Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy [2014]

"I have part of a plan!"

Background:
Release Date: 31 July 2014 (Malaysia), 1 August 2014 (USA)
Directed By: James Gunn
Written By: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper (voice), Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (voice), Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker
Duration: 121 minutes


In A Nutshell:
Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), also known by the name 'Star- Lord', is part of a group of thieves and smugglers called 'The Ravengers'. Quill gains possession of an orb which turns out can be used to destroy entire universes. Ronan (played by Lee Pace), one of most deadly villains around, pursues Quill in seek of the orb for that very disastrous reason. 
In order to evade Ronan, Quill is forced to form an uneasy truce with a group of individual misfits. They are Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana) -- who is betraying both Ronan and her adopted father Thanos (that guy in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers [2012] -- this time played by Josh Brolin), Rocket (voiced by Bradly Cooper) -- a genetically engineered raccoon and bounty hunter, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) -- an extraterrestrial tree-like creature who is also Rocket's accomplice, and Draxx The Destroyer (played by Dave Bautista) -- a warrior with a personal vendetta against Ronan.


Thumbs Up:
+ Personality quirks. Almost each and every character is uniquely developed and interesting.
+ There's a joke, punchline, or pop-culture reference in every other line of dialogue.
+ Superheroes and space adventures -- absolutely my kind of thing!
+ Awesome mix tape -- catchy and surprisingly fits the movie.
+ Ronan -- an extremely terrifying villain. Can't wait for when Thanos actually plays a major part in a Marvel movie. Brace yourselves when that time comes people!



+ "I am Groot!" -- with all the silliness and flaws of the other characters, Groot is refreshingly innocent. Other films have comic relief, but with this film throwing jokes every two seconds, Groot provides a more heart-felt and grounded relief. Is there an actual term for this?
+ The legend of Footloose [1984] and Kevin Bacon
+ "What are you doing?" -- I don't want to spoil things any further, but when you get to the scene with this line in it, you'll understand.

photo from here
Thumbs Down:
- The film tries to establish its many characters while at the same time set-up story-lines for future Marvel instalments. At times this makes it fall victim to having the feel of 'too much going on'.
- Post-credits scene. What a let-down. We want to see something that set-ups future Marvel movies. Hello, Avengers: Age Of Ultron [2015] is coming out next year!


The Verdict Is In:
With Guardians Of The Galaxy being one of Marvel's lesser known characters, the movie is a solid introduction. It kinda feels like a quirky version of Star Wars (and no, not the prequels -- thank God there's no Jar-Jar Binks or Anakin here). Definitely not a 'masterpiece' like some reviews are claiming. But still, its a fun and enjoyable ride nevertheless. Looking forward to future instalments in the series!
Rating:
7.5 out of 10

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes [2014]

"Ape Do Not Kill Ape"


Background:
Release Date: 10 July 2014 (Malaysia), 11 July 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Written By: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Mark Bomback
Starring: Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Jason Clarke, Nick Thurston, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman
Duration: 130 minutes


In A Nutshell:
[Description by Twentieth Century Fox] A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.

Thumbs Up:
+ The movie is all about emotional resonance, and the apes, yes those motion-capture apes display them with abundance. Even more so than the human actors.
+ The first time the humans encounter the apes in the woods. I'd shit in my pants too if I were in their position.
+ The apes march down to the city to send a warning to the humans. That's twice now I'd shit my in my pants if I were human.
+ Caesar (played by Andy Serkis). Everything about him, his body language, demeanor, how he speaks, everything just screams of alpha-male.
+ Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) deviously portraying a funny circus ape. He showed better acting there than anyone in the Transformers movies.


Thumbs Down:
- I love animal face-offs, they're like cross-over fights for animals. The Discovery Channel had a show specifically for this. Lion vs Tiger. Walrus vs Polar Bear. Sperm Whale vs Colossal Squid. What I've always wanted to see however was a Grizzly Bear vs a Gorilla. So when the Grizzly appeared early in the movie I thought my wish was going to be granted. Didn't happen. Missed opportunity.
- Gary Oldman. The great actor is underused.
- The apes' sign language. One swift of the hand seemed like it represented a full sentence of 30 words!


