Tag Archives: Movies

The Dark Knight Rises

6 Aug , 2012,
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The Dark Knight Rises – Poster Art.

The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolans third installment in his re-imagining of the Batman franchise, and thanks to Domino’s Pizza and omy.sg, I got a taste of Gotham (and Domino’s awesome pizza selection) at a special screening held just for bloggers last Friday.

Set 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight. Gotham City’s become a crime free city with the Dent Act, and Bruce Wayne,  in quiet self-imposed exile. That is, until his isolation is intruded by a mysterious cat-burglar who piques his curiosity. But this catty lass is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and soon enough, Batman’s forced to fight to keep the city he loves and protects safe once again.

Christian Bale returns as Batman, Gary Oldman as commissioner Gordon and Michael Caine as Batman’s best man Alfred.

Tom Hardy is stellar in his role as the villain Bane. He’s a completely different kind of villain, as compared to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. He’s menacing and intimidating, and his performance paints him as the perfect terrorist dictator of a Gotham that’s gone to the pits.

Similarly, Anne Hathaway was immaculate as the voluptuous Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of fresh, hot-headed young cop Blake was believable, but only so-so.

I have to admit that The Dark Knight Rises makes it onto my list of must watch Superhero movies for 2012. It’s only drawback is it’s over reliance on pre-established events from its prequels (then again, this IS a trilogy we’re talking about). Batman virgins might be left painfully lost on the streets of Gotham if they jump straight into The Dark Knight Rises,  but that’s more incentive for them to catch up on the last two films too, no?

Domino’s Pizza Promotion! 

In conjunction with the theatrical release of The Dark Knight Rises, Domino’s Pizza will be giving away a Free Limited Edition The Dark Knight Rises glass with every The Dark Knight Rises meal purchase.

Check out www.dominos.com.sg for more information.

Don’t forget also to like their Facebook page for the latest promotions and offers from this great pizza joint!

Marvel's The Avengers

4 May , 2012,
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The Avengers - Poster Art.

After banging out so many superhero movies, you know that sooner or later, Marvel’s going to get their formula right. And true enough, they’ve got it spot on with The Avengers, which I had the opportunity to catch when the team was invited to the grand re-opening of the newly renovated and refurbished GV Jurong Point on Tuesday.

It’s an amazing piece of work that’s set to give you a total geekgasm – there’s a grab bag of heroes, dynamic action sequences that look like they popped right out of a comic book, stunning visual effects, and witty banter (yes, witty banter).

Director Joss Whedon (of Buffy fame) is certainly no stranger to the world of comic books (with his writing credits in the Astonishing X-Men, Runaways, and a whole bunch of Eisner nominations), and his style works wonders for something that might have been incredibly hard to pull off – it’s already difficult enough to deal with one larger-than-life character. When you have six (and one diva of a villain), that’s when things get a little tricky.

Needless to say, Whedon’s script rises to the occasion, framing the Earth as a world on the verge of destruction by a race of shadowy, techno-organic aliens.  Said aliens are hovering just out of reach, and the very smarmy Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has cut a deal to be their herald.

Loki emerges in a S.H.I.E.L.D facility, “burdened with glorious purpose”, proceeds to happily massacre or brainwash the people around him, steals the proverbial macguffin, and kickstarts what’s arguably the most entertaining cinematic romp I’ve had the pleasure of watching in the past half-year.

One of the things that really stood out was the dialogue. It was superbly written and mostly intelligent (I was kinda imagining them in little speech balloons like in a comic book), and the story, which culminates in the near total destruction of midtown Manhattan by inter-dimensional invaders was just plain win.

Sure, there might be a few familiar scenes (some elements of the opening are strangely reminiscent of Buffy’s Season 7 finale), but Whedon’s a genius when it comes to creating spectacle and you’ve just gotta give it to him.

Similarly, the all-star cast was pretty good at their game. Robert Downey Jr. was remarkable as Iron Man as usual, while Mark Ruffalo, as Dr. Bruce Banner, held his own with a convincing performance as the troubled geneticist with anger management issues. Samuel L. Jackson was great as Nick Fury (as usual, since he’s Samuel Mother F*ckin’ L. Jackson), though I felt the others could have used a little more intensity. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye didn’t leave much of an impression though (and he didn’t shoot any aliens in the knee either), and Scarlett Johanssen’s Black Widow… well, I just gotta say I’ve seen better femme fatales elsewhere.

