Inglorious Basterds

The latest work from Quentin Tarantino tells the story of a group of Jewish-American soldiers called The Basterds. They wreaked havoc in France which was occupied by Germany. Separately, it also tells the attempt of a young woman seeking revenge on the Germans for murdering her family. Upon knowing that her cinema is going to be used to host a premiere of which the guests list consists of high-ranking German officers, Shosanna set up her plan of vengeance. The Basterds were assigned to explode the cinema so that the Allies could win the war. Both sides worked on their plans without knowing each other at all. And in the end, well let’s say that it’s WWII according to Tarantino.

Although Brad Pitt was assigned as the lead actor, I could not help but feel that Christoph Waltz was the one who made the entire movie remarkable. He’s mean, you know. The antagonist of the story. However, I’m not sure that the audience will be able to really hate his character. In fact, Hans Landa is a charming character. Definitely the best in this movie. If some critics believed that Waltz deserves an Oscar for his role in his movie, I could not agree more.

Other notable performances came from Daniel Brühl who played the war hero Zoller, Sylvester Groth who played Joseph Goebbels, and Diane Krüger as the British spy von Hammersmark. Tarantino also made an appearances in the movie, first as a German soldier and then as an American soldier. In addition, Enzo G. Castellari, the director of The Inglorious Bastards, a 1978 movie which was said to be the inspiration of the Inglorious Basterds, also featured in the movie as a high ranking German officer.

Tarantino split the entire movie into several episodes, beginning with the introduction of Hans Landa and briefly, Shosanna. Then the story jumped to the introduction of Aldo Raine and his new recruits later known as “The Basterds”. The third brings the war hero Frederick Zoller, whose exploits were made as a movie by Joseph Goebbels titled “Nation’s Pride”. More characters were introduced in later episodes including Bridget von Hammersmark and Archie Hicox played by Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender, respectively. The climax of the whole movie takes place in Shosanna’s cinema in Paris where high ranking Nazi officers including Hitler himself, attended the premiere of Goebbels’ “Nation’s Pride”, while The Basterds and Shosanna working on their own plans separately.

Compared to his previous movies, Inglorious Basterds could be said as the best of Tarantino’s. As previously mentioned, this largely owes to Waltz remarkable acting. Choosing some German-speaking actors in the movie is also an excellent choice and in turn, makes this movie a lot more realistic. Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie should have been made in German instead of using English as the language. In fact, Operation Kino in the Inglorious Basterds eerily resembled Operation Valkyrie. Of course Operation Kino is a lot more fun to watch.

Final rating: 9.0

Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Mélanie Laurent, Daniel Brühl, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Til Schweiger, Sylvester Groth, Martin Wuttke, B.J. Novak, Omar Doom, and many more.
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 8.5


Mary and Max

Adam Elliot’s fourth clayography tells the relationship between penpals Mary Daisy Dinkle and Max Jerry Horowitz that spans from 1976 when Mary was 8 years old and Max was 44 years old until 1994. Through their letters we are pulled into their worlds.

Mary lives in Australia in Mount Waverley while Max is a New Yorker. The relationship began when Mary picked up a random name from a phone book and it happened to be Max Horowitz. They both share the same situation that they are both lonely people. While Mary lives with her parents, both of them were too busy with their own businesses. Mary’s father was too busy with stuffed birds, while her mother was too busy cooking sherry and listening to the radio. Max on the other hand, lives with his fish, cat and parrot, and also his imaginary friend Mr. Alfonso Ravioli.

Max suffers from Asperger syndrome and as time passes by, Mary grows up and eventually enters college where she study Asperger syndrome with the purpose to help Max. The relationship between them got its ups and downs but no matter what, both finally got what they have always been looking for: a friend.

According to Adam Elliot, the movie was based on a true story about his relationship with his penpal in New York for over twenty years who also suffered from Asperger syndrome. Regardless of this fact, the movie itself is great. It has the drama, but it could be considered as a dark comedy. Despite it’s a claymation, it is PG-rated. Scenes are nicely shot, and the voice acting is good. But don’t expect colorful scenes like in Coraline because the world of Mary and Max is painted in brown and black and white.

