Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Clash Of The Titans

Sam Worthington
Liam Neeson
Ralph Fiennes
Gemma Arterton

What's the plot?
The Greeks revolt against their Gods, wages war. The Gods fight back by unleashing the Kraken onto man. Up steps Perseus to fight for mankind, together with a team of warriors, travel across the lands in an adventure to seek the weapon that can defeat the Kraken and battling strange monsters along the way.

What's to like?
Greek mythology on the big screen. Don't get this often enough.

What soured it?
Distortion of the actual mythology...the gorgon was supposed to be the main objective, not killing the Kraken.

The best bit?
The warriors fighting the giant scorpions. And Andromeda...didnt see enough of her though.

Should you watch it?
Only if you didn't get enough of Sam Worthington in Avatar.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No Country For Old Men

by RSJ

Josh Brolin
Tommy Lee Jones
Javier Bardem

I believe that no film can be executed with absolute perfection nor should any director attempt to even try to achieve this. Some do, but more often than not, lose sight of the larger picture. But if there ever was a recent example of any film that comes close enough, then the Coen Brothers ‘No Country for Old Man’ would be it.

A down on his luck Vietnam veteran, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a cross border drug deal gone bad. With members of both parties strewn with bullets, only a lone survivor remains. He leaves the dying Mexican and discovers nearby a 2 million dollar cache of money. He does what any ‘down on his luck Vietnam veteran’ would do; he takes the drug money and runs.

But the real owners of the cash are obviously not happy, and engage the services of a cold and calculated psychotic killer, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who just happens to be lurking around killing innocent people. The killer’s strange tool of choice is a gas tank that shoots and sucks back in a projectile which leaves his victims with a fatal but mysterious blow.

Finally, enter Tommy Lee Jones, who portrays the stone-faced small town sheriff, Ed Bell who believes he has seen it all but as the violence begins to slowly explode around him, he is often left baffled merely able to only pick up the leftover pieces.

The storyline of ‘No Country for Old Men’ seems almost too simple and straight forward. You get nothing explaining any past events only a generous chunk of the present where everything takes place.

What it does provide though is ample room to amplify the interaction between the distinct main characters all of whom are equally showcased on screen. It is three detail stories slowly being pulled fatefully together.

The dialogue that results is rich although there is actually very little exchange between the main characters. In fact, the philosophical Sheriff Bell is very much a third-person never actually meeting Moss or the killer in the face.

Brolin, Jones and Bardem all give impeccable performances. But it is Bardem’s merciless and twisted killer, although not quite as complicated as Mr. Hannibal Lector, but eerily cold, which gets top marks.

All of this is then set in a visual feast of perfectly articulated shots, often slowing down to almost a standstill before breaking loose into full-blown violence and destruction. Somehow, the Coen brothers leave nothing to chance nurturing each scene like an individual masterpiece. They do this so well that you may fail to realise that the whole movie actually lacks a music soundtrack. The silence must be deafening!

What results is a tightly knit, thoroughly entertaining fare, excelling in every aspect. Deliciously good!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Get Smart


Steve Carell
Anne Hathaway
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Get Smart is the movie version of the 60's hit TV comedy series, many of us may not have been born at the time, but I believe at least some of us got to see the re-runs of this popular series on TV. The TV series was a spoof of spy flicks and starred Don Adams as the bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart serving CONTROL, the clandestine US agency that locked horns with their Russian counterpart KAOS.

The CONTROL - KAOS face-off is resumed in the movie version, with KAOS demanding payment from the US Government in return for them not distributing nuclear weapons to "unstable dictators". Enter Maxwell Smart, who desperately wants to elevate himself to a field agent from his present status of analyst. He gets his chance when most of CONTROL's agents are either killed or exposed by KAOS agents whereupon he teams up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to thwart KAOS' evil plot.

Those who enjoyed the TV series would frown at the lack of comical dumbness that they have come to expect from Maxwell Smart and the plot in general. If anyone expecting to see a Johnny English type of bumbling spy spoof, then they will be disappointed. I, for one found it refreshing to see an actually competent Maxwell Smart, where it was the rest CONTROL that turned out to be the bumbling characters. There were some minimal attempts to reconnect the past with the use of the shoe phone and the red convertible, but by and large CONTROL has moved on to better and badder toys for their agents.

The sky diving, car chasing and factory action sequences are worthy of a serious action movie, the laughs are all there; both the slapstick variety as well as the witty one liners. Carell is likable as Maxwell Smart, and elegant Anne Hathaway is delightful as Agent 99. Dwayne Johnson provided the tough guy role as super Agent 23. The rest of the leading cast, Terrance Stamp, James Caan and Alan Arkin who are normally associated with more serious roles served out their comedy with great gusto.

Get Smart is an uncomplicated comedy action that dishes out a lot fun, an array of spy gadgets, a fair bit of action and a hint of romantic connection. What more can you ask from a spoof?

Thursday, July 17, 2008


James McAvoy

Angelina Jolie

Morgan Freeman

Every now and then, comes a movie which defies logic. Wanted is such a movie. To be fair, the movie is based on a comic book mini series, which I've neither read nor heard off before. So most of the stuff that baffled me could have well been explained in the comic.

Wesley (James McAvoy) is a guy leading a less than stellar life, with a dead end job, repeatedly put down at work by his boss, ignoring the fact that his girlfriend is cheating on him with his "best friend" and always popping pills to calm down his anxiety attacks. He gets entwined with a secret 1000-year old group of assassins known unimaginatively as The Fraternity when one of its members, Fox (Angelina Jolie) plucks him out of a gunfight at a convenience store. From there on, Wesley's life changes forever as he is told about how his father was killed by a rogue member of the Frat and that only he can avenge him.

