them milking the American market.

It’s about the question of what makes us who we are, and how far that can be manipulated, as shown through the journey of police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) when he becomes RoboCop.

It’s about how the lines can become blurred for scientists like Dr Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), who helps create RoboCop, and whose ethics go on a rollercoaster ride throughout the movie.

It’s about how the media can be used for essentially propaganda purposes, vis-a-vis the segments of TV show The Novak Element hosted by political host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), that are interspersed throughout the movie.

And of course, it is a reboot of the RoboCop franchise for today’s audience.

It’s a decent watch, but perhaps not quite action-packed enough for pure action fans.

Try not to miss the beginning as it involves a cute segue from the MGM lion to Novak. – Tan Shiow Chin (***)

Endless Love

PARENTS, especially fathers can be overprotective of their daughters.

Inspired by Scott Spencer’s 1979 bestseller, Endless Love explores true love, loyalty and commitment between young lovers David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade Butterfield (Gabrielle Wilde). Their love is tested in this romantic drama when Jade’s father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) tries break them up to protect his daughter’s future.

While the entire movie was a bit too idealistic, it does make a good watch for new and young couples.

Warning: be prepared for a whole lot of “lovey-dovey” moments. – Samuel Lee (***)

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