Monday, December 24, 2012

Dredd (2012)

Late-posted because, though I didn't find it 'meh', the graphic violence did leave me a bit speechless.

[I'm such a sissy.]

Preamble aside, this movie is a far departure from Sylvester Stallone-starrer Judge Dredd from 1995, which (if I remembered correctly) was more camp than anything, and raised the ire of fans worldwide because he removed his helmet.

[And possibly also, Rob Schneider.]

Unlike other reboots, this movie doesn't waste time on origin-story or introductions, and we only see Karl Urban (in poor lighting) put on his helmet and be done with. The storyline itself is also pretty simplistic, but it sets the background for Dredd and his rookie (assigned to Dredd for final assessment), as they take down villains and rack up the body count on both sides.

It is a wee bit gratuituous for my taste, but damn if it isn't lovely to behold. The movie does this through (the aptly-named) Slow-Mo, a drug which slows the user's perception of time to 1% of the brain's normal processing speed. One particular scene that stands out is a Slow-Mo user, seeing the carnage unfold around him as Dredd and Cassandra (his rookie, who is also psychic, by the way) kick down the door and riddle everyone else with bullets.

I think the only thing that sticks in my mind after all this time is the glorious violence. The visuals are what makes the movie stand out, so do check it out if you don't mind gore too much.

For me, my enjoyment was marred by the violence. I guess I'm just conditioned to summer-movie material, where there are no blood and guts, and a literal back-breaking scene that didn't look like backs had really been broken.

7/10. No wonder this movie wasn't released in the summer.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

I watched this movie in July. On opening weekend.

I think I delayed on this because, though I enjoyed it, it was rather 'meh' and I couldn't really get my thoughts together (which was kinda close to none). Admittedly, it wasn't as 'meh' as Avatar, but even I could summon words to describe how 'meh' I felt about Avatar at the time.

[Nowadays, 'meh' makes me speechless.]

This film is basically a biography of Abraham Lincoln, former US president, except it posits that important events in Lincoln's life were influenced by vampires.

Which in turn, led to cool axe-swinging, but I digress.

The main reason why I went to see this movie was because of Timur Bekmambetov, the guy who directed the awesome Day Watch (and the not-that-awesome Wanted), and you can see his chaotic style of action . And by 'chaotic', I don't mean it's messy or anything; it just brings about a sense of helter-skelter that's gorgeous to look at.

Watch Day Watch, and you'll see what I mean.

The pacing in the first half is relatively slow, even though it had the horse scene (which didn't do much for it), but I guess action buffs wouldn't be disappointed. The only action bit I enjoyed was the final scenes on top of the train, which had Lincoln fighting hordes of vampires back-to-back with his best friend, and only using an axe between the both of them.

[It was thrilling.]

Despite the pacing, involving vampires did make everything a lot more interesting. Who would've thought the Civil War was about vampires holding the Confederate South? That the slave trade was thriving because vampires needed food? Who'da thunk?

The ending was surprisingly poignant. Lincoln's vampire mentor offers him immortality, telling him that the both of them could go through history and kill vampires and make the world safer for it. Lincoln refuses the offer, saying that a man's actions instead make him immortal, and leaves for that fateful evening at the theatre.

It shows us that even in historical fiction, you can't change history.

For the ending, I give it a 7.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Insidious (2011)


Insidious relies on classic, old-fashioned type of scares: bumps-in-the-night, greatly-suspicious-room-corners, corner-of-your-eye sightings, etc. What horror movie wouldn't be complete with cupboards bursting open and creepy children running out?

[Also, the over-hyphenation of my first paragraph.]

I've basically described the first half of Insidious in that paragraph.

Which is a shame, because during the first hour or so, the movie was truly scary. Our definition of a horror movie nowadays is limited to torture and/or death porn, and it's awfully refreshing to watch a non-handheld camera / -"true story" movie with all the low-budget trappings. This from James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the guys that re-introduced torture porn to the world with the first Saw movie (which then led to the overbloated Saw franchise).

[I gave up after # 4.]

