Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Sun Is Shinning... A Wordpress Family Award (& I'm Not Even On Wordpress :D)

Here's a nice break from my usual movie blogging posts. I've been given this Sunshine Award by Ruth from Flixchatter. If you aren't familiar with her site, then rush over there quickly as it is one of the best movie blogs on the entire internet. I'm not even exaggerating. If I were to give advice to someone just learning to start a movie blog, then Flixchatter is one of the few sites I'll tell them to visit. Other than that, Ruth is such a friendly and warm gal. Alright then, this award basically means I have to answer 10 questions about myself. I always love these kind of posts because it is more personal, and the difference between blogs and those big websites is the personal touch. Here are my answers:

#1 Favourite Actor

I've told this story so many times so it won't be surprise to anyone who has been at this blog before. I fell in love with movies and TV at a very young age and Michael J. Fox was a huge contributor to that. Back To The Future [1985] remains my all-time favourite movie, and the TV show Family Ties [1982-1989] was a huge part of my childhood. Plus, he's physically shorter than me, which gives huge encouragement :) (my list of Favourite Short Actors here). Michael's not an active entertainer anymore, so out of the current stars, I'd say Brad Pitt is growing on me a lot.

#2 Favourite Food

As I love food so much, I'm actually planning to make a list of my Favourite Food Movies next month. I'm an adventurous eater but the most mouthwatering to me is beef. I just can't stand looking at a juicy steak or burger. That's why I have problems keeping a healthy weight. From a Malaysian food perspective, I'm a sucker for tempe (bottom left in photo above), a soy-based product originating from Indonesia (I have Javanese and Banjar blood in me too) which has now become popular amongst vegetarians the world over. I'll also throw-in Begedil here too (bottom right in photo above). I'm not sure of its origins, its probably Malaysian, but its a deep-fried potato patty, usually with chunks or chicken or meat.

#3 Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink

Some would say this is not a drink, but a desert. I'd say its a drink-desert... (now continue the following with Gordon Ramsay's often-pausing style of describing food) the most beautiful... delicious... delightfully scrumptious... Cendol!! Hey, some people serve it in a glass, so that's a drink to me. Wikipedia says this also originates from Indonesia, and since Wikipedia is the most trusted source of information on the planet ;) I'm taking its word. Special shout-out to my blogger friend, Azrin. She rarely blogs nowadays, but she's the biggest cendol monster I know.

#4 Favourite Animal

How about I name three instead of one? A wolverine, a unicorn, and a dragon. Nah, I don't really have a favourite. But I'll tell you what animal that I HATE the most.... mosquitoes! Two things. One, the population of mosquitoes in Malaysia is extremely large. If they were allowed to contest and vote, we would have a mosquito as our Prime Minister right now. Come to think of it, a mosquito would do a much better job than our current Prime Minister. Wohohohoho... yes, I said it! Number two, I swear if there was me and say, four other people around me, the mosquitoes would leave the four alone and would all unanimously suck my blood. Its like my body is a Michelin-Star restaurant offering a free buffet.

But here's a scientific fact.... only female mosquitoes suck blood. That kinda means I'm exuding Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp's sexual magnetism to them females. Sadly though, its the only scenario where females flock around me.

#5 Favourite number

Either 3.141592 also known as "Pi" (I have no idea how to write the symbol using my Macbook's keyboard and am too lazy to find out how) or 3i, where according to the principals of maths, i is an imaginary number. OH GOD ASRAP!! You're suck a weird geek!!!

OK, OK... I was trying to give an outside-the-box answer. Speaking of outside-the-box, did you know that when told to pick a number between 1 and 10, 80% of people would chose the number 7? This is a fact most magicians and psychologists know of..... I'm getting completely side-tracked right now, aren't I? Darn you, ADHD!

#6 Favourite Colour

"My favourite colour? Brown. Because it reminds me of the mesmerizing colour of your mystic eyes," I told an ex-girlfriend once. Ultra-cheesy I know, but true story. She said she loved that compliment (women never fake anything, do they ;P ), but I seriously need to upgrade my game :D.

A proper answer would be.... Tosca. I totally stole this answer from Andina of Inspired Ground, another cool movie blog (check out her site, especially the "Inspired-By" series/segments, my current favourite series in blogsphere). Truthfully, I've never even heard of the word "Tosca" before this morning. But I have always liked it. Just didn't know the name.

