2008-12-14

Tropic Thunder


Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, and Etan Cohen
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, Danny McBride, Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 7.4

A star-studded comedy from Ben Stiller. Usually it would be hard to share the screen time among the stars. But that wasn’t the case with this movie. I think the story managed to distribute enough screen time for each star without explicitly seen as ‘enforcing’ it.

Interestingly enough, the movie was about a movie in a production hell because of too many stars involved in it. Tugg Speedman, Kirk Lazarus, Alpa Chino, Jeff Portnoy, and Kevin Sandusky then dropped at the jungle somewhere around the Golden Triangle where a heroin-producing gang Flaming Dragons operate. Initially the director Damien Cockburn wanted to film the actors guerrilla-style, with hidden cameras, but he ended up blown up by a mine. After some time, the actors realized that things were real and not part of the scenario. Together they must find their way out of the jungle.

Some spoofs were there in the movie, but the comedy sometimes got overdone. Like when Speedman suddenly having identity crisis and Portnoy’s addiction to drugs. I don’t think they need to be over-emphasized. Les Grossman (played by Tom Cruise) was also a bit exaggerated. But I read somewhere that he was based on Stiller’s producer partner Stuart Cornfeld. So I guess some people just got that weird attitudes. Also, Rick’s (Matthew McConaughey) sudden appearance in the jungle baffled me. How could he found out the location that easily? But then again, sometimes comedies must be excused from the logical perspective.

Acting was great. Robert Downey, Jr.’s play as an Australian playing an African-American was convincing enough, although Stiller remained standard with his acting as well as Jack Black. I guess other than Downey, Cruise got himself an equally great performance.

Overall, though, the movie was enjoyable and it was a pretty unique movie. I guess worthy enough to break the Dark Knight’s weekly winning streak at the box office. For the rating, I’d give it a 7.0.

Taken


Directed by Pierre Morel
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Xander Berkeley, Holly Valance, Katie Cassidy
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 7.9

Typical of Luc Besson’s movies, despite not directing it, Taken was set as a fast-paced movie. It started rather slow, but as soon as the action started, it consistently moving in a steady, fast pace.

In terms of acting, typical of action movies, it was pretty standard. During that brief drama segment up front, it was pretty standard too. The action sequences were somewhat great, yet there were nothing original in it. For better action sequences I would consider Banlieu 13 as more superior than Taken.

The plot was actually simple, or even too simple. A father desparately seeking his kidnapped daughter in Paris, fighting off the bad guys alone using his skills from his old job as a government agent. Crash, boom, bang, and it’s all over. However, it focused too much on action that from the logic of the story, it was too hard to be true. It’s unimaginable to have one man taking on an organized criminals and survived with minor wounds. Also, don’t forget that Bryan was a middle-aged man, and physical limitations should be at least giving him some disadvantages. This, I considered as the biggest weakness of the movie.

Overall, although not the best of its genre, it was a somewhat entertaining movie. For this, I give it a 6.5.

2008-12-04

Comeback

Well, it's been quite some time since I posted. It's not that I'm out of the blog completely. Rather, I've been watching several series lately as well as playing Fallout 3. Unfortunately, Fallout 3 has been consuming most of my spare time lately, so I have only a little to blog about.

Yoshitsune is one of the series that I've completed watching. Another that I'm going to review is Hojo Tokimune. Unfortunately, watching taiga drama means not watching non-series movies. Heck, I even losing interest with American series and other non-series too.

Right now, I've got 2 other series ready to watch: Chushingura and Musashi. Hopefully I'll be finished by the end of the holiday season.

See you later, folks.

Yoshitsune

Probably the most famous military general from the Genji clan, Minamoto Kuro Yoshitsune is the leading character in the 44th NHK taiga drama which was aired between January 9th 2005 and December 11th 2005. Portrayed by Takizawa Hideaki, Yoshitsune is described as the tragic hero that died before he managed to fulfill his dream of establishing the dream capital of his.

The story spanned from 1160 to 1189, from the time when Minamoto Yoshitomo (Yoshitsune’s father) was defeated and died at the hands of the Heike clan led by Taira Kiyomori, to the time when Yoshitsune died after being cornered and then committed seppuku.


From all the taiga drama series that I’ve watched and will watch, Yoshitsune is the one at the earliest historical date (1160). As usual, there are always two things to tell in a taiga drama series: a story about a historical figure and a historical event. This time, the figure is Kuro Yoshitsune, and the historical event is the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate by Minamoto Yoritomo, Yoshitsune’s half-brother.

A tale of two people with different approaches in creating a new era, Yoshitsune tried to build a new country based on purity of heart and great compassion, despite his fame as a brilliant strategist. Yoritomo tried to build his kind of country based more on reason and perhaps harsh approaches, although as described in the series, Yoritomo actually had a part of Yoshitsune’s soft character as well. If Yoshitsune excelled in military strategies, Yoritomo could as well be a brilliant politician. A powerful combination if only both of them managed to work together, though.

Seven vassals served Yoshitsune since his rise to fame: Musashibo Benkei (Matsudaira Ken), Ise Saburo (Nanbara Kiyotaka), Suruga Jiro (Ujiki Tsuyoshi), Kisanta (Ito Atsushi), Sato Tadanobu (Kaito Ken), Sato Tsugunobu (Miyauchi Atsushi), and Saburo Yoshihisa (?). Yoshitsune’s relationship with his vassals is perhaps a true example of unwavering loyalty. For, despite whatever bad things that happened to their master, his vassals remained following him faithfully.

There are plenty of leading female characters in the series: Tokiwa (Inamori Izumi), Shizuka (Ishihara Satomi), Yoshiko (Goto Maki), Utsubo (Ueto Aya), Hojo Masako (Zaizen Naomi), Tokiko (Matsuzaka Keiko) and Tokuko (Nakagoshi Noriko). While all these roles were well portrayed by the actresses, I always enjoyed Matsuzaka Keiko’s talent.

Other well-acted characters were the monk-emperor Go-Shirakawa (Hira Mikijiro), Taira Kiyomori (Watari Tetsuya), Fujiwara Hidehira (Takahashi Hideki), Kiso Yoshinaka (Ozawa Yukiyoshi), and Minamoto Yoritomo (Nakai Kiichi). Despite his minor exposure in the story, the merchant Kichiji (Ichikawa Sadanji) was also well played. Of course I don’t mean to single out these roles/actors/actresses, because I think so far the taiga dramas that I’ve watched have been spectacular, and Yoshitsune was one of them.

Each character became ‘alive’ in the series. The kind and charming Yoshitsune, the cautious Yoritomo, the opportunistic Yukiie, the ambitious yet unfortunate Yoshinaka, the strong Masako, the beautiful and elegant Shizuka, the loving Tokiwa, the majestic Fujiwara Hidehira, the scheming monk-emperor Go-Shirakawa, and the great Taira Kiyomori and his wife Tokiko, and many others, all were brilliantly performed.

Indeed, from the beginning to the end, one would easily love the tragic hero Kuro Yoshitsune and his loyal vassals, and perhaps hate Yoritomo for leading Yoshitsune to his early demise. One could also easily wish that the two brothers should have worked together in building the new country. Yet, as bitter as in the real world, sometimes something too good to happen just won’t happen.

I’d give 10 for this series. Historical drama enthusiasts should go find and watch this.

2008-10-03

Returning Series

Several series has started their new seasons recently. I only pick several to watch in the months ahead. The first is Heroes. After a scrappy second season, Heroes returns with more characters and perhaps more plot twists, and potentially a lot of new mess. The focus could be on the bad guys this season as stated in the volume title. But one thing that always bothers me with TV series is that the propensity to fall into the soap series. Generating new characters to replace dead ones, resurrecting dead ones from the dead, are all old tricks to lengthen the series lifetime. I don’t like it though. The dead should stay dead. Bringing them back to life would likely do more harm than good. The start of season 3 was also quite messy, because it’s a bit chaotic. What good would it be to have Suresh owning a super power? Perhaps just to prove that it was a mistake on his part, and if it’s lethal, I prefer to have him die, not cured. If he turns out to be a villain, so be it. Don’t hesitate to have it that way, too. Sure the third season has not been dull like the previous season, but so far, it’s a mess and I don’t really sure where it wants to go. I hope Tim Kring won’t do the same mistake as in the second.