The Verdict Is In:
The hallmark of a good storyteller is when he is able to make a predictable story become entertaining. Its not about the destination, but its about the journey. And that's exactly what happens here. Let's face it, this movie was a little predictable. You knew how things would unfold in the end but the 130 minutes here was far from being a bore. Aided by great performances, this was a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

In yesterday's blog post, I made a rundown of the seven previous Planet Of The Apes films. With this latest addition, it looks like the franchise is getting stronger and stronger. Hail Caesar!
Rating:
8.5 out of 10

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Planet Of The Apes Franchise


In just a few minutes I'll be going to opening of movie Dawn Of The Planet Of Apes [2014], and I'm already super-hyped! This movie is second only to X-Men: Days Of Future Past [2014] as my most anticipated film of the year.

I first saw the original Planet Of The Apes franchise during the mid-90s. My local TV network had played each of the five movies during its midnight slot. Five consecutive nights, five movies. I was hooked. They were full of social commentary and made you love animals even more.

The second reboot of the franchise, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011] was my very first movie review and it become one of my favorites films from the year 2011. So I just couldn't wait for this coming sequel to come out. Last week I decided to go on a movie marathon an revisit all previous seven movies. Here's some quick thoughts...

 # Planet Of The Apes [1968]


Quite rightly a classic, this was an extremely entertaining movie. It is said that of all time-travel performed in films, this in theory is the only one that could scientifically happen.

Nice to find out the shaky-cam technique was used even way back in the 60s. Ooh, and Linda Harrison as Nova was a stunner!!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

# Beneath The Planet Of The Apes [1970]


The worst movie in the franchise. Not only was it guilty of shifting too much of the focus from the apes to the humans, but it had a weird sci-fi angle of telepathic humans. It felt like a really bad episode of Star Trek.

Rating: 5 out of 10

# Escape From The Planet Of The Apes [1971]


 I was glad that this character-driven edition focused on two of my favorite characters from the franchise, Zira (played by Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (played by Roddy McDowall). Hunter and McDowall as always were awesome in their characters, able to express great range of emotions through those ape make-ups. The ending of the movie was just fantastic!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

# Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes [1972]


Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011] is basically a reboot of this movie. Entertaining but not as memorable.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

# Battle For The Planet Of The Apes [1973]


A low key ending to the original franchise. Hopefully Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes [2014] which is said to be a reboot of this movie will do much, much better.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

# Planet Of The Apes [2001]


The Tim Burton reboot. I had seen this in the theaters and one more time when it was played on TV. But when I watched this again last week, I realized that I didn't remember and wasn't familiar with most of the scenes. This ultimately is its problem -- its forgettable. Plus, the ending of the war made no sense.

Rating: 6 out of 10

# Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011]


Awesome reboot. My favorite scenes from the movie: (1) Casear (played by Andy Serkis) meets the other apes in the sanctuary for the first time, and (2) Caesar speaks for the first time and yells, "NOOOO!!!!". Truly chilling scene!

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 (an increase of 0.5 from my frist review)

And, oh, as a supplement, you might want to check out Project Nim [2011]. Its a documentary about a chimpanzee raised by humans during the 70s. Very similar in storyline to Planet Of The Apes but in real life. Its also one of the best documentaries I've ever seen!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Xpress Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2 [2014]

"You have the heart of a chief. And the soul of a dragon"



Directed By: Dean DeBlois
Written By: Dean DeBlois
Voiced By: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Djimon Hounsu, Kit Harington
The Story: Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless discovers an ice cave full new wild dragons. However a gigantic war is looming that threatens mankind.
The Verdict: This second installment continues everything right from the hugely entertaining original movie, How To Train Your Dragon [2010]. It offers exhilarating and pulsating sequences that will simply mesmerize the audience. There's still heartfelt moments, but one thing is for sure after watching the movie. You'll want to own a dragon of your own!!
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Xpress Reviews: Edge Of Tomorrow [2014] & Maleficent [2014]

Summer movie season. Lots of movies to see. Yet extremely busy & so little time.  A quick (read lazy) review will have to do then.