#7 My Passion

Since my mid-twenties, movies has surpassed soccer as number one passion. Other than those two, I'm passionate about music (a little less nowadays) and currently.... food. As mentioned in #2 above, I've always loved food. But now it has moved beyond that. Labeling it with just a mere "love" would be an understatement.

#8 Favourite Day Of The Week

It used to be Saturday because of live soccer matches. Now it has evolved into Thursdays. This is normally opening day for movies in my country. I like to see them early. Less spoilers and less influence by reviews.

Fun Fact: The name "Thursday" is derived from Old English and Middle English which mean's "Thor's Day". I knew it! There just had to be a superhero reference. Superheroes rule the universe!

#9 Favourite TV Show

I don't watch much TV nowadays, but my current favourite is Suits [2011-now]. Harvey Specter is the man!!! Louis Litt and Donna are very funny too, but I also miss the character of Jenny. Anyway, any show or movie that constantly quotes and refers to other movies like this show does, earns bonus points from me.

#10 Favourite Soundtrack Of 2013

Easy. Pacific Rim. It's on my new gym-playlist, and really get's me pumped. Great music from Ramin Djawadi. Fell in love from the moment I saw the film.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: The Wolverine [2013]

"Eternity can be a curse. A man can run out of things to live for"

Release Date: 25 July 2013 (Malaysia), 26 July 2013 (USA)
Directed By: James Mangold
Written By: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank, Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Ken Yamamura, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen
Duration: 126 minutes
In A Nutshell:
During the atomic bombing events of World War 2, Logan/Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) saved the life of a young Japanese soldier by name of Yamada (young version played by Ken Yamanura; old version played by Haruchiko Yamanouchi). Fast forward to the present day and Yamada is now head of a Japanese technology powerhouse and one of the richest men in the country. He sends his trusted employee and close family friend, Yukio (played by Rila Fukushima) to track down Logan and bring him to Japan. There, Yamada uses his technological expertise to offer a trade.... Logan's healing abilities transferred to him in exchange for the chance of  Logan being mortal. Logan turns the offer down and Yamada passes away soon after. But all is not over, as Logan is forced to protect Yamada's granddaughter, Mariko (played by Tao Okamoto) from the Yakuza, and surprisingly (not!) from Mariko's father, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Yamada's doctor, known as The Viper (played by Svetlana Khodchevkova).

Thumbs Up:
+ Story and character development that is interesting enough to forgive the horrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009]
+ A sneak attack by ninjas, samurai sword fights, fighting on top of a bullet-train, and a battle in the snow with the background of nature. All the best of Japan in a modern Hollywood flick right here!
+ The action/fight sequences are well done. There's thrills, suspense, and emotional connection - we actually care for the characters. Not easy to do in a superhero movie. That being said, see the "Thumbs Down" segment below.
+ A mid-credits scene. Finally they follow the steps of Marvel Studios (despite this being a Marvel character, the movie is produced by 20th Century Fox) of hyping future movies in the franchise. Love these scenes!
Thumbs Down:
- I mentioned above about how impressive the action sequences were. That doesn't apply to the climax fight scene. It just didn't carry the same level of excitement or emotional connection.
- Despite me enjoying this film, I couldn't help but feel it was about 10-15 minutes too long.
- The cliché long monologue by villains in a moment of near-triumph. And this happens TWICE!!
- An absence of any menacing or worthy villain to rival Marvel's most bad-ass superhero (that's Wolverine if it wasn't obvious already!). I don't even remember The Viper's real name. Was it Dr. No-one-gives-a-damn?
- No cameo by the Godfather of comic-book superheroes and King of Cameos - Stan Lee (full list of his cameos I made here).
- This one is specific to my cinema. There was a trailer for this movie right before the actual movie. This new marketing strategy totally worked. I was sitting in the cinema and mulling whether to refund my ticket and leave, but then that trailer came-out. My mood changed and I was extremely hyped that I decided to stay! Duh!

