Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Epic Showdown: Darth Vader vs. Gandalf

If anything the recent historical success of The Avengers [2012] has taught us is that people love cross-overs between characters. This is what Marvel Comics succeeded at doing, assembling largely established characters into a single franchise, just like what DC Comics did with The Justice League Of America. Of course, these cross-overs are between characters within the same company. So how do you top that? Bring together characters from entirely different companies of course. Despite the obvious complications, it did actually manage to happen a few years ago in the comic series DC vs Marvel Comics (photo featured below). It unsurprisingly became an instant success because let's face it, who doesn't like cross-overs especially involving rival companies. There are plenty more examples. Part of the success of the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit [1988] was due to the fact that they had characters from both Disney and Looney Toons. Wrestling fans will remember the joy they had when rivals WWE and WCW combined to provide the fantasy matches the fans had always dreamed about into reality. I also loved a documentary series on TV where they pitted different animals in fantasy showdowns (my dream animal fight has yet to be shown... a gorilla squaring-off against a grizzy bear, now that would be epic). The point is these cross-overs and fantasy fights would truly be awesome!

So what cross over battle would you like to see? Among my favourite film franchises are the original Star Wars trilogy and also Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings. Now as part of their Super Power Beat Down series, a production company named Bat In The Sun has created a short video which features the Dark Side of the Force's evil lord, Darth Vader up against the wise White Wizard of Middle-Earth, Gandalf. The good news is they'll be featuring plenty more fantasy showdowns to come and we will be able to vote on the outcome. Frankly speaking, this is truly what geek-heaven must be like!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Men In Black 3 [2012]

Release Date: 24 May 2012 (Malaysia), May 25 2012 (USA)
Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld
Written By: Ethan Cohen, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, Michael Soccio, Lowell Cunningham
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jermain Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve
Duration: 103 minutes
In A Nutshell:
When a vicious alien criminal named Boris The Animal (played by Jermain Clement) escapes from the Lunar Max prison facility, he time travels back to the year 1969 to take revenge and kill Agent K (played by Tommy Lee Jones). K's death leaves the safety of planet earth in jeopardy. Agent J (played by Will Smith) travels back to that same year to restore things back to normal but bumps into a very young Agent K (played by Josh Brolin). They find out that the key to safeguarding the planet depends on the help of an alien named Griffin (played by Michael Stuhlbarg).
Thumbs Up:
+ The adventures provide enough fun to make it entertaining
+ Convincing performance from Josh Brolin as a young Agent K
+ Interesting twist at the end of the movie
Thumbs Down:
- Story-wise, there's nothing special or memorable
- Just not enough laughs, something I've been complaining a lot about in my few previous reviews, is it a sign of age cacthing up with me?
- A rather one-dimensional and not threatening villain

The Verdict Is In:
After a ten year absence, the Men In Black franchise makes a return. I was considering not reviewing this movie because there's not really much to say about it. It does pass, barely, as entertaining, but there's nothing clever or extraordinary enough to make it memorable. The final action set-piece and a few scenes in the 60s were fun but for a comedy, there just wasn't enough laughs. I've noticed I been saying that a lot in my previous movie reviews, I'm beginning to fear I've turned old and cranky just like Agent K. Interesting that I had more laughs these past few months from non-comedies such as The Cabin In The Woods [2012] and The Avengers [2012]. But then again both those movie were written by Joss Whedon, so I shouldn't have been all that surprised. Josh Brolin put in a commendable performance but the main villain despite looking creepy and uncannily resembling Randy "Macho Man" Savage, just wasn't menacing or threatening enough.

