Friday, 24 July 2015

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Previous Review: Terminator Genisys

Marvel has gone a long way. We've seen pretty much anything else that the studio has thrown our way: a super soldier, highly trained superspy, a brilliant billionaire with powerful suits, a powerful rage giant, a Norse God, a master archer and a mutant (or 'Enhanced') to make up a team. We've also seen a talking raccoon, a sentient plant tree and other alien beings as well. So now, what's so special or mind-blowing about a guy who possesses a suit with the ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength?

Despite the fact that Ant-Man supposed to be the founding member of The Avengers and the creator of Ultron (Hank Pym, not Scott Lang) in the comics, he's a lesser known hero among the many Marvel superheroes we've seen before. In the comics, it was Hank Pym/Ant-Man who suggested the Marvel heroes to fight together against Loki and it was his wife Janet van Dyne/Wasp who came up with the name Avengers for the group. Ant-Man was supposed to be directed by Edgar Wright (The World's End, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Hot Fuzz), who's also the writer for the film as well. He originally wanted it to be a rather 'self-contained' film to develop the characters properly. But he decided to leave the project due to many script changes that need to be implemented to link it with the cinematic universe. After watching the film, it's not hard to see what are the changes that Marvel insisted to do for the film:more action, more cameo appearances and setups to tie up the continuity together.

Over the years, Marvel film plots have become more complex than ever before, they're heavily reliant on pre-existing knowledge (and its source material as well) for the audience to understand what is happening. Surprisingly, Ant-Man is much like other Marvel Phase 1 films that came before, its story is rather straightforward, simple and similar to Iron Man. The difference is (compared with Iron Man) that we're expected to fully believe the science elements that they've explained throughout the film. Thankfully, there isn't really much a need to know in detail as the concept of shrinking yourself to the size of an ant (or smaller) is purely fictional.

As usual, there are no darker themes, overly serious or melodramatic scenes in this film. There are three supporting characters who served as comic reliefs and the film is filled with many funny lines and comedic scenes to entertain the audience. There are many scenes that establish continuity to past films that will surely delight many Marvel fans, with an unexpected appearance of an Avenger member in the film. Aside from its focus on father-daughter relationships (and more action), the film is also a heist film, with the main characters try to steal the antagonist, Darren Cross' Yellowjacket shrink suit, to prevent the technology from falling into the wrong hands.

However, the character and relationship development feels rushed and it's filled with many events that are not central to its plotline. In the beginning, a lot of things are being shoehorned to the audience: we're quickly brief through how Scott ends up in prison, how he knows his best buddy, we expect Scott to be a highly skilled burglar/thief/electrical engineer, Hank Pym is a genius who managed to develop the shrinking technology, Hank's estranged relationship with his daughter, Hope. It feels like the studio wanted the audience to just go with it. To be honest, Scott Lang isn't really a character that you can relate with, he's commited a crime that few would possible or capable to commit. Moreover, some of the CGI scenes in the film are not that convincing that it needs to be, especially some shrinking scenes and the 'climactic' battle between Scott and Darren. The biggest disappointment would be that Marvel has failed to give us a memorable, compelling villain again. The villain, Darren Cross is lacklustre, underdeveloped and very similar to the character Obadiah Stane in the first Iron Man film. Darren Cross, much like Obadiah Stane, overtook Hank Pym's company a few years back and intends to obtain the shrinking technology, make his own suit and sell it. His motivations are clear and simple, mostly explained through exposition by other characters in the film.

Don't get me wrong, Ant-Man is not a bad film in any way. It's just that it shares many similarities with many superhero films that came before (especially Iron Man) and Marvel should have introduced this character in Phase one instead. We've progressed far too much that it's just not that special or satisfying anymore to see an ordinary 'superhero' who possesses a suit that's able to shrink in scale and increase in strength.

Rating comparisons with other Marvel Cinematic Universe films:
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Note: Make sure you stay for the mid-credit and post-credit scenes. The mid-credit scene sets the stage for the future of a new superheroine in the Cinematic Universe and the post-credit scene sets the stage for Captain America: Civil War which will be released next year.

