Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ketupat, Lemang and Rendang, Oh My.

I guess that it’s a no-brainer to assume that the upcoming Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid Mubarak for those unfamiliar with the local term) is definitely on the minds of everyone who will be celebrating it. Seeing that it comes closely after Deepavali this year, I’ve decided to take the whole week off next week instead of the usual few days I took in previous years. So instead of just spending about 3-4 days with the family, I will be spending a grand total of 10 days at the ole homestead in the boondocks of Selayang this year.

I’m not really looking forward trying to figure out what to pack for a stay that long. I don’t keep any of my clothes at my parents’ house since I move out so I definitely need to bring some from my apartment. Since it would be a long haul stay this time around, relative to my usual blink-and-miss-it drop-ins, I’m afraid that I may end up having to pack up half of my wardrobe just to make sure I have enough clothes to wear. Of course that doesn’t include the Baju Melayu and/or the batik shirts that I need to bring along to wear in the event that they want me to look half-way presentable when we go visiting relatives. Looks like I have to break out my carry-on luggage to pack all this stuff in instead of my customary backpack.

I have to say that I’m looking forward for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri this year because I get to try my hand at making dodol from scratch for the first time in my life. My late grandfather used to make it every year but he stopped about 10 years ago when his health declined and no one in the family took up the tradition. I don’t know why I suddenly feel the urge to want to revive the family tradition and revive my grandfather’s old dodol recipe. At first I was the only one wanting to do this since dodol-making is a back breaking work to say the least but eventually I managed to rope in my other brothers and brother-in-law to chip in. Hopefully they would actually deliver on the promise but even if they don’t, I probably would still soldier though it. My father jokingly told me that my late grandfather’s spirit must have put the idea in my head while I was sleeping and now I have no choice but to see it through. It’s creepy to think that there might be some truth to that since I’ve never been keen about the idea before.

Just in case that I get bored, I’m definitely lugging back my PS2 and my laptop along for the trip. I don’t think that I will be posting any entries during the holidays since I don’t have a broadband connection at my parents’ house but I guess I could still do an offline write up on how the dodol-making venture turns out. I could always upload that when I come back to my apartment. Other than some last minute instructions for my staff who will be working next week, I guess that I’m all set for the holidays.

For those celebrating Hari Raya I would like to wish you and yours a Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri and a safe celebration. Also not forgetting those who will be celebrating Deepavali a few days before Hari Raya, well wishes for them and their family. For the rest who would still be able to celebrate with us during the holidays, I would like to wish the a safe and enjoyable holiday.

See you guys on the flip side.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My Love Affair With Food

(image curtesy of Ben & Jerry'

I recently found out that the local 7-11 store near my place carries Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and ever since then I’ve been getting a pint a week from them. Unfortunately, they don’t come cheap. A 1-pint tub of Ben & Jerry’s cost about RM 24 compared to a local brand costing under RM 10. However, I gladly pay the premium just to get my hands on what I always believed to be the best ice cream on the face of the planet. B&J’s ice cream are so much more flavorful than the local ice creams that each bite is just an orgasm of taste that’s hard to resist. They also have much more imaginative flavors than your average local ice cream.

B&J’s were the only ice cream that I used to eat during my stay in the States. When I came back, I tried to find a place that carries them but for the longest time, I could only find them very rarely. Even when I did find them, it would be just a few tubs of plain flavored tubs of chocolate or vanilla which didn’t seem worth buying since there were tons of cheaper chocolate or vanilla ice cream. The 7-11 store that I’m buying them from now carries “Cherry Garcia”, “Chubby Hubby”, “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” & “Chocolate Fudge Brownie” flavors that I don’t remember having before. I have to say that my current favorite flavor is “Chubby Hubby” but unfortunately for me they really just fly off the ice cream section every time fresh stocks come in. I think I have a rival in my quest to get a tub of “Chubby Hubby”

Finding a supply of B&J’s ice cream again reminded me of all the foods that I missed from the time I was living in the States. I guess that I could try to recreate some of them locally but I wonder if they would be the same. I thought that for today’s entry, since I don’t really have anything more interesting to write about, I’ll list some of my favorite foods that I missed.

BTW ... I’m not telling which 7-11 store carries B&J just in case mine is the only one who carries them. Don’t need more competition for the ice creams.

