Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight: Best Hollywood Film This Year?

I have long since stopped writing film reviews. But prompted by my fiance, I think I scribble a few words about the new Batman film we saw over the weekend The Dark Knight (TDK).

Two words: F***ing Awesome.

To me, this is the best Batman flick since 1992's Batman Returns. Comparison is inevitable, but it was done at different time by different gifted directors, both in the process of reinventing a potential franchise.

Aside: Interesting trivia: Batman Returns was to be called The Dark Knight then. Tim Burton, who directed Batman (1989) and Batman Returns, and later produced Batman Forever, was inspired by the graphic novel, The Dark Knight, when idea on a Batman film was bounced to him. Plans for a Batman movie started after the success of Superman (1978). End of aside.

Coming back to TDK. What I found most compelling in this film is the script. While Burton's take mixed gothic fantasy, Christoper Nolan (Director and co-scriptwriter of TDK) chose to spin the superhero tale in a gripping crime drama scenario with aroma of the best of Shakespearean tragedy.

There are good guys, villains, human beings and freaks. You get confused sometimes. The line on morality is thin here. Who is good? Who is bad? Who's ugly? That is the question that is frequently posed in this movie, so much so, that half way you are not even sure whatever you are doing is morally right (paying for this movie is good, trust me).

The story may be complex, but the emotion it stirs from you is enough to put you right in it. You don't care much for the story, you care a lot for all the characters in this film. That is very rare in the Hollywood films that came out from 90s onwards.

The one character that was and will be talked about is The Joker. The late Heath Ledger did an excellent job, given that he had an excellent script to work with. It's an actor proof role and you must be really bad to ruin it. Ledger did not disappoint.

Christian Bale is as good as he was in the first film. And we see him as both Batman and Wayne in either alter ego.

But I was most impressed with Gary Oldman. Playing soon to be Commissioner Gordon, he was the only straight forward good guy in this film. And playing it amidst the chaos that was going on is very tough. His role has been beefed up from the first one, and he shines here. I really enjoyed his performance in this film.

As I mentioned to someone, this film contains many soul stirring moment. All the conventions in a superhero movie is thrown out of the window, in favour of gripping Noir-ish uncertain moments, often very disturbing.

Batman have been my favourite superhero. Both Batman Returns and the campy Batman The Movie (1966) are my favourites, for different reason. And this film will challenge the contendors in my list of favourite superhero films.

One gripe: Having so used to Danny Elfman's score in the Burton films, I still have issues with the score in this and Batman Begins. But they are not a hindrance to the story telling a wonderful motion picture that is The Dark Knight.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wheels Of Fury Part 1:

Or Guide to Driving in Malaysia and be just as bad as everyone else.

I wanted this to be published in some expat magazine, giving our visitors bit of guide in driving the Malaysian way. But trouble is, I might be put under ISA for inciting dangerous driving that may result in them driving into pedestrians, dogs, frogs, cattles or Mallika Sherawat (love to). So, the blogsphere is a safer place (or so I think). Oh, the title looked like an abandoned Bruce Lee/car race movie project, so I hope you don’t mind the sub-heading. It's part one, because I may add more to it later. Or just let it be a sequel-less thingy, like Mel Brooks History of the World Part 1.

Yes, we are going to talk about driving in Malaysia here, particularly in Kuala Lumpur. So, this might be useful especially for expatriates, and those who have moved in to Malaysia’s city-of-too-many-energy-consuming-but-beautiful-lights.

As with many important articles, let me start with an important quote. Karl Marx, in summarizing the need for humanity to survive, to outlive the shortcomings, and to address the neverending quest for perfection said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Or was it Groucho Marx?

Whoever said it, the maxim applies neatly to driving in Malaysia. As you may have noticed, while Malaysians are generally friendly, hospitable and eat too many Nasi Lemak and Roti Chanai, they are aggressive, terribly selfish, emotional and, at times, self destructive when it comes to driving.

Being a Malaysian who was born, bred and forced to drive with fellow Malaysians, I would like to offer my insight on…HOW TO DRIVE LIKE MALAYSIANS (cue superhero music).

Use of lanes:

In Malaysia right lane is for overtaking, and, for a three lane road, you are supposed to use the middle unless you are overtaking. Don’t buy that. Right lane is for speeding. Shoot your way to your desired speed level and honk the guy in front of you out!

And the left lane, as you know it, is for either slow driving, mainly to lead to the next exit. Haha! Whose leg are they pulling. Left lane can be used for overtaking too. Hell, give us five lane and we will use them all for overtaking.

Its all about speed. Often, in a 80 kilometer per hour (kph) roads or highway, you can always find cars zooming at easily 130-140 kph. Never mind the fact that inflation, prices of fuel and food are going up, these people are willing to fork out their hard earned money to pay the summons. How they do it is their own business of course.

The thing is this: if they can do it, so can you!

Use of lanes: to exit

Let’s talk about the left lane. As mentioned, generally, you use it when you are slowing down, to make an exit, or when you just want to drive slowly. Essentially it is the lane to switch to so that you can make a comfortable exit.

Or so it would seem those days! Left lane are for wimps, for those lame beaten up cars and heavy vehicle that looked like they were assembled from recycle-steel factories. When you reach your exit, cut through from the middle lane straight to the exit, never mind that the slow-laners would honk at you, show fists, etc. That’s all they can do from their pathetic vehicles.

Just cut in and pretend that nothing happens. What the heck, everyone does that. In Malaysia, one our favourite moto is “If others can do, so can I-mah!”.


Parking space is becoming rare, like those animals the animal rights people are endlessly lobbying for. Unfortunately, parking space is not as hot and sexy like, say, Bengal Tiger. So, its you, your car and that valuable space.

In order to address this issue, most Malaysians resort to the dirty tactic of double parking. The poor driver in the proper parking space has to wait for the double parker to move his or her vehicle before he can move. What does it say? Double parkers are the kings.

But guess what? It’s n o longer so. No, I don’t mean to say that enforcement has gotten tighter. Not that. It is just that double parking is so yesterday, passé.

People triple park! Hah! You never thought Malaysia would go that advanced, did you? Now, triple parkers are the kings, as now you have two drivers at their mercy. All hail new kings!

Let’s face it. Malaysian’s are very optimistic and positive minded people when situation arises for them not to have to walk to their destination. The motto is: “If there is a will, there is a parking space”.

There are more, and I'd love comments and suggestions and help poor clueless foreigners to DRIVE LIKE MALAYSIANS!!! (Cue superhero music).