It even builds up as a psychological thriller at first, as you're given to wonder whether these things are actually happening, or whether the wife (played by Rose Byrne) is actually losing her mind and hallucinating a red-eyed black demon due to her son's comatose state.

Mid-way, there's a very, very good scene with mother-in-law Barbara Hershey (I'm using all real names here), where she relates to Byrne and Patrick Wilson (who plays the husband) about a dream she had about their son. The story is shown in scenes flashing between her retelling and the dream itself, so that we could see what she saw. With the lack of lighting (only a small bedside lamp) and the comatose boy, you don't even notice the demon in the corner until it (slowly) raises a shadowy arm and points at the boy.

Immediately after Hershey ends her story and looks at Wilson, the demon popped up from right behind him to give us all a jolly bejesus-ridding. I still get goosebumps from that scene.

After that, it got slightly disappointing. My gripe with the movie lies in the second act, where explanations happen.

Astral projection. Really?

I mean, within the context of the movie it does fit well with the sudden occurrences: the boy's spirit had wandered too far from his body, which is why malevolent spirits are looking to inhabit his currently-empty physical self. Possession takes time and energy; which is why the spirits haven't actually gotten down to the actual relocating yet, and are merely having some fun with Rose Byrne. But then you toss in Wilson's backstory (he had a similar episode to his son's when he was young, but blocked it out from memory), and then astral-projects himself in order to lead his son's soul back into his body...

From hints and hauntings to actual confrontations with the spirits (plus some freaky-deaky encounters in the spirit world which, though interesting, were not fully explained), you have quite a departure from the tone set earlier in the movie.

Mind you, even with the unexpected turn in storyline, the second half is not without scares: the turn-table scene where Leigh Whannell (yes, he's in this also) writes what psychic Lin Shaye relays to him is terrifying enough, and the subsequent scene where the spirits in question upend everything including our young boy's body (with glimpses of those spirits in trusty Polaroid photos). And the ending, of course.

Because a Wan-Whannell movie would not be complete without the obligatory twist in the end. But the set-up for it doesn't make sense. When you are getting your son's soul out, you do not stop halfway and yell at the ghost that used to haunt you. You get back into your body first, then you start yelling.

In case you're not spoiled yet... good.

7/10. Still can't get over the second part. One thing's for sure though, you'll never look at ceiling corners the same way ever again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Double Feature: The Expendables (2010) and The Expendables 2 (2012)

The Expendables was a review I never got around to writing.

Sure, I enjoyed it, but the more I postponed my completion of the review, the more the movie became a bit 'meh' for me, and I really couldn't pull all my points together for a proper review.

Testosterone? Check. Action? Adequate enough. Looking back, my gripe about the movie was the slight emphasis on Jason Statham's character. Nothing against Statham, but leave a bit more screen-time for the others, eh?

This didn't mean that the movie wasn't fun, but I would say that most of the fun came from the cast line-up. Up until then, I didn't even know how much I'd missed Dolph Lundgren, and thus, got a massive huge kick out of watching him and Jet Li duke it out on-screen.

I was quite glad to see him not die at the end. 6/10.

[Review for numero dos starts now.]

The idea behind The Expendables is awesome in the sense that it can be considered as the mother of all action movies. Just as how The Avengers is the mother of all superhero movies (at least, until that Justice League movie materialises), The Expendables collects action stars old and (semi-) young, and weaves them a shared storyline for our viewing pleasure.

And that list is not exhausted yet.

It’s the nostalgia factor that gets to me. How often do you see Lundgren these days? Or, though he has a reason, Arnold Schwarzenegger? Jean-Claude Van Damme even? Or Chuck flippin’ Norris?

Like taking a trip down memory lane.

And no worries to be had here about egos. Half of the stars in the movie haven't really been in anything big in a long while.

Did I say I totally miss Dolph Lundgren?

The first movie didn't exactly explore its homage potential, apart from a few jabs at Schwarzenegger's stint as Governator of California. As Arnie's role (and others) have been expanded in this sequel, I'm very pleased to announced that there are homages and pop culture references a-plenty (especially for the more established action stars), and with that, it's basically a chance for all the old-timers to poke fun at themselves and each other.