Toasted Garlic Bagels

Of all the food I had in Madison, this is the one that I missed the most. I used to go to this bagel shop just across from Randall Stadium at the corner of Regent St and Monroe St every chance I get and buy them by the dozen. I never had one before I came to the US and I instantly fell in love with it the first time I had one. I remembered that the shop carried a wide variety of types but my favorite was garlic with garlic flavored cream cheese. Having garlic breath for the rest of the day was worth each warm toasted slice although I guess that it didn’t really endear me to non-garlic eaters. Unfortunately for me, bagels are almost unknown here and I’ve only found them again once a few years back in a local sandwich food chain that have since stopped operating. Someone told me that I could get frozen bagels flown in from US from a shop in Ampang that specializes in food for the expatriate population on Ambassador’s Row there but I have not been able to track down the place till today.

Jelly Filled Doughnuts

For some strange reason, I never liked jelly filled doughnuts before I went to the States. I guess it was because they get too messy to eat compared to powders or glazed doughnuts. My first Wisconsin winter quickly change that for me. There was a doughnuts shop about 2 blocks away from where I stayed and they would have freshly baked jelly filled doughnuts and something they call “bear claws” at the start of almost every hour of the day. They usually use either apple, blueberries or strawberries as fillings but sometimes they would go wild and have something like apricot or peach instead. I remember that the smell of freshly baked doughnuts would waft into my room at the middle of a cold winter’s night and immediately get my stomach juices flowing. To this day, I would always remember biting into a freshly baked peach bear claw as one of the best things about winters in Madison.

Cajun Seafood Gumbo

I’m a big fan of spicy food and the closest that I got to real American spicy food was either Cajun or Tex-Mex cooking. While I had both types of restaurants close to where I lived, I found myself attracted more to Cajun cooking than Tex-Mex and more to seafood gumbo than other Cajun dishes. There was this deli about 2 blocks from my apartment that served the best seafood gumbo I ever head. The owners were very friendly to me and even walked me through all the different types of Cajun dishes when I first came to their shop. Needless to say that I became fast friends with them to the point that I could ask them to cook up a special extra spicy batch of seafood gumbo on the days that I would go there for dinner. For the 3 years I was in Madison, their seafood gumbo was one of my favorite comfort food. I remember begging them for their gumbo recipe before I left to come back to Malaysia but they laughingly told me that they don’t need the competition if they decide to expand to this side of the world.

Chicago-style deep dish pizza

I have yet to find any place in Malaysia that has this style of pizza. The one that I remember most fondly was the spinach – garlic – cheese deep dish pizza that they used to sell at a small Italian family owned restaurant a few blocks away from where I used to stay in Madison. They made the pizza about the size of a dinner plate and was at least 3 inches deep. A whole pie would usually last me about a day if I don’t go crazy and finish it in one sitting. The thing was that it actually tasted better served cold the day after an overnight in the refrigerator. My favorite college breakfast was a cold slice of deep dish pizza bought the day before with black coffee which also explains the ever increasing waistline while I was there.

I don’t know if I will ever get to sample these foods again short of actually making a trip back to Wisconsin but one can never know. I never thought that I would find B&J’s in KL and now I have so stranger things have happened.

Or I could always try to find the recipes on the Net and try them out when I have a proper kitchen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

DVD Review - The Outsiders - The Complete Novel

(image curtesy of American Zoetrope)

I first watched “The Outsiders” when I was 12 years old and living in an Army camp in Kota Bahru, Kelantan. I don’t remember who’s idea it was but we rented the movie from the local video store one day and I instantly identified with the story at first sitting. I first saw the movie during a time in my life that I was running around in a group of friends not unlike the “Greasers” in the movie. My old gang were the children of the lower ranking officers in the camp and we had our own version of the “Socs” which consisted of the children of the higher ranking officers in the camp. Of course we didn’t really have fights or rumbles between the 2 groups but at 12 years old, the animosity between the groups were felt like it was a matter of life or death. Of all the characters that I saw in that movie, I identify the most with Ponyboy as like him I was the youngest one in our group and the one who was just acting tough because the others expected me to.