I didn’t watch Smallvile from the first season, yet I tried to watch the season 8 premiere and got pretty much interested in it. So, I’d like to watch this series to see whether the rest of the season is as good as the beginning. Honestly, I don’t like to watch Clark Kent’s adventures as a young country boy, but the beginning of the 8th was setting the stage for the adult Clark, and thus the real adventures of Superman. What interests me more is that this could be the early stage of the formation of JLA. It got Arthur Curry and Oliver Quinn as well as Dinah Lance (Black Canary). Hopefully, the story will be getting more and more interesting as the season progresses. Recent readings suggested that several members of the Legion of Superheroes may appear in season 8.

I watched the pilot episode of Fringe earlier a few months ago along with The Middlemen, True Blood, and Life On Mars. Of these, so far I’ve watched Fringe. I got the Middlemen, but haven’t watched it. I believe Fringe is an attempt by Fox to ressurect the X-Files genre. Although it doesn’t focus too much on the alien stuffs, but rather, on the fringe sciences. I still think that the lead actress is not necessary at all, and that the whole team could just get along with Walter and Peter Bishop. Olivia Dunham would only create a stark reminder to the X-Files. The plot is already seen as identical with X-Files, and we’re still in the third episode here! Conspiracies weaved to create a grand conspiracy named the Pattern. So far, the induced progeria and human walkie-talkie stuffs couldn’t impress me. Thus, in the longer run, I’m not that sure whether I would be really enjoying this new series or not. If this is regarding fringe science, I hope everything will be verifiable in the name of science.


After some months off the air, Dr House made a comeback. It appears that the entire season 5 would be about Wilson coming into terms with Amber’s death in season 4 and possibly with ‘Thirteen’ also coming into terms with her having diagnosed with Huntington. As for House, well I doubt that he would actually make a big change in himself after all. Although not yet considered as awesome, the potential for season 5 to be as good as the previous seasons remains there. Okay, the first two episodes were still the average House episodes and there’s nothing special happens yet. I hope the plot would be more and more exciting than prior seasons. This is one of my favorite series, though. I’m not watching it because I’m not a medicine-world enthusiast, but rather, the character of House himself that attracts me. Actually, I don’t feel good with the hospital stuffs theme (I didn’t watch E.R. and Grey’s Anatomy nor Scrubs, too). It gives the impression how fragile we are as a living being. Well, we know about that already, right? There’s no need to amplify or exaggerate it too much. Anyway, it’s great to have House back now.

How Not To Live Your what? This British sitcom about a no-good man with no job at all may not be a widely recognized series. But I decided to give it a shot. Starring Dan Clark, Sinead Moynihan, Finlay Robertson, and David Armand, this series has been pretty entertaining at some parts, although there have been some silly jokes, too. I think Dan Clark should focus the Don character to strive for new job, given that he got to pay for his living expenses and also for the mortgage on the granny’s house. Else, it would be questionable how Don could pay up his daily expenses. The secondary plot should be about his efforts to take over Abby from Karl. Nevertheless, there are 6 episodes for the first season, and it will be decided whether I will continue to go through the second season.

With her as the lead actress, would I want to miss it?

Lt. Horatio Caine is back, alive and kicking. Not even a small surprise, though. I’ve been following the series with the hope to see things getting better, but so far, it’s still the same old CSI Miami. Caine should be considered as a superhero not a supercop anymore. His style, his luck, and his awesomeness are just too hot to handle by Miami criminals. It’s surprising that the ratings is still pretty good given the ‘typical storyline’. Yeah, the suspects usually too easy to commit their crimes, and perhaps too stupid to leave evidences on the scene. Also, each member of Cain’s team had suffered in previous seasons, with Alexx as the latest to got hit heavily and resigned from the team. Eric also got a near-death experience, as well as Calleigh. Boa Vista and Wolfe had their personal problems too, although not a near-death style. Tim Speedle got killed in the beginning of season 3 and so far nobody else dies. Compared with the original Las Vegas CSI, the Miami spinoff got too centralized on Caine, and perhaps this what made the whole series vulnerable. It also lacked mystery in the cases. Cases usually got solved too easily, unlike what happened to Grissom’s team back in Vegas. I guess if season 7 shows no changes, I’d call it a quit.

The Almighty Caine is back...

What about medieval stuffs? Knights and wizards and dragon? Well, if you like those stuffs, maybe Merlin is for you. The UK series is based on the supposedly the life of Merlin from the Arthurian legend. At least that’s what I thought before, until I saw the first episode. I imagined that Merlin was a lot older than Arthur, but in the series, they are of the same age. This already ruined my interest on the series. Then, Guinevere is, no offense here, black? I guess the whole Camelot gone bonkers now? What next? Would there be Gentleman of the Lake instead of Lady of the Lake? Would Excalibur be replaced with a shotgun? Why not doing it a la Monty Python instead? Anyways, I’ll see where this series is going, although I’m awfully disappointed with the first episode.

That’s it then, the shows that I’m planning to watch in the next few months. I’m also waiting for the new seasons of Battlestar Galactica and CSI Las Vegas.

2008-10-01

The Sopranos

Created by David Chase
Starring: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Drea de Matteo, Aida Turturro, Steven R. Schirripa, Nancy Marchand, Vincent Pastore, Joe Pantoliano, Vincent Curatola, Frank Vincent, John Ventimiglia, Federico Castelluccio, Sharon Angela, Kathrine Narducci, Steve Buscemi, David Proval, Joseph R. Gannascoli, Dan Grimaldi.
Run: 1999 – 2007, six seasons, 86 episodes.

Finally, I’ve completed watching this great series from HBO. I’ve been impressed by the plot and the performances by the cast so far, since the beginning of the series.

Perhaps, the most memorable characters for me are Olivia Sopranos, Junior Sopranos, Paulie Gaultieri, Christopher Moltisanti, and Tony himself. Despite its violent nature, the show managed to balance it with a good sense of humour. Nearly every episode contained violence, either commited by Tony or his henchmen or his opponents, either intentionally or not intentionally.

Funny thing is, whenever a character got killed, I couldn’t help but to feel that the person deserved it. Probably because nobody in the ‘family’ is without a sin, and no matter how hard I’ve tried to sympathize with Tony, in the end there would only that feeling of disgust.

And the finale? That was brilliant. I thought something went wrong with the file so that I replayed it near the end credits and still I got the same thing on the screen. Well, David Chase probably wanted us to have an open end, because anything could happen in that evening family dinner.

Overall, the show was great. Once I watch it, I got hooked by its humorous dialogues and plot twists. Although as a mob boss, Tony got himself too lucky to only got really hit once.

Yeah, HBO did it again, it impressed me with Deadwood, Band of Brothers, and Rome, and now this. I got John Adams waiting to be watched, too. For the final score, I’d give it a 10.0.

Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour


Release Year: 2007
Starring: Rissa Walters, Alessandra Daniele, Brian Comrie, Dan Comrie.
Directed by: Lisa Comrie
Written by: John Comrie
IMDB: 3.5 (217 votes)
RT: 0% (8 reviews)
Metacritic: 30 (5 reviews)

Zero at Tomatometer says it all. Even until now I still feel clueless about what was it all about. There’s no horror in the movie at all. Perhaps it’s more horrifying to feel that way.

First of all, the title itself didn’t fit the film. With the stuff like “and the Paranormal Hour” attached to it, I thought “every time” that hour comes, there should be something “horrifying” happens. But, it was a dud, I guess.

I guess the story could have been a better one, but the acting was awful, or more suitably, awkward. No wonder, though, because I read somewhere that it was Rissa Walters’ debut performance. The rest of the cast were also delivered some awkward performance. As acting is supposed to be the soul of a film, this one lacked of it, that’s why the entire flick suffered from it.

At the end of the movie, it was suggested that there would be a sequel (well, the poster was also said "the first"), but from what I’ve read from the net after I saw the movie, the movie’s inability to win the viewers’ favors had perhaps put the Sarah’s adventure to rest. For now, I guess. I don’t know if in the future there would be someone crazy enough trying to resurrect the character.

Anyways, I was totally disappointed with the movie, so I’d give it just 1.0 for the final score.

2008-09-22

Shaun of the Dead


Release Year: 2004
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg
IMDB: 8.0 (94,280 votes)
RT: 91% (170 reviews)
Metacritic: 76 (34 reviews)

This is an example of people that got too busy with their problems that they didn’t realize that the world around them has been “zombiefied”. Shaun’s life has been a rather sorry one. Trouble with his girlfriend, a rather boring work along with lack of respect given by his co-workers. He’s also trying to come into terms with his step dad. So preoccupied with these problems that when London streets went bonkers, he and his friend Ed just failed to notice that. Only sometime nearly in the middle of the film they finally realized that the zombies had roamed the streets.

