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Transformers Revenge of the Fallen June 20, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema , 1 comment so far

This was a pretty kick ass Movie. It’s not perfect, but so far, of the summers movies which I have been disappointed in, Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen is not that bad and at times quite fun!

In my review of “Transformers” 2 years ago I thought one of the problem was that the Transformers, in particular the Decepticons were charactures rather than characters, full of one liners from the original Generation 1 TV series and not much else. Revenge of the Fallen rectifies this greatly. I practically smiled with glee every moment Starscream and Megatron were on screen together. The characters are very close to their G1 counterparts and Hugo Weaving is sounds a lot like Frank Welker, I don’t know if he took tips from Welker or studied the animated series but he is definitely channeling some old school Megatron in voice and personality.

Optimus Prime has turned bad ass since the last movie. The Autobot leader who is respectful of all living things practically blows Decepticons away by shooting them in the face  head or ripping their head apart. In the previous movie he got owned by Megatron, he does so here too but gives some major payback. There is a classic scene in this movie that relates heavily to a scene in the animated movie where he turns grey.

The action will still make your eyes bleed, I sat further back this time and granted it isn’t as bad as the last movie but I still think there are too many up close shots in this. why not something from a bit more distance to appreciate the scale in it. There are Autobot twins in this that are basically two stereotypical black guys ripping on each other for comic effect.

The movie opens with some amazing action scenes set in Shanghai and a heroic entrance by the man himself, Optimus (Peter Cullen) Prime. I enjoyed the heck out of the first 30 minutes, even with all the crude humping jokes and action. It’s a hoot! However the middle section of the film drags heavily and the transformers take a back seat for a larger section of that film. The final half of the movie they come back with some F’ing amazing action sequences, but that’s all they are, big holy crap action scenes with big big explosions. But I’m not complaining. Those big explosions are impressive but not all that relevant to moving the story forward. I think the film is too long. I think a shorter middle section would be better. I still want even more transformers interaction even though I’m pretty happy with what I got in this.

Joygasms are as follows. Soundwave, voiced by Frank Welker although he stays in space in throughout the movie, Ravage (very cool) coming from Soundwave’s chest, I thought Ravage was very reminiscent of G1. The Matrix of Leadership! I thought we’d never see this since producer Don Murphy had say way back in 2006 that they didn’t want to confuse it with the Matrix Movies.

On a totally unrelated note, the promotional image of Optimus Prime above reminds me of a nightmare I had when I was very young, I dreamed that his head rose out from between two beds. The image above looks just like my dream all those years ago which I still remember.

I still want a more Transformer character based movie directed by someone other than Michael (Damn you) Bay, but I honestly don’t see how anyone else is going to top the amount of action and large set pieces in this. It would be a mountain to climb. They’d need something like a Giant Transforming planet or something *nudge nudge*.

Favorite Quote: “If God made us in his image then who made him?” - Sergeant Epps

I come with the Rain June 16, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Asian Cinema , 11 comments

Josh Hartnett plays ex LA cop Kline who goes to Hong Kong in search of a Billionaire’s Son named Shitao (Takuya Kimura). Helped by a ex colleague, Shawn Yue the two search for Shita and cross paths with gangster Dongpo (Byung Hung Lee) as each become entangled in the search while Shitao himself displays extraordinary healing powers to homeless people.
Directed by one of my favorite Directors whose films have a highly effecting nature on me I was excited to see his first English movie on the big screen. Tran Anh Hung had conceived the idea for “I come with the Rain” years ago when he was filming Cyclo.

This isn’t your typical Thriller of the ex cop finding someone lost. It’s a heavy film, visually, it depends heavily on what it shows more than dialogue and the imagery can be brutal in that regard. The first 30 minutes play out pretty normal but as we delve deeper into each character psych the film too becomes more and more erratic. The film jumps back and forth through different events in the characters lives, sometimes a bit confusing as to what is actually taking place in the present, but it gives the film a timeless almost dreamlike quality with no beginning or end. You could say the story is split over three character and their anguish. Hartnett, Kimura and Byung-Hung Lee. The City of Hong Kong is a beautiful setting for a film like this and has a realistic feel since the movie was shot on video.

