Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: Thor - The Dark World [2013]

"You Must Be Truly Desperate To Come To Me For Help"

Release Date: 31 October 2013 (Malaysia), 8 November 2013 (USA)
Directed By: Alan Taylor
Written By: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Don Payne, Robert Rodat
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgard, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Duration: 120 minutes
In A Nutshell:
5000 years ago, the Dark Elves led by their leader Malekith (played by Christopher Eccleston) sought to rule everything by releasing a force called "Aether" onto all nine realms of the universe. He was eventually defeated and vanquished by the army of Asgard. The Aether, which couldn't be destroyed, was kept hidden by the Asgardians. Now in the present day, Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman) has found the Aester but it then inhibited and possessed her body. Malekeith returns and seeks the Aester but Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) and the Asgardians stand in his way.

Thumbs Up:
+ Climatic finale battle that just about passes as being cool.
+ Truly menacing villains. They were a real threat.
+ Darcy (played by Kat Dennings) providing most of the laughs again.
+ Cameos. Almost forgot Stan Lee is in a way obliged to do so (checkout the list of his movie cameos here). Another familiar person makes one too.
+ Frigga (played by Rene Russo). Finally, a queen that kicks-ass!!
Thumbs Down:
- A somewhat lethargic first half. Too much was spent on establishing the story of Dark Elves, convergence of the nine realms, etc.
- Too much seems to be going on. The film actually feels a little bloated.
- Lacking something extraordinary or a "wow" factor. A perfect case of "seen all this before".

The Verdict Is In:
I truly enjoyed the first film, Thor [2011]. It was a lot of fun and got me really hyped for The Avengers [2012] that following year. This current film on the other hand, although was fun in parts, just felt very ordinary and forgettable. Not a bad effort but the curse of the sequels strikes again. It seems that even for The God of Thunder, lightning doesn't strike twice!
6 out of 10

Thursday, October 17, 2013

TV: The Crazy Ones, The Michael J Fox Show, Agents Of SHEILD

So, the 2013-2014 TV show season has now entered its fourth week. So far I have had the pleasure of following 3 brand new shows. But despite their infancy, I can't help but feel a little deja vu and nostalgia as a few of the guys involved in these shows make their long awaited comebacks to television. Yes, welcome back Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michael J. Fox, and Joss Whedon. Okay, Sarah Michelle already returned a coupled of years ago in the show Ringer [2011-2012]. But come on, how many people actually saw that show!

# The Crazy Ones

"So that mug you gave me was wrong.... I'm not the best dad in the world! Are all my mugs lies? Do I actually love Mondays?"

Who's involved? Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Hamish Linklater, and Amanda Setton stars while TV producer-extraordinaire David E. Kelley is the creator.
What's it about? Comedy following life at an advertising company owned by a father-daughter duo whose personalities are polar opposites. The father, Simon Roberts (played by Robin Williams) is zany, creative, and goes for the spectacular ideas. The daughter, Sydney's (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) approach on the other hand is conservative, steady, and dependable.
Thoughts? Anyone who has seen Robin Williams in stand-up, interviews, or talk shows will realize he is playing himself in this role. As expected he improvs a lot (as shown during the bloopers during the end credits) and he is absolutely hilarious! Sarah Michelle Gellar is also well suited as her "straight-guy role" here fits her demeanor perfectly. I've always took a liking towards the field of advertising as we get to see a lot of creative and "crazy" ideas. Thankfully, the campaigns that we get to see on the show manages to do exactly that. In fact the title of the show is based on the Apple 1997 commercial titled "The Crazy Ones" which celebrated crazy and groundbreaking idols. Robin Williams would fit in well in that commercial!

# The Michael J. Fox Show

"Women!!! Always jumping to conclusion based on overwhelming evidence!"

Who's involved? Michael J. Fox is the main attraction here and he is supported by Betsy Brandt, Katie Finneran, Juliette Goglia, Conor Romero, Jack Gore, Wendell Pierce, and Ana Nogueira.
What's it about? A comedy inspired by Michael J. Fox's actual life. Here he plays Mike Henry, a famous news reporter who was forced to retire a few years ago due to Parkinson's disease. However, he now ready to make a comeback.
Thoughts? Regular readers of this blog (yes, the tiny handful of you) know how much adoration I hold towards Michael J. Fox. From being Marty Mcfly to Alex P. Keaton to Scott Howard to Mike Flaherty, he has always will be my all-time favorite actor. So forgive me guys, because I already loved this show even before seeing a single episode!! But now that I have seen it, my unbiased opinion is that, yes, it is entertaining and worth your time! Although now with Parkinson's, MJF still possesses that charisma and comedic ability that made him famous. His family members here are the typical roles you would find in family sitcoms and they still manage to bring a lot of humor. But other than Michael, the character I enjoy the most is Mike's boss, Harris Green (played by Wendell Pierce). The first couple of episodes kinda milked the Parkinson's angle too much for its comedy, but I'm glad that now they've moved on from that.