Overall, this is easily one of the best movies that I’ve seen this year, a very recommended movie with great humour and excellent storytelling. Although visuals are mostly in monotonous set of colors, they are still captivating. I am sure that most people will enjoy this from start to finish.

Final rating: 10.0

Directed by Adam Elliot
Written by Adam Elliot
Starring: Toni Collette, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bethany Whitmore, Eric Bana, and Barry Humphries
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 8.3



This animated movie is based on a short movie 9 by the same director Shane Acker. It tells the story of a bunch of rag dolls in post-apocalyptic earth facing the menace of a machine which accidently reactivated by 9.

Set in a world where humans do not exist anymore due to, of course, their own stupidity, 9 is visually enjoyable. The story is rather predictable actually and voice acting is rather standard for an animated movie.

It begins when 9 got activated by his creator known as the scientist in a lab somewhere in what’s left of earth itself. As 9 wanders the world, he met with another rag doll named 2. Unfortunately, soon afterwards they encounter a cat-like machine and after some time managed to snatch 2 and a device found by 9 just before he left the scientist’s lab. Suffering from the damage inflicted by the cat beast, 9 collapsed and got rescued by yet another rag doll named 5. Soon after he met with other rag dolls 1, 8 and 6. Later, disobeying 1’s order, 5 and 9 set out to find and rescue 2. This takes them to an old factory where they met 7 which was thought to had died long ago. It is in this factory that 9 accidently reactivates a giant construction machine which could fabricate anything out of scrap metals. Now, the rag dolls must figure out a way to deactivate the machine and put the world in peace once and for all.

Visuals are great, and become the strongest point of this movie despite its average storyline and voice acting. Filling the voices are Elijah Wood as 9, Jennifer Connelly as 7, John C. Reilly as 5, Martin Landau as 2 and Christopher Plummer as 1. 6 and 8 are played by Crispin Glover and Fred Tatasciore, respectively. Nobody needs to fill in the voices of 3 and 4 because the twins are unable to speak. As the scientist, Alan Oppenheimer plays the role.

Final rating: 7.0

Directed by Shane Acker
Written by Pamela Pettler (Screenplay) and Shane Acker (Story)
Starring: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, Fred Tatasciore and Alan Oppenheimer.
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 7.1


Perhaps one of the most overhyped movies of the year, 2012 tells the story about how mankind faces the mega disaster hitting earth due to the impact of solar flare. Yes, this version of ‘end of the world’ is not caused by global warming due to greenhouse effect whatsoever. So, those who love to litter the street with garbage would not be blamed because the culprit is the sun itself.

Watching this movie reminds me of Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen. Lots of destructions throughout the movie, and a crap storyline with so-so cast performances.

People will see giant tsunamis, devastating earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and assassinations too to spice up the plot. As always, there’s a family caught up in the middle of all these pandemoniums – a not-so-ideal family to be precise – and also some scientists involved to perhaps, bolster the scientific ground of the plot. This too, reminds me of Deep Impact, Armageddon, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and probably lots of other disaster movies. Afterwards, we are presented by a seemingly impossible luck of the main characters while enduring the entire catastrophic events. Watching Jackson Curtis dodging one calamity over another is like watching Neo dodging the bullets, minus the slow motion. Overall, it got the same template like most other disaster films which definitely failed to impress me.

Cast performances are average because acting doesn’t seem to be what the movie was trying to sell. Just look scared, look sad, look desperate, a bit of nasty and mean (like Carl Anheuser), and everything will be sufficient.

In the end, the producer wins. The movie has been pretty successful at the box office and a TV series is even planned to well, be the sequel following the events in 2012. To me, this is just another disaster movie, and personally, I doubt that such solar flares would be able to create such a mess on this planet. Even if it will, nobody will remember what I say because people probably busy running around trying to save themselves.

