2009-01-30

The Promotion

Directed by Steven Conrad
Written by Steven Conrad
Starring: Sean William Scott, John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Lili Taylor
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 6.0

Despite this is supposed to be a comedy, I felt like I was watching a drama instead of comedy. More importantly, I think a lack of support from the music, the movie felt empty. What were intended to be funny turned out sour in the end.

The cast was promising, though. It had John C. Reilly, which actually done great playing a person with a problem with drugs in the past and also with his temper. Sean William Scott was also good as a person who desperately tried to buy his wife a house and with it, gambled every money he got by trying to get promoted.

Both got an equal amount of pressure, I’d say, but despite putting a neutral perspective, the movie chose to be taking side with Doug Stauber rather than Richard Welhner. I could not help but feel that Richard was somewhat (be it intentionally or unintentionally) appointed to be the ‘bad’ guy. The story went that the competing men would do what they can to get the promotion. Of course, being pushed to the ‘dark’ side, Richard resorted to some foul tricks to win the competition. In the end, somebody gotta win and one gotta lose it. But the feel at the end of the movie was rather empty. Perhaps lacks of music to support the plot? Or perhaps a too biased plot? Or lacked of top dialogues? Or maybe all of them were the culprits? I prefer to agree the latter as the causes.

Somewhat a disappointing movie, the plus was only its quality acting, although being too focused on Doug and Richard, the rest of the cast was poorly exploited and this was a waste of potential. Yet, acting alone cannot save the whole movie. As the final vote, I give this one a 5.0. Not funny and empty.

RockNRolla

Directed by Guy Ritchie
Written by Guy Ritchie
Starring: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, Karel Roden, Toby Kebbell, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Chris Bridges, Jeremy Piven
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 7.5


People ask a question: ‘What’s a Rocknrolla?’ And I tell them it’s not about drums, drugs and hospital drips. Oh, no. There’s more there than that, my friend. We all like a bit of the good life. Some, the money. Some, the drugs. Others the sex game, the glamour or the fame. But a RocknRolla, oh, he’s different. Why? Because a real RocknRolla wants the fucking lot.

If you remember Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels & Snatch, then this RockNRolla wouldn’t be something new for you. Despite the similar blueprint, the movie is still enjoyable.

It’s about the Wild Bunch (One Two, Mumbles, and Bob) who caught up in a bad deal with Lenny Cole and ended up owing him a large sum of money. Meanwhile, Uri, a Russian businessman is setting up a deal with Lenny, but ended up having his money being robbed before the deal is settled. The people who rob Uri were the Wild Bunch after receiving information from Stella, Uri’s accountant.

To make matter more complicated, Uri ‘lent’ Lenny his ‘lucky’ painting, and the painting ended up being stolen by Johnny Quid, Lenny’s step-son who ‘faked’ his death because he thought that dead rock stars worth more than the live ones.

In the end, the entanglement between the people involved led to the final showdown between the Wild Bunch, Lenny and Archy (Lenny’s top henchman), the Russians, and Johnny Quid.

Just like Lock, Stock and Snatch, the flow was similar. But I felt that the tempo slowed down in the middle of the movie and only accelerated back near the end. The directing style of Guy Ritchie was evident, but mostly stacked up front, but became less evident along the way. Dialogues were pretty good, but not as good as Lock, Stock and Snatch. Whereas most of the Lock, Stock’s cast made re-appearances in Snatch, this time around Ritchie put on new crew like Gerald Butler, Thandie Newton, and Mark Strong. Acting was rather average for similarly themed movies, but I think I could single out Tom Wilkinson and Toby Kebbell as the one that managed to stand out against the rest of the cast. Gerard Butler was average, but I expected that his character would be more of a tough one. Instead, apparently the Wild Bunch is not the Tough Bunch.

All things considered, I grant the flick a 7.0. Good one and enjoyable, but not as good and enjoyable as Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Snatch.
2009-01-16

Profit - Season 1


Production Year: 1996
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Lisa Zane, Keith Szarabajka, Jack Gwaltney, Allison Hossack, Lisa Darr, Lisa Blount, Sherman Augustus, Scott Paulin, Jennifer Hetrick.
Created by: David Greenwalt and John McNamara
IMDB rating: 8.7

"When a crisis hits, the key is, never be afraid to improvise." - Jim Profit

I've finally completed watching the full season (and the only season) of Profit. I watched it back then in the late 90's and it was a great series. Although it had the uncommon 'dark' theme back then, such theme seems to be flourished nowadays.

