Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Cars 2 [2011]

In A Nutshell:
Star race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) competes in the first ever World Grand Prix race in Japan, Italy and England. He brings along his friends from Radiator Springs to serve as his crew. However McQueen's best friend Tow Mater (voiced by Larry The Cable Guy) accidently gets involved in international espionage.
Thumbs Up:
+ Stunning visuals
+ amusing portrayals of foreign cultures
Thumbs Down:
- no genuine laugh out loud moments
- rather flat action sequences and racing scenes
- predictable and at times even dull story line with no real depth
- the usual overall magic we come to love and expect is terribly missing
The Verdict Is In:
Its ironic to think that as a movie about race cars and espionage, Cars 2 suffers from a serious lack of adrenaline rush. The action sequences and race scenes in the movie generated about zero excitement. Admittedly it is a pretty hard thing to pull-off in an animation, but its not impossible either as Pixar has demonstrated successfully plenty times before. Think about those thrilling action sequences in The Incredibles [2004], Toy Story 3's [2010] conveyer belt scene at the garbage dump, or heck, even the final scenes in Up [2009] (where Mr. Fredricksen tries to rescue Russell) and you'll get plenty elements of suspense.

By normal standards this is not a terrible movie because it does have a few bright patches, but it also doesn't qualify as a good one. When judged by Pixar standards however, this has to count as a huge disappointment and just goes to show how ridiculously high the bar has been set. As a Pixar fanboy myself, it pains me to say the usual magic just isn't there. The main Pixar speciality missing is what I like to call "the tug of the heart". That DEEP stir of emotions you get while watching a movie. The feeling that makes both kids and adults alike wanting to cry like you get while watching Up [2009] or the Toy Story movies. Or the sheer thrill I had while watching The Incredibles [2004]. Or the tranquillising charm WALL-E [2008] captivated me with. Or how I got sucked into the mesmerising world of Ratatouille [2007] and Finding Nemo [2003]. Oh well, guess the baton for 100% awesome movies now is in the hands of Christopher Nolan. Bring on The Dark Knight Rises [2012].
5.5 out of 10

Parody: The Empire Strikes Back (Silent Film Edition)

Proof of the cultural impact that the Star Wars franchise has had on people is probably best shown by the multiple spoofs that has been based on it. Everyone from Family Guy to Robot Chicken to Weird Al Yankovic has had a go. I'm pretty certain its by far the movie which has the most spoofs. Here's one of the better spoofs from Youtube:

Friday, August 19, 2011

List: Favorite Pixar Movies

Confession: I am a complete and utter sucker when it comes to Pixar movies. Yup, every single one of them. Heck, even those short films that they feature before each of their movies. Watching them always puts me through a broad spectrum of feelings, from joy to sadness to excitement and without fail fills me up with a sense of warmth by the time each movie ends. It has become my feel good/happy mood drug. But with Cars 2 only coming out next week here in Malaysia (yup, we always get them late), and the bad reviews the movie is getting, I'm feeling nervous. Will the streak finally be broken? Just in case it does buck that amazing trend, I've come-up with my list of favourite Pixar movies (so far).

*this lists reflects on how much I enjoy the movies. Its not the Oscars. And oh yeah, the positioning of the movies often changes from time to time

#11 A Bug's Life [1998]

As the 3rd computer-animated film ever made (and Pixar's 2nd), A Bug's Life demonstrated the superiority Pixar had over its rivals when it triumphed over Dreamworks' similarly-theme Antz [1998] which was released just a few months earlier.

Selected Quote: "You piece of dirt! No, I'm wrong. You're lower than dirt. You're an ant!".

#10 Cars [2006]

I'm fully aware some people will say this movie doesn't live-up to the ridiculously high standards of Pixar and many would also put this movie last on a similar list. While I do agree it is a bit predictable, I still firmly believe that Cars is a highly enjoyable feature with plenty of heart.

Selected Quote: "Ka-chow!!".

#9 Ratatouille [2007]

If the movie was a gourmet meal, Gordon Ramsay would probably say "it tastes absolutely delicious, full of amazing nutrients, and made with a lot of heart".