# Edge Of Tomorrow [2014]

"What I'm About To Tell You Sounds Crazy"



Directed By: Doug Liman
Written By: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton
The Story: Major William Cage (played by Tom Cruise) is forced to fight together in a war against aliens but gets trapped in a time-loop. He seeks the help of Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (played by Emily Blunt).
The Verdict: After seeing so many Tom Cruise movies throughout the years, it was pretty hard in the beginning to believe that his character was pretty much a coward. With the movie being about a time-loop and going all 'Groundhog Day', editing needed to perfectly done to keep us entertained. The movie succeeded in not only doing that but also provided us with impressive action and also comedy.
I've said it before, no matter how wacky Tom Cruise's real life is, he has real on-screen charisma and his films are mostly value for money. Edge Of Tomorrow is without doubt an entertaining and bona-fide summer movie! (now if only I were in a time-loop myself, perhaps this would have been a better-written review)
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

# Maleficent [2014]

"Oh Dear. What An Awkward Situation"



Directed By: Robert Stromberg
Written By: Linda Woolverton
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple
The Story: Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie), is powerful and vindictive fairy who casts a spell on the kingdom's newly born princess, Aurora (played by Elle Fanning)
The Verdict: The ratings for this movie before I saw it was pretty low. However about half way through, my mind was made up -- I disagree with the critics! This is a fresh retelling of a classic fairy-tale, it was both dark and sweet at the same time. Angelina Jolie as Maleficent is a majestic presence presence through out the movie and steals the show!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: X-Men - Days Of Future Past [2014]

"Lead Me. Guide Me. Be Patient With Me"


Background:
Release Date: 22 May 2014 (Malaysia), 23 May 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Written By: Simon Kinberg,  Jame Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Evan Peters, Ellen Page, Omar Sy, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry
Duration: 131 minutes


In A Nutshell:
In the year 2023, mutants face the threat of extinction with Sentinels hunting each and every one of them down. The X-Men decide to send Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) back to the year 1973 to change the course of history.


Thumbs Up:
+ Impeccable story, engaging characters, and heart-pumping action scenes all come together in perfect balance and harmony. The humor is well-timed and supplements the story perfectly too.
+ Powerful performances all-around, but James McAvoy (playing a young Professor Xavier) in particular is truly top-notch.
+ Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters) dazzles in every scene he is in. I initially wasn't fond of him after watching the trailers and photos. In fact I thought the Quicksilver which will be shown in next year's Avengers 2 [2015] seemed much better. But it looks like Evan Peters has set the bar high.
+ One for all the geeks out there: A large mutant universe featuring returning familiar characters and exciting new-ones.
+ Another reason for comic fans to rejoice: an after-credits scene that will surely wet your appetite!
Thumbs Down:
- How Professor Xavier came back from the events in X-Men: The Last Stand [2006] is still left unexplained.
- With so many mutants on display, some of my personal favorites are given very little screen-time. Would have loved it if Scarlet Witch made an appearance too.


The Verdict Is In:
Rarely does a movie simultaneously impresses me with its story, characters, performances, and action. X-Men: Days Of Future Past succeeds on all fronts. The story was immersing, the action was thrilling and exciting, and the characters was engaging -- you'll feel a genuine emotion connection with them.

I'll be honest, this is a very biased review. I'm a fan of the X-Men and simply love superheroes. Heck, I even slightly enjoyed X-Men: The Last Stand [2006]. Yeah, I know... let the backlash come in... but I did hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009] though.


So as a fan, I found this movie was uber-awesome to me! A nerd-nirvana. A geek heaven. Yeah, X-men rules!!
Rating:
9.5 out of 10

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: Godzilla [2014]

"Let Them Fight!!!"


Background:
Release Date: 15 May 2014 (Malaysia), 16 May 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Written By: Max Borenstein, Dave Callaham
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn
Duration: 123 minutes
In A Nutshell:
Joe Brody's (played by Bryan Cranston) wife died 15 years ago in a horrific incident at a nuclear power plant in Japan. He believes there is more to the story and the government are hiding something from everyone. His son, Ford (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) doesn't believe him. They soon find out something indeed has been kept secret all this time. Something HUGE.


Thumbs Up:
+ Just like how our buildings now dwarf those during the same era, this Godzilla make the original one from Gojira [1954] seem like an infant.
+ Fire-breathing monsters. Yeay!
+ Godzilla's final kill.... money shot right there baby!!
+ David Straithairn (playing Admiral Stenz). I always love seeing him on screen. Small role but a commanding presence as usual.
Thumbs Down:
- Nice try with the human drama. I could see what they were attempting but to me it was extremely lackluster.
- Despite the huge crisis, and people loosing their love ones, I didn't get emotionally-attached or root for any of the characters
- So a thumbs down on the drama and characters, what about the action? The CGI was great but the action was sparse and weren't as exciting as I hoped it to be.
- A movie about Godzilla which has very little Godzilla. This is supposed to be a monster movie, people!!