Previous Review: Terminator Genisys

Sunday, 12 July 2015

News Highlights at San Diego Comic Con

The full first new trailer of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is officially released (3 minutes). The film was the top highlight of Warner Bros. panel at San Diego Comic Con yesterday. 

Senator lady: "Today is a day for truth. The world needs to know what happened and to know what he stands for. That kind of power is very dangerous. Let the record show that this committee holds him responsible."
Alfred: "That's how it starts. The fever. The rage. That turns good men cruel."
Clark: "This bat-vigilante is like a one-man reign of terror."
Perry White: "You don't get to decide what the right thing is. Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman"
Lois: "This means something. It's all some people have. It's all that gives them hope"
Martha Kent: "People hate what they don't understand. Be their hero Clark, be their angel, be their monument. Be anything they need you to be. Or be none of it. You don't owe this world a thing. You never did."
Lex: "Do you know the oldest lie in America Senator? Devils don't come from Hell beneath us, they come from the sky."
Bruce: "20 years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race. I'm gonna have to destroy him."
Alfred: "You're gonna go to war? He is not our enemy"
Lex: "Black and Blue. God versus man. Day versus night. The red capes are coming! The red capes are coming!"

The trailer shows a lot of new footage about the upcoming film and some additional information about the film from the filmmakers.

In the DC cinematic universe, Gotham City and Metropolis are "sister cities" located across the bay from each other. We finally have our first look at Wonder Woman in action, Kryptonite finally appeared on screen, confirmed Robin's death at the hands of Joker with his signature "HAHA..Joke's on you. BATMAN" writing, briefly shows why Batman and Superman are against each other before founding the Justice League. The trailer also hints at another possible villain in the film, it could be Doomsday or Bizarro.

Gotham City's own vigilante, Batman, travels to Metropolis to take on Superman, fearing what would happen if the latter is kept unchecked. As Batman and Superman confront one another, a new threat arrives to put mankind in greater danger than it has previously known. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be released on 25 March 2016. Directed by Zack Snyder with script written by Chris Terrio.

Another highlight of San Diego Comic Con would be Suicide Squad. There's no official trailer released as of now, but you can easily find a leaked version of the trailer online now.

In short, the trailer starts with with Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, eating dinner table and discussing some matters with some government officials. She's planning to put together a group of dangerous criminals together to do their bidding and she's blaming that "Superman's like a beacon for them to crawl out of the shadows". Waller says that manipulating bad people is what she's good at. The scene transitions into a prison where we see the villains in their cells, notable one would be Harley Quinn hanging upside down in the centre of a large cage. She asks, "Are you the devil?" We get a look at the Suicide Squad assembling on the street following a massacre at a hospital, as well as scenes of Harley and Joker in a car chase with Batman (cameo appearance) on the roof. We get a complete look at Joker near the end, when he laughs and says, "I'm not going to kill you. I'm just going to hurt you really, really bad."

Suicide Squad will be released on 5 August 2016. Written and Directed by David Ayer starring Will Smith as Deadshot, Jared Leto as the Joker, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Jai Courtney as Boomerang, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, Adam Beach as Slipknot, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo.

A new Green Lantern Corps film is being announced by Warner Bros to replace the old flop Green Lantern played by Ryan Reynolds. The film will focus more on the intergalactic police force rather than its individual superheroes. So it's more likely for us to see several main Green Lantern characters (John Stewart, Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner) appearing together in the film, which will be released in 2020.

For 20th Century Fox's upcoming Marvel movies. Deadpool trailer looks ok (no offical trailer released yet, but it's easy to find a leaked version online now), following the usual comedic side of Marvel. Wolverine will feature an old Wolverine and the last instalment and final appearance of Hugh Jackman as the character. "I've got three words for you guys: Old Man Logan," Hugh Jackman said definitively. "As I promised, this next time is my last time putting on the claws, it's one last time." We will be watching Fantastic Four later this year. Can't wait to see the new first trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse when it goes online. Gambit is not into production yet. Channing Tatum will be the main character Gambit.

