Saturday, 27 February 2016

Movie Review: Zootopia

Zootopia is a vibrantly hilarious, fun, uplifting, heartfelt and exciting Disney animated movie that's ever made with strong themes of prejudice, discrimination and diversity - that we should not judge people by race or looks. The world of Zootopia is filled with exciting, unique anthropomorphic CG animal characters that represents our dreams, ambitions and flaws as well.

Zootopia is a film that takes place in an anthromorphic animal world without humans where all animals (predators and preys) evolved from their primitive state and live together in harmony (or that's what it seems). It has a central story about an unlikely friendship formed between a cunning and deceitful fox, Nick Wilde and a determined, hopeful rabbit police with a dream, Judy Hopps to investigate a series of missing animal case together. While distrustful and annoyed with each other at first, they soon become best friends, after discovering that they are merely blinded by their prejudices of each other but not who they really are.

From a serious standpoint, the film takes a hard look at what happens when different people with different cultures live together in the same area. It's definitely not as good and peaceful as you think it is. Fear breeds hatred and hatred allows prejudice and discrimination to exist. We always fear things we don't understand, that causes us to do things that we do, even when we don't really mean it.

The film also gives one important message: If you want something, you have to work hard to make it happen because dreaming just isn't enough. Judy pushes herself to do the best she could to become a cop, despite her physical looks and everyone in her life telling her to give up on pursuing her dreams. The film successfully make them a really likeable pair, which give the film its heart and soul. It shows an ideal that natural enemies can become best friends, if you put aside your differences and try to understand each other. There are tons of funny scenes around and the film managed to create a lot of laughters from start to the end. The dialogue is witty and you'll definitely find yourself laughing loudly at certain parts of the film.

Another worthy mention about Zootopia is its elaborate world-building. The breathtaking visuals, especially the initial train sequence when Judy leaving her birthplace to Zootopia, which shows different parts of the city with different species of 'lively' anthropomorphic CG animals walking around the streets will definitely put viewers in awe and amazement. It's magnificent and certainly a feast for the eyes. The film also ends with a beautiful dancing theme song, "Try Everything" by Shakira, which is equally fantastic as well.

Overall, Zootopia is a movie not to be missed. It's incredibly intelligent, creative, beautifully detailed. Disney certainly sets the bar high for the rest of the animated film releases this year. Highly recommended.

Rating: 8.5/10

Note: Just a friendly advice, don't watch Gods of Egypt. Watch this.

"People hate what they don't understand. So please try at your very best to understand, put yourself in their shoes and feel...don't let prejudice, bigotry, discrimination and hatred control you and change what you can be. Peace can only be achieved through understanding."

People need to stop bias against animated films. Animation is a wonderful art form that connects for kids and adults. Animation brings out the kid in us by capturing this long-lost childlike wonder and interest in the world, the little finer things that we overlooked in life as we grow up. It's not just the way the films look that entertains an audience. It has to be in the service of a good story with great characters. In essence, we all love to laugh. We all love to be amazed. We all love to be moved to tears. As long as a movie has a beating heart, that's all what matters.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Movie Review: The Big Short