The Verdict Is In:
What happened July last year = "Wow, I just saw Pacific Rim [2013] and it was awesome! Hey, isn't there a Godzilla remake coming out next year? After seeing this movie, I can't wait for that one!"

What happened last Week = "The new Godzilla is coming out next week, boy, am I excited! The trailer and poster looks cool too. I'll hype myself even more by watching Gojira [1952], King Kong vs. Godzilla [1962] and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla [1974]."

The three movies I watched last week
What happened in the cinema while watching the movie = "Trailers! Wow, the Ninja Turtles. Megan Fox is hot! ...... The movie is starting, I'm excited ....... all this teasing of the monster is suspenseful ..... hey, Aaron Taylor-Johson and Elizabeth Olsen are playing husband-wife and making out! Gonna feel weird when they play twins in Avengers 2 next year! ...... all this drama is kinda boring.... yup, still boring.... getting even more boring..... GODZILLA!!! .... boring again.... GODZILLA!!! ..... hmm, somehow the action isn't as good.... why am I thinking of Pacific Rim right now? .... boring .... Pacific Rim was great last year.... boring.... GODZILLA!! ... ermm, that's it? ..... boring again.... I wanna watch Pacific Rim again after this for the umpteenth time... bored again.... Darn it! this movie sucks!!! I was hyped for this? Thank God X-Men is coming out nest week!!"
Rating:
5.5 out of 10

Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4th: Star Wars Day And Audrey Hepburn

photo from www.etsy.com
Today, May 4th is Star Wars Day.  So, being the geek that I am.... Happy Star Wars Day folks and May the 4th be with you!!

Today, is also what would have been Audrey Hepburn's 85th birthday. I love Audrey. Sure, I don't personally know her, but I think she is the most elegant woman to have ever graced the planet.

So, I've decided to give tribute to both today. Luckily, I found the photos above and below that combines the two. Audrey is know for having said some great quotes in her life. One of them, "Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I'm possible!" could have easily been given as advice to Luke Skywalker. Apparently Yoda agrees with Audrey, hence his advice "Do, or do not! There is no try!" given to Luke in Return Of The Jedi [1983]


Both photos above from www.etsy.com
I've always been a huge Star Wars fan. Its the movie that I quote the most (I quote movies in my conversations every single day). Plus I always joke around that 23.5% of George Lucas' wealth has come directly from me. I've lost count on how many action figures, lightsabers, VHSs, DVDs, Blurays, replica of the Millenium Falcon, Darth Vader helmet, and other merchandises that I have owned throughout my life.

This past week, news broke out of the confirmed cast for Episode VII. Made me even more excited for the movie that is coming out next year. And I honestly believe J.J Abrams will do a great job on it.

Oh, and check out my list of Favorite Star Wars Characters that I made in February 2012. This blog was still in its infancy back then, and I believe that my writing, well STILL HASN'T improved!! But again happy Star Wars Day!!

Photo from here
Photo from here

Now on to Audrey. In my blog post 100 Film Facts About Me, I wrote this down: "Forget the origin story of Captain America, here's a true story. At sometime during the 1920s, scientists performed a top secret genetic engineering experiment to create the perfect female specimen: An exceptional woman with a face radiating with explicit beauty, mannerisms that illuminates with elegance, and an accent and speaking voice of unequivocal delicacy. The result was Audrey Hepburn. Even with those high standards, I think they actually over-achieved by creating her!

I still believe this is true!! Other than being the most elegant woman ever, she is also a very good actor. This despite Emma Thompson previously saying that "Audrey Hepburn was twee, mumsy, and really couldn't act" (read that story here). You're a great actress yourself Emma, but I overwhelmingly disagree with you on that matter.

I've mentioned above that she made some great quotes throughout her life. Here are a few of them below. I particularly love the last one as I share the same feelings too.