And it works. Granted, the cheese and cliched-dialogue factor is ultimately at an all-time high, but
It so does. One of the best scenes in this movie involves Chuck Norris. Let’s just say that he’s capable of being an Expendable (note the singular) all by himself.

This time around, Lundgren (yay!!), Terry Crews and Randy Couture, who round out the rest of the Expendables, are given more time to shine. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie involve the three.

On that note... poor Liam Hemsworth.

Action-wise, the second movie delivers far, far more than the first. From the first very-loaded-and-action-packed 15 minutes (only then we get the title card), till the final scenes where everyone in the movie poster (except for two) packs guns and knives and puts them to appropriate use, there's a ton of action to go around. I seem to notice more blood and more guts in this one, though it's been a long while since I last saw the first one. I mean, there was violence, but it's not as gratuitous as this one. Even punching begot copious amounts of blood-letting.

Jet Li fans, you may be disappointed with this outing; he’s only in this movie for 15 minutes (guess which 15), after which he takes a parachute out. Even Lundgren glares at him for that.

[Surprisingly, Li still gets third billing, right after Statham.]

It’s definitely much better than the first movie (though I think it’s well-established by now that seconds are mostly always better than firsts). Even with the inclusion of a girl proper this time around, it didn’t detract much my enjoyment of this movie.

I think I’m an awful feminist. I prefer to have my movies 100% testosterone-fuelled, rather than have a token "strong, sexy, sassy, one-of-the-boys" female member of the team. I find it redundant and unnecessary to have eye-candy for the boys when guns, grenades and booze should cut it. Luckily, this movie doesn't create any love interest notions, although for a moment I thought we might actually go down that road.

Thank goodness.

JCVD is adequately slimey as the bad guy (ha ha) Vilain (pronounced vee-layn), but the final fight between the Italian Stallion and JCVD wasn’t that all hyped to be. Maybe it’s due to different fighting styles (JCVD is more martial arts than Stallone) or due to age, but there wasn’t as much fighting as I would’ve liked.

[Fun fact: Stallone initially offered Gunnar (currently played by Lundgren) to JCVD, but JCVD declined. Totes in his face yo.]

Suggestion for The Expendables 3: Bring in Ray Park, please! Then he can have a showdown with Jet Li (hopefully). Someone should also bring in Steven Seagal. I’m sure Stallone can fit him in somewhere. Apparently, the third movie is in the process of signing Nicolas Cage (NOT THE BEES!!!), and they’re looking to get Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford and BladeWesley Snipes.

8/10. I had so much fun with this movie, I can hardly wait for the third.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I read a number of reviews saying that Rises is not as good as the previous one, The Dark Knight, and I would respectfully disagree.

TDK is about how darkness and evil can corrupt even the most upstanding of citizens, and in a way, it's about lacking faith in humanity.

For me, it's right on par with TDK, though villain-wise, Bane is not nearly as unpredictable and time-bomby as the enigmatic Joker of TDK. I found Bane interesting enough, though, probably because I had been ruined by Batman and Robin, where Bane was depicted as a mindless minion that is all brawn.

As a result of that horrible, horrible movie, I never thought Bane could be primary villain material. Played by Tom Hardy (a far cry from his skinny Star Trek: Nemesis days), Bane blew me away. He reminds me a little of Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (from Prison Break), who seems redneck white trash enough but doesn't speak at all like one.

[And from then on, I've been taken by Robert Knepper.]

Frankly, I'm still not over the fact that Bane is not an idiot. But I digress.

This is a movie about a hero that falls and then rises again, which thematically, plays out in plot and music throughout the movie. That anthemic chant you hear in the trailer? It's in the opening scenes, and in most of Bane's. Surprisingly, this movie uses more elements from the comic books than the previous ones. It's still the gritty crime thriller that we all come to expect from Nolan's Batman movies, but the main difference in this is that it has far more action than its predecessors.

You even get to see the infamous back-breaking scene midway, though it doesn't look as brutal and iconic as originally drawn.

I loved how this movie brings the trilogy to full circle, in both storyline and sentiment. I won't say anymore than that, because I'm trying to practice writing spoiler-free reviews.