What makes a script so good that it needs 4 of the biggest Hollywood actors (Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt) to be a part of it? Based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, this is a film about four characters: Micheal Burry (Christian Bale), Mark Baum (Steve Carell), Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) who are involved in the financial world and how they come to aware of the imminent collapse of the housing market and credit bubble in 2007/2008 (Subprime Mortgage Crisis) that caused trillions of US dollar losses, millions of evictions and foreclosures, millions of people suddenly lose their jobs and became unemployed.
As the story unfolds, the film showed how irresponsible and greedy the banking institutions are. No one in Wall Street really cares about what's going to happen as long as it sells and the money comes into their pockets. The financial industry is filled with so many 'complex' financial instruments designed by the big banks to confuse you so that you'll believe that your money is in the 'safe' hands of the advisors/bankers who just taking care of their own personal interests. The film is incredibly thought-provoking and engages the audience by having you see the different perspectives of the film's characters and how they viewed the downfall of the financial system despite the fact some of the characters never actually interact with each other, they're just all connected by a series of events that enabled them to see the collapse of the housing market before anyone else did.
As expected, the film presents a story that's based on true events with exceptional performances by the casts. How it tackles and explains the financial jargons and processes that are difficult to understand without feeling bored, lost and confused is truly impressive. Aside from Ryan Gosling's character amusing way of explaining Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs), the film also includes cameos of Anthony Bourdain, Margot Robbie, Richard Thaler and Selena Gomez speaking to you directly to explain the financial jargons (subprime, credit ratings, Synthetic CDOs) used in the film. In short, the housing market system is filled with many bad loans that are guaranteed to fail, the bonds (contracts) for these housing properties was rated as 'safe' by well-known credit rating agencies and sold at higher price by the big banks over the course of several years, deceiving investors to put their entire fortune buying them. The film also showed and made the audience realized despite what happened, there's still no proper and precise regulations devised by the governmental system to control and prevent such crisis to ever happen again.
Worthy to mention, the film also points out that none of the main characters of the story are the 'good' guys. They're a bunch of people who managed to saw a 'highly fucked-up' banking system and ultimately decided to profit from it (which ruined the lives of millions of people in a legally way). Despite that fact, the film does show some complex emotional struggles about what's right and wrong through Steve Carell's character, Mark Baum who had a brother who committed suicide due to inability to handle the various lies and deceits of the world financial system.
The Big Short is definitely the best movie of the month. It’s incredibly difficult not to be impressed by the film. It's thought-provoking, educational, ironically amusing at the same time. Absolutely fantastic. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 12 February 2016

Movie Review: The Mermaid (美人鱼)

Stephen Chow, once a well-known Hong Kong actor in the 1990s with roles in classics like Fight Back to School series (1991-1993), Hail the Judge (1994), A Chinese Odyssey Part 1 and 2 (1995 and 1996), The Mad Monk (1993), King of Comedy (1999), God of Cookery (1996), Forbidden City Cop (1996), Lawyer Lawyer (1997), etc. He made lots of movies that filled with his signature nonsensical 'mou-lei-tau' (无厘头) comedic jokes. Soon, he went on to direct well-received films like Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Kung fu Hustle (2004). However, his recent two films  CJ7 (2008) and Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons (2013) just weren't as good as expected. So is this movie as good as (or better) than his previous works?

The Mermaid (美人鱼) is a film that comes with lots of comedic moments that guarantees to provide some big laughs to the audience. Moreover, it's also filled with environmental messages of concern for all life and a critique of the materialism in Asian culture. Although still not on the same level with Stephen's Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, it's certainly better than his other recent twos (CJ7 and Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons).

Thankfully, its message about the importance of conserving our environment is not too preachy and conveyed well enough without any annoyance. The romance between the two main leads didn't seem to be too over-the-top. However, the biggest complain would be the film's "problematic" lip syncing (common issue with all the recently released Chinese film productions). The mouth movements from the casts don't seem to match the Cantonese audio language. It seems as if it was done for cost reasons as using dubbing rather than capturing live sounds from the casts are considerably cheaper as it allows producers to forego expensive sound equipment and sound engineers to do the job. It could also seem to be filmed in Mandarin language as well (opposed to the Stephen's native Cantonese).

As usual, just like his other films, Stephen casts another relatively new young actress, Jelly Lin as the mermaid in this film as well. There are many recurring actors and actresses from his previous films starred in this one. However, please take note that the CGI effects presented in this film is not as realistic as recent Hollywood films, so please adjust your expectations before watching it. Overall, it's a well-told fairy tale that delivers in providing some decent laughs to the whole family this Chinese New Year.

Rating: 7/10

Note: It's way better than the other two CNY festive films: Monkey King 2, From Vegas to Macau 3.