Final rating: 6.0

By the way, I’d rather the earth demolished by the zap from Vogon Constructor Fleet to make way for a hyperspatial express route. It’s tidy and efficient with minimal visual effects (and minimal moments of sufferings, too).
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Harald Kloser & Roland Emmerich
Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson.
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 6.4


The Founding of A Republic

Chronicles of the events leading up to the birth of the People’s Republic of China were told in this epic movie which features lots of cameo appearences of famous stars like Andy Lau, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi and many other stars. Ironically, none of them took the lead role in the movie that was made to mark PRC’s 60th anniversary.

First of all, there are opinions that consider this movie as a mere propaganda for the Communist Party, but this review will look at this movie as a movie, not more, not less.

The scale of this movie was remarkable. Events were illustrated impressively and the sets and costumes were awesome. Added with excellent cast and their performances, this is actually a movie worth watching.

Leading the cast was Tang Guoqiang who filled the role as Mao Zedong perfectly. Other lead cast that featured frequently throughout the movie were Zhang Guoli as Chiang Kai-shek and Liu Jin as Zhou Enlai. Noticeable performances were also delivered by Chen Kun (as Chiang Ching-kuo) and Xu Qing (as Soong Ching-ling or Madame Sun Yat-sen). Cameo appearances by famous Hong Kong actors/actresses were Andy Lau (as Yu Jishi), Jet Li (as Chen Shaokuan), Donnie Yen (as Tian Han), Jackie Chan (as a reporter), Eva Huang (as a Xinhua News Agency broadcaster), Tony Leung (as one of the CPPCC members), and Zhang Ziyi (as Gong Peng).

Perhaps the weak point of this movie is the pace of the storyline which is too fast. Yet, this is not surprising since there are too many events to be told in a very limited time (the movie itself is 138 minutes in length). It is too easy to get lost in the details for about two-third of the movie, especially when the viewer does not able to understand the language and must rely on the English subtitles. The pace slowed down a bit later in the final third of the movie, but probably too many details were already lost.

Despite its weak point, this is a grand movie that should be able to entertain the audience with its remarkable production sets and exceptional acting from its star-studded cast. I believe this movie deserves a 9.0 after all.
Directed by Huang Jianxin and Han Sanping
Written by Baoguang Chen & Xingdong Wang
Starring: Tang Guoqiang, Zhang Guoli, Liu Jin, Chen Kun, Xu Qing, Wang Xueqi, and many, MANY others
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 5.6

Coco Chanel

Not to be confused with Audrey Tautou’s Coco Avant Chanel, Coco Chanel was broadcast by Lifetime Television. Starring as the older Coco was Shirley MacLaine. Barbora Bobulová starred as the younger Coco.

The story of the legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel started with Coco reminiscing her past as she was coming under pressure from her manager Marc Bouchier to sell her business and go into retirement. Through a series of flashbacks, Coco’s past was revealed to the audience. From her time when she was left behind by her father with her sister, her acquaintance to Étienne Balsan which later led to the introduction to Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel, and throughout her early rise of her fashion empire. This movie focused on the romantic relationship between Coco and Boy Capel, which ended in Capel’s death in an automobile accident (Hey, this is no spoiler because it is a historical fact).
Although the story was great, the choice of language was, I believe, to be a bad move. It is cleary evident that the dialogues became awkward whenever the scenes set in France came up. I believe that Barbora did an awesome performance here and would have been a lot better if the dialogues were in French. McLaine did an equally great performance too, but unfortunately the dialogues seemed awkward when spoken in English. I saw some clips on Youtube about interviews with Coco during her later years, and they were in French, not English. This made the realism factor as the weakness of this movie. The flaw was not in the acting, but in the chosen language. Other than this, Coco Chanel is an good movie.

The cast did well, including Olivier Sitruk who played as Boy Capel, and also Valentina Lodovini as Adrienne. Still, the spotlight should be for Barbora and Shirley. Both did very well. Shirley MacLaine was nominated for Best Actress in Golden Globe Awards, also as the Outstanding Female Actor in Screen Actors Guild award, also in Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie in the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards.