Interestingly also that the last two films I saw at the cinema starred two of the biggest box-office actors in Will Smith and Johnny Depp (the latter for Dark Shadows [2012] ), but both films continued the trend from the two actor's previous few works that left me underwhelmed. Both started their early 20s in hit TV shows which turned them into heart-throbs and then soon after they transformed themselves into the biggest drawing movie stars on the planet during their 30s and 40s. But their most recent works has been mostly disappointing (Seven Pounds [2008] and Hitch [2005] or Alice In Wonderland [2010], The Tourist [2010] and Pirates Of The Carribean: On Stranger Tides [2011] ). Just goes to prove you can't always be on the top of the world.
6 out of 10

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) [2011]

Release Date: December 30 2011 (USA)
Directed By: Asghar Farhadi
Written By: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Peymon Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, Kimia Hosseini, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi
Duration: 123 minutes
In a Nutshell:
Nader (played by Peymon Moadi) and Simin (played by Leila Hatami) are a couple living together in Iran. Simin wants to live abroad to provide better opportunities for their daughter, Termeh (played by Sarina Farhadi) but Nader refuses to leave behind his Alzheimer-suffering father behind. Simin then decides to move out of the house to live with her parents, so Nader hires a maid, Razieh (played by Sareh Bayat), to take care of his father. An arguement between Nader and Razieh leads to a terrible accident and court case. Things get even more heated-up when Razieh's hot-tempered husband, Hojjat (played by Shahab Hosseini), enters the fold.
Thumbs Up:
+ Compelling story that is both emotionally engaging and mentally stimulating
+ Deeply rich and conflicted characters that are bought to life by powerful performances
+ Plenty of twists, turns, and surprises
+ Despite the cultural differences, the story and characters are extremely familiar and relatable
Thumb Down:
- External factor here only: Its limited release and that it took so long to reach my country!

The Verdict Is In:
In the world of blogosphere, Inspired Ground which in run by Andina is one movie site that I make frequent visits to. Not only is it a lovely site, but I also love the tag-line of her blog: "Good Movies Entertain, Great Movies Inspire". The reason why I love that catchphrase so much is because is it embodies what us cinephiles and movie-geeks seek in a film. We just don't want to be entertained during the movie, but also be effected in someway after the credits roll. This can either be by an emotional engagement or by intellectual impression. Well this Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film from Iran has succeeded in providing me with both outcomes.

There is a lot of complexity in each of the major characters and they're arguments and conflicts really does immerse the audience into the story. If the culture seems foreign to some, the people and their situations are not, in fact they are extremely relatable. Even if we have our own view on the issues presented, we can still understand every different motif that drives each character and why they have taken them. For example if at first Simin seems cold for wanting Nader to leave his sick father behind, there is a scene between her and her father-in-law which shows how much she cares for him and how it pains her to be making that decision. Also the fact that her Alzheimer-suffering father-in-law can't even remember Nader, his own son's name, but yet remember hers reveals a lot. Director and screen writer Asghar Farhadi also excels in his storytelling. Just when we think we made our verdict on the guilty party, more information and twists are revealed to change our mind.

As I wrote in part 1 of my 20 favourite movies of 2011, there were still a lot of films at that time which I hadn't seen but would have liked to when I created the list, and this film is one of them. Take Shelter, The Artist, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, HugoThe Descendants, and Senna would all probably make it into my revised list with most of them even in the Top 10. But A Separation would very likely be my NUMBER ONE pick of the 2011! It is no wonder that this masterpiece has universal praise and currently having a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I truly believe that the SINGLE reviewer that gave it a rotten rating is trying to troll us all.
9.5 out of 10

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How To Survive A Robot Apocalypse

A lot of people fear a zombie or alien apocalypse. For the latter, we need not worry much. Despite their technological advancement, these creatures from outer space are rather dumb and our governments have proven time and time again that we are the superior race. Don't believe me? In less than the last 6 months alone, quite a few demonstrations have been shown as seen in my movie reviews here, here, and here. For the zombies, a quick search on the web will reveal multiple sites dedicated to surviving such an event and of course capitalism means someone will profit from it. The second photo above shows an actual zombie survival kit that is being sold.