I was also impressed by Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. Coulson’s a character that grows on you, and if you’ve been following his antics in the past few Marvel flicks, then I can bet you that he’s going to grow on you even more by the end of The Avengers.

The sound effects were great thanks to the cinema’s new Dolby 7.1 sound system and EAW speakers, and the plush seats made the experience really, really comfortable. There was also ample leg-room and the way the stadium-style seats were tiered meant I didn’t have to worry about “floating heads” getting in the way of the action.

We also got wind that GV Jurong Point was holding a buncha promotions to commemorate their re-opening, so if you do wanna watch The Avengers, and get your hands on some freebies at the same time, do check it out.

From now till 23rd May, their daily offers include:
  • Monday: Free coke drink with purchase of one large popcorn
  • Tuesday: $2 for two cheesy hotdogs (usual price $4)
  • Wednesday: All-day student pricing and $2 off on Nachos combo
  • Friday & Saturday: Free late-night parking at Jurong Point Shopping Centre
  • Sunday: Complimentary restaurant vouchers with every pair of tickets purchased before 2.00pm

That’s not half bad, if you think about it.

In any case, go see The Avengers movie.

It’s definitely worth your while and then some.

Wrath of the Titans

29 Mar , 2012,
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Wrath of the Titans - Poster Art.

I was practically cringing when Sam Worthington played Perseus in the 2010 Clash of the Titans, but after his recent outing in the surprisingly good Man on a Ledge, I was half-expecting a decent showing.

Sadly, Wrath of the Titans, which plays fast and loose with Greek mythology, proved utterly disappointing thanks to Jonathan Liebesman’s treatment, a garbled script, and visual effects overkill.

Wrath picks up 10 years after Clash, with Perseus living an innocuous fisherman’s life in a remote village with his son Helius.

Of course, as all Hellenic myths (or in this case, a far-fetched one) goes, Perseus is visited by Zeus (Liam Neeson, though I’ll always remember him as Qui-Gon Jin),  who discloses that the walls of Tartarus are shaking because the gods’ powers are on the wane, and that a catastrophe is coming.

The hero, naturally, refuses the call to action, and only seriously gets off his ass when a monster plonks itself right smack in the center of his backyard and starts nomming on his neighbors.

What follows is a formulaic tale that’s incredibly insipid, though it’s got it’s humorous bits thanks to Toby Kebbell’s performance as the roguish Agenor.

Of course, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the folks behind the scenes had played a bit too much World of Warcraft. I mean come on. Major evil imprisoned deep beneath the earth, a world shattering disaster, and a manifestation that’s spouting fire and oozing lava? Sounds a lot like Cataclysm, ain’t it?

Don’t get me wrong. The visuals aren’t bad, and they must have spent a fortune on getting the 3-D to work the way it did (which was better than the previous film).

Yet ultimately, there’s very little going on beyond the visuals. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes’ (who plays Hades) were the two biggest names on the set, and they practically carried the show. Bill Nighy (he was Viktor in Underworld, and Davy Jones in POTC) was exceptional too, but he had all of 15 minutes of screen time. The rest of the cast pretty much played second fiddle, with Worthington’s performance being the least impressive of the lot.

Now that I’ve stepped out of the cinema and ditched my 3-D glasses, I’m wondering if this film should be renamed Wrath of the Critics. It’s a miracle the film’s passed muster at all.

Watch ONLY if you must.

The Hunger Games

23 Mar , 2012,
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The Hunger Games - Poster Art.

Many films promise a veritable buffet for movie lovers – cool visuals, competent acting, a watertight plot – and many films fall short. The Hunger Games, a big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s dystopic science-fiction novel, is no exception.

The film paints an image of a bleak future ruled by decadent corporate bigwigs in The Capitol, where the underclass toils in outlying, slum-like districts. As punishment for an insurrection, each district must offer up a pair of teenagers each year in tribute, to participate in a televised death match called The Hunger Games.

It all begins on the cusp of the 74th Hunger Games, with the protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteering as tribute in her sister’s place. Also chosen is Peeta Mellark, a baker’s boy who’s long held a torch for the spunky Katniss.

What follows is a tale that bears striking similarities to Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, with a liberal smattering of Man vs. Wild thrown into the mix and it’s pretty much repetitive after awhile.