If you pay attention (and you will need to, as with all Christopher Nolan movies), you should be able to spot the all-usual Nolan twist way before it happens.

[And if you consider this as spoiling, obviously you've not seen a Chris Nolan movie.]

Oddly, this movie also brings to mind the Frat Pack. You see so many Nolan alumni in this one, it feels like a B-movie sequel to one of his movies where only the supporting actors return, and you find out that that sequel is completely unrelated to the original. In case you feel a bit lost here, the original I'm referring to is Inception.

So for me, I would say that Rises is right up there with TDK. No trilogy curse this time around. 9/10.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Amazing Spider-man (2012)

Reboots only happen when a movie franchise has run its course, both critically and financially (think George Clooney and Bat-nipples from the '90s). Admittedly, Spider-man 3 did suck ass, but it's only been five years. Really?

*No spoilers. Unless you've seen Sam Raimi's Spider-man.*

Considering that The Amazing Spider-man (TAS) goes back to the start of the story, the first half plays out like the first half of Sam Raimi's Spider-man. The only difference is that TAS is more faithful to the source material, with Peter making his own webbing devices (rather than being part of his mutated biology), Gwen Stacy being his first girlfriend (not Mary-Jane Watson) and the villain (the Lizard instead, and not arch-nemesis Green Goblin). Since we're still relatively fresh from Raimi's movies, the first part of TAS can be a bit draggy.

[The only thing missing from this movie is the iconic, “with great power comes great responsibility," line, but if you pay close attention, though, Uncle Ben kind of summarises the concept in one of the scenes.]

Surprisingly, TAS wasn't the chatty emotional dullfest I expected it to be (apparently it is based on the Ultimate Spider-man series, which had less emphasis on villains). It had sufficient action in the second act to thrill me (at least, enough to satiate my blockbuster cravings), and it also spent quite a bit of time on character development, which luckily didn't really slow the movie down at all.

Going in with no impression whatsoever of Andrew Garfield (haven't seen The Social Network), he completely bowled me over as Peter Parker. He's able to pull off being an awkward gangly teenager (despite being almost 30), and thankfully, isn't namby-pamby. Mainly, Garfield was adorable; think I may have a mini-crush now.

Special mention also goes to Rhys Ifans, who plays Dr Curt Connors/the Lizard, doing a fine job of balancing ethically-conflicted and what he actually wants (which is growing his arm back). It's a bit of a waste that Dylan Baker (who played Connors in Raimi's films) didn't get the chance to go full-on baddie, even after two instalments of foreshadowing. If you're curious to see what's been missed, he guest-stars on The Good Wife once in a while, and he's deliciously slimy in that.

Since this is the restart of the franchise, there is plenty of foreshadowing in this (there's a scene midway of the end credits), and several unresolved minor plotlines saved for the sequel. I'm hoping that they bring in Norman Osborne in the next one; he's plenty mentioned in TAS, but not seen.

I can't decide whether this trumps Raimi's first Spidey flick or vice versa, because both are equally enjoyable and both are good movies in their own right. The clearest comparison I can give is that Raimi's first is true to the definition of 'summer blockbuster', whereas TAS seems to be slated for a February/March release, rather than in July. The journey to becoming Spider-man is felt more in TAS, and in way, the timeline is slower as Peter is still in high school at the end of TAS (whereas in Raimi, everyone graduates high school quarter-way through the film).

[My only gripe with TAS is that I like Denis Leary too much.]

Although I still don't see the point in rebooting the series in such a short time, TAS is a worthy entry into the movie series. Do watch this. 8/10

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

This movie is sadly disappointing.

[And this review is sadly overdue.]

Snow White and the Huntsman starts off serious, but halfway through seems to decide otherwise, and then goes back to its Disney fairytale roots, switching back and forth.

This means pixies, and this huge stag (or was it an alpaca?) somehow 'acknowledging' that Snow White was meant to bring life and prosperity back to the land.

This inconsistency really got to me (I thought I was going to see a dark fantasy version of Snow White), and since it was being touted in all the promos as a Lord of the Rings epic kinda thing, the only thing it has in common with LOTR is that they go to battle in the end.