For final rating, I give it a 7.5. The set was great, the acting was also great, the story was interesting and enjoyable, but the killing factor was the choice of language (it reminds me of Valkyrie).

Directed by Christian Duguay
Written by Ron Hutchinson, Enrico Medioli, and Lea Tafuri
Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Barbora Bobulová, Olivier Sitruk, Valentina Lodovini, and Malcolm McDowell
Broadcast year: 2008
IMDB Rating: 6.9


Komyo Ga Tsuji <功名が辻>

The 45th NHK taiga drama tells the story of Chiyo, the wife of Yamauchi Kazutoyo, a general from the Sengoku period who served under Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and later Tokugawa Ieyasu. As one of the generals that survived the turbulent era, Kazutoyo later became the Lord of Tosa (Tosa-no-kami) on the island of Shikoku, replacing its previous lord, Chosokabe Motochika. As Kazutoyo’s wife, Chiyo supported his husband’s rise from a mere soldier to a lord of a castle and later the ruler of Tosa.

Although not as famous as Maeda Toshiie and his wife Matsu (see also the NHK series Toshiie to Matsu), the rise of Kazutoyo was described as full of hardship, starting his rise with merely two loyal vassals: Goto Kichibei (Takeda Tetsuya) and Sofue Shinemon (Maeda Gin). In the movie, Kazutoyo believed that he owed his success to his loyal wife, Chiyo. To have her on his side unlocked his fortune and brought him luck and successes.

Described as lively and intelligent, Chiyo was told in the series to have influenced most of Kazutoyo’s key decisions throughout his carreer. One of them was his decision to side with Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara. Her intelligence impressed both Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and later Tokugawa Ieyasu. Of course, all these might not necessarily historically accurate, but at least that is what the series implied.

Cast as Chiyo is Nakama Yukie. She played as both Yae and Koto in NHK’s other taiga series Musashi, and most recently, her role as Yamaguchi Kumiko in Gokusen. Kamikawa Takaya played as Yamauchi Kazutoyo, while Kagawa Teruyuki played as Rokuheita, a shinobi loyal to Chiyo. Teruyuki played as Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Toshiie to Matsu and Ukita Hideie in Aoi Tokugawa Sandai. Veteran actor Tsugawa Masahiko filled the role as Chiyo’s uncle Fuwa Ichinojo. Masahiko was the lead actor in Aoi Tokugawa Sandai, playing as Tokugawa Ieyasu. From the same Aoi series, Nishida Toshiyuki played as Tokugawa Ieyasu. Reprising his role in Toshiie to Matsu as Maeda Toshiie, Karasawa Toshiaki appeared in several late episodes of Komyo ga Tsuji. Other notable casts are Emoto Akira (Toyotomi Hideyoshi), Asano Yuko (Nene/One), and Hasegawa Kyoko as Hosokawa Tama or Gracia.

Despite a solid cast, the story was less interesting when compared to Toshiie to Matsu’s, probably the result of being heavily focusing on the relationship between Chiyo and Kazutoyo throughout most of the series. The emotional side was also easily beaten out by the one seen on Atsu-Hime. Regardless of the weakness in the storyline, the performances from the cast were enough to balance it out, making it enjoyable to watch, especially Nakama Yukie who was well chosen as Chiyo, as perfect as Matsushima Nanako was chosen as Matsu.

As a whole, I give the series an 8.5 out of 10 after weighing other factors such as the set and the music.

Directed by Ozaki Mitsunobu
Based on the original writing Komyo ga Tsuji by Shiba Ryotaro
Starring: Nakama Yukie, Kamikawa Takaya, Takeda Tetsuya, Maeda Gin, Hamada Manabu, Kagawa Teruyuki, Hasegawa Kyoko, Emoto Akira, Asano Yuko, Tachi Hiroshi, Tsutsui Michitaka, Nishida Toshiyuki.
Broadcast period: January 8th 2006 – December 10th 2006.
IMDB Rating: 8.6