Katniss climbs trees, skulks in bushes, slings arrows a la Rambo, and somehow or the other, gets out of hairy situations because she’s the girl of destiny. ’nuff said. There’s a romance subplot between Katniss and Peeta, but the chemistry’s lukewarm at best, and while the film attempts to include something of a political metaplot, it gets muddled and lost in the woods really quickly.

Somehow, The Hunger Games feels like a step back for Gary Ross, whose directing credits include Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Sure, he’s managed to cobble something of a movie together,  but this one sure isn’t going to win him any awards. It’s got a long, plodding setup (which takes up at least a good half of it’s 142 minute runtime), a premise that might as well be thrown to the wolves, and while Battle Royale elevated schoolyard violence to an art form, The Hunger Games  just drops it in the gutter.

It’s apparent as well that it was Jennifer Lawrence who carried the show. Her performance as the tough-as-nails Katniss was reasonably good, though Josh Hutcherson, by comparison, was pretty much an accessory on screen. It was also a shame that the other Tributes didn’t get a whole lot of screen time, and frankly, I would have enjoyed more of Woody Harrelson’s kookiness as mentor Haymitch.

Watch if you’re curious, but I’d suggest sticking with the novel instead.

John Carter (of Mars)

8 Mar , 2012,
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Disney's John Carter - Poster Art

Disney’s been pumping out big budget hits for awhile now, so it comes as no surprise that the company would fund the gloriously pulpy romp that is John Carter.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (who helmed several Pixar projects including Wall-E), this big screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs turn-of-the-century interplanetary opera casts Taylor Kitsch (Gambit in the Wolverine movie) as the titular loincloth-clad Virginian cavalry man turned swordsman, whose incredible feats on the planet Barsoom earn him the title “Warlord of Mars”.

I have to admit that as a big science fiction fan, I was rather skeptical when I sat down for the screening.†After all, the series was a seminal work, and while Carter’s many adventures were the subject of multiple comic book and small screen adaptations, few had come close to capturing the grandeur of Barsoom and it’s diverse cultures, or the tone of the original.

I didn’t have high hopes for Stanton either. He had a slew of animation experience, but Carter was his first live-action film, and directing real humans and directing a bunch of pixels were two different things altogether.

But surprise, surprise! Not only did the movie not didn’t disappoint, it was spectacular and then some.

I have to compliment Stanton’s clever juxtaposition of highs and lows. The story was a little formulaic at times, but overall, the pacing was just right. The action scenes were brilliantly lurid (with copious amounts of (blue) blood, gore and explosions), and thanks to his†grasp of dynamic camera angles and creative composition, proved generally entertaining.

The attention to fine detail was remarkable, and it showed through in the creation of pieces such as Zodanga’s crawling citadel, the sky ships, the alien creatures and elaborate costumes. †It was evident Stanton put in a 110% on this one.

In terms of acting, Kitsch’s performance was less kitschy than his last outing, while Lynn Collins (who also starred in the Wolverine movie) sizzled as not-quite-damsel-in-distress Dejah Thoris. The duo looked good together, and while their on-screen chemistry was a little lacking, there was potential there and that speaks volumes. Mark Strong’s performance as unapologetic Thern mastermind Matai Shang was also impressive, and it was a shame he didn’t get all that much screen time.

An awesome movie that’s sure to get your geek on. I’m hoping for a sequel already, and knowing Disney, it’s probably already in the works.

Underworld Awakening

2 Feb , 2012,
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Underworld: Awakening - Poster Art.

You’d think that after 3 movies, the Underworld franchise would go to pot. After all, there’s only so much you can do with vampires, werewolves, and their perennial war in the shadows.

And then suddenly, humans come along, and you realize that hey, they’re really trying their damnedest to milk the franchise.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I appreciate Underworld’s latest iteration Awakening for all it’s juicy bits – the fluid choreography, the intense sequences, the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale as Death Dealer Selene – but like it’s earlier installments, this film remains mired in hackneyed World of Darkness tropes and a water-thin plot that only just manages to pass muster.

With the elders all but dead and all order crumbling, vampires and werewolves alike are hard pressed to fight against a new enemy – the humans they’ve herded and victimized for centuries.

The public has discovered the presence of the “Infected”, and their reaction is anything but friendly.

Selene and her hybrid beau Michael (played by a faceless extra this time) are caught in the resultant purges, and when the huntress wakes up from her cryogenic sleep, more than a decade had passed.