But what about the inevitable robot apocalypse set to join mankind's history? We all know this will happen eventually. But unlike Sarah and John Connor, most people won't have a cool leather-wearing robot from the future that uncannily resembles an ex-California Governor to protect us. So how the hell do us average folks survive? Luckily, the guys at Epipheo have created a cool guide video to survive a future robot uprising. They've even brought in a PhD in robotics, Daniel H. Wilson, who is also bestselling author, to advise us on the situation. The video is very informative indeed. 

Frankly speaking, when the machines do eventually turn on us, I reckon the older folks are more likely to survive. The younger generation will just freak out that their beloved smartphones have turned traitors and access to Facebook and Twitter is no longer available. These guys stand no chance! Also it is very likely..... oh, wait a second, what is my washing machine doing at my bedroom door? Oh shit! HELLLPPPPPP!!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: Dark Shadows [2012]

Release Date: 10 May 2012 (Malaysia), 11 May 2012 (USA)
Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: Seth Grahame-Smith, John August
Starring: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Bella Heathcote, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Gulliver McGrath, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley
Duration: 113 minutes
In A Nutshell:
Rich and powerful Barnabas Collins (played by Johnny Depp) made the mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (played by Eva Green), whom worked at his manor but is also secretly a witch. Angelique kills Barnabas' parents, causes his wife - Josette (played by Bella Heathcote) to commit suicide, and conjures a curse that turns him into a vampire. The village people then buries Barnabas in coffin where he remains for almost 200 years before finally escaping. Now in the year 1972, Barnabas returns to his old manor where he meets the dysfunctional remnants of his Collins family - Elizabeth (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), Carolyn (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), Roger (played by Jonny Lee Miller), and David (played by Gulliver McGrath).
Thumbs Up:
+ A visually appealing film, mostly through the impressive production design
+ If you buy into Johnny Depp's charm, then his performance offers some salvage
Thumbs Down:
- The comedy largely fails to work and are somewhat predictable
- Lacklustre and uninspiring plot
- Important characters are underdeveloped
- A rather disappointing finale showdown

The Verdict Is In:
I have never seen the 1960s TV show that this film was based upon but I would have guessed that it was similar to other 60s TV shows like The Addams Family [1964-1966] and The Munsters [1964-1966], which I actually do have some vague memories of. If that was the case, then Tim Burton would be a shoe-in to make this movie. Apparently though, from what I gathered from the Internet, the original series was not a comedy like those other shows. But apart from fans of the original series, I'd say that most people wouldn't mind this being a comedy as long as it was good. So did Tim Burton succeed? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Other than Johnny Depp's goofy-charm, there's not much to enjoy from the comedy on display especially regarding the fish-out-of-water jokes. Sure, Barnabas comes from two centuries ago but the humour seems to have been done quite frequently before, and much better too. I mean how many times have we seen, for example, the scene of seeing a TV and going "how did that person get inside a box?". Even the other types of comedy feels flat. The characters and plot seemed to have the potential of being something really entertaining but nothing inspiring seemed to result from it. Shame, Burton used to churn out some really good films. Let's hope his next effort, Frankenweenie [2012] is able to capture back some of that magic.
5 out of 10

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Farewell Gregory House + Welcome "Suits"

Well it seems that there's only two episodes left until House MD [2004-2012] bids farewell. After 8 seasons my favourite TV show is calling it a wrap. It does make me feel a little sad, I've been so into the show its like loosing a friend, but I guess everything must come to an end. Not only are the medical cases on the show interesting but the genius diagnostician known as Dr. Gregory House (played by Hugh Laurie) is one of the most complex and sarcastic characters there is on TV. They've been teasing the viewers for the finale episode with the tagline: "Everybody dies", and with former characters like Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), and Masters (Amber Tamblyn) returning for that swan song hopefully it'll bow out with a bang. Oh, did I mention the show also features the Babe-O-Licious, Odette Annable?

Looking back through the years here a some of my favourite episodes:

# Pilot (season 1 episode 1): The episode that started it all. An introduction to maverick doctor and the formation of his diagnostics team.