Hartnett is quite good as the tormented ex Detective as we see his past and present are intertwined. As he gets deeper into his case and search for Shitao he becomes obsessed. Leaving behind his 5 star Hotel for a shabby murder scene apartment in order to get inside the mind of Shita and lose himself in the heart of the City. He adorns his walls with the photographs of Shita’s body with cuts all over it, trying to understand.

Byung-hung Lee perhaps had the most interesting role as the Hong Kong gangster whose love runs so deep he would do anything to keep the woman he loves (Played by the Directors beautiful Wife, Tran Nu Yên-Khê). yet for all his love he is still a vicious brute who’s willing to put a bullet in anyone who slander’s his girls name. It’s not mentioned at all in the movie but it might be worth noting that the characters Lili and Dongpo grew up together in the same orphanage and Lili witnessed Dongpo comit murder in his teens.

Some scenes of Takuya don’t work too well. At one stage there is a scene that resembles Passion of the Christ a little too closely, so much so that one might think it was a parody given the film’s setting. I couldn’t watch that scene without immediately thinking of that other movie and it felt a little embarrassing. It doesn’t help that Kimura under plays it. He’s really great in those Gatsby ads though.

In a Tokyo interview Tran said that the casting took a long time but I’m not quite sure I buy that since he cast some well handsome men in this movie who are popular across asia maybe more for their good looks than anything else.

As for the Film’s title Tran had this to say

Q: Regarding the title “I Come With the Rain”,
why is it “Come” ” with the Rain?”

A: Tran Anh Hung
When I wrote the script for the first time ,I had an image that when
Jesus appears, it’s always raining. However, while revising the script,
the rain slipped off some time or other. (laugh) So “the Rain” can be
found only in the title. But for me, rain’s motif inspired me a lot.

For all the symbolism you might come out of the theatre scratching your head as Tran literally nails it to a cross and if this is your first Tran Anh Hung film you might be throwing yourself in the deep end here. For those faint of heart you might get squamish in some scenes that borrow heavily from the works of Irish Painter Francis Bacon.

Tran Anh Hung’s next Film is an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood. I ‘m rather looking forward to this as I am a fan of Murakami. I had imagined maybe someone like Wong Kar Wai directing this but I think Tran Anh Hung is a director very capable of doing the material justice. It took 5 years to get permission from Murakami to finally make this movie, lets hope it was worth the wait.

Terminator Salvation June 9, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Science Fiction , 1 comment so far

Known only as “Terminator 4″ in Japan which is advertised as part of the same continuity as “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” over here. After the fun time I had with Terminator 3 and the impressive ending I looked forward to future installments because we would finally get to see the ‘Future War’ that was only glimpsed at in the first two Terminator Movies.

When news broke that McG was going to make T4 you could say that I was not happy. I didn’t even bother to watch the Charlie’s Angles movies all the way through. It was just so mindless and over the top. But I digress. McG himself has tried to push that aside and show himself as a Director of serious movies, one that understands the fans wants. Casting Christian Bale in this movie as John Connor was a good start. But this casting seemingly had a big change on the movie. The problem seemed to start with the script, the focus being on the character of Marcus Wright and John Connor being a background character as in early reports mentioning that Christian Bale would have a small role in this movie. But how can you have a star like Christian Bale in a small role. So the film was split. Half is the journey of Marcus Wright and his “Salvation”, the other half being John Connor becoming the leader of the resistance, but it never really works this way. The scenes of Christian Bale in a bunker arguing with leaders over the radio on a Sub doesn’t hold that much of a dramatic punch. While Bale is listening to tapes and being stared at by Bryce Dallas Howard, Wright’s character is out in the field, having his first meeting with Kyle Reese, fighting Terminators etc. That’s because in the original script and the ending Wright becomes John Connor when they place Connor’s flesh over Wright’s terminator body.This ending was leaked months ago and I hated it, it was later debunked and then even later told to be true, with Marcus taking Connor’s place as the leader and supposedly killing everyone (I don’t buy that last part, why kill off the entire cast of a possible Trilogy movie).