Breaking out from the medical facility where she’s held, she discovers that it’s a different world out there, that her erstwhile beau is dead, and that her only link to the past is Subject 2, the daughter she’d somehow conceived during her twelve-year torpor.

And get this, that’s just the setup. The next half of the story has, predictably, Selene doing what she does best – dealing death with twin guns blazing as she embarks on a quest for some answers.

Plot aside, the show manages to plod credibly forward thanks to Beckinsale’s powerful performance. It’s a shame Scott Speedman (who played Michael Corvin in Underworld 1 & 2) had to give this one a miss though.

Directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein have to be commended for their aesthetic choices in the creation of this film. Awakening was decidedly gorier, darker, and more in keeping with the genre than it’s previous incarnations, and hopefully, that’s something we can expect in Underworld 5 (coming soon to a theater near you).

The way Selene tears through Antigen guards during her escape in the initial half of the show was bloody brilliant (pardon the pun), and it only gets better as the show progresses.

Ultimately, Awakening’s not all that bad if you watch it for what it is – a supernatural action thriller – and leave the grey matter at the door.

Old-school fangboys will also appreciate the fact that vampires and werewolves in this movie can actually kick-ass and kill stuff, and that’s always better than just looking pretty and sparkling in the sun, no?

The Three Musketeers

28 Oct , 2011,
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The Three Musketeers - Poster Art

Never mind what critics are saying.

It’s high time someone outta Hollywood gave Alexander Dumas’s classic The Three Musketeers a steampunk twist, and director Paul W.S. Anderson (who did Event Horizon, and a whole buncha Resident Evil movies)’s take on it is bloody brilliant.

I was already pretty impressed when I saw the movie trailer several months back (Airship! In 17th century France!), and by the end of its 110 minutes, The Three Musketeers had me completely sold.

The plot’s a fairly faithful rendition of the original, at least up to hickboy D’Artagnan’s encounter with the titular trio in Paris (if you discount the crazy awesome hijinks Athos, Porthos and Aramis get up to in the first 15 minutes of the film), but where it deviates, it does so in a good way.

In terms of casting, Milla Jovovich proved simply stunning as Milady, falling into the role of cunning temptress and witty rogue with easy grace, while Orlando Bloom was suitably slimy as Lord Buckingham.

It was nice to see him playing a decidedly unpleasant part for once, and he delivered it with panache, poofy hair and all.

I wasn’t entirely impressed with Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson)’s performance as D’Artagnan, but Matthew MacFayden, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans were great as the core three.

One thing that really stood out was the music. It was beautifully composed, and appropriately paired with the action on screen. And speaking of action, the sword fights were breathtakingly spectacular – it’s hard to describe the choreography in mere words.

Admittedly, calling it a steampunk film might be something of a misnomer. It’s at best steampunk inspired, if the airships and gadgets are any indication, but the real elements of steampunk – the fashion, trappings and stylistic elements were few and far between.

Still, that’s just one minor detail, and it’s a detail that’s easily overshadowed by everything else on screen. The sets – from the dank, underground vaults of Venice to the palace grounds in Paris – were designed to almost faultless perfection and the wardrobe, while not entirely suffused with cogs and gears, resonated with enough period chic to be charming.

A truly fine feat of film making, and great fun all round, especially if you’re a geek.

In Time

27 Oct , 2011,
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In Time - Poster Art

In Andrew Niccol’s ln Time, time is of the essence.

He paints a twisted dystopian future where everyone stops aging at 25, and time is currency. Everything’s paid for in hours and minutes – those who’ve amassed enough of it can live forever, while the impoverished struggle and toil just to live another day.

Enter Will Salas (played by Justin Timberlake), a factory worker from the slums of Dayton whose chance encounter with an upper-class  man (played by White Collar’s Matt Bomer) leaves him with more time on his hands than he’s ever dreamed of, and the Timekeepers, cops who regulate the flow of time in the city, hot on his heels.

Travelling to New Greenwich, Will meets and falls in love with Sylvia Weis, daughter of one of the world’s wealthiest men, and the two embark on a crime spree kinda like Bonny & Clyde.

Niccol demonstrates the same sort of verve and daring he did in his revolutionary ’90s work Gattaca. In Time boasts high production values, slick visuals, and some really excellent writing.

