films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


15: The Movie

2003 / 90m - Singapore
Drama, Crime
15: The Movie poster

I had largely forgotten about Royston Tan's first feature film, but I don't think I'll let that happen again. This was a very pleasant rewatch, where Tan pulls out all the stops to show a frank and varied portrait of five young, poor kids in Singapore. They get up to no good and rebel but they also find comfort and comradery in each other's company. The cinematography is flashy and outrageous, the score is fun and the performances are bold and on point. It's not the most subtle film and it may be a tad too disjointed for some, but while divisive, for me these qualities worked in favor of the film.


2005 / 93m - Singapore
4:30 poster

Letters from the South

Nan Fang Lai Xin
2013 / 105m - Malaysia
Drama - Anthology
Letters from the South poster

I'm quite partial to anthology films, as they allow directors to go a little crazy. Because they are comprised of several shorts, these projects allow for a little more risk. One or two failed entries don't necessarily mean a failed film. For the larger part, anthology films deliver, but only when the directors are willing to play.

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Letters from the South was a bit disappointing though. For the larger part it's just run-of-the-mill arthouse shorts that don't offer anything unusual or memorable. Aditya Assarat, Sun Koh and Midi Z are interesting names on paper, but their entries felt muddled, unadventurous and a little lazy.

Royston Tan's execution is better, but not up to par with his feature films. Tsai on the other hand delivers the biggest disappointment of the bunch (a prelude to Journey to the West). The only one who rose above the pack here was Chui Mui Tan, delivering a challenging and beautiful little film that stands in shrill contrast with the other entries. I expected more from this film.


2007 / 115m - Singapore
Musical, Comedy
881 poster

Quite a change of pace for Roystan Tan. I really liked his first two films, but he fell somewhat off the radar later on. After having seen 881, that's not really a big surprise. It's a film that is aimed squarely at a local market, which is pretty small considering Singapore is basically just a big city.

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The film puts the spotlight on some local folklore, namely the Getai singers. The Papaya Sisters are a newly formed duo that wants to perform on stage. To realize their dream they seek help from their aunt, a former Getai singer. The Durians (another popular duo) isn't too happy with their quick rise to success, and they're doing everything to stop them in their path.

The Getai music is extremely kitsch, quite garish and unless you're into local pop music, a struggle for the ears. I'm sure every country has its pop scene that has no chance of crossing any borders, when you decide to make a musical out of it though, it's no surprise the rest of the world isn't very keen on picking it up. It's a colorful film, it's also pretty light and fun, but the musical bits make it hard to wholeheartedly enjoy.