The latest from James Cameron took around 15 years in the making from script to finish and the film is probably opening a new chapter in filmmaking with its ability to blend live-action and computer-generated objects.

Set in Pandora where humans actively mine the highly prized unobtanium, a diplomatic effort is initially worked on to peacefully relocate the indigenous Na’vi who live around the unobtanium deposit. Genetically engineered Na’vi bodies able to be remotely controlled by humans are used to blend with the indigenous in order to gain the trust of the Na’vis so that the people will be willingly relocate to avoid more hostile efforts. One of the operators of these avatars (the genetically engineered Na’vis) is Jake Sully who takes over the job from his dead brother. Another is Dr. Grace Augustine, the head of the Avatar Program, a scientist who has been studying both Pandora and its people for some time.

Contrary to the initial expectations, Jake managed to adapt to the lifestyle of the Na’vis and gains the trust from them, while his relationship with Neytiri, the daughter of the Na’vi chieftain Eytucan, grows deeper. It is when the administrator of the miners, Parker Selfridge decided that the time for the diplomatic approach has ran out that Jake must choose whether to side with the miners or with the Na’vis.

This movie has its strength in the visuals rather than the plot or the acting. As previously noted, a new chapter of filmmaking has opened with Avatar, something that is likely to be utilized by other filmmakers. The remarkable blending between virtual and live objects in the film actually made everything seems to be so alive. In addition, the design of Pandora itself is amazing, from the plants to the wildlife, to the landscapes, including the floating mountains. The war machines wachines however, are limited to several ships and a mini-mech model like from Matrix.

Acting is not the main point of the movie, but it’s pretty good nonetheless, although most of the facial expressions are captured with cameras designed specifically by Cameron for this movie. Sam Worthington may not be a famous actor before Avatar, but I’m sure he is now. With the success of Avatar, it is likely that Cameron will follow it up with two sequels as he had told the press before.

The theme itself is a criticism on real-world situations where the strong used to prevail over the weak with the help of technology. From the ancient history of United States when the indians were driven out up to the modern imperialism where oil resources are being fought over. One line from the movie was evidently a total joke when the leader of the mercenaries Col. Miles Quaritch said that ‘terror must be fought with terror’.

We may be awed by the beauty of the nature in Pandora, but let’s not forget that we also have such beautiful landscape and wildlife here in the real world, gradually deteriorating due to human’s exploitation of natural resources. If we want to have such Pandoran beauty, we probably ought to scale back on our own exploitation of our beloved planet.

Overall, Avatar is a wholly remarkable movie in terms of its visuals. Cameron’s success in designing Pandora and visualizing it on screen (including designing its language) is what make this movie worth watching (in 3D if available). It seems that Avatar is already a candidate for the best movie in the next Academy Awards, which I believe highly probably. Along with it, Cameron probably grab the best director award as well.

Final rating: 9.0

Directed by James Cameron
Written by James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoë Saldaña, C.C.H. Pounder, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, Stephen Lang, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso.
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 8.8



Welcome to the post-apocalyptic America where zombies roam the streets, searching for fresh meat. Well, actually there were just a few zombies spotted on the streets. To survive in Zombieland, several rules ought to be followed such as rule #1: Cardio. Fat people are easy targets in Zombieland because the zombies always outrun them. Another rule is rule #2: Double Tap. Always hit them zombies twice in head, just to make sure.

The movie follows the journey of a college student of which name remains unknown even after the film ends, but assigned as “Columbus”, based on his hometown. He met a man whose name also remains unknown, but designated as “Tallahassee” because he’s from Tallahassee. Later, two sisters Wichita and Little Rock conned them and took their car and guns, although later all four travelled together towards California to visit Pacific Playland. En route, they met Bill Murray who apparently managed to survive by disguising himself as a zombie.

Categorized as a horror-comedy film, I feel that we can drop the horror stuff, because it’s not a scary movie. Not unless you are afraid of zombie makeups. The story itself is never scary, but instead, it is fun. Columbus is a hero but with lack of hero mentality, while Tallahassee is more like of Yosemite Sam without a moustache just as stated by Columbus himself. As for the sisters Wichita and Little Rock, well they lack the specific characterizations. Overall, it’s a very entertaining film, despite its simple story. It reminds me of Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead which I believe was also a very entertaining movie.