Selected Quote: Gusteau: "What do I always say? Anyone can cook". Remy: "Yeah, anyone can. That doesn't mean anyone should".

#8 Monsters Inc. [2001]

There's an old leadership debate on whether its better to be loved or to be feared. Well, Monsters Inc. eventually proves that laughter is better than fear.

Selected Quote: "Boo!!".

#7 Finding Nemo [2003]

A character from this movie, Dory, suffers from short-term memory loss. That generally means she's unable to create new memories after the event of amnesia, while long-term memories which happened before the tragedy remain intact. If someone was unfortunate enough to suffer from this condition, please god let that tragedy happen after he's seen Finding Nemo because not being able to remember this masterpiece would be such an enormous travesty.

Selected Quote: "P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney".

#6 Toy Story [1995]

Cinematic history will not only remember Toy Story for being the first computer-animated feature film, but also as one of the best movies, animated or not, of all time.

Selected Quote: "To infinity and beyond!".

#5 Toy Story 3 [2010]

There's a rumor going around that a forth movie in the Toy Story franchise is in the works. I pray that isn't the case. This is because while I'm fully confident in Pixar's ability of creating a good story, Toy Story 3 already has the most perfect and magnificent ending, not only to the movie but to the entire trilogy. Another sequel would only lessen the impact of that said ending.

Selected Quote: "Welcome to Sunnyside, folks. I'm Lots-o-Huggin Bear. But please, call me Lotso".

#4 Toy Story 2 [1999]

The magic of Toy Story 2 is best described by Tom Hanks (voice of Woody) in a 2007 released documentary titled The Pixar Story: "Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear) and I actually saw the movie together at the same time... when it was all done. And we had an understanding of what everything goes on, but then when Jessie's Song came up, we were just 40 year old men crying our eyes out over this abandoned cowgirl doll".

Selected Quote: "You never forget kids like Emily, or Andy, but they forget you".

#3 The Incredibles [2004]

Although I loved the Toy Story sequels and have complete faith in Pixar's ability to make great movies, I'm not particularly in favour of them making sequels. I believe one their major strengths is in creating original and creative stories. The exception to that rule of course if its an Incredibles sequel. Now, that I would love to see.

I also find it fascinating that director/screenwriter Brad Bird chose each superpower based on family members and their position in the family. Dads are supposed to be strong, so he made Mr. Incredible's superpower strength. Mothers are supposed to be infinitely flexible, so he made Elastigirl infinitely flexible. Teenage girls are insecure so he made Violet be invisible and able to make force fields (as a metaphor for teenage girls being defensive). 10 year old boys are energy balls and race everywhere so he made Dash super-quick. Lastly, babies are unknowns, we don't know what they'll grow-up into. So that's why we never know what Jack-Jack will morph into.

Selected Quote: Edna: "I didn't know the baby's powers so I covered the basics". Helen: "Jack-Jack doesn't have any powers". Edna: "No? Well he'll look fabulous anyway".

#2 Up [2009]

Now, instead of putting up a photo from the movie, I'll post a clip from possibly its most memorable scene. Its not really much of spoiler for those whom haven't seen it because its set early on in the movie and it sets up nicely the theme for the rest of the story. This scene never fails to make my eyeballs fall out as a result of crying me teary. Heck, even when I just think of the scene or listen to the song I cry profusely I'm emotionally moved.

Darn, that made me teary again. Got to take some time out before I continue writing. :P

Selected Quote: "Adventure is out there!...... You know, you don't talk very much. I like you!!"

#1 WALL-E [2008]

What's not to love about WALL-E? We're completely engaged throughout the entire silent first half of the movie. We're totally entertained throughout the busy second half of the movie. We fully empathise and believe that a robot has feelings. Our hearts comprehensively melted at every "Eeeev-ah" or "Waaal-ee" uttered. This is arguably Pixar at is best!

Selected Quote: WALL-E: "Diiirrr-ect-tivve?" Eve: "Directive? Classified!".

