Thursday, September 26, 2013

Xpress Reviews: Rush, Runner Runner, & Prisoners

Lately I haven't seen many movies and I also haven't been blogging much either. This week I made up for both as I finally found enough free time on my hands. On a side note, I can't believe its almost October. The year has passed-by pretty fast for me and movie-wise I need a lot of catching up to do.

# Rush [2013]

"Men Love Women..... But Even More Than That..... Men.. Love.. Cars!"



Directed by: Ron Howard
Written By: Peter Morgan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Alexandra Maria Lara, Olivia Wilde, Pierfrancesco Favino
The Story: Based on the true story of a long and intense rivalry between two Formula One racing greats, James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth), who is flamboyant and cocky while his nemesis Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl), is a driven, goal-oriented, and an expect on car mechanics.
The Verdict: Is it too early for Oscar predictions? Because I believe Rush [2013] will easily race its way and finish in the final 10, 9, or however much the number will be for the Best Picture award. I'm not familiar with the real-life story that occurred during the 70s, nor am I sure how much of the movie stays true to that, but darn, this is truly one film not to be missed! The story is exciting, dramatic, and suspenseful, while director Ron Howard masterfully makes each race scene pulsating-ly breathtaking! The two main characters are also very compelling for us to follow. We find reasons to hate and root towards each one of them,.Their rivalry on the other hand is one of the most intense and merciless ever. Expect Rush [2013] to accelerate at top speed come award season!
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

# Runner Runner [2013]

"That Little Voice In The Back Of Your Head Right Now, Is Not Your Conscience.... It's Fear!"



Directed By: Brad Furman
Written By: Brian Koppelman, David Lavien
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie
The Story: Richie Furst (played by Justin Timberlake) is a Princton college student who feels he was cheated while playing on an online gambling site. He seeks out the owner of the site, Ivan Block (played by Ben Affleck) in Costa Rica, where he suddenly finds himself receiving an incredible job offer from Block himself.
The Verdict: This year marks exactly two decades of me watching movies at the cinema. After that screening of Jurassic Park [1993], I have watched hundreds of movies, both good and bad on the big screen. But today marks the first time where my friend and me were the only two people in the entire theatre during a movie. We had a completely empty but large cinema all to ourselves. It actually felt weird. Runner Runner [2013] isn't a horrible movie, but it was such a bore. For a movie the revolves around smart people and clever schemes, there was nothing clever or smart about the movie. It was like it was stuck in second gear that it even made the short running time of 91 minutes seem lethargic. That's all I have to say about the film.... just three sentences. Because the only fun we had during this viewing was coming up with crazy ideas to seize advantage of our newly experienced situation. Amongst them were playing our ringtones on at full blast, racing up and down the stairs, talking back to the characters on screen (and make impersonations), watch the movie with our shirts off (oh why did I have to go with a dude today?), popcorn fight, taking pirated clips of the movie, and a few more silly stuff.  We actually did end up performing some of those ideas. It was actually much fun that the movie itself.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

# Prisoners [2013]

"How Could He Drive An RV If He Has The IQ Of A 10 Year-Old?"



Directed By: Dennis Villeneuve
Written By: Brian Koppelman, David Lavien
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Violla Davis, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello
The Story: The 6 year-old daughters of Keller (played by Hugh Jackman) and Franklin (played by Terrence Howard) goes missing one day but the lead suspect named Alex (played by Paul Dano) is released because a lack of evidence. While the chief investigator for the case, Detective Loki (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) pursues other possibilities, Keller is convinced that Alex is guilty. He takes matters into his own hands.
The Verdict: Despite a slow pace and a running time of 153 minutes, Prisoners [2013] has you fully engaged in the film. It is one of the most intense, suspenseful, and disturbing movies of the year. The stellar ensemble cast provides implacable performances and we fully feel the pain and suffering of everyone involved. Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano were the standouts but almost everyone involved delivered a worthy job. On a personal level, Jake Gyllenhaal's role here felt a little similar to the one he had in Zodiac [2007], another suspense thriller which is not to be missed.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Monsters Wanted [2013]

"I was kinda born spooky! The first horror movie I saw, I was three, was Poltergeist"


Background:
Release Date: 27 July 2013 (USA)
Directed By: Brian Cunningham, Joe Laughrey
Written By: Brian Cunningham, Joe Laughrey
Featuring: Richard Teachout, Janel Nash
Duration: 149 minutes
In A Nutshell:
 A documentary that follows Richard Teachout who quits his job and together with his partner, Janel Nash, pour all their savings into creating the ultimate "Haunted Theme Park". Viewers will discover how much dedication, hard work, sacrifices, and money it takes to turn their dream into reality.