# Three Stories (season 1 episode 21): House takes over a diagnostic class for a day and presents the class with three case studies of leg pain. This was the first time we get an extended view into House's history.

# House's Head (season 4 episode 15): House is involved in a bus accident. There was someone else on the bus with him who was dying but he couldn't remember who it was. Shocking episode. Left me overwhelmed long after the show ended.

# Wilson's Heart (season 4 episode 16): The follow up the previous episode mentioned above.

# Broken (season 6 episode 1 and 2): Taking off from the previous season's finale, House is now admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

# Help Me (season 6 episode 22): House and his team joins forces with a search-and-rescue team at a scene of an emergency. This episode was voted fans favourite on the official Facebook page.

# Nobody's Fault (season 8 episode 11): House and his team are put under review after a violent incident involving a patient occurs. Great acting and plenty of moments that make you gasp in this episode.

# The C Word (season 8 episode 19): Just shown last week. A set-up for the finale I guess. A gripping episode that reveals a side to House that we rarely see.

Other than being a complex and layered character, House is also known for his sarcastic wit. Here are some of my favourite quotes from him, also known as House-isms (there are plenty more, I just did a quick recall and search):

# Lies are like children... its hard work, but its worth it because the future depends on them
# I think my penis stopped breathing... does anyone know CPR?
# The eyes can mislead, the smile can lie, but the shoes always tells the truth
# Treating illness is why we become doctors. Treating patients is what makes doctors miserable.
# Is it still illegal to perform autopsy on a living person?
# Like I always say, there's no "I" in team. There's a "me" though, if you jumble it up.
# I take risks, sometimes patients die, but not taking risks causes more patients to die - so I guess my biggest problem is I've been cursed with the ability to do the math
# It's a basic truth of the the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what. The weird thing about telling someone they're dying is it tends to focus their priorities. You find out what matters to them. What they're willing to die for. What They're willing to lie for.
# We all formulate questions for the answers we want to hear
# If you talk to God you're religious. If God talks to you, you're psychotic

So with the series ending what could be a possible replacement? Well I'm glad the show Suits [2011- ] will be making a return. The second season will start at the middle of next month. This show was ranked by BuddyTV at second place in it's list of Best New TV Shows of 2011. Just like how House MD made medicine interesting, Suits actually makes law practice interesting. What's it all about? Take a look at the clip featured below:

And just like House MD, Suits has plenty of richly interesting characters, my favourite is Harvey Spector (played by Gabriel Match). He's brilliant and arrogant but we still root for him because he packs plenty of charisma. Just like the way we admire Tony Stark. Harvey's relationship with Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams) and their rivalry with Louis Litt (played by Rick Hoffman) creates some really great and funny scenes too. Rachel Zane (played by Meghan Markle) and Jenny Griffith (played by Vanessa Ray) creates relationship problems for Mike and also provides for some good eye candy. Harvey's assistant, Donna (played by Sarah Rafferty) is a hilarious character while Jessica Pearson (played by Gina Torres) makes a very good boss.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Movie Vault Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit [1988]

Year Of Release: 1988
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Written By: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Gary K. Wolf
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lyold, Charles Fleischer (voice), Kathleen Turner (voice), Joanna Cassidy, Mel Blanc (voice), Stubby Kaye
Running Time: 104 minutes
In A Nutshell:
Set in 1947 where cartoon characters also known as "Toons" are living beings and they interact freely with normal humans. One Toon star, Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer) is having concerns that his wife Jessica (voiced by Kathleen Turner) is having an affair. The head of Maroon Cartoon Studios where Roger works hires detective Eddie Valiant (played by Bob Hoskins) to investigate Jessica. When Eddie shows Roger photos of Jessica playing patty-cake with the owner of Acme Corporation and also Toontown, Marvin Acme (played by Stubby Kaye), Roger is distraught and runs away. When Acme is found dead the next day, Roger is made the prime suspect.
Thumbs Up:
+ Nice crossover between cartoon characters from different studios: Disney, Looney Toons, and etc.
+ Nice old fashioned slapstick and physical comedy, and not just from the cartoon characters
Thumb Down:
- Doesn't stand up well against time and as the audience grows older
- Lacking any real "Wow" factor from the story
- No genuine laugh-out-loud moments