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Parody: The Dark Knight/60's Batman

As someone who loves movies I also enjoy parodies/spoofs. The genius invention of YouTube has made it even more accessible/easy to find them. Here's one of my favorites. It just shows how far Batman has evolved since the campy and colourful Adam West version in the 60s to the current realistic and dark Christopher Nolan versions. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011]

In A Nutshell:
A prequel to the cult classic Planet Of The Apes [1968], this movie is set in modern day San Francisco. Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist that works on developing a tissue regenerating drug that he hopes will cure Alzeimer's. Experiments of drug are being done on chimpanzees. An incident at the lab forces Rodman to take home and raise a baby chimp whom he eventually names Caesar (motion-captured by Andy Serkis). Over the years, Caesar develops incredible cognitive intelligence but is eventually taken from Rodman and placed in a prison-style sanctuary. Here he experiences human cruelty and decides to plot his escape.
Thumbs Up:
+ combination of a impeccable CGI from WETA Digital and mesmerising motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar provides the backbone of the movie. Caesar's character has plenty of depth and emotional resonance
+ well-executed script & good pacing of the movie
+ captivating scenes where the apes try to communicate with each other at the sanctuary
+ heart-pounding action sequences both at the ape sanctuary and also at the Golden Gate Bridge
Thumbs Down:
- too many cliché "bad-guy" characters
Shamelessly Tweeted:
> "The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is so awesome it probably inspired the London Riots ;p. The apes showed more compassion than those rioters who burned houses and robbed people though"
 > "Funny how an ape named Caesar is a better leader and more inspiring than most Malaysian politicians
The Verdict Is In:
After what I initially thought to be a generally lukewarm 2011, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes provides one exhilarating ride. Top notch CGI and mesmerising performance by Andy Serkis provides for wonderful emotional connection with the audience. By the end, you'll be rooting for the apes rather than the humans.
9 out of 10

Saturday, August 6, 2011

List: 15 Favorite Superhero Movies

Before the flurry of superhero movies crosses our paths during 2012, I've decide to compile a list of my favourite  movies in this particular category. By far one my favourite genres, I had to dwell a little bit in deciding whether movies such as The Matrix, Kill Bill, and V For Vendetta fits the bill. I ended-up concluding that only the latter qualifies. As things stand, I've yet to see movies such as Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, any of the Blade movies, or Green Lantern.

*this list reflects the ranking according to the posted date because the positioning changes very frequently according to factors such as my mood or how many times I see a movie. And oh yeah, I don't care how much accurate they are with their source material.

Honourable mentions: The Incredible Hulk [2008], Hellboy [2004], Superman [1978], & Batman [1989]

#15 Superman 2 [1980]

I chose this movie over the original 1978 one simply because 3 villians (well 4 if you count Luthor) is always better than 1 (as in the first movie).

Selected Quote: President: "Oh, God!". General Zod: "Zod!"

#14 Batman Returns [1992]

Just one word needed: "MIOWW!!"

Selected Quote: "I am Catwoman. Hear me roar"

#13 Hellboy 2: The Golden Army [2008]

Director Guillermo del Toro has such a vivid imagination. It would have been interesting if he had stayed on to direct The Hobbit.

Selected Quote: Prince Nauda: "Kill me. You must. For I will not stop. I cannot".  Hellboy: "Sorry pal. I win, you live"

#12 Kick-Ass [2010]

Hit-Girl is the most awesome female assassin since The Bride from Kill Bill (hey, maybe I should have qualified Kill Bill to the list?)

Selected Quote: "With no powers comes no responsibilities"

#11 Spider-Man [2002]

I'm still a little put off by the fact that they're rebooting the franchise when the original is as good as this (plus its only been a decade)

Selected Quote: "Who am I? You sure you want to know?"

#10 Thor [2011]

A THORougly joyful and thrilling ride. Ahh, just cant wait for the inevitable banter between Thor and Tony Stark in next year's The Avengers. Its bound to be golden. One guy thinks he's a God, while the other is an actual God. Hah!