Shaun of the Dead is essentially a comedy, set in an zombiefied England, and spiced with some dramatic dialogues, especially between Shaun and his mom, and also with his step dad. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the presentation, I found them less dramatic but more funny. Although it’s a zombie flick, it’s not scary at all. Anyone trying to categorize this movie into horror surely got the have his/her sanity checked.

The storyline may not be great, but it was entertaining. The cast was also great, had me laughed frequently and that considering I’m not an easy person to laugh at comedy flicks, I consider it a great one. Acting was good for a comedy, and the way the movie was presented was also great. It reminded me to Hot Fuzz.

Personally, I believe Shaun of the Dead is better than Hot Fuzz. Yeah, they are comparable because the lead actors are the same, and the writers are also the same, even the director. Overall, I’d give it an 8.5.

2008-09-13

Favorite 7


Well, I'm a bit surprised that Linz put my blog on the list of her 7 most favorite blogs. I actually think that I'm not a good writer. Sometimes there are urges to rewrite the entire blog that I've wrote because I think the writing sucks. But, lo and behold! I've been listed by Linz!

So, I guess it's my turn now to list my 7 favorites. Actually, they are here on my sidebar, but here they are:

1. Linz McC's Completely Pointless Blog, being the first person to comment on Movie Junkie and despite we haven't met at all, I think from her writing she's a great person. She writes reviews on TV series, big-screen movies, and books. I like her writing style, very enjoyable.
2. Movie Cafe, delivers previews and reviews as well as other information around movies. That surely a lot of things to do for Jaccstev. Covering also Asian movies, this blog really has something to be considered unique. Hey, the guy's also a fellow Indonesian! (but that's surely not the basis for making the blog as favorite).
3. At The Movies with Farzan has a unique structure in reviews presentation and this is the strength. To be honest, I'm surprised to find someone who watch the quality of the picture so thoroughly. Very organized and enjoyable to read, the blog covers past and current movies. I think the guy likes Futurama, though.
4. Screen Savour is another unique movie review blog. Covering oldies, T.S. writes in a great style. Paying attention to the details and surely a wide knowledge about this movie world and its history, this site really amazes me. Well, what makes me wonder is surely how he could get access on those oldies. Some are even from 1920s! I mean, I for once only watched a few oldies like Casablanca, Ben-Hur, Psycho, and Citizen Kane. But hey, they're great movies!
5. Sarcastic Movie Reviews by rtheygood takes the reviewing style to the other extreme. Mostly humorous and entertaining, it sometimes reminds me that not that all the movies that I've watched and reviews are 'that good'. Of course, I've savagely put a very low rating for a few movies, too. The difference was that I didn't write it in a humorous style.
6. Blogger Buster is not about movies at all, but it is my favorite site. Amanda's site has been a great help to me in learning how to make my blog better. Because it specializes on Blogger platform, I feel that it's a must for me. Great work, Amanda!
7. Daily Galaxy is also a non-movie related blog, but due to my interests in life, the universe, and everything, this blog is giving me a lot of information about scientific developments. Administered by Josh Hill and Luke McKinney, it is great blog with great design and content!

So there you have them, folks. If you have the chance, perhaps you would list up your own 7 favorite blogs?
2008-09-10

Toshiie to Matsu


Starring:
Karasawa Toshiaki
Matsushima Nanako
Kagawa Teruyuki
Sakai Noriko
Yamaguchi Yuichiro
Amami Yuki
Matsudaira Ken
Sorimachi Takashi
Takenouchi Yutaka

Screenwriter: Takeyama You
Directors: Suzuki Kei, Inoue Go, Sato Mineyo, Iseda Masaya, Kobayashi Takeshi, Motoki Kazuhiro, Tamura Fumitaka, Kajihara Tojo, Tsuchiya Katsuhiro
Music: Watanabe Toshiyuki
Broadcast between January 6th 2002 to December 15th 2002

The 41st of NHK Taiga drama series, Toshiie to Matsu was set during the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Era). It followed the life of Maeda Toshiie and his devoted wife, Matsu. The series covered a wide range of topics, from love, family values, loyalty, politics, and honor. The couple’s life intersected with the era when Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the early years of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s rule over Japan.

The story began in 1550 just before Toshiie met Matsu, and then it proceeded to him being employed by Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga’s victory over Imagawa Yoshimoto in 1560 changed the course of Japan into Nobunaga’s favor. Toshiie then met and befriended Kinoshita Tokichiro who would later be known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Matsu, on the other hand, forged an eternal bond with O-Ne (Hideyoshi’s wife) and Haru (Sassa Narimasa’s wife). After his father’s death, Toshiie’s brother Toshihisa became the head of Maeda family, but later was forced by Nobunaga to be replaced by Toshiie.

Years passed, but Toshiie’s advancement has been very slow compared to his two other friends Hideyoshi and Narimasa. Only in 1575 Toshiie was finally made daimyo by Nobunaga. Meanwhile, Nobunaga’s power rose dramatically, but as we all know it, in a most upsetting event in history (at least that’s what I think), Akechi Mitsuhide betrayed Nobunaga, and this triggered the rise of Hideyoshi.

After a series of unfortunate events involving former Nobunaga’s vassals, Hideyoshi finally rule Japan. This, however, came at the price that Toshiie must see the fall of his friends like Shibata Katsuie and Sassa Narimasa. Tokugawa Ieyasu, in the meantime, remained waiting the chance to rise to power.

The series ended just after Hideyoshi’s death in 1598. By then, Maeda clan had became one powerful clan in Japan. Their only rival was only Tokugawa clan. After Toshiie’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu seized his long-awaited opportunity and became shogun. Matsu died much, much later in 1614. Until the end, Matsu’s role in preserving the Maeda clan had been a remarkable one. If accurately portrayed by the series, I believe she was the most powerful woman that Japan ever had (but this is just my opinion).

From every angle, Toshiie and Matsu excelled by a wide margin against other Taiga dramas that I’ve ever seen, also against other TV series that I’ve ever seen. The story was great, successfully mixing history and drama with some political issues thrown in. Acting was also brilliant. So many emotionally touching scenes made this a powerful series. The details in production was also remarkable, making me felt like watching the real events. I also have the original soundtrack which, I believe, was also beautifully composed. Although I never take into account the music, Toshiie to Matsu’s music made those emotional scenes more powerful.

Casting was also great. Matsushima Nanako was exceptionally perfect in her portrayal of Matsu. Also, I like this series’ portrayal of Oda Nobunaga than the one at King of Zipangu. Sorimachi Takashi, in this series portrayed Nobunaga as a mix of harsh, decisive, yet charismatic character. Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s portrayal by Kagawa Teruyuki was also better in Toshiie to Matsu. Essentially, the overall cast was impressive.

Just like other Taiga drama series, at the end of each episode we are shown some historical places in Japan tied to the respective episode. Definitely a great way to promote tourism, I must say. I am mostly impressed by how Japan really preserving these historical sites.

Finally, I believe for all its worth, Toshiie to Matsu deserved a perfect 10.0. I’m not biased here, because it wasn’t the only Taiga drama that I’ve seen. Right now, I’m still watching other series like Atsu-Hime, Fuurin Kazan, Hojo Tokimune, and Yoshitsune, but at a glance, Toshiie to Matsu was better than the others.

Generation Kill



Starring*:
Lee Tergesen – Evan Wright
Alexander Skarsgård – Sgt. Brad ‘Iceman’ Colbert
James Ransone – Cpl. Josh Ray Person
Billy Lush – Lance Cpl. Harold James Trombley
Stark Sands – 1st Lt. Nathaniel Fick
Jon Huertas – Sgt. Antonio Espera
Jonah Lotan – Hosp. Corpsman Second Class Robert Timothy ‘Doc’ Bryan
Wilson Bethel – Cpl. Evan Stafford
Pawel Szajda – Cpl. Walt Hasser
Marc Menchaca – Gunnery Sgt. Mike ‘Gunny’ Wynn
Rey Valentin – Cpl. Gabriel Garza
Kellan Lutz – Cpl. Jason Lilley
Mike Figueroa – Sgt. Leandro Batista
Josh Barrett – Sgt. Larry Shawn Patrick
Sgt. Rudy Reyes – Sgt. Rudy Reyes
Rich McDonald – Cpl. Anthony Jacks
Eric Ladin – Cpl. James Chaffin
Chance Kelly – Lt. Col. Stephen ‘Godfather’ Ferrando
Brian Patrick Wade – Cpt. Craig ‘Encino Man’ Schwetje
Eric Nenninger – Cpt. Dave ‘Captain America’ McGraw
Neal Jones – Sgt. Major John Sixta
Michael Kelly – Cpt. Bryan Patterson
David Barrera – Gunnery Sgt. Ray ‘Casey Kasem’ Griego
Benjamin Busch – Major Todd Eckloff
Owain Yeoman – Sgt. Eric Kocher
J. Salome Martinez – Cpl. Jeffrey Carazales
Nabil Elouahabi – Meesh
Robert John Burke – Major General James Mattis

Directed by Susanna White, Simon Cellan Jones, and Patrick Norris
Written by David Simon, Ed Burns, Evan Wright
Premiered on July 13th 2008

Based on the book Generation Kill by Evan Wright, this series drew my attention after I read some opinions about it on the internet. So, I’d say to myself, well let’s give it a shot then. Like another HBO’s production Band of Brothers, the series offered a huge cast, but this time, a shorter storyline.