Looking back, it was amazing how similar the story was to the experiences that I was going through at the time despite the fact that the original story was set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 60’s. This was one of the strengths of “The Outsiders” as written by S.E. Hinton in which the story was universal enough that the themes applied to most teenage experiences wherever they may be and in any time period they happen to live in. When I figured out the movie that I watched over and over was originally from a book, I went out to see if I can find a copy to read. I remembered looking for the book in my school library and the disappointment of not finding it. Somewhat obsessed with the story, I even asked my English teacher about it and she was the one who told me to try the State Library where I finally found a copy. This was the exact moment when I started to fall in love with S.E. Hinton’s books especially her earlier works that still have a special place in my heart.

For years I often wondered how the movie would be like if they followed closely to the original book. I’ve always been more partial to the story of the Curtis brothers as presented in the book than the Dally story that they focus on more in the movie. The movie in of itself was a wonderful favorite of mine but I always wished that we had more of the family interaction in it especially those between Sodapop and Ponyboy. I always thought that of the 3 brothers, Sodapop was the glue that held them together and this role was conspicuously missing in the movie. I also remembered the thing that bugged me the most all those years was how the opening and closing of the movie was totally different from the book. The movie always felt like an incomplete adaptation of the book and for the longest time it was the only version that we had to watch.

When I heard that they were planning to re-release a recut version of “The Outsiders” on DVD, I was a bit apprehensive about what would be changed in my favorite movie. As more details came out about the 22 minutes of previously unseen footage incorporated into the pervious version start to surface on the Net, I realize that I had to break my own rule about double-dipping and purchase a copy of this DVD even though I already had a copy that I purchased much earlier. Needless to say that I was very excited when I finally got my copy in the mail from It went straight into my DVD player the first opportunity I got to watch it that evening and immediately I knew that this was a great buy.

To start off, the picture and audio quality is much better in “The Outsiders – The Complete Novel” DVD than it was in the original release DVD. The print was fairly clean and the same visual flaws that was in the original release appeared here suggesting that the problem might have been in the master copy they used. The quality of the visuals were also shared in the new scenes that was added to the original release so visually they look like they had always been part of the movie. The audio sounded much better to me than the original print of the previous version. There is not much use of heavy bass for explosions and such but the ranges that they do use came out crisp and clear. The remastered audio and visuals on this DVD makes it easy to highly recommend it as the version of the film that fans would want to have in their collection although there is a caveat to that recommendation that I will be expanding more on later in this write-up.

In this re-release, Coppola went through his historical archives and reintegrated scenes that he had to cut out from the original release. Much of the cuts were made after receiving feedback from audience previews prior to the films original release. Unfortunately for fans of the book, these cuts were scenes that dealt mostly with the relationships between the Curtis brothers which many felt was the core of what the book was about. To see them reintegrated into the movie was nothing less that a resounding victory for the fans who have long clamored for a more complete version of the adaptation to their favorite story. In this new cut, we have a new opening and ending to the film that follows closer to how the original book opened and closed. We also see more of interaction between Ponyboy, Sodapop and Darry as well as more emotional scenes that were missing from the original cut. I have to say that the most poignant addition for me in this version was the night time scene between Ponyboy and Sodapop in which Soda comforted Pony after being yelled at by the older brother. It was a favorite of mine from the book and I was happy to see that it got included into the recut version.

Coppola also replaced much of the soundtrack in this new version of the movie with songs reflective of the times and the Greaser sub-culture. In his commentary, he stated that he always thought that the original soundtrack was a bit heavy and operatic compared to what he envisioned it to be. While some of the soundtrack changes in this case worked with the new cut, others were woefully out of place if not completely jarring. The song that he had playing in the scene in the park where Ponyboy and Johnny got attacked by the Socs was totally wrong for the intend of the scene and I personally thing that replacing the original soundtrack with the beach-surfer song here is nothing less than criminal. The same could be said in the Curtis brothers reunion scene at the hospital after the fire at the abandoned church which previously was evocative of the emotional content of the scene but now was conspicuously missing. I have to admit that the epic sounding Dally’s theme that used to play in the background in the scenes of his flight from the hospital after Johnny’s demise was sorely missed in this version. Although the soundtrack to the original version of the movie was at times may sound overblown and corny, it was one that resounded well with the fans and fondly remembered all these years. It made this film stand out from the other teen movies that was released around and about the same time “The Outsiders” was released. It was unfortunate that Coppola felt like he had to change that essential mix that made this movie unique.

