Sunday, 25 August 2013

Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Similar to many recent bestselling fantasy young adult novels adapted to the big screen, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is another story about a 'seemingly ordinary' teen girl learns about her true identity and subsequently trapped in a love triangle (while trying to accept her destiny at the same time) in the midst of an eternal conflict between the supernatural good and evil.

The film is filled with one-line exposition and overstuffed with many interesting fantasy/mythical creatures such as demons, werewolves, vampires, warlocks, witches, with the addition of nephilims (angel half-bloods) thrown in the mix but it never bothered to explore or show the specifics for any of them. As a result, the creature element feels borrowed...they're just mindless creatures which posed a threat for the main characters to fight as the story progresses. Some of the characters or even the main antagonist of the film, aren't properly developed due to the sheer amount of fantasy materials the film has to deal with.

The runes, which seemed to be the source of Nephilims' powers and abilities, were never explicitly explained in the film, leaving the audience to wonder what sort of abilities that each of them will grant to the user.The film didn't even explain what the rune initially drawn by Fray earlier in the film is until you google it online to know what it is**.

Moreover, a lot of things were left unexplained or unresolved throughout the film: what happened to Madame Dorothea (the witch) and why she became a demon, what's Hodge curse actually, what happened to Simon after he's been bitten by vampire, why Fray is said to be more powerful than expected...etc.

The romantic scenes involving Fray and Jace were fine and the chemistry between the two leads are believable. The absence of corny dialogues surely help to set this film apart from other similar films such as The Twilight Saga or Beautiful Creatures.However, neither of the dialogues presented in the film are memorable nor meaningful.

Compared with The Twilight Saga or Beautiful Creatures, it's still a watchable film packed with enough suspense and twists in the storyline to satisfy most teenagers (girls mostly) and possibly some general audience.

Rating: 6/10

**Angelic Power: The first and most powerful rune given to Shadowhunters by the Angel Raziel. All Nephilim receive this mark upon initiation and signifies their angelic bond. It is also frequently applied to weapons to imbue them with angelic properties as well as wipe them clean of any demonic traces.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Movie Review: Elysium

Elysium is a disappointing, poorly written, shallow, flawed sci-fi action thriller that chooses to emphasize on fast-paced action sequences and violent, gory death scenes than to explore, expand and develop the interesting sci-fi elements(very possible future for mankind - overpopulated, polluted and disease-ridden world) and socioeconomic problems (social class divide, inequality between the rich and poor, immigration, health care, oppression) presented in the film.

Most of the characters are poorly written (with the exception of Max of course) and not even stars who gave decent performances such as Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley or Jodie Foster can save this big piece of mess. Max's motive for entering Elysium is apparently due to his own selfish reasons, but had a sudden change of heart near the end of the film? How do you expect the audiences to vouch or feel for him? However, the CGI and the exosuits for Elysium and ruined cities on Earth are top-notch and beautifully rendered.

Furthermore, the climatic fight scene is shot using the shaky, fast-cut cam technique, which is confusing to watch and a huge disappointment. The film is a huge letdown considering his previous film, District 9 is such a great film.

Rating: 4.5/10

(Unless you don't care about the plot, character development, and you don't feel insulted by the numerous flaws in the film, you enjoy gory action scenes, then the Rating: 6/10)

Reasons why I give this film such a low rating (SPOILER ALERT, read the following ONLY after you've watched the film):

      Why I say that most of the characters are poorly written? Just to name a few:
  • -The character of Fray is extremely weak and she's just a damsel in distress, waiting to be saved by Max.
  • -What happened between Spider and Max that causes the latter person to be in jail for him for 3 years?
  • -Max's friend died so early without a single purpose or character development. Just like that.
  • -The other hired ex-agents are added to the film just to add more 'lackeys' to Kruger so he can do his job and provide more gory, 'cooler' fight scenes.
  1. Max mocks the robot police earlier in the film for fun, got injured and extended his parole in a god-forsaken place where it's polluted and disease-ridden? huh? Why Max would even do that in the first place?
  2. Why would the Defense Secretary willing to use such a volatile ex-agent to do her dirty work? Aren't there any other available skilled agents in Elysium? (Considering the fact that most human soldiers are loyal to her compared to the elected President)
  3. The exoskeleton suit is actually not required in the plot at all. The device to retrieve data from a person's brain is totally separate from the suit. They're just there for the sake of providing some gory, seemingly cool fight scenes. The pill given to Max earlier is clearly shown to be capable of temporarily stabilize his illness for a certain period of time.
  4. How do Spider and his crew managed to get pass Elysium's defense with so many officers and robots monitoring the place?
  5. A CEO of a corporation is asked to write an extremely important computer program to RESET the whole highly advanced defense system of Elysium, store the whole program in his brain (WITHOUT ANY encryption at all), only to be conveniently retrieved by Max?
  6. A president who doesn't have authority over the secretary of defense? Seriously? Then why you elect a commander-in-chief in the first place?
  7. It is not explained in the film as to why the rich so ignorant and unwilling to share advanced medical technology with the poor? Too expensive? Technology is never expensive when you can mass-produce them.Unbelievable.
  8. During the break-in, where are the robots? Aren't they all supposed to be there immediately to subdue the illegal immigrants?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Movie Review: Unbeatable (激战)