The Verdict Is In:
Superheroes and their inner-conflicts of wanting to be normal. They did it before in sequels with Superman 2 [1980] and Spider-Man 2 [2004]. The difference was the original movies in those franchises were already successful and well-loved, while here, there's probably only 34 people of the entire world population that enjoyed the first movie. Thankfully they succeeded in redeeming one of Marvel's most beloved characters (this is only my observation, but the majority of Marvel fans start out as a kid loving Spiderman, but as they grow older they gravitate more towards X-Men, specifically Wolverine). This is an entertaining enough film for us to move on from X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009] and makes us looking forward towards X-Men: Days Of Future Past [2014]. Bring.... It.... On!!
7.5 out of 10

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat - A Tribute To Calvin And Hobbes

Image source and for more AWESOME Calvin and Hobbes images photoshopped into the real world = Here
Calvin and Hobbes. One of the world's most well-known and on a more personal level, one of my two all-time favourite comic-strips (the other one being Dilbert). For those who are unfamiliar, it chronicles the imaginative fantasies of a young boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Calvin sees Hobbes as a real-life talking tiger... and also his best friend. The biggest appeal of the comic-strip to me was probably how relatable I found it to be. In a previous blog post, I had mentioned my childhood struggles with ADHD. I was that weird kid at school who would always enter his own fantasy-universe instead of paying attention in class. Superhero TV shows and movies from my childhood like Back To The Future [1985] and Star Wars [1977] fueled my imagination, and that's why I have such a strong affection to them till this very day. Other than that, what made Calvin and Hobbes so darn enjoyable was.... that it was immensely funny!

Well now a documentary has been made focusing on the comic-strip and its author, Bill Watterson. It is titled Dear Mr. Watterson and it is scheduled for release in November this year for those living in the USA. Bill Watterson does seem like an interesting person to cover. He hasn't made anything new since he stopped Calvin and Hobbes in 1995, while it is said he is hard man for people to locate. He has even refused merchandising his cartoon characters, and therefore wavering what would have been a lucrative income. Last year I got to see a documentary about another childhood hero of mine, Stan Lee in With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story [2010] and it was a fascinating watch. I would imagine Dear Mr. Watterson to be just as compelling. Below are the poster and trailer for the documentary:

Oh yeah, other than that, here's another treat for fans of the comic. This one is a fan-made spoof movie trailer by GrittyReboots. Only this time it has gone with the current Hollywood trend of being all dark and gritty. Here Calvin is all grown-up and trying to get rid of his childhood fantasies, Hobbes included. Its actually quite good and I would actually go see it if it was made into a full movie!

p/s: this blog post title "Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat" is inspired by the title of one of the many Calvin and Hobbes Collection books.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Xpress Review: Pacific Rim [2013]

"Today, We Are Cancelling The Apocalypse!!"

Directed By: Guillermo Del Toro
Written By: Travis Beachim, Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman,
The Story: For a long time, mankind feared an alien invasion coming from the sky. Instead, giant alien creatures known as "Kaiju" emerge from a portal deep beneath the Pacific Ocean and causing massive destruction to the countries they invade. The world forces join together to create giant robots, known as "Jaegers", which must be controlled by two human pilots each. As the war worsens, the fate of the world is now relied on a former Jaeger pilot, Raleigh (played by Charlie Hunnam) and a rookie, Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikichi)
The Verdict: Almost everything in this movie is large scale and grand. The CGI are great, especially scenes of the early appearances of the Kaijus (to the next Godzilla movie, this will be the standard expected of you). The action, whether the large scale robots vs monsters, or even the small scale human-human fight sequences are tightly executed (although there are still a few which are exaggeratedly done... this is Hollywood afterall). The story, although having nothing groundbreaking, is still interesting enough to keep us investing our time in. A solid and entertaining piece of summer blockbuster movie.
Special Shout Out: # The film's score - loved it! # The child actor who played a young Mako Mori (played by Mana Ashida) - she was great! Give her more roles!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Monday, July 8, 2013

List: 7 Favourite Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Movies

"If You Smeeeeellllllll.... What The Rock.... Is Cooking!!!"

Photo Source: Here
The Brahma Bull. Rocky. The People's Champ. The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment. And my personal favourite.... THE GREAT ONE. These are all nick-names for 3rd generation pro-wrestler turned action-movie superstar, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In fact, in the world of pro-wrestling he is already considered a legend. There are only three people in the history of the business where their popularity supersedes just wrestling fans: First there was Hulk Hogan. Then came "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and lastly there was The Rock.