There are 2 commentary tracks on “The Outsider’s – The Complete Novel” DVD set. The first one was by Coppola himself in which he gives wonderful insights about the characters and the process of making the movie. Halfway through the commentary, he seemed to repeat himself on more than one occasion especially on the subject to the music that he replaced in this new release. I wonder if this was to justify the reasons of doing something that he knew would be a sore point for the fans watching this version of the movie. All in all it was not the best commentary that I’ve heard from him. Fortunately the second commentary by some of the original cast members was much more exciting to listen to. The cast commentary included thoughts from C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy), Diane Lane (Cherry), Patrick Swayze (Darry) & Ralph Macchio (Johnny) who recorded it in a cast reunion previewing the re-cut version of the film. There were also comments from Rob Lowe (Sodapop) and Matt Dillon (Dallas) which were recorded separately but so seamlessly spliced together that one could image they were all in the same room. Notable absence on the commentary track were Tom Cruise (Steve) and Emilio Estevez (Two-Bit) but I guess it was because they were minor characters in the movie comparatively to the others. Those on the cast commentary track gave wonderful personal anecdotes of making the film and occasionally ribbed each other at how young they were when they made this movie. Their joy at watching this movie again after all this time was apparent in their commentary track and it made watching the movie with them enjoyable.

Disk 2 of this set holds a few notable bonus extras for this new release. At the heart of it was a new making of documentary entitled “Staying Gold: A Look Back at the Outsiders” that tells the story of how the movie came about and the process of making the movie. Fans would learn that Coppola actually filmed the whole movie on video once as part of the rehearsals before shooting the first frames on film which for most filmmakers at the time was simply unheard of. We are also treated to wonderful behind the scenes footage as they were filming that must have long languished in the archives and unseen before now. In another DVD extra, viewer’s get to visit the locations where the film was originally shot in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma with S.E. Hinton who wrote the original book as a teenager. It was wonderful to see how much of the original locations and buildings was still around and looked relatively unchanged to the way they were shown in the movie. The other bonus extra worth highlighting is the “Casting The Outsiders” documentary which documented the unique casting method that Coppola used to cast for this movie. It was interesting to see how many young actors who have now become big stars themselves trying out for the various parts in the movie.

All in all, “The Outsiders – The Complete Novel” DVD set is an easy recommendation to make. Fans of the original movie will find that this new cut with the additional 22 minutes of footage reinserted further expands the story and provides richer details of the relationship between the characters than in the first movie. Fans of the original book would like this version much better than the original as it follows the book much closer this time around. The extra bonus features on Disk 2 adds another layer to the appreciation of the movie which would be a welcome addition to any fan’s collection. If there was a flaw in this release that would have made it truly exceptional then it has to be the unfortunate replacement of the original soundtrack with songs that clearly undercut the what was happening on screen. This flaw was something that would be enough to convince people to hold on to their original copy of the DVD instead of replacing it totally with this set. Flaws aside, this will be the version of this beloved story that the next generation of fans will come to discover and love.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Stay Gold, Ponyboy

Got my copy of “The Outsiders – the Complete Novel” DVD from in the mail yesterday. Immediately pop the DVD in the player to watch the extended version of one of my all time favorite movies to see what Francis Ford Coppola added to this newly recut version. What I saw absolutely floored me ! The movie was good before but this version elevated it to at least an “Excellent” level with the new additions. I can’t say that I’m liking the musical score change that much but I’ve only had a chance to watch it twice last night.

I’m watching it again tonight to listen to Coppola’s director’s commentary track on Disk 1. The cast commentary track that I listened to last night was insightful and fun to listen to. Since I have both version of this movie in my DVD collection, I’m thinking of writing up a compare and contrast review of the two version over the weekend for one of the entries next week.

Watch out for it in this space.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Movie Review - Sky High

(image curtesy of Disney Pictures)

My mother used to tell me that they only way to stop me from crying when I was a baby was to put me in front of the old black and white television and turn it to whatever show they were showing at the time. Growing up, watching TV was a big part of my daily life and I remember watching old shows like “Space: 1999”, “Battlestar Galactica” and the original “Mickey Mouse Club”. The MMC features that they used to show was either one of 2 types. One was the live action animals with voice over show that I absolutely adored as a child and the other type was the normal stories of American teens growing up. One in particular that I remember fondly to this day was “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” starring a young Kurt Russell. The nerdy geeky side of me wanted to be like his character and have a whole computer downloaded into my head in a freak accident and end up being a super genius. Watching “Sky High” at the local cinema last weekend brought back the feelings and memories of watching those old MMC features again.