There are seven episodes in the series. It started at the early stage of US invasion in Iraq of which later named Operation Iraqi Freedom and ended when Evan Wright ended his tour with the First Recon Battalion.

Most of the issues portrayed in the series were about how things went off track, how the soldiers somewhat questioning their very presence and roles in the war. For example, Brad Colbert was dismayed with the fact that the missions accomplished were not utilizing his abilities fully. Sgt. Espera, for example, believed that the war went towards the wrong way after witnessing civilians blown up by artillery fire. And then there were those internal strifes between officers, and also the incompetence of some officers that either endangering the troops or treating prisoners unfairly.

There were only several shootouts in the series, and until the end, it was more like a war drama rather than an action-packed war movie. Overall, however, the acting was great. I felt like seeing a documentary. The story was based on a book by Evan Wright, so this one cannot be complained if you think this series lacked the action.

Still, compared to Band of Brothers, this one is still way below it. In BOB, I saw a clear character transformation from the rookie soldiers in training to a veteran soldiers at the end of WWII. Despite GK and BOB were both well acted, BOB has a significant edge over GK. Then again, for an adaptation of a book, Generation Kill is still a good movie to watch, but if you wish to see lots of action and shootings, you’d better skip this one.

For being a good movie, I’d give it an 8.0. It’s a pity that we’re still far from seeing the war to end.

By the way, with some talks about the making of Captain America movie, I think Alexander Skarsgård could be a perfect choice for portraying the Captain. What do you think, folks?

* source: Wikipedia
2008-09-01

Hot Fuzz


Release Year: 2007
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Edward Woodward, Billie Whitelaw
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
IMDB: 8.0 (94,482 votes)
RT: 90% (184 reviews)
Metacritic: 81 (37 reviews)

This is a movie that I’ve been waiting for! What if a police officer (not policeman, said Nicholas Angel) got so good in his/her job and kicking ass to every bad ass available in the neighborhood? Well, it seems that such thing was actually a bad idea. Nicholas Angel could be said a super cop. So good that he made the entire police department looked so bad. His superiors then transferred him to a small town in the country. Sandford, a supposedly quiet country town was not acually a peaceful, crime-free town after all. When a series of deaths occurred, Nicholas could not help to investigate deeper into it.

Hot Fuzz is definitely not a realistic movie. When you see the movie, you’ll know well what I mean by that. Yet, despite that, the movie was fun to watch, and the directing was also interesting enough. It reminds me to Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Altough inferior to those two movies, Hot Fuzz was still a good film to watch, visually.

Acting was enjoyable. I’ve got no complaints from this front. Simon Pegg facial expression suited his character perfectly and although there were plenty of comical moments here, they were enjoyable. There were some drama inside, but I believe those moments would be immediately overruled by the less serious moments. Speaking of the action scenes, you won’t find them until the last third of the movie. It was quick and yet effective. As a consequence, the audience may think that the movie is a slow starter. Well, I guess that is the weakness of it, apart from the out-of-reality plot.

I’ve waited for quite some time for watching Hot Fuzz, and I’ve attached a great expectation on it. In the end, I felt a bit disappointed, because I was hoping for more action scenes, and for a more realistic plot. Still, watching it from the beginning made me understand that in the end it was just a ridiculous cop movie with less shootout, more absurdity, but somehow entertaining to watch.

Final score: 7.5.

Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Morgan Spurlock
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
Written by: Jeremy Chilnick & Morgan Spurlock
IMDB: 6.7 (1,345 votes)
RT: 36% (87 reviews)
Metacritic: 45 (28 reviews)

I thought this movie was somewhat an Indiana Jones’ spoof, but obviously my guess was miles wide. It was actually a documentary. The movie told the journey of Morgan Spurlock to track the notorious Osama Bin Laden. He travelled to Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Israel, to ask around about OBL and about what the people think about US presence and policy in the Middle East.

If you wonder why would Morgan did that, well he felt that he wanted to make the world a safe place, safe from terrorism, and that it would be a great place for his newly born child, and to achieve this, OBL must be tracked and captured.

Well, the rest of the story was already reflected off screen. The US presence in the Middle East was not welcomed (even by the Israelis), but the people didn’t seem to like OBL too. According to some people interviewed here, OBL brought a bad name to Islam. I merely quoting the people interviewed here, guys, so if you disagree, go protest those people, not me. Also, there were lots of promises made by the UN and the US to the Afghanistan people, such as rebuilding the infrastructures destroyed by the military actions there, but such promises were evidently yet to be delivered years later. Destroyed infrastructures remain destroyed, education remain minimal, the people remain poor, and the longer this to be settled with, the greater the people’s resentment towards the US and the UN.

It was a good effort to show the world the reality of the conflicts in the Middle East. The opinions of the people, their conditions, and hopefully, after watching this, efforts would be made to restore the peace and prosperity of the people. I wonder if Michael Moore would do a similar documentary like this one…

Overall, it was rather entertaining and at the same time, informational. More documentaries should be made to open the eyes of the world. For such noble objective, I give Morgan Spurlock a 7.0.

Nancy Drew


Release Year: 2007
Starring: Emma Roberts, Josh Flitter, Max Thieriot, Rachel Leigh Cook, Tate Donovan, Marshall Bell, Danielle Monet, and Kelly Vitz.
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Written by: Andrew Fleming & Tiffany Paulsen
IMDB: 5.9 (4,493 votes)
RT: 49% (131 reviews)
Metacritic: 53 (31 reviews)

Not much to be said about Nancy Drew. It’s a story about a somewhat super teenage sleuth Nancy Drew, who moved from River Heights to the big city of Los Angeles where she would find a new mystery to solve. A sleuth with tremendous luck and a great intelligence, Nancy Drew obviously able to solve the case and made everyone happy, except the criminals, obviously.

Like most other films that I’ve watched, I didn’t expect much from this movie because I believe it was just another teen flick. Apparently, I was correct. Overall the plot was just mediocre. I never read any books about Nancy Drew before, but for this movie, I think it could use a lot more serious elements. The absence of those kind of element made this movie more like a sorry comedy. There are always a room to be dark for a crime movie even if its lead character was as jolly as Nancy. In the end, this movie was too light to watch. I was saying that it should be darker, but it doesn’t have to be as dark as the Dark Knight.

On the acting front, there was nothing special about the performance of the cast. Emma Roberts was a rather suitable for the role. She had that adorable yet smart look, and that what could have given her the role of Nancy Drew. I had a thought once, what if Ellen Page was chosen to play the role? That would’ve been great because she had that smart look. But then I dismissed that thought after I think that an adorable face was what needed by the actress. Obviously, Ellen doesn’t have that.

Anyway, there were some slapstick moments here, but in the end, this movie was unable to entertain me. I hope though, the next Nancy’s adventure should be worked on more seriously. Give it a darker atmosphere. Don’t worry about the audience, they could swallow the Dark Knight, they should be able to digest a lighter version of the Dark Knight.

Final score: 4.0.

Felon


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Val Kilmer, Stephen Dorff, Harold Perrineau, Samuel Shepard Rogers, Marisol Nichols
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Written by: Ric Roman Waugh
IMDB: 7.9 (7,851 votes)
RT: 59% (17 reviews)
Metacritic: 58 (10 reviews)

Felon tells the story of Wade Porter, who got put behind bars because he unintentionally killed a burglar who broke into his house. Unable to pay for bail, he got no choice but to be put in the prison for 3 years. Inside the prison, he was later joined by a mass murderer John Smith (as if there were no other names for this character!). The two eventually became close and in the end must work together to put up a fight against the chief warden (Lt. Jackson) who used to beat up and torture the prisoners.