Deadpool will be released in 12 February 2016. X-Men: Apocalypse will be released in 27 May 2016.

 Poster for X-Men: Apocalypse

 Warcraft trailer is coming in November 2015 and the film will be released 10 June 2016. The film is in the world of Azeroth and it's an origin story about the human members of the Alliance and the nasty Orcs of the Horde. The Horde is running out of resources on their planet. They're shown a portal being opened by a wizard, which introduces them to the humans of the Alliance for the first time. War ensues between the Orcs and Humans.

 "Sir Anduin Lothar, the lead protagonist for the Alliance. Steadfast and charismatic, Lothar is a knight who has sacrificed everything to keep the Kingdom safe."
 "Durotan, the lead protagonist for the Horde. Durotan is the noble Chieftain of the exiled Frostwolf clan, battling to save his people and his family from the vengeful Shadow Council."

More pictures for BvS:DoJ:

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Movie Review: Terminator Genisys

Previous Review: Ted 2
Next Review: Ant-Man

Oh dear. Another Terminator sequel again. It's been 24 long years since Judgment Day, the best sequel (also the best film) in the franchise. This latest instalment will act as a retcon to the series, by introducing alternate realities, or quantum universes with many possibilities to establish new events that changes everything, including the past and future. In short, it's no longer happening in the 'same, exact universe' that we once knew or familiar with. Kyle Reese travels back in time to May 1984 to save Sarah Connor from T-800 terminator, only to find that the situation has changed drastically. Sarah is no longer the helpless damsel in distress like before (first Terminator film), but she's already a well-trained, headstrong female warrior who's ready to fight against the machines, accompanied by a T-800, that Sarah sees as a father figure she calls 'Pops'.

Many would probably say that it's a rehash of the original, with just some minor changes or updates in between. Well, while it's not exactly the same as before, the core storyline is. The film shows us events both familiar and yet completely different to what we've come to learn in the original Terminator timeline. We get to see back to same time travel storyline again (the first Terminator), and again (Judgment Day), and again (Rise of the Machines). A character is sent back in time to save another from harm and they try to stop the end of the world together. They tried to take a different apporach on the story in the past (Salvation) but it didn't turn out well and ended up as a box office failure. There are lots of references to the first two films, with famous catchphrases such as "I'll be back", "Come with me if you want to live" (it's rather weird to hear Sarah says this to Kyle since it was originally said by him) are reused again in this sequel. They even enacted the same scene when the first Terminator appeared in Los Angeles 1984.

Everytime we get a new Terminator film, we get to see a more highly advanced model of the terminators: T-800 (Model 101) in Terminator, T-1000 in Judgment Day, T-X (Terminatrix) in Rise of the Machines, T-H cyborg (human-machine hybrid) in Salvation and now T-3000/T-5000 (nanomachine-human hybrid) for Genisys. They're showing us again what we've been shown before in the Judgment Day sequel: what a reprogrammed good terminator would do, that it is capable of learning, evolving, choosing and changing its programming - that there's a 'man' inside the machine. The future is not set and they're once again determined to terminate Skynet once and for all (Yeah, it repeats again).

Despite the similarities, there are some nice touches in this latest instalment though. We finally get to see how the time machine really looks like. The filmmakers managed to fit Arnold's old age into the movie without any issues (the living tissues of a terminator goes through the same aging process like us). Arnold is still doing the best he can to entertain in his old role as the T-800 terminator. His character's deadpan expression still managed to squeeze some humour out of whatever he does in the film, adding new catchphrases like "Bite me", "I'm old...but not obsolete" and a weird robotic smile. The series is further "updated" by showing us our increased dependency on our current technology and gives us the notion that the huge interconnectivity of our current technological devices may really pose a major threat in the future. However, this also means that the events that happened in Rise of the Machines and Salvation no longer applies (Genisys' timeline continues after the first Terminator film and Judgment Day).