Selected Quote: "You know for a crazy homeless person... he's pretty cut"

#9 X-Men [2000]

Yes, this is probably the move that kick-started the modern superhero craze.

Selected Quote: "You owe me a scream"

#8 Spiderman 2 [2004]

Your friendly neighbourhood hero battles quite entertaining villains in the form of Doctor Octopus and also the emotional conflicts inside himself. A dazzling movie.

Selected Quotes: "I'm not an empty seat anymore. I'm different! Punch me, I bleed!"

#7 X2: X-Men United [2003]

"X" hits the spot. No matter how many times I watch this movie, I am always fully immersed. Nightcrawler provides an exciting addition.

Selected Quote: "You know all those dangerous mutants you hear on the news? I'm the worst one"

#6 X-Men: First Class [2011]

I was so moved by the scene where Magneto searches for true focus (that lies somewhere between rage and serenity) that by the time of the final battle scene where Banshee flew out of the the jet, I almost (key word: almost) shed some manly tears. Hahaha.

Selected Quote: Xavier: "Killing will not bring you peace". Erik: "Peace was never an option"

#5 Batman Begins [2005]

Anybody who'd seen Memento before, would have already well known how good a director Christopher Nolan is. But this is the movie where he announced his arrival to the world. And what a majestic announcement it was.

Selected Quote: "You must become more than just a man in the mind of your opponent"

#4 V For Vendetta [2006]

Evidence of the impact made by this movie is that the notorious hacker group "Anonymous" and other rebellion groups worldwide uses the Guy Fawkes mask from this movie as their symbol.

 Selected Quote: "Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot"

#3 The Incredibles [2004]

Its an incredible (pun intended) achievement that this is the only movie with original superhero characters on the list. Its 60s settings and James Bond feel simply enhances the already jubilant mood you get from watching it.

Selected Quote: Edna: "I didn't know the baby's powers so I covered the basics". Helen: "Jack-Jack doesn't have any powers". Edna: "No? Well, he'll look fabulous anyway".

#2 Iron Man [2008]

Truthfully this movie could as well be named Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr.'s performance is monumental.

Selected Quote: "Truth is... I am Iron Man!!"

#1 The Dark Knight [2008]

Sure the late Heath Ledger waltzed his way to an Oscar, but it was dumbfounding that Christopher Nolan was robbed from even a nomination for Best Director. It was also beyond flabbergasting that the movie got snubbed for a Best Picture nomination. The Dark Knight Rises next year has extremely unbelievable expectations.

Selected Quote: "Why so serious?" (were you really expecting any another quote?)

2012: Movie Geek Heaven

We've still got a good 5 months to go for 2011 but my mouth has already been watering from anticipation for the coming year. With the exception of a few, the movies I've seen so far in Two-O-Eleven have been quite lukewarm. The line-up scheduled for next year on the other hand looks pretty darn impressive.
The Amazing Spiderman (still not in favour of making a reboot too early but I'm a massive fan of Director Marc Webb, plus Andrew Garfield is impressive too), Dark Knight Rises (I wanted to book my ticket way back in 2008), The Avengers (gonna be epic), The Hobbit (at last!!), Bourne Legacy (interesting to see how the franchise does without Jason Bourne), Django Unchained (hey, its Tarantino!), and Brave (finally a new ORIGINAL movie from Pixar) are probably ones that make me want to book early tickets the most.

My favourite year in terms of movie going so far has been 2008. That was the year when some of my all-time favourites like The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Wall-E were carved in cinematic history. I also loved amongst others The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Wrestler, Frost/Nixon, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, The Incredible Hulk, Slumdog Millionaire (despite only getting to see it in 2009), and also enjoyed Tropic Thunder, Wanted, and Quantum Of Solace. Let's hope 2011 surpasses that lot.

The Mayans had predicted the world would end in 2012. If so, at least it'll be bowing out on a high on movie terms (hopefully). Here's a trailer of The Amazing Spiderman which is scheduled for 3 July 2012.

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