Despite the interesting notion of the Huntsman playing a more pivotal role in Snow White's destiny, this unfortunately was not elaborated any further than teaching her how to stab someone in the ribs. And also, unexpectedly being the one who kissed her back to life (rather than the 'prince' of the movie, William), but being not in love with Snow (she only reminded him of his dead wife), the kiss on the lips didn't really gel well with me as it didn't seem like something the Huntsman would do.

[At least kiss her on the forehead or something!]

Charlize Theron may look gorgeous as the evil Queen Ravenna (her costumes are fantastic!), but she's basically intoning everything in the same low voice, and when she's not doing that, she's screaming. They'd also included a backstory and a creepy brother, which worked, surprisingly, as it made her more interesting. I honestly don't see why everyone's raving about her performance, though admittedly, she emotes insecurity really well, especially in her scenes with her brother.

For Snow White herself, I tried to be as removed from bias as possible, but I couldn't help not seeing Bella Swan, instead of Kristen Stewart. The fact that the top part of Stewart's face still looks half-stoned didn't help, and the script didn't really make things better either (that battle speech after she woke was awkward). Apart from the Bella Swan stigma (i.e., blank-faced and slightly wide-eyed), I thought she was pretty okay.

And besides, if you wanted to go through the fairytale route, at least make her cough up that damn apple piece when she wakes up.

I have no complaints about Chris Hemsworth; he still has some goodwill leftover from being Thor.

Also, the dwarves are, in a way, redundant. Not from a plot point-of-view, but from casting; I don't see why you would cast normal-sized people, and then CG them into little people. Yes, tiny Ian McShane and tiny Bob Hoskins is adorable (actually, Hoskins is adorable no matter the size), but if Mirror, Mirror can get real little people to play dwarves, so can you.

5/10. The reason why I'm being rather harsh with this is because I was expecting dark, not semi-dark. If you're as disappointed as I am with this, do check out Snow White: A Tale of Terror, starring Sigourney Weaver as the Queen. Don't let the title mislead you; it's not too scary, but I find it's a pretty good retelling of the story.

[Better than the above, at any rate.]

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers (2012)

True believers, I bring glad tidings! :)


I wasn't sure whether this movie would work, seeing that Robert Downey Jr's star is still cruising along the Ascension Drive, I was a bit afraid that The Avengers would revolve around him. Thankfully, the film keeps its eye on the word 'ensemble', and gives everyone their time to shine. Even Scarlett Johannson's Black Widow does her fair share as part of the team, and I'm really glad that she has purpose and is not just there to be eye candy, like in Iron Man 2.

[I always thought that making ScarJo a spy was just an excuse to get her in the movie. And into a black catsuit.]

This brings us to character development. Marvel Studios has a very good track record with this, as we can see from Iron Man, Thor, etc., and The Avengers takes the time to flesh out the possible conflicts between all these characters, from their own movies, meeting/working/coming together for the first time.

This is where the movie gets a bit draggy.

In setting up the foundation and formation of the Avengers, there's roughly an hour and a half's worth of in-fighting and quibbling, so much so that in the second half, you don't disagree when the big bad of the piece, Tom Hiddleston's Loki tells Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark that they (the heroes) are too busy fighting each other to combat an invading alien army.

All these catfights (physical and verbal) were only alleviated by some action sequences in-between (either hero-on-hero, or hero-on-Loki), but barely. At one point, all the heroes were even put in a room to see how far and furious egos and mouths can fly. This entire bit was noticeably tedious the second time around (yes, I watched this movie twice!).

Other than inner conflict, the pacing is superb, and the movie starts with Loki arriving to Earth and causing a lot of property damage in his wake. Since we already know the cast from the previous movies (with the exception of newbie Mark Ruffalo, but then again, who doesn't know that he's playing Bruce Banner/the Hulk), little time was spared on introductions to the major characters.

Another highlight of the film is the screenplay. Iron Man has to be credited with some of the funniest dialogue and back-and-forths that even made us moviegoers forget that a comic book movie should have more action, and I'm glad this tradition (humour, not non-action) is carried onto The Avengers. There are just so many priceless quotable gems from this film that I could rave about, most of them from Robert Downey, Jr., because what would a movie be without good ol' RDJ sarcasm, eh?