Moreover, there's a major plot twist in this film that is ruined by its own haphazard marketing strategy (the latest posters and trailers revealed the twist). This might be a better film if the plot twist had stayed hidden from the public. Well, it's still certainly better than Rise of the Machines in terms of ideas and it's not as dull and serious as Salvation. The film should have taken the time to fully explore John's transformation and show how this affects his humanity as a whole, what he feels about the change and how he reacts to this rather odd family reunion. It could have been a fascinating approach to the franchise. It's rather unfortunate that the film choose to focus on the action instead of the plot. Another hard miss would be the failed attempt in dealing with the love story between Sarah and Kyle. The emotions aren't as strong as shown in the first Terminator film. Although the relationship developed between the T-800 and Sarah is a nice touch to the film, it's still incomparable to the relationship developed between the T-800 and John in Judgment Day.

Overall, Genisys is still a fine sci-fi action entertainment film that serves as a good introduction of the franchise to the younger generation. It's a worthy sequel to the first two films. It could have been great if the previous two sequels doesn't exist in the first place. Some old fans might love it or hate it, as they need to accept that the original timeline they once knew will be no more. It does get tiring that after so many years, the franchise keeps on following the same formula, showing us robot machines shooting or fighting each other on screen when they're extremely hard to kill by bullets or brute force and even capable of healing themselves. A lot of questions left unanswered in this one, which means for another sequel again. How many times the future needs to be "rewritten"? How many more sequels need to be made for us to finally get to see that the war is truly over?

Rating comparisons:
The Terminator (1984)
Terminator: Judgement Day (1991)
Terminator: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator: Salvation (2009)
Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Note: There's a mid-credit scene that further confirms that there'll be another sequel. James Cameron, the original writer/director of the series (the first two films), consider Genisys as the official third film in the franchise after watching it, saying that it's being extremely respectful of the first two films.


Notable Questions that left unanswered in Genisys:

  1. Who sent back the T-800 to rescue Sarah and keep her safe when she was 9 years old?
  2. Which 'version' of Skynet sent the two T-1000s (or is it just one?) back to the past in May 1984 and the time when Sarah was 9 years old? It's definitely not the current 'Future version' of Skynet since the time machine was only built and operate for the first time when John and Kyle infiltrated the base in the earlier scene of Genisys. Could it be the Skynet of the original first two Terminator films timeline sent a T-1000 back to eliminate Sarah as a backup plan just in case when the 1984 Terminator failed to kill Sarah and the T-1000 in Judgment Day failed to kill John? 
  3. How did an old model of T-800 (the current T-800 who protects Sarah when she was 9) knows the current latest development of the machines (know what happened to John and T-1000's weakness)?
  4. If the "current" future in Genisys is another different alternate universe, how does the machine managed to precisely send Kyle and John both back to the another same alternate universe? All different 'paths', 'branches' or 'outcomes' of quantum universes must come from the same past. 
  5. Since original 1984 timeline is screwed up, Sarah and Kyle didn't have sex in 1984 but traveled to year 2017, how John Connor managed to survive in 2013 onwards? The most possible answer is due to John's transformation to T-3000, he's no longer 'John' anymore but a Terminator robot machine that has his looks, mind and memories. 

Note: In this film, it was John who found Kyle. But, Kyle met John in a different circumstance in Salvation compared to Genisys. Also, how Skynet managed to go online was different in Rise of the Machines compared to Genisys. This could only mean that the events that happened in the Terminator Salvation and Rise of the Machines timelines were from different alternate (quantum) universes.

Previous Review: Ted 2
Next Review: Ant-Man

Movie Review: Ted 2

Previous Review: Minions
Next Review: Terminator Genisys

Ted, our adorable foul-mouthed teddy bear is back for another sequel. Unlike its predecessor, the main focus this time has now shifted to Ted instead of John. Our beloved Ted has finally married to his colleague/girlfriend, Tami-Lynn. A few years passed and their marital problems start to surface. So they tried to adopt a baby in an attempt to preserve their relationship. Unfortunately, this idea has gone south and raised some serious problems in the state due to Ted's "uniqueness" - Ted is regarded as a property rather than a person, therefore not entitled to any human civil rights. So here begins his quest to gain back his civil rights as a  'person'. (Yeah, I know, it's ludicrous, but it's film about a teddy bear comes to life, so just accept it)