Acting is pretty standard here, but the main strength of the movie is in its storytelling. While Shaun of the Dead was rather made as a spoof to Dawn of the Dead, Zombieland is no spoof at all but it’s quite fresh for a zombie flick. A sequel is already thought of, although not yet scripted. It would be interesting to see how the next adventure will be. Will it be able to resume the success or will it fall short of expectations? Nevertheless, for fresh entertainment, I recommend you to watch Zombieland.

Final rating: 8.0 (Yeah, I still think Shaun of the Dead is slightly better)

Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 8.0


Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (องค์บาก 2)

Considered as a prequel to Tony Jaa’s Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, the movie is set in 15th century Thailand, during the conflict between the Ayutthaya kingdom and the Sukhothai kingdom.

Tony Jaa played Tien, the son of Lord Sihadecho who was killed by Lord Rajasena. Tien managed to escape the murder but found himself captured by slave traders. The day he was captured by the slave traders was the day when a group of pirates led by Cher Nung raided the slavers. Tien was freed and decided to follow Cher Nung and his Pha Beek Krut pirates.

During his stay with the pirates, Tien learned many forms of martial arts. This made him the strongest among other pirates in the settlement. Yet, after a while, Tien decided that he must settle the score with Lord Rajasena who murdered his father and mother. And so he left the village and seek vengeance but later must face a bitter truth regarding his father’s killers.

Obviously set as an action movie, the flick features bloody fight scenes and Tony Jaa using various kinds of weapons. The story is very much simple, although the ending is unclear. It is said that the story will be resolved in the third installment, Ong Bak 3 to be released sometime in 2010.

Not much to expect in terms of acting since this is mostly an action movie, so it’s pretty standard performance by the cast. The production set is pretty good, though. In addition, the rural view of Thailand probably added some exotic impression to the movie. Overall, fight movies enthusiasts should be entertained by this one.

Final rating: 6.5

Directed by Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai
Story by Tony jaa & Panna Rittikrai
Screenplay by Ek Iemchuen & Nonthakorn Thaweesuk
Starring: Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Sarunyoo Wongkrachang, Santisuk Promsiri
Release year: 2008
IMDB Rating: 6.4

Dean Spanley

Based on the novel My Talks with Dean Spanley written by Lord Dunsany, Dean Spanley explores the relationship between Henslowe Fisk and his father, Horatio, as well as his brother Harrington who died during the Boer War.

Probably one of the most unusual movies that I have ever seen, Dean Spanley begins with the regular visit by Henslowe Fisk to his father’s home, which occurred every Thursday since Henslowe’s mother passed away. On a particular Thursday, Henslowe took his father to attend a lecture about transmigration of souls, where they met Dean Spanley, a local clergyman. After two additional encounters with Dean Spanley, Henslowe invited him to his home by offering him a bottle of Tokay wine.

Later, Henslowe learned that Dean believed that he was a Welsh Spaniel in his previous life. This easily explained why he was attending the lecture about transmigration of souls – or simply said: reincarnation. A conveyancer named Wrather later joined the meetings, as he became intrigued by Dean’s belief of him being a dog during his previous life. Henslowe also met Wrather during the lecture and it happened that Wrather also provided Henslowe the Tokay wine, which is the Dean’s favorite.

The story connects to Horatio when Henslowe learned that Dean had an initial of WAG in his name. Horatio once in a while told Henslowe that he had a dog named Wag, and this made Henslowe set up another meeting with Dean and Wrather at Horatio’s house. It is in this last meeting that the Dean’s story about his previous life relates – in a very peculiar way - to Harrington Fisk who died in the Boer War.

Maybe not everyone would love the story because of its unusual way of telling it, but surely most people would love the performance from Peter O’Toole as Horatio Fisk. This does not mean that the rest of the cast were mediocre. Actually, all of them were great. Jeremy Northam and Sam Neill, even Bryan Brown and Judy Parfitt who played Wrather and Mrs. Brimley, respectively, did very well in this movie. The dogs were also convincing.

Although peculiar, the movie is very enjoyable overall. The story was well told and the cast were remarkable. A combination that I would naturally expect from a British movie. As for the set and the shots, they were equally good. Note that the film is set during the Edwardian era in England.

Final rating: 9.0

Directed by Toa Fraser
Screenplay by Alan Sharp
Based on a novel by Lord Dunsany
Starring: Jeremy Northam, Peter O’Toole, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Judy Parfitt
Release year: 2008
IMDB Rating: 7.1