I also noticed that Thor and Loki's speech pattern is a lot more... formal (still no 'verily's or 'thou's, but close) than they were in Thor, but maybe that's just me; I haven't seen Thor in a year.

[For some reason, HBO doesn't seem to want to air it :S]

One of the bright spots in the film is when they tone down the action (and the arguing!) and focus on regular one-on-one conversations/interactions between characters, may it be hero or villain. This is especially where the actors shine, and you can see how comfortable they all are in their roles, since most of them are playing the same character the second time around. Scenes to look out for are Stark/Banner, and Thor/Loki, when Thor first lands on Earth.

The second act is where the Avengers get their act (pun totally intended!) together, and where the action is kicked up a notch. The humour is also knocked out of the park from here on out, with a very, very, very unexpected character being a major source of that humour. You'll know what I mean when you watch the movie. We also get to see Chris Evan's Captain America organising the team and plan of attack, which is a fantastic nod to the comics since in canon, Cap'n is the leader of the Avengers.

CGI? Don't get me started. Huge explosions, huge set-pieces, it's all very grand and awesome. 'Nuff said.

This is one of the rare films that actually lives up to the hype generated, and unless you've... not been in touch with the world lately (is it me, or is 'living under a rock' cliched?), the hype is MASSIVE! Four years' worth of excitement building up to this moment, and it surprisingly delivers.

9/10. Three, fairly oft-used sentences, people: Best. Entertaining Movie. Ever.

[Yes, even with the in-fighting.]

P.S. Don't watch the 3D version, it really isn't much to shout about.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Immortals (2011)

Movies that I usually watch without any prior expectations tend to please me. This is one of them.

I wasn't able to glean much by the trailer, apart from swords-and-sandals (and sometimes bright yellow ones), and fighting, and slow-mo, and chroma-key. With the exception of the bright yellow, it looked like 300.

[I've even seen comments that said this is 300 with people that wear bras on their heads. Teehee.]

Despite loving 300, I know that marketing people are very devious nowadays, and I went in thinking that all of the awesome scenes in the movie is only the length of that movie trailer.

Thankfully, I'm mistaken.

The storyline for the movie is based on the legend/myth (can't tell the difference) of Theseus. Theseus was the demi-god that went into the labyrinth to battle the Minotaur, and found his way out using the ball of thread/twine he had used to mark his path on his way in. The cool part of the movie is that the story depicts the characters slightly differently than what we know them from (the Minotaur is actually a huge guy with a bull helmet, and not a man born with the head of a bull), showing us that myth is based on second-hand accounts (or at least, on exaggeration).

Violence? Check. Super-duper awesome fight scenes? Check. Slow-mo? Hell-to-the-yeah check! Visually it's like 300, with absolutely gorgeous and fantastic shots (don't think I can call CG renderings cinematography) of cliffs, dams, fortresses, you name it. If it's a building, it will be set across a vast landscape, so that you can see that how bloody grand ancient Greece is. It's slightly ridiculous, though, how quickly we move from one plot location to another, as these really huge terrains should take at least a few weeks to cross, and these people seem to reach them in a matter of hours. Anyway, at least it keeps the plot moving.

Speaking of story, it doesn't really have any. And some parts don't make sense: It's ridiculous how the Oracle will choose to sleep with Theseus, and by way, lose her powers of foretelling, at such a pivotal time when foretelling will most certainly come in handy. Actually, 'ridiculous' doesn't quite describe the situation; 'effing stupid' is more like it.

[Fun Fact: Henry Cavill will be playing Superman in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, while Matt Bomer almost played Superman but lost out to Brandon Routh. Just as well, Superman Returns was atrocious.]

The main reason why this movie was because of the end-scene, showing Theseus doing battle with the Titans, along with the other Olympian Gods, viewed through the eyes of Theseus's son.

In the sky. With clouds and stuff. It looked like a magnificent Renaissance painting, except that it moved. And in slow-mo too, of course.

