I haven't written anything here in a long time, for reasons that will become apparent soon enough. Meanwhile, I've been busy catching up on movies in the past few weekends after seeing them pile up over a month of absence from the cinemas.
San Bernardino train disaster, turns out it was not. What happened there was a train travelled at great speed due to some fault, then train derails at San Bernardino; what was real unfortunate was that in the effort to clean-up the derailment, heavy machinery moving about causes the petroleum pipeline underneath the area around the track to explode, killing more people and destroying more properties.
Anyway, the film itself is okay. Decent acting (anything with Rosario Dawson in it is awesome), pacing was quick enough, and oddly enough there's less of Tony Scott's signature hyperactive editing style here.
From the director of The Time Traveler's Wife. I wanted to see this for one simple reason, and it's not Bruce Willis or Morgan Freeman. It's the sight of Helen Mirren with a determined face letting loose hundreds of bullets from, err, that big machine gun thingie. That woman is pure awesome. And also Karl Urban, love that guy.
The movie itself, I felt, was a little slow on pacing generally. It was fine in the beginning, establishing how bored Bruce Willis is with his life, but I had expected things to pick up, for the plot to become more interesting.
It was entertaining. Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver are a joy to watch, as always. Also I'm intrigued by the two completely unknown, young, and good-looking actors Jimmy Wolk and Sean Wing here. I did think they stretched Odette Yustman's character a little too much though – they didn't quite manage to reconcile the evil bitch and the sincerely-loving girl convincingly.
Proving that Dreamworks Animation is on a roll, the film succeeds with an unusual story for an animated feature, never mind that it treads on the same ground as Despicable Me. I just wished I hadn't read the synopsis earlier. Will Ferrell's voice isn't as annoying as I had feared. How To Train Your Dragon is still better by a long shot, though I'll say this is on par with Shrek Forever After.
By the way ... WHICH STINKING GENIUS FOUND A WAY TO INSERT SUBTITLES INTO 3D MOVIES?! IT'S FREAKING ANNOYING, STOP IT! GAHHH!
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
I almost saw the original French version Le Dîner De Cons a few years back, which was written and directed by Francis Veber, who specialises in farce comedies. You should definitely check out his other films, such as Le Placard or La Doublure, they are surprisingly hilarious.
This film, on the other hand, well it's well casted: Paul Rudd is one of my favourites (I just love the way he walks!), Steve Carell swings between annoying and sympathetic as required by the plot skillfully, Jemaine Clement is outrageously zany, and my, Lucy Punch in an American role but playing the exact same character she's been playing in the last few movies I saw with her in it (and totally pulling off the American accent)! The problem is, the characters do get genuinely irritating, especially in the middle acts, and contrary to its purpose that is not entertaining. It doesn't help that I seriously dislike Zach Galifianakis (and couldn't understand why people love his comedy style so).
THE OTHER GUYS
My friend David calls it the funniest movie of the year (at the very least). I won't go that far, but I can see why. The dialogue is positively loony, and certainly the most enjoyable parts of the film are the argumentative banter between Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg ... especially the latter, hahaha. And Eva Mendes, my. Her character's presence in the story functions almost entirely as a plot gag, and she milked it for what it's worth. The actual plot though, involving some investigation of a robbery and embezzling of funds, is rather convoluted and not properly explained to the audience (intentional?), so when the end credits appears with infomercial graphics about Ponzi schemes it raised an eyebrow (mine). Likewise, Steve Coogan's character seemed rather bland, though he has one funny recurring joke. But no matter. One of the most entertaining movies of the year, which makes this more of a must-watch than any of the other films here. And Mark Wahlberg should keep making comedies.
REIGN OF ASSASSINS
I was surprised by how good this is. And, though I don't know exactly what his directorial contributions are here, I wished John Woo didn't butt in and inserted his name in as a co-director. Just let the younger man take the credit lah.
I thought the story was well thought-out and more plausible than most Chinese martial arts period movies, and a few of the fight sequences are some of the most spectacular I've seen lately. The weird choices were: having Michelle Yeoh's voice dubbed over ... by a more petite sounding voice and playing a 30-year-old (took an hour to get used to that one), and hiring an unknown Korean actor (well, all Korean actors are unknown to me, except maybe Jang Dong-gun) to play the male lead. The latter turned out to be a good choice, in my opinion: he had just the right kind of face for the role; and if his voice wasn't dubbed over, then I say, excellent voice work Jung Woo-sung.
The romance works, but interestingly there is a subplot involving Michelle Yeoh's character in her younger days with a monk, portrayed with a certain suaveness (if that word applies to a monk!) and poignance by Li Zonghan. It was brief, but man it was romantic – in this case, maybe because it was brief. Shawn Yue plays the most different role he's played so far (I think), and pulls it off.