First and foremost, I have to say that Ted 2 is definitely not better than the first one, but still good on in its own right. The CGI Ted looks realistic and feels real like before. This film is filled with heavy pop culture geek references (Star Wars, LOTR, Hulk, Dragonball, TMNT, Star Trek, Predator, Flash Gordon, Hulk and many more) and numerous cameo appearances as the film's climax takes place in New York Comic Con. As usual, much like its predecessor, the film isn't afraid of saying several offensive black, porn or gay jokes to the audience. There are some laugh-out-loud moments in the film: the scenes where Ted accidentally found John's stash of porn in his computer and their subsequent attempt in destroying it, a chat about what the 'F' in F. Scott Fitzgerald stands for, the happenings during the road trip from Boston to New York, cups of sperms spilled all over John and Ted took a photo of it and post it on Facebook are downright hilarious.

Unfortunately, Mila Kunis' character is no longer in the sequel and her absence is felt in this sequel. Mark Wahlberg's character John Bennett got a divorce six months ago and still unable to move on and find a new girlfriend. (Oh well, sometimes relationship just didn't work as expected, although we all know it's more likely due to other reasons in real life) Amanda Seyfried is a welcome addition and serves as a new love interest for John to move on. She delivered a fine performance by blending in with Ted and John in the film. Giovanni Ribisi's villainous character, Donny is also back again for some nefarious yet foolish plans for Ted.

The film showed some well-made scenes on the real struggles of marriage and the importance of the civil rights and civil liberties in our modern society. But, the true focus and the heart of the film remains on the unusual buddy relationship between John and Ted. Although Ted isn't real, but their relationship feels real. It's more serious than its predecessor due to its civil rights central plot, but there is a story to be told and there are emotions to be felt along the way. It's a fun and entertaining sequel to the 2012 hit. It's still a film worth seeing, especially for those who enjoyed the first film.

Rating Comparisons:
Ted 2

Previous Review: Minions
Next Review: Terminator Genisys

Movie Review: Minions

Previous Review: Jurassic World
Next Review: Ted 2

After the huge success of two Despicable Me films, the hugely popular yellow minions finally have their long awaited, inevitable spinoff film. The Minions are the cute, idiotic yellowish creatures that serves as supporting characters in the Despicable Me films. They speaks jibberish and constantly make a fool of themselves. But for some unknown reasons, these yellowish creatures somewhat stole the show and managed to capture the audience attention.

The Minion popularity is weirdly strong. There are lots of merchandise everywhere. I still find it hard to believe that people were willing to wait in long queues just to buy these plastic yellow toys at MacDonalds. This spinoff serves as a prequel to the Despicable films and origin story to the Minions. Since the beginning of time, the Minions have been trying to find the meanest, badest, smartest villain to serve for. Unfortunately, these foolish yellow creatures somehow managed to screw things up and kill their master in the funniest way. Soon, they find themselves depressed with nothing to live for. Three main Minion characters, Kevin, Bob and Stuart try to find a new master for them to serve.

So, is it good enough? Well, no. Honestly, it's a disappointment. It lacks story and character development. A lot of things that happened throughout the film really doesn't make any sense at all. Everything seems to happen really fast, filled with silly little slapstick comedy that might make a few kids laughing in some parts, but not the adults though. Characters appearing here and there without making any lasting impression. There are some historical or pop culture references here and there, but none of them are actually funny enough. There's nothing to be learned at all. There are no emotional engaging moments for the audience to feel anything at all.

Most of the good parts of the film were shown pretty much in the trailers. Without the presence of Gru and his three cute adorable adopted daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes in the film, the film feels hollow and meaningless. It's a film without a heart and serves as a marketing ploy to sell more Minion toys. It has so much potential and sadly, the filmmakers have squandered it. Such a shame.

Rating: 5.5/10

Previous Review: Jurassic World
Next Review: Ted 2