# Agents Of SHEILD

"She's a groupie. All the hacking into SHEILD, tracking powers. She might as well be one of those sweaty Cosplay characters crowding around Stark Tower."

Who's involved? Joss Whedon is back producing (and directing/writing a few episodes) while the cast includes Clark Gregg, Chloe Bennet, Brett Dalton, Ming Na-Wen, Iain De Caestecker, and Elizabeth Henstridge.
What's it about? A spin-off series from one of the highest grossing movies of all-time, The Avengers [2012]. It follows the missions of secret government agency, S.H.E.I.L.D.
Thoughts? The top two things I loved from Whedon's previous works, the dialogue and his brand of humor, are all present here. In fact the humor is what differentiates it from previous super-hero shows like Heroes [2006-2010], Alphas [2011-2012], and Mutant X [2001-2004]. So far, the episodes have been pretty much self-contained, and I'm looking forward to them moving away from that because.... well, the best TV shows do that anyway! Loved the special appearances from Nick Fury and Robin Scherbatsky Agent Maria Hill. I wonder who else they're gonna bring in?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: Escape Plan [2013]

"You Hit Like A Vegetarian!!!"

Release Date: 10 October 2013 (Malaysia), 18 October 2013 (USA)
Directed By: Mikael Hafstrom
Written By: Miles Chapman, Jason Keller
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Swarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Vinnie Jones, Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, 50 Cent
Duration: 116 minutes
In A Nutshell:
Ray Breslin (played by Sylvester Stallone) is the world's foremost authority on structural security. He makes a living by testing the security of various prisons. He accomplishes this by creating a fake identity, getting himself inside the prisons, and then breaking out of them. One day he is contacted with a unique job. It is an "off-the-books" prison which officially doesn't exist because its purpose is to make the world's worst criminals "disappear". However it seems that the people who put him in there to test the prison actually wants him to stay forever. As Breslin plans his escape, he befriends another inmate, Swan Rottmayer (played by Arnold Swarzenneger).

Thumbs Up:
+ Sly and Arnie turn back the clock and gives performances reminiscent of their peak years. Action fans rejoice!
+ An action movie that actually has a smart and thrilling plot.
+ Bad guys taking on Arnie when he has a machine gun in his hand. Bad choice guys, bad choice. Man, this movie is really making me feel nostalgic!
+ Explosions followed by catchphrases. Classic 80s action movie right there.
Thumbs Down:
- I just don't buy the premise of an "off-the-book" prison that violates every human rights law there is. If authorities really wanted to make criminals "disappear", they would've just killed them. An explanation is given, but it is still weak to me.

The Verdict Is In:
Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Swarzenegger. I don't think many can argue that these two are the biggest action stars of all-time. Now at ages 67 and 66 years old they both show that they have plenty left in the tank because Escape Plan [2013] is prison break movie that they can be proud of. The story and plot is more entertaining and thrilling than the standard action flick, but it is the presence of the two legends that really make the movie shine.
7.5 out of 10

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Happy Halloween: Inspired By The Movies

Original image from here
Its October already which means Halloween month has arrived. Yes, that celebration which seems to be fully rejoiced ONLY in the United States. Which is a quite shame because that means in my part of the world, Halloween basically is non-existent. Despite not being a horror fan, I find the whole celebration of Halloween, from trick-or-treat to haunted theme parks to the festivities to be very fun and appealing. The horror movie genre is growing on me however.

Today I've decided to compile features from all corners of the globe which were inspired by horror movies. I got this idea from Andina's "Inspired By..." series at here fabulous blog Inspired Ground (don't worry I asked her permission). You guys should check the blog out especially those particular series mentioned. As a movie lover, its great to see all such of things being inspired by the movies.