The story of this movie is rather similar to the Shawshank Redemption, but with quality way below by huge margin. At the very beginning of the movie when Wade was convicted, I’ve already felt that this movie was forcing its way to put Wade in the prison, whatever it takes. I couldn’t believe that self-defense would be easily transformed into involuntary murder charge. The trial was also rushed, adding the obvious effort to progress the plot despite that trials for such case could be longer than that. Another thing was about Wade being put in the prison, he was actually able to avoid that had he got a million dollars to pay the bail. Well, he could’ve tried to find loans somewhere. Him being put into a maximum security prison was also somewhat exaggerated. I thought maximum security prisons are for the most dangerous criminals only, so what on earth a sorry bloke who just put up a self-defense and being unable to pay the bail, be put into such prison? In essense, the plot was evidently trying to push everything through even if it would trample logic. Another annoying thing was about Wade’s wife. The fact that Laura asked to be explained about things that Wade did in the prison was somewhat ridiculous. I believe anyone would know how things like in the prison, not to mention maximum security prison. Why would even she got upset when Wade didn’t answer that. Did she want to Wade to explain things for hours during the very short visiting hour? That was just ridiculous. She seemed to be intended to be an empathic character, so she should have acted like one. The ending was somewhat predictable, like other prison stories. I won’t disclose it here. You just have to watch it yourself, but one thing for sure, the building block of the plot was shaky from the very beginning, and that was the weakness of this movie.

Acting was just so so. I would no expect too much acting quality from this kind of movie. Despite its nature, the movie didn’t actually offer a lot of action. No shootouts, but there were some muscle actions. Overall, it was a rather timid action movie. Val Kilmer’s acting was somewhat limited by his character, so nothing so special about him here (I still think his play as Doc Holliday was the best that I’ve ever seen). The rest of the cast were also delivering just an average performance.

Overall, I didn’t really able to enjoy this movie due to its shaky plot and a so-so acting. It seemed to be trying to blend drama and action together, but with bigger portion on the drama side. Despite that there was a chance to focus on the John Smith’s story, it opted to focus on the Wade Porter’s. I think John’s story was a lot more interesting and should have been the main storyline. It would give Val to conjure up some great performance which in turn could help this movie a lot. Well, the fact was that that never happened. So, for the score, I give it a 3.0.
2008-08-24

Nim's Island


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Gerard Butler, Jodie Foster
Directed by: Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin
Written by: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin, Joseph Kwon & Paula Mazur; based on a book by Wendy Orr
IMDB: 6.1 (4,364 votes)
RT: 48% (93 reviews)
Metacritic: 55 (24 reviews)

I’ve got an early warning about this movie, though. Yet, usually I would prefer to believe what I see rather than just chew on someone else’s perception. So, I’ve decided to watch Nim’s Island on DVD. I was actually intrigued with the cover, but I felt that I should not put my expectations too high for this movie.

Nim’s Island is about Nim, a girl who lives with her father in an island somewhere in Pacific. As a scientist, Jack Rusoe usually sails around the island to find samples for his projects, until one day he got lost at the sea. I don’t like the notion that he got lost at the sea, because I suspect that he wasn’t that far from the island when the storm struck his boat. Besides, Nim’s pelican friend Galileo brought him tools so that he could repair the damages on the boat (thank God the animals didn’t talk!). In effect, that stole away the element of suspense, I believe.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Rover is a writer. She writes books about the adventures of Alex Rover, some sort of goofy version of Indiana Jones. She became so attached to the character that she even imagining him for real life character. She’s also an agoraphobic, afraid to go out of her house, opted to just order anything by phone if possible. After she started to receive e-mails from Nim, telling that she needed help to find her father, Alexandra finally set out on a journey to Nim’s island. In the island, when Nim saw a crew from a cruise ship arrived at the island, she was afraid that she would lose the island. Thus, she devised a plan on how to drive the unwanted visitors away from her island.

This movie could have been a lot better. But a lot of things just got overstretched and made them seemed to be silly and ruin the whole potential. Perhaps, this movie wasn’t intended for mature audience, because the more you seek the logic in the movie, the more likely for you to get confused. The thrill factor was also absent from this movie. No suspense, no drama, just beautiful scenery around the island. Alexandra Rover character was also too exaggerated, although Jodie Foster managed to portray her pretty well. Gerard Butler also failed to impress me. Perhaps because of his small portion in this flick. Abigail Breslin played Nim sufficiently, but perhaps because of the plot her acting failed to impress me. To me, Nim’s just a little girl running around the island with too much worries.

Well, the plot lacked realism (perhaps this was intentional?), the acting suffered from the characters outlined in the story (except that Jodie Foster was pretty successful in portraying a really annoying character), but the scenery was good enough to give me some consolation (but I can surely get great sceneries from National Geographics, right?). Still, I think this movie is not of my league. Well, maybe for kids, but just not for me. Final score: 4.0.

Frankie and Johnny


Release Year: 1991
Starring: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nathan Lane, Hector Elizondo, Kate Nelligan
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Written by: Terrence McNally
IMDB: 6.4 (8,038 votes)

This could be the second Al Pacino’s film without him being the badass that I’ve watched up to now. If in 88 minutes he was being relentlessly terrorized, this time he fervently chased romance with Frankie (Michelle Pfeiffer). Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Al is suitable for timid roles.

This movie was adapted from an off-Broadway play Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune (1987) also written by Terrence McNally. As an ex-con trying to rebuild his life, Johnny rebooted his life by taking a job as a cook at Nick’s restaurant. This brought him to meet Frankie, a thirty-something woman who has been trying to stay away from love. Why she did that would be explained later in the movie. Still, I believe that it shouldn’t take too long to tell the audience the background story of Frankie. As a result, the movie seemed to be too slow (at least for me).

If it was intended to be a romantic comedy, well, I think it wasn’t funny at all. I believe it was a totally drama piece. Where’s the comedy, then?

The supporting cast were average, with the exception to Nathan Lane, which I think was doing pretty good portraying Tim, Frankie’s gay friend. Too bad he only got limited screen time. The plot was lacking the capacity to impress me, and I felt that it was too flat with no surprises at all. Even when Frankie revealed her reason behind her behaviour to Johnny I didn’t feel surprised at all.

Sorry folks, but my personal grade for this movie is 5.0.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd
Directed by: Nick Stoller
Written by: Jason Segel and Judd Apatow
IMDB: 7.7 (28,310 votes)
RT: 85% (155 reviews)
Metacritic: 67 (37 reviews)

My personal opinion about this movie is that it’s just yet another comedy movie. The story is somewhat a bit unique, but not that great. A guy got dumped by his girl, went on vacation, found someone new (and someone old), felt uncertain later, then after that uncertainty was over, happy ending ensued.

Although this is supposed to be a comedy, I found myself lacked in laughing at the scenes. Perhaps it was just me or something else. Anyway, I must say Jason Segel a bit overdid his role as Peter Bretter. I felt not sympathy for him, but instead, I felt that his behavior was pathetic for a man being dumped by a woman. I guess the movie also attempted to parody the CSI TV show by putting Crime Scene: Scene of Crime stuff in the movie. William Baldwin made some appearances there. However, I felt that most of the humor in the entire movie were not funny at all.

On the other hand, I think the most interesting character here was Aldous Snow, played by Russell Brand. Great play by Russell. He really showed that carefree attitude and while at the same time he managed to make me like the character, not because of the accent, though.

The rest of the cast were not impressive at all, I’d say. Kristen Bell was just so-so while she’s supposed to be the devil (just like what Peter told her later in the movie) in the story. Mila Kunis and Bill Hader were also failed to impress.

Final score: 5.0.
2008-08-06

Grave of the Fireflies


Also known as: Hotaru No Naka
Release Year: 1988
Starring: Tsutomu Tatumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Akiyuki Nosaka (novel) & Isao Takahata (screenplay)
IMDB: 8.2 (22,326 votes)
RT: 89% (18 reviews)

This is not an ordinary anime. This is a very special anime of which its story delivered its message like a dagger stabbed directly into your chest. Yes, the emotion was overwhelming. I didn’t feel entertained, but instead I felt heartbroken and depressed.

The story was set during the Allied bombings of Japan in World War II. It chronicled Seita and his sister Setsuko whose mother was killed during the bombings of Kobe. The children’s father was a navy officer who was later known to have died in service.