Selected Quote:
"Is he always this funny, or only on days when he's wanted for murder?"
The Verdict Is In:
I mostly remember film this from my early childhood, and what drew me to it during those early years wasn't so much the combination of live action and animation (that had already been done before in movies such as Marry Poppins [1964] ) but its assembly of every important (well, as perceived by a kid) characters in the cartoon world. I don't think until this very day that there has been any other time the likes of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse or Donald and Daffy Duck has appeared on screen together. I also remember being entertained while watching it during those times but unlike most other movies from the 80s, I don't recall much of going back for repeated viewings for this one. So when it was shown on my local telly recently, I was interested in taking a look back at something I haven't seen in a very long while.

Unfortunately I found out why there hasn't been many revisits. While I'm sure kids nowadays can still find this movie entertaining, it lacks any spark to really captivate an adult viewer. There are still some amusing moments and nice throwbacks at old school humour, but nothing that can be considered hilarious or memorable. Yes, I've enjoyed it during its day, and in fact it can still be used to occupy some free time in the present day, but it seems that I've largely outgrown this one. With another birthday coming up at the end of the month perhaps I've just turned cranky and outgrown all of the old school animations? Well I'm able still say that I enjoy those classics films from Disney, so no, I don't think so. Plus the way I geeked out at a bunch of comic book characters on screen last week (you might have heard of them, they're in a movie called The Avengers [2012] ) pretty much proves there's still a huge child trapped in this adult body.
5.5 out of 10

Friday, May 4, 2012

Indie Poster Makeover For Summer Blockbusters

Just like most other movie-buffs, I simply love Indie Films. They are a real showcase of great stories and characters. However I'm not like some film-snobs who have no room for blockbuster types of movies. Truth is I freakin' love summer-blockbusters! In fact 2012 happens to be my most anticipated summer in a very long time. It also has taken-off to a good start with the mind-blowing flick The Avengers [2012] which was released last week (except for the USA which only begins this week). There was a blogathon going around were bloggers chose their favourite year for movies. At first I considered the year 1994 or 2008 as my favourite, but then came to the realization that 2012 could very well turn out to be the best for me.

Well, the creative guys at Next Movie have come up with a way to combine both type of movies. Here are 10 posters for this year's summer blockbusters being re-imagined as Indie films. Yup, not only are they different in budget and stories, but also in the overall feel of their marketing, including posters. I even like the taglines that they feature below, like the one for The Amazing Spider-Man: "A touching and affecting re-telling of a classic story". Also I absolutely adore the one for The Dark Knight Rises where they list "From the director of Insomnia", instead of going with a more obvious route like "Inception" or "The Dark Knight".

p/s: Today, the 4th of May is Star Wars Day. So Happy Star Wars Day and may the fourth be with you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

There Was An Avengers Movie In The 70s?

This past week everyone has been buzzing about The Avengers [2012]. In my review I said it was a great movie but my ridiculously high anticipation had made me not 100% satisfied. A second viewing of the movie in less than 3 days though managed to changed my mind. It was mind-blowing awesome!! Expect more raving reviews from the blogosphere to come out since the guys in the USA will finally be getting to see it this week.

But did you know that there was a The Avengers movie released in 1978? Take a look at the trailer featured below:

Okay, okay. It wasn't a real film but rather a fan-created trailer made-up from various other superhero movies (and unrelated non-superhero movies too). Most of the individual movies involved in the clip had already been featured separately in my blog post of last month, Retro Superhero Movies. There's also another fan-made video of The Avengers, this time set in 1952. Check it out below:

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