# There Are Other People Out There, Like Me, That Can Do What I Do!

The first thing on the list, technically isn't something "inspired by". Its actually what I believe to be a promotion campaign for movie the Carrie [2013] which will be opening soon. Yes its a remake of the 1976 classic and this time stars Chloe Graze Moretz. Here we get to see an orchestrated hidden camera prank inside of a coffee shop. A girl freaks out and blasts-out super telekinetic powers. This video is awesome in so many ways. I know I'd freak out if I was there as a customer at the time. The reactions of the people in the coffee shop is priceless. You can see one person screaming and backing-off but still attempting to record the astonishing events on her phone! One comment on the Youtube page sums things up niceley: "This generation is fucked, we will record anything up until our moment of death".

# Don't You Want A Balloon?

Have you ever seen Stephen Kings's IT [1990]? The character, a clown named Pennywise and played by Tim Curry will spook the living daylights out of you. I listed Pennywise before in my 10 Childhood Nightmares, but truth is, he still creeps me out to this very day! Well, clearly inspired that movie, someone decided to dress-upped like the character and lurk mysteriously on the streets of Northamptom, England. The clown  even has its very own Facebook page! Now I know I'd freak out if one day I looked out of my window and saw him waving towards me!

# Horror Foods: Yum Or Yuck?

Fact: the visual presentations of food will influence our appetite. But what if they were based on horror movies that are usually associated with gore? However the ones featured here don't really look that bad and I won't mind eating them myself. Here are some pretty amazing cake pops (and a cream pop at the end) that can be found AND ordered at Lou Lou P's Delight. This is only a tiny bit of what they offer. Browse their page for more fabulous bespoke cakes and edible artistries.

Okay this next one is based on a movie that can barely consider itself horror. Kinda pseudo-horror. Its an A3 size cake made by Heartache Cakes:

Anyone a fan of coffee? Well Japanese artist, Kazuki Yamamoto creates some outstanding latte arts. The ones featured here are the ones that I could tie-in with today's horror theme. But do check out his page for loads more latte arts (including incredible 3D latte arts). Can you guess the movies these are based on?

# Come Out And Play!

Finally we have a collection of Legos inspired by horror movies. I know there's a lot of short films featuring Legos out there, but I'll just post photos here for the time being. Again, can you name the movies they are from?

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: Gravity [2013]

"Anybody.... Please Copy!"

Release Date: 3 October 2013 (Malaysia), 4 October 2013 (USA)
Directed By: Alfonso Cuaron
Written By: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Duration: 90 minutes
In A Nutshell:
Dr. Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first mission in space. Along with Matt Kowalski (played by George Clooney), whom is an astronaut on his final mission, they form part of a team on mission in space. A major accident occurs and leaves the two of them stranded alone in the vastness of space with no communication with earth whatsoever.

Thumbs Up:
+ This was probably aided by my first experience in an IMAX-3D theater, but the visuals were just breathtakingly stunning. In fact, they were out of this world! (yes, that was a pun)
+ Sandra Bullock's performance as a rookie astronaut really added to the thrills of the movie. No surprise there!
+ Here's an irony. Despite being in the vastness of space, the audience can actually expect to feel claustrophobic.
+ Nice camera-interchanges from the normal view to the first-person perspective. The audience will feel truly immersed.
+ The score was great. Another nice addition to the emotion and experience of the film.
+ The ending. What an amazing pay-off. 
Thumbs Down:
- n/a. I initially wanted list the lack of Clooney screen time. But then I realized that his absence actually made the film stronger and better (see *The Verdict Is In* segment below)

The Verdict Is In:
I had the chance to see an early preview of this film but passed the opportunity as the screening wasn't in IMAX. I wanted this movie to be my first experience of that format (especially after reading Ruth from Flixchatter's comments). Boy, did I made the right decision because the visuals, camera work, and score really were beyond awesome. I really did feel part of the movie.

The movie starts off with the stunning view of space and earth. Everything is so calm and beautiful as the space crew works and we just can't help but feel mesmerized. But then, after a few minutes, the panic and chaos arrives. From there on, it is just suspense and thrills. Sandra Bullock plays her rookie astronaut character extremely well, as her tendency to panic really does feel contagious to audience in the theater. The sense of danger just fills up the air and eventually infect you. Despite the sheer unlimited vastness of space, its darkness and emptiness will actually make you feel contained and maybe even claustrophobic. The decision to focus on just Sandra Bullock's character later in the movie was genius, as the feeling of loneliness actually added to that claustrophobic feel.

With good movies like Prisoners [2013], Rush [2013], and now Gravity [2013] being released these past few weeks, it is a clear sign that awards season is here. This is when the best movies, story-wise, are released. I'm extremely excited now!
9.5 out of 10
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