Seita initially took Setsuko to their aunt’s house and stayed there for a few days before they found it hard to stay longer because some quarrels arose with the aunt. Indeed at that time the food was scarce and it seemed to have driven the aunt to feel the burden of having to attend to another two children in the house. Without food and lack of proper shelter, the children grew weaker each day, especially Setsuko. In the end the inevitable happened, both of them died of starvation.

The message was clear, war destroys lives and most of those lives are innocent. The origin of the story was a semi-autobiographic novel of a survivor of the bombings of Japan. The author also lost his sister who died because of starvation.

There are two live-action movies with the same title. The first one was made in 2005, told from the perspective of the aunt (played by Nanako Matsushima) and their cousin. The second was recently released but I haven’t seen the recent version yet. The second, however, was said to be told exactly like the anime version.

Indeed, I’ve never seen any animated movie as powerful as this one. Honestly, I don’t have the stomach to watch it again due to the emotion factor. Yet, the 2005 live-action version was more “bearable”.

The final score for this amazing movie is 10.0. Definitely a must see.

The Other Boleyn Girl


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Ana Torrent
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Written by: Philippa Gregory, Peter Morgan
IMDB: 6.8 (11,916 votes)
RT: 42% (131 reviews)
Metacritic: 50 (34 reviews)

Talking about movies with remarkable design, The Other Boleyn Girl was definitely one of them. Rich in color and every shot was definitely of superb quality.

Not only that, the acting was also great. You could surely see this from Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. Honestly, I believe the actresses played better than the actors in this movie. Even Kristin Scott Thomas and Ana Torrent were excellent despite their minor roles.

The story was adapted from Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same title. I haven’t read the book, but I definitely enjoy the movie. There is also a TV series The Tudors which have the similar setting aired by BBC. I think I would want to have a look at it later on.

The story was not great, actually, but I think it was OK for me. The power of the movie, I believe, lied on the acting and design (including the costumes). Oh, the music was also great.

Finally, to reward actresses’ prowess in this movie, I give this movie an 8.0. This movie is definitely worth watching, but don’t expect spectacular story.

Penelope


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Reese Witherspoon, Simon Woods, Peter Dinklage
Directed by: Mark Palansky
Written by: Leslie Caveny
IMDB: 7.3 (7,348 votes)
RT: 52% (115 reviews)
Metacritic: 48 (29 reviews)

As a fairy tale movie, Penelope entertained me not in terms of the acting prowess of the cast, but its colorful presentation. The story? Well, what would you expect from a fairy tale flick? Yeah, the story was average, not significantly special in any way.

Unlike Amy Adams in Enchanted, Christina Ricci seemed to have failed to deliver the necessary charm to her character. Just compare Giselle and Penelope (without the nose), who’s more adorable? This charm factor is a crucial factor for any fairy tale, because it would make the audience to sympathize on the lead roles. Unfortunately, both Christina and James failed to do so. Okay, maybe Johnny Martin was not supposed to be likable, but Penelope should be made likable. Another weakness was obvious in Catherine O’Hara who was being too comical. Perhaps the movie was intended to be comedic first, dramatic second, but I definitely prefer it to be dramatic first, while comedic second. Funny thing is that Peter Dinklage was the one that I would give credit to. He definitely managed to play well, way superior than the rest of the cast.

Aside from average story and weak acting (except that of Peter Dinklage), the design of the movie was very good. There was some richness in color, but it definitely needed more to balance the other weaknesses. To summarize the movie, it probably only serve as a one-time entertainment, unable to leave a lasting impression on the audience (at least not in me).

Final score: 5.0. Sorry, Enchanted was way better (and I actually didn’t even like the fairy tale genre).

2008-08-05

Flawless


Release Year: 2007
Starring: Michael Caine, Demi Moore, Lambert Wilson, Joss Ackland, Jonathan Aris
Directed by: Michael Radford
Written by: Edward Anderson
IMDB: 6.9 (3,441 votes)
RT: 59% (66 reviews)
Metacritic: 57 (21 reviews)

Another caper movie, but this time with better quality actor and actress Michael Caine and Demi Moore. Set in London in the 1960s, this movie tells a simple story of revenge. The plot was so simple that I believe I like the movie only because there was Michael Caine in it.

As usual, Caine delivered a remarkable performance. I never feel bored watching his movies and fortunately, his pairing in the movie, Demi Moore, also acted well. Laura Quinn was a somewhat frustrated female executive trying to push her way through the top management of London Diamond Corporation. Her hard efforts only met repeated failures and finally she was offered to participate in a scheme to “punish” Lon Di. Mr. Hobbs, the janitor of the corporation devised a scheme to steal the diamonds from the Lon Di’s vault and with the help of Laura both managed to empty the entire vault.

Despite its title, the movie was not without flaws. Perhaps the biggest weakness of the movie was in its simple plot. If it weren’t because of Caine and Moore, this movie would be a definite crap. Another poor scene was that element of luck when Mr. Hobbs managed to sneak into the vault. At that time, the original plan was actually ruined, but lady luck seemed to have smiled to Mr. Hobbs. I hate it when the lead role’s ass was saved by mere luck.

Overall, the plot’s weakness and great play by Caine and Moore made this movie rather tricky to evaluate, but I would give it a 6.5 simply for the masterful performance by Caine. Not his best performance, though, but this one’s enjoyable enough.

Sleuth


Release Year: 2007
Starring: Michael Caine & Jude Law
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Harold Pinter
IMDB: 6.4 (5,656 votes)
RT: 35% (111 reviews)
Metacritic: 49 (30 reviews)

There was another movie with the same title with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in it. Caine played Milo Tindle in the 1972 movie while Olivier played as Andrew Wyke. In the 2007 version, Caine played as Andrew Wyke while Jude Law fill in the role of Milo Tindle. The movie began simply with Milo’s arrival at Wyke’s residence asking Wyke to divorce his wife so that Tindle could marry her. The two soon involved in a match of wits.

The name of the game is a match of wits between two men (there were no other human around, just Wyke and Tindle) in a house (nearly the entire film was shot inside the house). A possibly dull thing for most audience. I guess perhaps this was the cause why this movie received poor reviews. A lot compared the 2007 film with the 1972 movie, but according to Harold Pinter the 2007 movie was not of the same plotline with the original Sleuth. So, I think people should see it independently. I haven’t watched the 1972 version yet, that’s why I could look into the 2007 movie independently.

I must say that I really enjoyed Caine and Law’s performance throughout the movie. The pace of the movie was not set physical action, but by battle of words and wits. I could feel the pace accelerated, decelerated, and accelerated again, only by watching the two actors exchanged words. Thus, this flick relied solely on Caine and Law’s acting prowess, not on story. I could not help but impressed how two actors, placed simply in a house (nearly everything happened indoors), could delivered so much enjoyment.

This was not the first time Law filled in Caine’s past role; in Alfie, Law also played a role previously performed by Caine. I also got this odd feeling that Law actually resembled Caine (or was it just my imagination?).

Superb play, well designed movie, but very limited plot could still deliver satisfaction. For such feat, I reward this movie an 8.0.

2008-08-04

Funny Games


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, Tim Roth, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Written by: Michael Haneke
IMDB: 6.5 (9,042 votes)
RT: 50% (130 reviews)
Metacritic: 41 (33 reviews)

Funny games is not funny at all. It wasn’t fun either. Actually, it drove me to the edge watching a family got terrorized by somehow charming couple of young men. Although I initially thought that it was a horror movie, it would be more suitable to call it a terror movie. There were no ghosts or monsters involved. No zombies nor vampires, too. The terror instead, came from seemingly harmless and polite two young men, Paul and Peter (Michael Pitt & Brady Corbet).

Throughout the movie these two young men definitely would make the audience feel helpless. The situation was somewhat too unbelievable to happen in real life, but it was somehow very possible. I mean, some strangers asking your help politely, then you help them but ended up being conquered in your own home. Worst thing is, there’s nothing you can do about it except to obey those strangers.

There were no graphical violence in the movie, though. But you can definitely imagine how gruesomely Ann, George, and Georgie got tortured both physically and mentally. At the same time, the audience, I think will also feel mentally tortured.

As for the script, I think it was great. Although it had a very simple plot, but how it was shot was great. Some scenes seemed to be too long, but they were necessary to describe the struggling couple trying to put an end to the whole misery. Well, except for the first scene when Ann and George along with Georgie were on the way towards the vacation house.