“Sky High” tells the story of Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) who is the son of the greatest superheroes in the world, The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), as he starts his first day at the titular high school. This elite high school, set high up in the clouds and reachable by a flying school bus, is the training ground for the offspring of the many super powered individuals that populate the world of “Sky High”. An amalgamation of Hogwarts and Xavier’s Institute for the Gifted, “Sky High” operates on a class system where the student body is divided into either the “Heroes”, those with flashy super powers, or the “Hero Support” aka sidekicks for those who have less than stellar talents. Being the rare product of two super powered parents, Will was expected to easily get into the “Heroes” track.

Instead of the Sorting Hat, the students at “Sky High” had the sonic boom powered Coach Boomer (Bruce Campbell) to determine which track they will go to. It was during the trials that they found out that Will Stronghold, long thought as the next big thing in their superhero world, had not actually developed any superpowers during the past summer and was regulated to the “Sidekick” track faster than a speeding bullet. He was joined in “Hero Support” track by an assorted group of archetypal misfits easily found in your typical John Hughes teen movie including the flora controlling Layla (Danielle Panabaker) who was Will’s best friend since grade school and harbored a secret crush on him.

Life in the “Sidekick” track was difficult for Will and his group of friends. Not only does he had to deal with the taunts of the “Heroes” at school, he also had to tell his father about his lack of superpowers. In a scene not unlike Iceman’s “coming out” scene in X2, Will finally tells his father who was quite disappointed by the lack of development to the point that he briefly considered dumping his son into a vat of radioactive waste to jumpstart his powers in a funny scene with Will’s mother a little later. Things would later change when Will’s super strength finally manifested in a cafeteria battle against the pyrokinetic Warren Peace (Steven Strait) who held a grudge against him as Will’s father was responsible for his father, a super villain, being incarcerated and away from the family. Things immediately changed for Will after the cafeteria incident as he gets bumped up to the “Hero” track and becomes the object of desire of the school’s IT girl, Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who happens to be the school resident techopath.

What follows could be classified as formulaic of teen dramas where the main character suddenly finds fame and began to believe the hype around himself to the point of alienating his true friends. The only difference is that in “Sky High” some of the teens have super powers to make life just a little more complicated than your average teenager. Added to the mix was a super villain working in the background seeking revenge at Will’s parents for defeating him in their last encounter. To say more about what happens next would spoil the ending but suffice to say that in the end Will and his “Sidekick” friends come back to save the day in a feel good ending that ties up all storylines.

I have to say that I thought that it was a bit of casting genius to cast Michael Angarano as Will Stronghold. Not only does he bears a striking resemblance to a young Kurt Russell but he imbues that character with awkwardness and confidence that the character needed. In a movie where the teens command most of the screen time, these young actors led the movie with much more presence than most teen actors much more well known. As for the older actors, Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston’s portrayal of Will’s parents was just on the right level of being over the top to be enjoyable to watch. Honorable mention also should be given to Dave Foley whose portrayal of Mr. Boy, The Commander’s old sidekick and the current teacher for the “Hero Support” track, wonderfully reminds the audience why he continue to be one of the funnier comedians in the business.

One particular flaw of this movie was the seemingly low production value of the CGI special effects compared to the recent movies. However, it actually fits into the simplistic atmosphere that this film has going for it. Instead of dazzling the audience with slick special effects shots, they decided to keep it simple which fortunately for them worked in this case.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Lynda Carter (TV’s “Wonder Woman”) cameo as “Principle Powers” in this movie. Her line saying “I'm not Wonder Woman, you know” was one of the comic fanboy’s moment in the movie. The exciting feeling I got when hearing her say that was not unlike the one I felt when I first heard Johnny Storm shout “Flame On!” in the “Fantastic Four” movie. I wished that they would have her twirl like she did on her old TV show when she transforms into a comet in “Sky High” but I guess that would be too obvious. The film was a good enough afternoon distraction and easy to recommend as it is.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Movie Review - The Skeleton Key

(image curtesy of Universal Studios)

One could say that East Asian horror genre has now gain sufficient prominence that not only is Hollywood remaking more than it’s share of films of this nature but new horror films coming out of Tinsletown now seem to have embraced the same sensibilities. Films like “The Sixth Sense”, “The Others” and “Stirs of Echoes” all share more than a few points of reference with their East Asian brethren than the blood and gore fest that have long been associated with Hollywood horror movies. In the latest addition to the list of “thinking” horror/thriller movies, “Skeleton Key” continues the Hollywood experiment of the assimilation of East Asian horror structures into popular film making.