Jim Profit is a corporate employee with one aim: to climb up the corporate ladder of Gracen and Gracen by any means necessary. By any means includes extortion, murder, fraud, and theft. Curiously enough, as an audience, I failed to condemn the main character for doing what he did. Instead, I take him as a protagonist, the 'good' guy. The charm and wit of Jim Profit were his weapons to obtain whatever he wanted, even at the expense of others. Whenever things went wrong, he always prevailed in improvising his way out of the crisis.

The plot was great. I could say that I enjoyed every bit of the screen time. The twists and turns made me always to want more. Sadly, the series was cancelled after only one season. Perhaps FOX thought the theme was too dark and thus controversial at that time.

Great acting always plays a crucial part in making the story alive and 'believable'. The performances of the entire cast were absolutely brilliant. The cunning yet calm Jim Profit was perfectly portrayed by Adrian Pasdar. Lisa Darr who played Gail, Profit's assistant also played well. Then there were Lisa Blount as Bobby, the manipulative stepmother of Jim Profit; Jack Gwaltney as Pete Gracen; Allison Hossack as Nora Gracen, Pete's wife; Keith Szarabajka as the CEO of Gracen and Gracen Chaz Gracen; Lisa Zane as Joanne Meltzer, the head of security that was obsessed in exposing Profit's dirty acts; and also Sherman Augustus as Jeffrey Sykes who had a secret vendetta to destroy Gracen and Gracen.

For people who love suspense, I would definitely recommended this series. While its main character is evil, his opponents were sometimes evil, too. Instead of cursing Profit, perhaps most would eventually sympathize his character. Yet, despite it's just a movie, I believe things in the series are abound in real corporate life.

Final score: 10.0.


Red Cliff Pt. 2


Release Year: 2009
Starring: Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Hu Jun, Zhao Wei, Lin Chi-Ling, Nakamura Shido, You Yong.
Directed by: John Woo
Written by: John Woo, Chen Han, Sheng Heyu, based on the Chronicle of The Three Kingdoms.
IMDB rating: 7.2

Why o' why filmmakers sometimes just could not stick to the original story when adapting it to the big screens? I'm a big fan of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, and it turned out that watching Red Cliff part 1 & 2 became a huge torment for me. If John Woo wanted to rewrite the novel, just invent a new stories and characters, just don't brutally slaughter the original story.

I've seen the series, I've seen the Three Kingdoms (starred by Andy Lau) and then there was that Legendary Prime Minister Zhuge Liang (starred by Adam Cheng) wuxia series, and then this Red Cliff 2-part flicks, and only one (the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series) that managed to properly portray the novel. The rest of them were craps.

In the novel, Zhou Yu died after the end of the Battle of Red Wall, he tried to 'indirectly' kill Zhuge Liang because he sensed that Zhuge Liang was a dangerous person to be let alive. Several times Zhuge Liang outsmarted him, even after the battle was over, and every time he did that, Zhou Yu's wound (from arrow shot) got worsened. The final one was when Zhuge Liang outsmarted him during territorial dispute after the battle of Red Wall.

Sun Shangxiang's espionage activities were non-existent in the original novel. She was only mentioned briefly in the novel and nothing more. The attempt to exploit the character was rather overblown. Why would she could be spying Cao Cao's army while there was not a single spy sent to the Shu and Wu's armies? Cao Cao surely not that stupid.

Xiao Qiao never set foot at Cao Cao's camp. In the novel her part was small, only mentioned briefly. Sun Quan and Zhou Yu didn't rush to the front line during the battle of Red Wall, they stayed in the distance giving command and watching the battle but not going to the battle fighting directly.

Cao Cao was not cornered in his base, but sent fleeing for his life but repeatedly ambushed by Liu Bei's generals. Zhao Yun made the first interception, then Zhang Fei, and the last one was Guan Yu. Apparently, Zhuge Liang arranged their positions so that Guan Yu would be the third one to ambush so that Guan Yu could repay his past debt to Cao Cao. In the end, as predicted by Zhuge Liang, Guan Yu let Cao Cao go.

Huang Gai's trick of self-torture and Pang Tong's attempt to persuade Cao Cao into linking his ships with chains also absent from the movie. Cai Mao and Zhang Yun were solely executed for being suspected of betraying Cao Cao, not because they fell for Zhuge Liang's trick to obtain arrows. Zhuge Liang didn't explain how he managed to do all his weather predictions in details, too. Liu Bei also didn't pretend to leave the alliance, because his army never camped alongside the Wu's army in the first place. Besides, based on Liu Bei's character, such pretense would surely incite suspicion from Cao Cao. Liu Bei would never abandon any alliances because he was considered as a man of his words. Perhaps there were other discrepancies in the movies, but I think I've mentioned the big ones.