But this post is meant to discuss his movie career. Sure, he isn't the best actor out there. But he has tons of charisma, a stunning smile, and one hell of a imposing physique. And in terms of being a bona fide action-star, he's probably the biggest one there is out there. He's a modern day version of those guys you see in The Expendables. And just like those guys mentioned, The Rock has made a lot of shitty films too, with Tooth Fairy [2010] and Journey 2: Mysterious Island [2012] being at the top of the shame-list. But today we celebrate the better films from a guy whom already had 5 movies released in the first half of 2013 alone. With all that... Do you smell what The Rock is cooking?

# Honorable Mention - Faster [2010]

Ryan Gosling isn't the only person to play a character known just as "Driver" (in the uber-awesome movie Drive [2011] ). Rocky also did the same, in the film  Faster [2010], which when you watch it feels like a cheap rip-off to Quentin Tarantino.

#7 "Weapon Of Choice? 4 x 4!!" ~ Walking Tall [2004]

One of three films on this list that is supposedly based on true events. I'd say Rocky performs quite well in this remake of a 1973 movie with the same title. But like most remakes, this movie is said to be nowhere near as good as the original (a film which I have still yet to see).

Selected Quote: "You're right, Jay. This does change our relationship. You're under arrest"

#6 "Welcome To The Jungle" ~ The Rundown [2003]

I remember receiving free tickets to an early screening of this and then really enjoying the occasion. Those tickets managed to persuade this hot girl to go on a date with me (she was a huge fan of The People's Champ). We eventually didn't end up together but I did manage get a couple more months worth of dates with her.... all to the envious watching eyes of my house-mates. What movie? Oh yeah, this movie... I almost forgot. It was actually a fun movie with lots of laughs. Really enjoyed it!

Selected Quote: "You have two choices. Option A: you give me the ring. Option B: I make you give me the ring"

#5 "Transformers, This Is Not!" ~ Pain & Gain [2013]

Michael Bay is an easy target to hate. And while I really despised Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen [2009], not all of Bay's movies are terrible. This flick right here belongs in the entertaining category made by the director. It has a really compelling story, while Mark Wahlberg, The Rock, and Anthony Mackie make for a really enjoyable trio to watch.

Selected Quote: "Jesus Christ has blessed me with many gifts. One of them is knocking someone the fuck out!"

#4 "Epically Ridiculous & Ridiculously Epic" ~ Fast & Furious 6 [2013]

There are loads of scenes in this particular movie that are epically ridiculous. Just plain and outright atrocious. Yet, I still consider it one of the more entertaining films of this past summer (is it still summer? Ironically, I live in a tropic country, where the four-temperate season doesn't exist). It was just an epically fun and thrilling ride. The quintessential guilty-pleasure movie.

Selected Quote: "If you want to catch a wolf, you need a wolf"

#3 "The Franchise Has Started To Get Exciting Again" ~ Fast Five [2011]

The Fast & Furious franchise started to revive itself starting with this 2011 film right here, and The Rock played no small part to achieving that. I mean Vin Diesel squaring off against The Brahma Bull? I was excited since the moment the photo above was first released. THIS IS BRAZIL!!

Selected Quote: "We find 'em, we take 'em as a team, and we bring 'em back. And above all else.... we don't ever, ever let them get into cars"

#2 "The Rock's Best Performance" ~ Snitch [2013]

After Walking Tall and Pain & Gain, this is the 3rd film on the list which is said to be based on true events. I'm not sure if it was because he was surrounded by great actors like Susan Sarandon (an Oscar winner), Barry Pepper (Private Jackson in Saving Private Ryan [1998] and Dean Stanton in The Green Mile [1999] ), and Jon Bernthal (Shane in the TV show, The Walking Dead [2010- ] ), but Dwayne gave a very convincing performance himself. I enjoyed the film more than most critics did too.

Selected Quote: "Every move I make, or don't make, Jason will have to live with for the next ten years of his life"

#1 "Hollywood, Seriously... Instead Of All Those Remakes... Please, Oh Please, Make This Spin-Off" ~ The Other Guys [2010]

Agents Danson (The Rock) & Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) shoot, drive, and sex with style. They are Rock (pun intended) Stars. They wreck havoc and destroy $12 million in New York property damages just to catch bad-guys with a quarter pound of marijuana. Yet the public still loves them.... well, because they're awesome!!

 I know, this is kinda cheating because they only appear in the beginning of the movie. And just slightly more screentime to be considered a cameo too. But they are two awesome characters from my favourite comedy of 2010 (its absolutely criminal that the movie wasn't nominated for the Best Comedy award at The Golden Globes, yet The Tourist [2010] and Alice In Wonderland [2010] did make it). Please, oh please, make a spin-off movie. I'll definitely pay to see that.