In “Skeleton Key”, Kate Hudson plays the role of Caroline Ellis, a New Jersey transplant to New Orleans, who worked in a hospice facility in order to get enough credit for her towards her nursing degree. We also find out later that she takes on this responsibility as penance for her guilt of letting her own father die alone a year prior. Sicken by the way the facilities threats their patients, Caroline decided to answer a classified ad looking for a live-in caregiver where she hopes that she would be able to help in her own terms. Little does she know that her decision to take the job offer would set off a chain of events that would quickly run out of her control.

As part of her new assignment, Caroline was expected to take care of Ben Devereaux, played by John Hurt, in a huge decrepit plantation mansion surrounded by the dark and foreboding Louisiana swamps. Ben had suffered a debilitating stroke that left him paralyzed and was under the care of his wife Violet Devereaux, played by Gena Rowlands, before circumstances forced her to seek outside help to care for her husband. From the very first moment they met, Violet resented Caroline’s presence and their antagonistic relationship made for most of the conflict throughout this movie. Being that she was far out of the way in this gothic manor, Caroline’s single link to the outside world was the Devereaux’s lawyer Luke, played by Peter Sarsgaard, who would later be her confidant as things became increasingly strange around the house.

From the very beginning, things seemed to be a little off for Caroline in the Devereaux’s residence. The exact cause of Ben’s stroke was left very vague as Violet explained to her except for the fact that it happened while Ben was in the attic where a locked room that she forbade Caroline to enter. The whole house was stripped of all reflective surfaces and mirrors for no apparent reason. Caroline was given the titular skeleton key that could unlock all doors in the house except, apparently, the door in the attic when Ben had his stroke. The mixture of curiosity and possibly boredom led Caroline to explore the attic and discover that her key does open the door in the attic where she found a secret room filled with items associated with the Hoodoo belief practiced by the former black house servants of the previous occupants.

Although initially the skeptic, Caroline began to find evidence that Violet knew more about “Hoodoo”, a mixture of voodoo, Christianity and Native American practices, than she lets on. Along the way she begins to question the story of how Ben had his stroke and became convinced that a darker hand was manipulating the events that happened in the house. The character arc for Caroline from being a skeptic to becoming a believer in Hoodoo anchors the remaining story as it hurtles along to an exciting climax that would definitely blindside most audience who could be looking for something more conventional. The surprising twist at the end of the movie more than made up for the slower moments in the first half and would leave the audience with a memorable dénouement to leave the cinema with.

At it’s core, “Skeleton Key” is more of a thriller than it is a horror movie. The focus is more on how Caroline piece together the puzzle of what actually happened in the house rather than the ghosts that may or may not be haunting the attic. Nevertheless there were more than a few atmospheric scenes that would surely slowly creep under the audience’s skin to provide the chills running down the spine of those watching this movie in the darken theater. There were points in the movie that could be singled out as really pushing the limits of believability as well as predictability but thankfully they were far in between. The original twist at the end sells the whole movie and the discerning audience would find themselves retracing Caroline’s investigations to see if there were portends and foreshadowing of the unraveling of the mysteries in the climax.

Casting-wise, it was refreshing to see a different side of the effervescent Kate Hudson acting against type in this movie. This role was something that she has not had a chance to do much before and it was handled capably. Gena Rowlands and John Hurt deliver solid but unremarkable performances. Hurt, especially, was reduce to acting with mostly just his eyes and brows making panicky expressions as his character’s stroke had rendered him speechless. For most of the movie, Peter Sarsgaard’s character doesn’t have a lot of things to do but rest assure that would change in the last 15 minutes of the show.

If there was anything criminal about this movie then it would be the dismal attempt to really engage the wonderful background of Louisiana swamp and New Orleans more into the movie. Instead of being a whole other character that would contribute greatly to the atmosphere of the movie, the wonderful landscape was wasted as just mere colorful backdrops to the action on screen. Had the director made better use of the already dark and creepy environment, the movie would be able to deliver more spine tingling chills than what it meagerly doled out in a watered down homage to the East Asian horror genre.