Now, to review this from a rather neutral point of view, the movie was indeed ambitious. The battle scenes were colossal, but there were nothing new (I still think the battle scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy to be better ones). Acting, however, was rather too focused on several characters like Zhou Yu, Sun Shangxiang, and Cao Cao. The others were only given smaller portions. Yet the acts from the three were usual, not spectacular. Takeshi Kaneshiro, however, was not suitable to play Zhuge Liang, because I think he lacked that cunning look. Although this movie failed to portray the novel accurately, the cast should be based on the personality of the characters from the novel. For a person who perhaps masterminded the battle of Red Wall, Zhuge Liang should have been portrayed as a calm, harmless, but cunning beyond compare. The actor from the series managed to portray him perfectly (forgot his name). Liu Bei should have been portrayed as charming and merciful character. Unfortunately, You Yong could not do that.

Beautiful landscapes also added a plus to the movie, reminding me of Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon. The plot, when I regard this as 'not based on anything', was adequate. It could have been great if only the Sun Shangxiang sidestories were put off.

For final score, I'd give the ENTIRE movie as a whole (part 1 & 2) a 6.5. Better than the first part only, because of the battle scenes. Yet other than that, nothing spectacular here.
2009-01-02

The Mutant Chronicles


Directed by Simon Hunter
Written by Philip Eisner & Stuart Hazeldine
Starring: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki, Benno F├╝rmann, Sean Pertwee, John Malkovich, Anna Walton, Pras Michel, Curtis Walker, Luis Echegaray, Tom Wu, Steve Toussaint, & Christopher Adamson
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 5.5

Typical save the world film. Based on a role-playing game of the same name, the only good thing about this movie was, alas, the visuals, just like Hellboy II, but a bit better. Bad thing about ‘save the world’ themes is that they tend to follow the same formula. So, the plot was easy to predict. Unfortunately, the dialogues were awful, and tend to look silly if you ask me.

Acting was generally poor. Maybe due to poorly written dialogues. Also, to me, Thomas Jane was rather confusing. I wonder if he was playing a British or American. His accent was somewhat mixed up, unlike Sean Pertwee’s consistent accent.

Fighting scenes were moderately good, but I’ve seen better at Hellboy II. By the way, curiously enough, Ron Perlman and Anna Walton from the Hellboy II also played in this movie. Too bad, they were hardly impressive. Perhaps, poor script cost their performances dearly.

With just unique visuals similar to 300, only with more emphasis on the blood, this movie only deserves a 5.0. Poor dialogues and too predictable plot seem to be ruining the movie that could have been a lot better given a strong cast.

Hellboy II : The Golden Army


Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro & Mike Mignola
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Luke Goss, Anna Walton & John Hurt
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 7.5

Hellboy’s back and he’s bound for fighting the Golden Army controlled by Prince Nuada. Apparently, the prince was kinda fed up with what the humans did to environment, such as continuously building malls and all while cutting down forests. His sister, Princess Nuala somehow wanted to keep the treaty between humans and magical creatures intact even if it will risk the demise of the magical creatures.

Simple plot, and predictable one, too. But then I wonder which one’s the bad one? If the urge to fight for existence is justified, then Prince Nuada should be on the ‘right’ side. Alas, that would not be a ‘good’ Hellboy’s movie, right? So, unfortunately the Prince should settle for the ‘wrong’ side.

I am not a hard-core fan of Hellboy, so I hope I can evaluate this movie from a rather neutral perspective. The visuals were good, along with the attractive action-sequence. The story, not that entirely great. I felt that for a Hellboy movie, it failed to dig into the main character and rather it was tilted to Abe Sapien and Prince Nuada, thus the acting highlights were mostly taken by these two. Also, there were instances where Hellboy was rather too comical and displaying childish behavior. But then again, hence the name, Hell’boy’?

Despite the title: Golden Army, Hellboy only spent a small time to kick the asses of those mechanical constructs. I actually imagined the horde would be running amok on the streets of New York. Too bad, though. It could have been a fantastic sight.

Overall, it was a somewhat entertaining movie, but nothing serious to make this a truly memorable one. With a plus only at visuals, I give Hellboy II a 6.5. Let’s hope Hellboy III would do much, much better.