Many times the audience were given hope, and just when the hope actually showed up, it was yanked away, making us biting our nails. I believe this was the point of the whole movie, giving the audience the false hope, playing with our emotion, and by the end of the movie, we might be left wondering and asking ourselves: “How could it be possible?” (Well at least I thought so). But yes, everything happened in this movie was definitely feasible. It could happen to any of us.

All of the cast played well and this what made the situation so possible, although too hard to believe. You can definitely see desperation coming from Ann and George, as well as Georgie, and those expressions from Paul and Peter would give you a sense of disbelief that such faces could do such horrible things to some people.

For being a unique movie, I’d give this one an 8.0. But watch out, it could drive you to the edge. By the way, this movie is an American remake of Michael Haneke’s 1997 movie of the same title with completely the same storyline.


Smart People


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes
Directed by: Noam Murro
Written by: Mark Jude Poirier
IMDB: 6.7 (3,247 votes)
RT: 49% (121 reviews)
Metacritic: 57 (33 reviews)

A family drama about a widower professor, his overachiever daughter, his smart but overlooked son, his former student who got a crush on him, and his adopted brother who obviously not stupid but somehow living an uncertain life. Sounds familiar setup, right? Yes, a dysfunctional family template. So, actually there wasn’t anything new here.

What made it noticeable though, was that Ellen Page was in the movie. I think she was beginning to be somewhat stereotyped as a rebellious (at times), smart talking, but smart girl. Just like her role as Juno in Juno. Her role here in Smart People was somehow more realistic, though, because I felt that Juno’s character, if any, must have been a very, very, rare stuff indeed. It’s not something that you would come across frequently in real life. Vanessa’s character, however, is not a rarity, thus made it more realistic to me. Anyhow, Ellen played great in this movie and became the key strength of this movie.

Second best performance could have been delivered by Dennis Quaid who played as Professor Lawrence Wetherhold. Dennis managed to portray a person who got sunk too deep with his profession that it made him somehow hard to deal with other people. The rest of the cast also played well, especially Thomas Haden Church who played Chuck Wetherhold, a somehow smart person but directionless in life. Sarah Jessica Parker was somehow average, while Ashton Holmes didn’t get enough screen time to portray James Wetherhold. James and Lawrence’s relationship was too briefly explored despite there was a potential there.

Overall, the movie has an average storyline, but with a great cast. Watching it was entertaining, but I doubt that it would leave an everlasting impression. Still, without great performances from Ellen Page and Dennis Quaid, I think it would have been a disaster. As for the rating, I’d give it a 6.5.

2008-08-01

We Own The Night


Release Year: 2007
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes
Directed by: James Gray
Written by: James Gray
IMDB: 7.1 (23,523 votes)
RT: 54% (134 reviews)
Metacritic: 59 (33 reviews)

A crime drama that featured a great cast, but a somewhat typical plot, We Own The Night was probably a decent flick to watch, but I don’t think it could be a memorable one. In the end, you would think that it’s just another crime drama.

The story began with Bobby Green as a somewhat a tough guy himself working for a Russian nightclub owner. Their relationship was close until one day the police, led by his brother Joe raid the establishment and starting a confrontation between the police and Russian drug dealers. The film ended in a typical manner of similar movies.

I failed to see notable performance from Mark Wahlberg. Phoenix did a great job portraying Bobby Green, as well as Robert Duvall’s role as the father of Joe and Bobby (I emphasized “father” instead of chief of the police force). Eva also managed to provide a fine acting here. Although she wasn’t set as one of the primary characters, her play made it as if she was one (of course she was categorized as “lead actress”, but that doesn’t mean being the key character). One thing that bugged me was that Bobby went from being “tough” to “weak”. Despite a great play by Phoenix, that sudden transformation was just unbelievable to me. Well, perhaps being arrested was having a rather traumatic impact on Bobby (but I would still can’t believe it). Also, I still failed to find the connection between the title and the content of the movie…

Again, deeper characters and relationships explorations could make this one better, but in the end, it was just another crime drama. For that achievement, I give this one a 6.5.

Meet Bill


Release Year: 2007 (Toronto International Film Festival, 2008 for wider release)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Elizabeth Banks, Logan Lerman, Jessica Alba, Timothy Olyphant
Directed by: Bernie Goldmann & Melisa Wallack
Written by: Melisa Wallack
IMDB: 6.6 (2,795 votes)
RT: 12% (17 reviews)
Metacritic: 30 (8 reviews)

The main plot of Meet Bill was simply about a man that had been living a miserable life and when the boiling point had been reached (that was when he learned that his wife was having an affair with a television anchorman), he decided that he would have to break out of his old life and start a new life of his own choice.

I obviously felt that this movie was lacking in plot. The story was rather predictable until the end gave you a rather unusual conclusion for similar kind of movie. Another weakness of the plot was that the movie spent too much screen time exploiting Bill’s miserable life. Of course it has to be about Bill, but I think it went too far that it neglected some side stories. For example the relationship between the Kid and Jess, and between Jane Whitman & Jim Whitman (although they were minor roles, but sometimes exploiting some minor roles could bring magic), and Jess herself (we could plainly see that somehow Jess was still in love with Bill, but the movie failed to give a better highlight on this aspect).

As I mentioned earlier, too much screen time was given to Bill, it overshadowed the performance of the entire cast aside. Aaron Eckhart fortunately, managed to give a great performance. You would pity Bill and you would also adore Bill. Yet despite his goofy behaviour, I found it hard to laugh at Bill. Instead, you would sympathize on him. Eckhart managed to deliver all the necessary expression that Bill needed. Logan Lerman has a talent, but I think because of the script his performance got impaired, sometimes it was good, but sometimes it was just dull. I believe the kid should be the number two in this movie, but most of the poster put Jess and Lucy instead of him.

As for the supporting cast, Elizabeth Banks failed to deliver anything significant. Not because of bad acting, but I believe because the script hindered her. Jessica Alba even got a worse spot. She could’ve been better off if only the script explored Lucy’s relationship with the Kid. Timothy Olyphant was also categorized as an extra in this movie. I prefer him as Seth Bullock than as the anchorman Chip.

All in all, this could have been a better movie, but even with some improvements, it won’t be a great one. As for the score, I give it a 5.0 thanks to Eckhart convincing performance (because all other aspects sucked).

Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Masi Oka, Nate Torrence, Mitch Rouse, Jayma Mays, Marika Dominczyk
Directed by: Gil Junger
Written by: Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember
IMDB: 5.2 (517 votes)

A totally disappointing movie, I’d say.

Acting was so awful that I wonder if the actors were actually acting. While Nate Torrence was overwhelmingly overdoing his role, Masi Oka was way awful. The actresses were also the same, totally disappointing.

The plot was actually simple, but even simple plot could be transformed into a great movie. Yet, this didn’t happen to this movie. The humour was terrible. I felt as if I was watching those “Movies” series (Scary Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc.). I did laughed once or twice, but most of the movie I’ve spent myself raising my eyebrows and wondered what were those writers think when they wrote the script.

I don’t know if this kind of movie could suit other audience, but to me, silly humour and terrible acting were too much to bear.

Overall, for being so unbelievably awful, I give this flick a 1.0. Yup, this movie is pointless and time-wasting.

2008-07-31

Interlude

I've been posting reviews frequently lately that some may think what I really do in real life. Well, for a start, I work from Monday to Friday like most people, from 8:00 AM to indefinite time (sometimes I'm back at 9:00 PM, sometimes at 5:00 PM).

Usually I watch at least one movie each day, although on some circumstances I don't watch any. Weekends are when I watch multiple movies. When I'm watching series, I could watch them from morning to afternoon, only taking some breaks for a short while.

I have a long list of movies (including TV series) that I've watched and I think it will grow bigger and bigger. Actually, I'm rather picky when deciding what to watch, but my list consists of animated movies (American, French, Japanese), action movies, thriller, horror, drama, comedy, some documentaries, and some mixture between those genres. For TV series, I become more and more interested in Japanese taiga drama (right now I'm watching Toshiie & Matsu), while also watching series like House, CSI Miami, CSI Las Vegas, Heroes, Mad Men (in progress) and other series.

Movie Junkie is actually my way to achieve some goals. First is to share my experience in watching movies, then to learn how to make a good review (even now I still think that I haven't met my quality expectations yet), also I want to improve my writing skills. Other than these goals, I'm hoping that I could know some or lots of people that have the same interest with me, that is, watching movies (There are already some people that seem to be reading my posts recently and I'm very excited with it). Finally, I sometimes eager to learn about blog design, so I would like to improve myself in that area too (so far, still very mediocre design).

