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.


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.



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.


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.