EAT, PRAY, LOVE
Directed by the creator-producer of Glee. Lots of Malaysians I know didn't like it. While watching the movie, I formulated a theory why. I've always had this superiority complex when it comes to many people I see around me. (If you think less of me because of this, trust me, the inferiority complex is there as well.) And I think the reason why is because I gravitate towards people with a 'soul' – by which I do not mean in a spiritual sense, but rather, that something inarticulated that allows a person to get in touch with art, with literature, to engage in philosophy, to appreciate randomness and know how to subvert predictability (i.e. not be so straightforward all the time). Think about it, does your average Chinaman uncle, or Mat Rempit, or fellow office colleagues whose minds are entirely preoccupied with money/car/family/religion, or (in my case), the unsophisticated Chinese restaurant crowd and dumb people waiting in line to buy cinema tickets around me ... do you think they have that 'soul' in this definition?
I bring this up because I think it is the people without 'soul' who will never be able to appreciate this film, or if they like it, like it for the wrong reasons. Sure, a large argument against the film is that the book is 'better'. Unfortunately I'm the sort who always think that the film adaptation is (usually) the better experience (unless in the hands of an imbecile of a director), so I can't answer that argument.
I don't think it is a memorable film though. But it was alright for what it was. Julia Roberts does have charm.
LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN
The first ten minutes? Eye-poppingly brilliant. Like, wow – portraying Chinese labour in he French army fighting German soldiers in WWI (not Nazi, not in power yet), with an intense and furious fight sequence. Unfortunately, the rest of the film sucks. And such squandered talents: Donnie Yen is in peak physical form, Shu Qi is alluring as ever, amazing set and costume designs (for HK cinema, especially). And what's with the dubbing? Can't they stick to Mandarin? Seriously! Anyway, I don't know what happened to director Andrew Lau, but the film's pacing just veered off course after the European prologue. The climax was anticlimactic.
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD
I liked the original title better: The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud. Zac Efron is gearing up to be the next Leonardo DiCaprio; I don't mean he is purposefully aiming to become him, what I mean is that Efron is trying his best to shun the pretty-boy reputation and take on more adult and more challenging roles. Gradually. Not wise to plunge into a completely dark role, and this one is just far enough removed from that HSM stuff but yet could still engage his girly fanbase. Except that that backfired, and this film didn't do well in the box office.
Anyway, I thought the story was not bad, and Efron and other young, much lesser known actors Amanda Crew and Charlie Tahan all sunk into their role without messing up. The only false moment I felt in the movie was that the girl accepts the weird guy's words too easily at the very end. But okaylah.
DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME
This would have been such an awesome story, a murder mystery set in the time of Wu Ze Tian (!!!) and containing fantastical and interesting plot elements that are truly bizarre ... if only it wasn't directed by Tsui Hark. I promised myself I wouldn't watch another of his films after Seven Swords ... but I only realised this was his when I sat down in the cinema. And what is with Malaysian cinema distributors and always getting the Cantonese version of Mandarin-spoken films?!?! Can they go shoot themselves now?! It was SERIOUSLY annoying to see their mouths moving differently. Carina Lau's regal performance especially suffers. Potentially a very good film that is totally ruined.
I can relate to the Jason Bateman character. Not his neuroticism, but the way he is seen and treated by his friend, played by Jennifer Aniston, for that is how many of my friends (particularly my uni friends) see and treat me, i.e. with much exasperation. Indeed, Jason Bateman's character and I often wonder why our friends continue to be friends.
The film itself is a charming enough dramedy. I don't know why people are disparaging Aniston so much nowadays. Sure she makes bad film choices, and all her roles are basically the same – but when it works, as it does here, it works. Why complain? Jason Bateman deserves a nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical. Worth watching.
LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE
I heard so much about how the visuals are breathtaking and the story's not so good. The visuals are breathtaking. But the story doesn't suck! It's actually not bad. Though somehow, owls just aren't endearing enough, unlike penguins. Chalk this as a watch-once-only – but also a must-watch.
By the way again ... WHICH STINKING GENIUS FOUND A WAY TO INSERT SUBTITLES INTO 3D MOVIES?! IT'S FREAKING ANNOYING, STOP IT!
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
I never saw the first movie, just read the script, so I have a vague recollection of the story. But I guess it doesn't matter all that much, for there are enough clues to fill you in on what you need to know coming into this one, and there isn't much that you need to know anyway. The movie mostly focuses on Shia LaBeouf's career and domestic troubles and how those intertwine, and there's more of the latter than you would expect in a movie about Wall Street. LaBeouf plays the role very earnestly and does actually cement his abilities as a dramatic actor. Michael Douglas proves that he is still an effective actor, exuding charm and making you believe it. And then there's lovely Carey Mulligan, her performance convincing you of her character's conviction even if you wished she was not like that. Frank Langella is brilliant as ever. Cameos by Oliver Stone and Charlie Sheen are completely pointless – could have done more with those, instead of using up running time. Ultimately not a very exciting film. Just okay.
Be annoying, for it is good!
1 day ago