The script was punchy and punny (rather excessively so), but it was tight enough that by the end of 115 minutes, most of the major questions were answered. It was also timely (hurhur) in that it touched on a perennial problem – class division, and the notion of haves and have-nots.

As for the cast, they were beautiful and mostly proficient. Contrary to popular belief, Timberlake could in fact do more than pose and look pretty, and both he and Seyfried made a decent screen couple. It was Cillian Murphy (Inception) who ultimately sold the show as Timekeeper Leon, portraying the character’s chilling intensity and slavish devotion to the law to a ‘T’.

A great watch if you’ve got the time to spare.

Real Steel

7 Oct , 2011,
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Real Steel - Poster Art

Seeing as how the reel robots in Transformers were a real letdown, it was hard for me to take Real Steel seriously.

The only names on the roster I could remotely recognize were Hugh Jackman (X-Men) and Shawn Levy (who was responsible for a string of average comedies), and the premise (Rocky meets Rock’em Sock’em Robots) was kinda weak.

It was a pleasant surprise, then, to discover that the film delivered on all counts. It had plenty of robot-on-robot action, the actors were proficient, and the story, while formulaic, had heart.

Real Steel is set in the near future, where boxing matches are fought between man-made machines.

Jackman plays Charlie, a down-and-out ex-boxer turned robot handler who gets a shot at turning his life around when he is saddled with Max (Dakota Goyo), the son he never knew, for the summer.

Max is mature and sensible, a perfect foil for the unreliable and sketchy Charlie. While the two get off initially on the wrong foot, they begin to bond over Atom, a scrapyard castoff they pick up and mold into a real fighter.

The movie’s finale comes in the way of a bout between the home-made ‘bot and Zeus, the World Robot Boxing champion,  and it’s an impressive finish, to say the least.

Though the robots and visual effects were impressive, it was the synergy between Jackman and Goyo that really stole the show. Goyo, especially, proved incredibly versatile for his age. It was a miracle, because the script wasn’t exactly inspired. Still, Levy’s touch kept it interesting enough that things moved at a decent pace.

Real Steel’s the sort of film that made no pretensions to be anything but good, old-fashioned family entertainment, the sort that comes with a moral at the end of the story (this time, it’s all about responsibility and dedication, and boxing robots) and ultimately, that’s what it manages to deliver.

An entertaining watch.

Cowboys & Aliens

10 Aug , 2011,
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Cowboys & Aliens - Poster Art

I’m big on genre mash-ups. What geek isn’t? But there are certain lines film makers shouldn’t cross, and putting Cowboys & Aliens together on the silver screen is one of them.

Jon Favreau’s adaptation of the titular graphic novel (the graphic novel wasn’t half bad, by the by) casts Daniel “James Bond” Craig as a quintessential amnesiac gunman, who kicks ass without so much as a semblance of plot in the first ten minutes, liberates a horse, and rides into the town of Absolution as the title credits roll.

There, he has a run-in with local tough Percy Dolarhyde, kicks more ass, meets the very obvious love interest Ella (played by Olivia Wilde), gets identified as wanted criminal Jake Lonergan, and is tossed in the lockup.

He’s set to stand trial before the county judge, but before he can be transported, the town is attacked by mysterious space craft, and the townsfolk are abducted willy-nilly, UFO catcher style (yes, people get snapped up by grappling hooks). Jake blasts one of the space craft out of the sky with the strange bracelet he has equipped, but the alien aboard it flees.

Harrison “Indiana Jones” Ford, who plays Dolarhyde’s dad, decides to mount an expedition to chase the aliens down, and predictably, Jake joins the party. What ensues is a chase across the scrublands, inside the bowels of an overturned river boat, and past that into mountain territory where the cowboys and aliens had their inevitable  showdown.

Bored yet? I know I was by the end of the first half hour.

Despite the big names on cast and Favreau’s ministrations (or perhaps because of his ministrations), Cowboys & Aliens turned out to be a complete farce. It suffered from horrible writing, two-dimensional characters, an abject lack of humor or levity, and the aliens looked like rejects from a late night creature feature.

It’s an obvious case of fail on the adaptation front, and blatantly clear that the movie fell into the trap of trying too hard to be different, when a faithful rendition of the original story might have worked better.

I don’t know about you folks, but I regretted spending even a single cent on this debacle.

Grab the graphic novel instead, folks. That’s where it’s really at.