My first impression of this is that, despite Mount Tartarus collapsing on majority of the Titans, some had escaped, and since Theseus was elevated to God-status (to save him), the war is still ongoing, and Theseus, now an Olympian, is fighting the good fight against the Titans.

I finally read online that Theseus's son had actually inherited his mother's foresight, making this final scene your typical sequel set-up. This detracts from my enjoyment of the end a bit (I am very, very, very disappointed), but it's still a very, very glorious scene.

Immortals is miles, miles better than the atrocious Clash of the Titans remake, which incidentally has a sequel coming out this March, aptly titled Wrath of the Titans (underline is my own doing). From the trailer, looks the storyline will be exceedingly similar to Immortals, except that it has Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, goodness knows why. 6.5/10.

The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

I hadn't intended on seeing this movie, but since my office selected it for Movie Night, I figured I might as well go. 'Cuz it's free.

And I'm really glad I did.

Tin Tin starts of with our eponymous lead buying a model ship from a vendor. Almost immediately, his house is broken into, and, in the full spirit of "one thing leads to another", Tin Tin gains a comrade in Captain Haddock, and both set out to find the Unicorn, a sunken ship lost in history, said to contain great treasures. It's a treasure/scavenger hunt kinda movie, with exotic locations and mind-boggling riddles, as Tin Tin and Haddock rushes from one place to another to stop the villainous Lord Sakharin from further sulling the Haddock name and finding the lost shipwreck said to contain great treasure.

As you may already know/partially-guessed/realized, one of my favourite things in the world is wordplay (which is probably why I love Terry Pratchett so much), and wordplay is fairly abundant in this movie. I mean, "sour-faced man with the sweet name"? "Monsieur Suegar Adeitif"? GENIUS!

[For that last one, I was the one of the extremely few in the entire theatre who laughed. Think the others must've thought I laughed because of the Milanese Nightingale's accent.]

From the incompetent but unintentionally-twin bobbies (Thomson and Thompson) to the prolonged (but effective) scene in the desert where an unconscious Tin Tin almost slides into the still-spinning propeller, from Captain Haddock's extremely strong alcoholic breath to the final showdown between Haddock and Sakharin that mirrored that of their ancestors, Tin Tin fantastically proved me wrong. Despite my earlier (but unfounded) misgivings that Tin Tin was a children's movie, and my rushing through traffic to the theatre (and missing the first 5 minutes of the film), I had a rollicking good time at the movies that night. I couldn't help but be immersed in the adventure.

8/10. You'd think they'd overhyped it because it was a Spielberg-Jackson joint-venture; it's not. I would've given it a second go, if my first time wasn't that late into its theatre run. It really is that highly enjoyable.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Review to first part here!

[This has been so long overdue.]

HP7.2 continues where the first one left off, in the aftermath of Dobby's death, and our kids continuing along their way in finding and destroying all the Horcruxes. The movie comes to a head at Hogwarts, where Voldemort brings his followers to launch a massive climactic on the school, with a final fight between Harry and Voldemort. Bets off on who won :)

After the pretty good first installment (again, I begrudgingly admit that one movie wouldn't have been enough), what I'd really wanted to see was the second half of the movie, which is where all the good (CG) stuff happens. I was actually afraid that they would leave out the spiders and giants, but thank goodness they didn't. The final fight between Harry and Voldy was slightly meh (the 'struggling and flying in mid-air for a while' wasn't too bad, though) since they only pointed their wands at each other. There was no "Expelliarmus" exclamation from Harry when Voldy went, "Avada Kedavra", like in the book. I mean, that's the whole point of the entire story, Harry defeating Voldy by only using a Disarming charm, instead of more potent curses. Quite disappointing.

But what I'm most looking forward to is The Prince's Tale.

For non-Potterphiles, The Prince's Tale is a Book 7 chapter that reveals all of Severus Snape's intentions, motivations, etc. throughout the entire series, and it happens upon his death. Snape has been the most enigmatic of the bunch, being a Death Eater-turned-turncoat currently double-agenting in Camp Voldy, sparking a "is he, isn't he?" debate among the books' characters.