From the director who brought you Beast Stalker (证人) and The Stool Pigeon (线人), Unbeatable (激战) is an enjoyable, entertaining, heartfelt character-driven action sports drama film about facing fear and conquering one's hardships in life.

While the film offers nothing new for the genre and there's striking similarities here and there with other films such as 'Rocky', 'Never Back Down', 'A Fighter's Blues', it's the overall great cast performances, the very heart and soul of the film that alleviates it from being a mediocre action film. The film emphasized drama over the fight scenes and the occasional humour managed to provide some relief as the film takes time to provide more character development and fight scenes throughout the film.

Both Eddie Peng and Nick Cheung have shown their utmost dedication from their physical and combat training to fit the roles for the fight scenes in the film. Their mentor-student relationship and camaraderie is also clearly depicted throughout the film as well. The training montage shown throughout the film such as tractor tire lifting, the numerous locking, striking and grappling techniques, boxing, weight training were all wonderfully shot.

However, the MMA fight scenes were poorly executed as the director used close-up, quick zoom in-out camera techniques to shot them. Moreover, the portrayal of MMA as a brutal and most likely fatal combat sport is very misleading, and the money gambling shown in the film makes it even worst. The belly-to-back suplex move shown in the film is dangerous and would potentially kill your opponent, normally it's considered as an illegal move and shouldn't be used in a tournament. The MMA rules are not properly shown or explained in the film. Some of the plot points are not further clarified and resolved by the end of the film.

Nevertheless, the action does provide some intense moments, some sense of urgency required in an action film to the audience and keeps the film constantly engaging despite a running time of nearly 2 hours. A recommended watch.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Movie Review: The Conjuring

The Conjuring is an impressively terrifying (hate to say this) yet engaging and heartfelt horror thriller, inspired by the haunting of Perron family case faced by real paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in the 1970s. Despite the fact that it's frightening to watch, one can't help but to feel impressed with the film at the same time. While the film offers nothing new to the genre (most of the elements presented in the film were done before...dolls, bed pulling, sleepwalking, animals dying in a weird way,etc), but the pacing and execution was brilliant.

 The acting main casts were excellent in delivering their best performance, especially Farmiga, her facial expressions is so convincing that you believe there's real evil lurking in that place.

In addition, the lectures, investigations done by the Warrens in the film somehow managed to slowly build up the tension and convince many to believe that this story is rooted in reality. The film takes time to develop the characters and gives as much screen time as it possibly can to the daughters as well, so the audience can be involved with the family as the story progresses. Throughout the film, you're not just fear for the impending danger and doom that the Perrons will experience soon, but for the safety of the Warrens in their attempts of saving the family as well.

Overall, James Wan successfully mixed the best elements of haunted house and demonic possession concepts into one film and cleverly delivered them in a seemingly refreshing way to the audience. If you're not afraid of being scared out of your life and would like a decent challenge, be my guest and go watch it now.

Rating: 8/10

Fortunately (or Unfortunately?), the events depicted in the film are largely fictional. If you have any questions about how much The Conjuring is fact and just how much is fiction, you can watch the clips shown in the link below:

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Movie Review: Percy Jackson - Sea of Monsters

 Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters feels like a cheap ripoff of the Harry Potter series made for younger kids or teenagers who read the books and would like to see it on the big screen. The script is awfully written, some of the dialogues were bad. Some of the funny scenes earlier in the film feel forced and the jokes were not delivered properly by the characters (found out the screenplay is actually written by the screenwriter who wrote Green Lantern).