The Frat carries out assassinations on targets selected by a "higher power" who transmits the coded information via a loom or weaving machine. The code is in the weaving itself, where each thread that is out of place represents a binary digit that eventually spells out the name of the doomed person. Morgan Freeman takes up the role of Sloan, the guy running the Frat, and the intrepreter of the codes from the loom. Yet, as the story progressed, the Frat appears to be more focused on killing each other off, rather than carry out assassinations.

The Fraternity boasts of skills that would make Rambo drool; the ability to bend bullets, slice and dice with a knife, leap across buildings with a single bound, take repeated beatings, performing the limbo rock on the roof of moving trains, blocking bullets with knives and able to heal themselves quickly with a mere milk bath. The Frat would have the ability to survive and thrive in the Matrix universe; indeed, with Fox's amazing talents, Neo would not hesitate to trade his bitch, Trinity for her.

One would expect some defiance of logic in such movies, but in Wanted, questions kept popping up one after another. Who is the "higher power"? Who finances the Frat? Is it possible for these "talents" to be hereditary? Does it take a mere 6 weeks to transform a wimpy accountant to a highly skilled assassin (with bullet bending talents, I might add)? Why shoot a guy from the roof of a moving train, when it's probably easier to do so from a stationary platform, like a rooftop? *Spoiler alert* Can the Frat members take Sloan's word that all their names actually came out of the loom and not conjoured by Sloan in a bid to save his own bacon?*End spoiler*

The absurdities kept cropping up in abundance, so it's simply better just to switch off and enjoy an outrageous and action-packed movie.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Voices of:
Jack Black
Dustin Hoffman

Angelina Jolie
Jacky Chan

Lucy Liu

It's been a while since my last animation feature, good entertainment they may be, but I can't seem to bring myself to watch any of them of late. So it surprised even me when I decided make the effort for Kung Fu Panda.

The story of a mild-mannered Panda mastering Kung Fu against all odds follows a similar formula for Hong Kong Kung Fu flicks, well substitute the Panda for a village weakling. Student learns from master, then faces the baddie who was a former student of the master turned rogue. So it was kinda like watching the run of the mill Kung Fu movie with animals as the starring role.

I enjoyed the story, simple as it may have been. Po (Jack Black) was likeable as the fuzzy Panda, and I liked teamwork and camaraderie shown by the Furious Five, and the friendship extended by most members of the five to Po, even if they disapproved of him. It was amusing to see that no one saw anything amiss about Po's father being a bird rather than a panda. In fact, when Po's father wanted to reveal a secret to Po, I thought it would have been that he was adopted. Instead, he revealed to Po the secret ingredient of noodle soup. The action scenes were also well-choreographed. These were the extent of the positives.

While the animation was elegant, I found the movie to be underwhelming and the plot insufficient to arouse the interest of a more matured audience.
I did expect a lot of laughs, but the movie was a little bit short of it, if only just. With the exception of Jack Black, the rest of the star-studded voice cast were unable to lift the show, and merely served to lend their names to promote the show.

In creating animated block busters, Dreamworks simply do not measure up to the Disney-Pixar tag team, as the team's latest fare, Wall-E will ultimately showcase.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Into The Wild

by: RSJ

Emile Hirsch
William Hurt
Gay Harden

Vince Vaughn

Hollywood may produce tons of movies every year but sadly what actually makes it to our local screens are limited to just a handful of the highly commercial ones. But business is business; the bigger the movie (and hype), the bigger the crowd. But if you crave for more than the usual ‘fast and flashy’ 109-minute fare, then you are left wanting. I got lucky stumbling upon ‘Into the Wild’, and although not knowing much at the time, soon discovered a little gem.

This movie is based on the life of Chris McCandless. Chris is a bright young man just out of college with the world at his feet. But he soon becomes disillusioned as the realities of his upbringing slowly creep in. He finally decides to discard everything and seek out the road on a passage of self-discovery.

‘Into The Wild’ documents Chris’ wonderful journey across the American landscape and its people. Chris ultimately sets his sights on the Alaskan wilderness, a place where he soon will face his greatest challenge. This real-life story is compelling insight into one person’s yearning for true freedom. But I don’t intend to give away any more of the storyline to spoil this experience.

Sean Penn directs well! I think he did remarkably, slowing the pace to provide depth, but with just enough momentum to keep a patient audience captivated with this beautiful story. I believe that Penn would have been tempted to showcase even more breathtaking shots of the American countryside and Alaskan wilderness, but he was mindful not to distract the viewer away from the main story.

I have no idea who Emile Hirsch is! But his intense portrayal of Chris McCandless was inspiring. I cannot imagine any other actor doing a better job, and maybe, some justice was done to the real Chris McCandless. And Hirsch’s performance is equally matched by Penn’s well cast supporting roles.

William Hurt (Chris’s father) and Vince Vaughn (farmer/racketeer who gives Chris a job) are the better known faces. But a number of other supporting actor/actresses were simply outstanding each carefully developed and balanced, something sorely lacking in many big productions today (e.g. wallflower Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man?).

In short, ‘Into the Wild’ is unassuming and intimate; it was not hard to find myself slowly drawn deep into Chris McCandless’ adventure. This is a Hollywood movie, but it is always nice to be pleasantly surprised. And exhibiting much maturity, director Sean Penn is definitely someone to watch for in the future.

Finally, a little bit on the movie soundtrack... Pearl Jam lead vocalist Eddie Vedder goes solo, and contributes a number of original songs. Although I consider myself a rock fan, I never did get Pearl Jam or Vedder. But set against a backdrop of folk and country tinged acoustic tones; Vedder’s characteristic deep growl is hauntingly beautiful. His heartfelt compositions raise the intensity of this already emotional story. It simply blew me away and I believe this is Vedder at his best.