[The debate even spills over to real life, I believe, in Potter site forums around the world.]

This chapter finally confirms his true loyalties. And this entire sequence could not have been made or filmed better, nor could it have been any more effective. My heart broke watching it. Beautifully done. If I did not already love Alan Rickman, this will certainly do.

Apart from the above, Neville-Luna pairing? Egad, sounds like a fanfic! I didn't even realise that from the books; neither did a friend of mine evidently, she told me she was shocked beyond belief. I always thought at most, Neville and Luna are just friends as they barely have any dialogue with each other in the books, which brings me to the need that Hollywood has in pairing people up at conclusions. Also, it was unfortunate that the movie left out the part in the end where Harry repairs his old wand using the Elder Wand before he relinquishes the physical Elder wand. It could've taken all of five seconds, and they didn't even bother including that scene in. What the eff.

As a close, watching the final scene where grown-up Harry and his friends send off their children for Hogwarts is, well, bittersweet. It's sad, but yet it's a happy ending, and it feels like things have come full circle, back to the first movie where Harry first gets on the Hogwarts express.

8/10. "It all ends", true, but it's great close to an era, and it feels like a new beginning.

[Sob. No more Potter movie this year.]

Monday, January 2, 2012

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

After two superhero origin movies in a row that summer, we finally get one where he doesn't start off a cocky, arrogant dickhead.

[Late, late, I know.]

*fairly spoilerish*

One of the things that Marvel does so well is character development, and it firmly establishes Chris Evan's during the first half hour of the film. Every scene with pre-serum Chris Evans portrays him as the underdog with spirit so much bigger than his body (now I sound like I'm reviewing an animal movie), that you just can't help but root for (literally) the little guy. Considering that we're much more used to seeing Evans as the cocky, arrogant comic relief in the Fantastic Four movies (or in anything else, for that matter), surprisingly we are not reminded of his past sarcastic witticisms and the general comic adorableness that we've become so accustomed to.

[I mean, he's still pretty adorable in the movie, but it's not the usual kind, if you know what I mean.]

Even though the CG to shrink Evans is a bit weird (since I'm so much used to seeing him in his usual size), it doesn't pose much of a distraction from the dialogue or anything else, since Evans does a bang-up job as the little guy that wants do so much but is hindered by physical means. The scene where he finally gets the super-soldier serum is really quite satisfying, except for the part immediately after,  where his benefactor (Stanley Tucci in a rare German-but-non-villain  role) is immediately killed by German spies.

Supporting cast can do no wrong: Tommy Lee Jones is awesome as always, while Hugo Weaving turns in another villainous role with a European accent, but eh, when I first saw the casting I thought he'd be perfect as Red Skull, though I think he would be slightly more awesome as Sinestro. It's a pity they didn't bring back John Slattery to play Howard Stark; that would've been a very neat way to link this movie to Iron Man 2.

On an emotional level, the movie succeeds very well as evident by Cap'n's losses throughout the movie. First he loses his best friend Bucky Barnes (in the comics he actually takes over the Cap'n mantle for a while) during a mission, and then at the end, we see him part from his girlfriend Peggy Carter, as he is forced to crash the German craft into the ocean to avoid its trajectory towards the US. We know that Cap'n'll survive that crash (on account of the Avengers), but we also know that he'll never see her again. Watching that scene where Peggy speaks to Cap'n over the radio and finally gets cut off is just heartbreaking.

Overall, the storyline is pretty simple and straightforward (America vs.  the Nazis) compared to other origin movies (evil half-brother always  works for me), but as I said, Captain America has a ton of heart. It's not all happy-endings, but you still leave the theatre with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside that has nothing to do with The Avengers teaser after the end-credits.


[Oh, and Red Skull dies. OR DOES HE?! He looks like he gets obliterated when he's holding the Cosmic Cube with his bare hands, but those of us who paid attention during Thor knows that it looks like a Bifrost Bridge, which is how Asgardians travel from one plane to another. Yeah! Maybe that's how Loki knows how to teleport to Earth without fanfare ^v^]

Ahem. Sorry. Couldn't resist that last bit.