Photo taken from here

Photo taken from here
Photo taken from here

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 [2014]

"I like to think Spider-Man gives people hope"


Background:
Release Date: 1 May 2014 (Malaysia), 2 May 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Marc Webb
Written By: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinker, James Vanderbilt
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti
Duration: 142 minutes


In A Nutshell:
Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) faces a great dilemma. Either embrace being his alter-ego, Spider-Man, or spending more time with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone). Doing the latter proves to become more difficult with the emergence of Electro (played by Jaime Foxx) and the return of Harry Osborn (played by Dane DeHaan), who takes over control at Oscorp.

Thumbs Up:
+ An indie-romance feel to the movie -- the camera shots, music, storyline, etc. Although I enjoy that particular genre, it feels weird to me seeing it a superhero movie. I need to see the film again, but for now this is a 'Thumbs Up' (see also 'Thumbs down'). Just by the skin of its teeth.
+ A Spider-Man with good wit and humor (well most of the time). Just like in the comics.
+ The Green Goblin. He's just awesome! Much better than the one in Sam Raimi's original.
+ Max, before he turns into Electro. Jaime Foxx plays him extremely well.
+ The love story angle has a very emotional pay-off at the end of the movie. 
+ Cinematography. Didn't I mention earlier that the camera shots were beautiful.
+ Hints of future supervillians at the end of the movie. *cough... cough... spoiler... Vulture, Doc. Oc... cough*
+ Mid-credits preview of the upcoming X-Men movie



Thumbs Down:
- Although the it pays-off in the end, the love-story angle and indie-romance feel often feels like interrupting with the 'Superhero' aspect of the movie. Yeah, I know... how could this be both 'Thumbs Up' and 'Thumbs Down'? Well just like Peter and Gwen's relationship.... IT'S COMPLICATED!!
- Other than interrupting, the romance is also guilty of being over-melodramatic at times.
- Too much reliance on CGI during fight/action scenes..... just felt off to me.
- The movie is at least 20 minutes too long.
- Rhino. I expected to see more of him!


The Verdict Is In:
If this was entirely an indie-romance, it would probably pass as a good one. Not surprising as director Marc Webb also made one of my favorite films, (500) Days Of Summer [2009]. But when thrown into what is largely a superhero movie.... I'm still undecided on this. Will still need to see this movie for a second time to make up my mind.

I wasn't a fan of the first movie (review here). I felt, it tried to hard to be different than the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire versions. While this sequel can be considered an improvement, Raimi's version is still better.
Rating:
6.5 out of 10

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Retro TV: Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends [1981-1983]

"Okay, trusty old camera, time to make a couple of bucks!"

Photo taken from here
For as long as I've known, I've always loved superheroes. Right from when I first learned to read and was as tall as an Ewok, all the way through the present day as a fully grown adult who is as tall as Luke Skywalker (I'm only estimating... but I'm pretty sure I'm too short to be a Stormtrooper), that affection towards humans with incredible abilities have never faded.

But watching Captain America: Winter Soldier [2014] last week (which was totally awesome!! Review here), especially its geek-activating mid-credits scene, made me realize how much I crave a bigger Marvel universe. That mid-credits scene included *mild spoiler alert* two characters that can appear in two different franchises owned my two different movie studios *end of spoiler*.

Some of you are already aware that the characters from Marvel comics are own by different movie studios. So characters from different studios can't appear in the same movie. That's why we don't see Spider-Man in an Avengers movie or a film where Wolverine and The Hulk faces off. Except of course the characters in spoilers mentioned above. Here's an awesome infographic, courtesy of The Geek Twins on what studio owns what character (click on the photo for a larger view):


Now if only the studios can work together and we can finally get the crossovers and larger Marvel universe that we crave for. What does this have to do with the title of this post? Well a taste of what's possible if the studios collaborated can be seen in one of my favorite animated series from my childhood.... Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends [1981-1983]. I've included this series for reasons: (A) I'm a nostalgic guy, and (B) I don't watch a lot of TV shows nowadays, so aren't familiar with today's Marvel animations


Aw, man... catchy theme song too!! The show featured plenty of crossovers like the X-Men, Hulk, Dr. Stange, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, and even Shanna The Jungle Queen. There were also villians like The Green Goblin, Magneto, Juggernaut, Mysterio, Electro, Dr. Doom, Red Skull, and Loki. Now how awesome is that! Let's hope one day this larger cinematic Marvel universe becomes a reality. 

But in the mean time, check out this episode where Spider-Man (and his amazing friends -- Iceman and Firestar) meets the X-Men.....

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