Image from MonstersWanted.com
Thumbs Up:
+ The Haunted Theme Park is quite awesome! Super-fun! I'd imagine it would be a horror fan's dream. Although I can't say I belong into that category, I would love to go there myself!
+ "Chainsaw Pete" and "Shawna The Dead" - two of the best characters at the Park
+ The Transworld Halloween & Attractions Show. Gosh! It must be horror-geek heaven!
+ The Halloween celebrations in Louisville. People would have a great time there.
Thumbs Down:
- Not as thought provoking or emotionally-tugging. Not all documentaries need to be deep, but the ones that don't, tend to be forgotten more easily.
- Although we do understand the struggles Richard and Janel had to endure, we don't really connect/care with the people/characters involved. The Park is the main source of interest here.

Image from MonstersWanted.com
The Verdict Is In:
I don't consider myself a horror fan (I can't stomach gore and the fact that I'm chicken might also have something to do with it), but I've always found myself fascinated and intrigued with Halloween and haunted-attractions. The problem I face is (1) they don't celebrate Halloween here, and (2) as far as I know, there's only one haunted theme park in the entire country (which unfortunately I haven't visited yet). So its a pleasant surprise to see what a huge industry it is in the USA. Overall, Monsters Wanted [2013] would be an entertaining watch for anyone with an interest in Halloween and "Scare Attractions".
Rating:
6.5 out of 10

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Movie Vault Reviews-Fitness Edition: Pumping Iron [1977] & Kickboxer [1989]

Despite being struck by dengue last month, 2013 has been good to me on a physical level. I've spent most of the year on a workout regimen and and currently am in the best physical shape I have been since my competitive-sport playing days (which next year will be one whole decade ago... yes that long back!). This Saturday night I'll be plodding away competing in a 12km run... my first ever night run, which I'm extremely excited about. Despite still being a foodie and someone who doesn't really do cardio training (I focus more on weight and resistance workouts) I'm still hoping I'll do well. Runs like these are fun for the experience that they bring. The one this Saturday has a fantastic scenery of Putrajaya.

Last week I posted my 10 Favourite Food Movies, so to counter the indulgence, its only appropriate that this week I feature a post on fitness. I've been re-watching the Rocky and Karate Kid movies for inspiration but didn't want to review them yet because they involve a franchise of films. The only movie that involves a marathon that I can remember is Run Fatboy Run [2007] but I didn't fancy revisiting that one. So I chose these two films instead...

# Pumping Iron [1977]

"Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer"



Directed By: George Butler, Robert Fiore
Featuring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Matty Ferrigno, Mike Katz, Franco Columbo
The Story: A documentary that follows contestants preparing and competing in the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe bodybuilding competitions. Future movie star and California Governor, Arnold Schwazenegger has won Mr. Olympia for 5 consecutive years and plans to retire after this one. This makes it the last chance for other bodybuilders to carve their name into history as someone who put a dent on his legend. Arnold's biggest challenge is from another future movie star, Lou Ferrigno.
The Verdict: There is no doubt that Arnold is legendary. Not only is he probably the best bodybuilder and action-movie star of all time, but his personality and intellect is what ultimately makes this documentary compelling. He is cunning, manipulative and plays all sorts of mind games on his competitors. All traits that probably prepared him for politics I guess. Like all champions, he is also extremely determined and focused. He skipped his dad's funeral because he was training for a competition which date was near.
Lou Ferrigno, best known for his role as The Incredible Hulk on the 70s TV show is Arnold's biggest competitor but falls victim to the mind games. You can't fault the guy's determination though. He gets through the final reps of his workouts by chanting "Arnold! Arnold! Arnold!" as shown at the end of this clip below. Feel free to make fun or actually adapt this method as motivation in your own workout. I know I do.


Rating: 7 out of 10

# Kickboxer [1989]

"Never Make A Decision On An Empty Stomach"



Directed By: Mark DiSalle, David Worth
Written By: Mark DiSalle, Glenn A. Bruce
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Chan, Rochelle Ashana, Michel Qissi, Dennis Alexio
The Story: USA kickboxing champing Eric Slone (played by Dennis Alexio) travels to Thailand to challenge the Muay Thai champion, Tong Po (played by Michel Qissi). Eric ends up severely injured. His brother, Kurt (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) studies Muay Thai to avenge him and take on Tong Po himself.
The Verdict: Wow! It has actually been 24 years since I last saw this movie. Other than revealing that I'm an old man (30s does sound old to me :P ), I realized that this wasn't as good as I remembered it to be. But I'll give it a pass. Despite not being as memorable as similar movies from the era like the Rocky or Karate Kid films, this has a lot of familiar elements that you would find in an 80s fighting movie. Simple and illogical plots, cheesy dialogue, and wooden acting. So unless you're in it for nostalgia or have a thing for these types or movies, do not indulge. Me? I enjoyed it because of the unconventional old-school training scenes that you would often find in classic kung-fu films. Dropping a coconut from the top of a tree on to one's abs might give you an idea of whats involved. Other than that, well, I just get a gleeful kick whenever I see Van Damme do those famous spinning kicks or leg splits of his.
Rating: 6 out of 10
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