The storyline is weak and feels out of place. There's simply not enough adventure in the Sea of Monster'S' and the actual quest felt a little too rushed for the audience to feel satisfied. Furthermore, the big finale near the end of the film feels disappointing and lame.
Not sure about the novels as I've never read them before, but it seems as if the gods doesn't seem to care much about their half-blood kids (Poseidon seemed to be ignoring Percy despite his many attempts in communicating with him)...One could even question why bother making the half-bloods in the first place? There's no appearances of the Greek Gods - Zeus, Poseidon or Hades throughout the film...despite the fact that there's an issue of utmost urgency that requires their immediate attention.

Most of the plot elements felt contrived or questionable...they're just simply there for the sake of the plot (sorry for mentioning some of the plot elements, I just couldn't help it):
  • -Out of nowhere, Luke just 'magically' found the Tomb of Kronos?
  • -A powerful crucial magical item such as the golden fleece is only guarded by a Cyclops on an island?
  • -The film's title mentioned Sea of Monster'S', but in the end the audience just get to see a monster that looks like a maelstrom?
  • -How Grover managed to reach the island in the first place?
  • -How Luke and his crew gets to have a rat-scorpion hybrid monster as a pet in the first place?
  • -Seriously, if Kronos was defeated that easily, then why it needs 3 powerful Greek Gods to defeat him in the first place?
  • -Annabelle mentioned that Poseidon's powers don't work in the sea of monsters since the sea is not within Poseidon's domain of power, but Tyson managed to heal his wound?
Not to mention, the film ends in an unsatisfactory cliffhanger as well.

There's some character development in the film, especially Tyson, Percy and Luke. The acting performances from the actors were fine and the film is entertaining in some parts of the film, but it certainly didn't reach the heights and complexity of the adventures in the Harry Potter series. While fans of the book series might love the film, but for general audiences, this fantasy action adventure is certainly a miss.

Rating: 6/10

Worthy Note: Alexandra Daddario, who played Annabeth in the film, has grown up to be an extremely hot and attractive woman with beautiful mesmerizing blue eyes, amazing lips and big bosom.

Movie Review: Mr. Go

 Mr. Go is an action drama comedy that delivers more than you had ever expected it would. It's such a high concept premise that most likely will assume that it follows a certain formula done before by Hollywood. Fortunately, it's not. There are some unexpected yet interesting surprises throughout the film. Remember the kid in Stephen Chow's CJ7? She's the circus ringmaster Wei Wei in this film.

Some of the plot elements presented in the film are questionable: Why would a parent dares to let his own baby go near a 300kg gorilla? Why would the Korean professional baseball league allows a gorilla to join in any team to compete? If the circus is in the middle of a desert, why would anyone willing to go watch the show?

The CGI rendering of the gorillas Ling Ling and Lei Ting seems almost believable but feels uncanny at some scenes.There are plenty of amusing emotional bonding moments between Ling Ling and the Korean baseball agent, Sung or Wei Wei. The scene where Ling Ling desperately trying to rescue Wei Wei during the Sichuan earthquake is particularly heartwarming. The baseball matches shown in the film are well choreographed.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from too many deliberate expositions about the character background and doesn't flow nicely as the story progresses. The helicopter chasing scene in the stadium seems a bit too much and unnecessary. There's no sense of team camaraderie shown in all the baseball matches and no player reactions to the new recruits in the team. The film might lose some of its appeal to certain audiences due to its choice of sport.

Overall, it's still a decent major collaboration between China and South Korea to make such a high budget film. A decent, watchable family film suitable for audience of all ages.

Rating: 7/10

Movie Review: R.I.P.D.

R.I.P.D. is a disappointing, forgettable paranormal buddy cop action comedy film. The story is formulaic, predictable and underdeveloped to the point that even Jeff Bridges' decent performance can't save the film from being utter rubbish.

The film was short (just a mere running time of 1 hr 36 mins) and can be considered a ripoff or rehash of many successful films that comes before. None of the dialogues are catchy or memorable. Marisa Miller's appearance as Roy's avatar is hot and sexy, but there's nothing much about her except providing eye-candy for the audience.

Despite the film's $130 million budget, the CGI for all the action scenes are extremely poor or horrible. It feels cheap. The CGI for the Deados look stupid, cartoonish and not convincing at all. It seems that the production team couldn't be bothered to hire some makeup and motion capture artists to film the Deados properly. It's such a shame considering the film has some neat premise and unique ideas but they never fully utilize them.

As the film title suggests, R.I.P.D. truly belongs to the 'Rest In Peace department' of comic book films and one of the worst films of the year.

Rating: 4.5/10