So, that's all folks. I hope my reviews could be helpful to readers, and I hope in time I would be able to improve myself, too.

Cheerio!

Young People Fucking


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Aaron Abrams, Carly Pope, Josh Dean, Kristin Booth, Sonja Bennett, Josh Cooke, Diora Baird, Callum Blue, Ennis Desmer, Natalie Lisinska, and Peter Oldring
Directed by: Martin Gero
Written by: Martin Gero & Aaron Abrams
IMDB: 6.8 (1,705 votes)
RT: 80% (5 reviews)

A very provocative title, isn’t it? But wait, it’s not a porn, actually it was a comedy about how five couples with different stages of relationship deal with sex.

First was best friends Matt and Kristen, then husband Andrew his wife Abby, followed by Mia and Eric a pair of exes, Jamie and Ken who had their first date, and finally the roommates Gord and Dave and Gord’s girlfriend Inez. The latter was not a threesome, but rather Gord wanted Inez to have sex with Dave.

Of course, if everything went smoothly the movie would be definitely a porn. On the contrary of being smooth, each couple stumbled on different problems. The movie will take you from each stage of prelude, foreplay, sex, interlude, orgasm, and afterglow. Each couple would, in the end, find resolution to their problem.

Overall, it was a rather funny movie, not hilarious, but just fun. How the writer of the story managed to weave the story so well deserved a praise. Rather than disgusted, I felt amused. The problems in the movie were not made-up stuffs, but problems that could happen to every one of us, and this is the fine point of the movie.

While the story could have been more detailed, doing so could actually derail the film from its true focus. So, I couldn’t complain too much about that. Acting may not be stellar, but everyone played well enough to make this flick enjoyable. For that, I gave it a 7.0.

2008-07-30

Persepolis

Release Year: 2007
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes
Directed by: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
Written by: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
IMDB: 8.1 (11,879 votes)
RT: 96% (115 reviews)
Metacritic: 90 (31 reviews)

I’ve waited for quite some time to watch this movie. I had a pretty high expectation on it, especially after reading some people rating it pretty high. Fortunately, it was a fantastic movie.

Women ought to watch this movie, because I believe they would be enjoying this one. Sure there were plenty of political messages here, but let’s not going nuts and accusing this movie as discrediting Iran. I think what happened in the movie could’ve happened anywhere, and thus, universal.

The animation was also amazing. In the extra (the making of), I found out that everything was drawn by hand. As almost the entire movie was in black and white and some shades of grey, coloring was somewhat minimal. The style of the animation was also excellent, setting it apart from those of Japanese animes and American animated movies.


You can choose whether you would have the audio in French or in English. I watched it in French, though. Interestingly enough, the dialogues (and monologues) were recorded without the presence of the movie, so go figure.

Overall, it was definitely impressive. The plot, the animation, and the voice acting, were all great. To award that degree of awesomeness, I gave it a 10.0. A very recommended movie!


Doomsday


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Rhona Mitra, Sean Pertwee, Bob Hoskins, MyAnna Buring, Adrian Lester
Directed by: Neil Marshal
Written by: Neil Marshal
IMDB: 6.3 (12,393 votes)
RT: 48% (61 reviews)
Metacritic: 51 (14 reviews)

Yet another apocalyptic flick. Wait, but this added interesting elements into the film that it made me pretty excited. Sure, while I decided to watch Cassandra’s Dream with some expectation that it would be a great movie, I chose Doomsday without setting any expectation except thinking that it’s probably just another disaster movie.

Well, lo and behold! Here we got guns, arrows, punks, cannibals, castle and virus! Not that typical combination, eh? And did I mention graphical violence? Yup, this one packed a nasty set of violent scenes. Blood and gore, but somehow would not scare you, but entertains you. Funny, no?

Anyway, don’t expect stellar acting here, though. The core plot was actually typical, only the additional elements made it a bit different than other similar movies.

For keeping me entertained throughout the movie, I’d give it a 7.0. Well, what do you expect? It’s still yet another disaster movie.

Cassandra's Dream


Release Year: 2008
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Tom Wilkinson, Sally Hawkins, Hayley Atwell
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen
IMDB: 6.9 (8,897 votes)
RT: 51% (90 reviews)
Metacritic: 49 (31 reviews)

I found it a bit hard to watch this one. The flow was rather slow, so slow that I almost fell asleep. Colin Farrell played well, though. In fact, I believe he performed better than Ewan McGregor here. The supporting cast were also great, and probably the only weakness of this movie was in its pace.

The plot was rather similar to Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and some other movies where small problem escalated into a fatal one. Yes, there was the twist in the end and that’s what I like from any movie. Unlike Before the Devil Knows, there would be minimum action involved here, and that most of the movie would be spent on exploring the characters’ motivation and the implications of what they’ve commited.

Overall, this movie was fair, well played, but with lack of suspense. I think this ought to be a story with a suspense, and not purely a drama. For the final score, I gave it a 6.5.

2008-07-21

The Condemned

Release Year: 2007
Starring: Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Robert Mammone, Victoria Mussett, Manu Bennett, Madeleine West, Rick Hoffman
Directed by: Scott Wiper
Written by: Scott Wiper, Rob Hedden, Andrew Hedden
RT: 15% (from 93 votes), IMDB: 6.0 (12,212 votes), Metacritic: 23 (from 24 reviews)

Death Match on an island! The participants: 10 convicts awaiting death penalties. The prize: freedom.

But those were not what made me watch the movie. What made me watched it was Vinnie Jones! The big guy always impressive (at least to me) whenever he did a movie. Steve Austin was also in the movie, but the rest of the cast were relatively new to me.

This movie’s plot was already set for a clash between McStarley and Conrad from the very beginning and what happened in the end was also predictable, although it could be modified to be better. For acting, well, you don’t need lots of talking here, just shooting and punching and kicking. The too-coolness of Steve Austin was too much, because everyone would have at least an anxiety for being pitted against a horde of convicts, each with the same goal. Only Paco (Manu Bennett) displayed the human side on this one and don’t forget McStarley, maniacal character but amusing.

"What do you think this is? A fancy dress party?"

I recalled Battle Royale, a Japanese movie with the same idea with this movie. I think it was sometime around 2000. That movie was way, way more sinister than the Condemned in a way that it pitted school students against each other in an island. The goal was the same: to be the last person standing. Now, which is more horrible: a bunch of convicts killing each other or a bunch of students killing each other?

While Ian Breckel didn’t represent the government, Battle Royale was a government program, although not aired publicly. If you like the Condemned, I suggest you take a look at Battle Royale.

For being typical man-to-man death match, I give the movie a 5.0. Low one, but honestly, I like Vinnie Jones in this movie.

Live!

Release Year: 2007
Starring: Eva Mendes, David Krumholtz, Rob Brown, Katie Cassidy, Jay Hernandez, Eric Lively, Monet Mazur, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Andre Braugher
Directed by: Bill Guttentag
Written by: Bill Guttentag
IMDB: 5.7 (825 votes)

Live! Is what happens when reality shows got so boring and you need a fresh one to throw a big punch to the competition. Your TV station is now on the edge of a cliff and you would do anything to get the number of audience. Yeah, some people would curse on it, but I personally bet that there would still be millions watching the show. It’s human nature, folks.

Who would participate on such freak show? Mostly desperate people who felt that they got nothing to lose, or thrill seeker, or people who just crazy enough. Yet in the movie, the final six participants consisted of five thrill seeker and one that was really desperate.



Six people, six bullets and one of them is live bullet. The one who dies will get nothing while the other gets $5 million. Seems a highly probable chance to win it, right? At first, the risk of getting yourself dead would be 16.7%, at the second turn it will rise to 20%, then 25% at the third turn, 33.3% at the fourth, and 50% at the fifth and 100% at the sixth turn.

Initially, I predicted that it would end on the sixth turn, because that would be a great drama, and that the sixth to pull the trigger would be the one so desperate enough to have that money. It would be ironic, right? That the others won money that they were not actually need it for (they actually thought they needed fame instead of the money). Alas, I was wrong, and when the show ended, the potential for that irony just gone away. It was a great pity though.

The cast was not that of famous people, but they played well. Eva Mendes was great and the participants were also great. Just look at the contradicting emotions the night before the show and during the show. It showed that no matter how ready you think you are to die, nobody is ready enough to pull the trigger.

For being rather a unique movie, I give this movie a 7.0. It could have been better, though. Also the start of the movie was rather too slow and uninteresting. Besides, is it really legal to air such show?