Selected Quote: Danson: "We couldn't do our job if it weren't for you guys doing all the paperwork, answering the phones, all that stupid shit that we don't like to do" Highsmith: "All the gun fights, all the car chases, all the sex we don't wanna have with women... but we have to. All to what you guys do. Thank you".

Monday, July 1, 2013

Xpress Reviews: Despicable Me 2, White House Down, KIL

As usual, I'm both extremely busy and lazy (with a little hint of feeling depressed) right now, so I'm going to quickly combine a few movies into one post. I'd like to say I'm giving you guys value by giving you 3-in-1 but the truth is.... its really 3 lazy writings disguised as a single blog post. The first movie is an early preview, the second released last week, while the last is a Malaysian (surprise, surprise, a first film review from my local industry) movie released in the late of May.

# Despicable Me 2 [2013]

"Are You Really Gonna Save The World?"

Directed By: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renauld
Written By: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Voiced By: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand
The Story: Former iconic villain, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), is being recruited by the Anti Villain League (AVL) to help identify and take down an unknown new super-villain. He is is partnered in the task with AVL agent, Lucy Wilde (voiced by Kristen Wiig).
The Verdict: Just like the first film, this one is also highly enjoyable where its main strength lies in its loveable characters. The many minions (whatever their names are), Gru, his adopted kid daughters - Margo, Edeth, & Agnes (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, & Elsie Kate Fisher), Lucy Wilde, and El Macho (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) are very entertaining and well developed characters. A special shout-out to El-Macho's guard-chicken... it hilarious!
Rating: 8 out of 10

# White House Down [2013]

"Alright People You Heard Him! Tour's Over"

Directed By: Roland Emmerich
Written By: James Vanderbilt
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Nicolas Wright
The Story: U.S Capitol Police officer, John Cale (played by Channing Tatum) and his daughter Emily (played by Joel King) are in the middle of a White House tour when it is assaulted by a paramilitary group. The U.S President, James Sawyer (played by Jamie Foxx) is held hostage and it is soon discovered that this attack was the brainchild of a top-ranked U.S government official. John Cale attempts to save the President, his daughter, and the fate of the country altogether (who would have guessed that the 4th of July is around the corner).
The Verdict: Here's the deal upfront.... this film requires a lot of suspending belief. I'm usually OK with that as long as there's plenty of other things going in the movie's favour (refer to the Fast & Furious franchise). But other than a steady dose of comedic relief, White House Down is full of clichés while the story and action lacks enough punch or/and thrills. Instead of this movie, you'd be better off watching the similar (and much better) flick released earlier this year, Olympus Has Fallen [2013].
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

# KIL [2013]

"The Direction More Malaysian Movies Need To Go"

Directed By: Nik Amir Mustapha
Written By: Nik Amir Mustapha, Rewan Ishak, Khairulzaman Dzulkifly
Starring: Redza Minhat, Cristina Suzanne Stockstill, Harun Salim Bachik, Hasnul Rahmat, Dira Abu Zahar
The Story: "Kil" is the short form for the name of "Akil" (played by Redzha Minhat), a depressed yuppie whom has several times attempted suicide, but never could bring himself to fully commit to the act. He finds the perfect solution, he hires an agency that specializes in killing suicidal people on their behalf. The catch - he won't know the actual time or date that he'll be murdered. He however meets Zara (played by Cristina Suzanne Stockstill) whom changes Akil's view and appreciation of life.
The Verdict: Sadly I'm not a fan of a lot movies from my local (Malaysian) scene. Actually, not many people in the country are. While neighbouring countries like Thailand and Indonesia produce international standard films, ours is full of forgetable, cliche and low quality flicks. Out of nowhere comes this indie gem which almost wasn't released. Completed 2 years ago but only debuted recently, the movie which was shot using a DSLR Canon 5DMK2 camera has the same feel to it to such as films like (500) Days Of Summer [2009] and Garden State [2004]. Despite the tragic theme, it has a feel-good an uplifting vibe to it. The female protagonist, Zara, despite being quirky, manges to avoid being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and that is refreshing. Also like all good indie films, this packs a lovely soundtrack too. Now if only more local films could be like this....
Rating: 8 out of 10
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