Even though I hated that scrapped ending the entire movie seems to be leading up to that point. When Connor gets a piece of metal lodged in his chest I thought “crap! McG screwed us!”. But the ending we got was flat and plain, no twists, shocks, no plot point to lead into another movie. I almost think the alternative might be better, no matter how shocking it may be. It’s still going have you chewing on something when you walk out, wondering what’s going to happen next. But alas, no, they didn’t even try to do any kind of twist ending to replace that. What a disappointment in that regard. But I did notice in “Heroes” they nicked this one and used it to end their season 3.

The script should have been rewritten from scratch rather then taking one not so great script and getting it polished up by a handful of writers trying to make it work. To add to all these problems, McG was forced to cut about 30 minutes from the movie, a lot might have been scenes with Connor and Howard.

Bale’s John Connor is unfortunately lacking here. Screen time and characterization. In T2 he’s a troubled kid. In T3 he is a man lost, without a destiny and fighting against it . Here he is without motive. He wants to save his father. That’s about it.
Bryce Dallas howard has such a small part in this movie I wonder why they didn’t go with someone less famous. I guess they are holding out for more character development in the sequels. Something more than just staring at John Connor. Worthington and Yelchinhave good screen chemistry and a story. Moon Bloodgood. Who? She likes to cuddle. Yep.

Some annoying things in the movie. The way Kyle Reese kept calling out the names of all the Terminators they encounter, “Hunter Killer! T-600! Motor Terminators”. OK OK, I know what Toy to buy, you don’t have to name them all for me. Speaking of Terminator Models, what is Wright? For a Terminator from 2003 he is pretty advanced. Almost as strong as the T-800 and advanced enough to hold his memories and his human heart, keeping our most important parts… A superior infiltration Terminator to the T-800, so why are the less advanced T-800s being built almost 15 years later? It would make sense if he came from the Future but how the heck did they create him in the past unless they sent someone back through time to do so. Why did Skynet need to lure Connor to them so they could kill both him andReese? They don’t even need to do that. Just kill Kyle Reese and boom. Game over. Did we really need another Terminator fight in the factory? We’ve had the T-800 in 4 films now. It’s lost the threat and menace it previously held.

Before watching Terminator 4 I took the time to rewatch these Future War scenes again to see how they would compare to T4. James Cameron created a future, distant from our own since it’s a future based on the view of an 80s movie. An apocalyptic future. The scenes are chilling as soldiers fight on a nuclear wasteland at night and Terminators walk on the skulls and bones of those long gone. It is forever dark, visually and emotionally. In Terminator 4 we aren’t quite there yet. It’s 2018 and the resistance still seems quite capable and heavily armed compared to the scenes of 2029 where Humans are making do with anything they have.
The film isn’t bad.  There’s some great action scenes and impressive effects and a nice cameo by the end.  I think it just doesn’t have anything of itself to sell, the previous movies had scwtanager and Cameron’s directing. This just looks pretty. There will be a sequel and McG already has ideas…

“...the next movie is going to take place in a [pre-Judgment Day] 2011. John Connor is going to travel back in time and he’s going to have to galvanize the militaries of the world for an impending Skynet invasion. They’ve figured out time travel to the degree where they can send more than one naked entity. So you’re going to have hunter killers and transports and harvesters and everything arriving in our time and Connor fighting back with conventional military warfare, which I think is going to be fucking awesome.” - McG

Yeah? I don’t. Hold the Mc Fries. It might look cool but you’re getting away from the Franchise entirely. Why not show us an even worse future, the resistance battling skynet as it plans to send two Terminators back through time and Connor having to come to terms with sending his young Dad back through time to knock up his Mother.

I like the idea and the perspective for the next picture that you meet Robert Patrick the way he looks today, and he’s a scientist that’s working on, you know, improving cell replication so we can stay healthier and we can cure diabetes and do all these things that sound like good ideas, and to once again live as idealized expressions as ourselves.” -McG

Now I actually like this idea. Seeing the creation of the T-1000 and having Robert Patrick back would be very cool. I hope future sequels bring the movies full circle with what came before.

Favorite Quote: “So that’s what death tastes like.” - Marcus Wright

Blood The Last Vampire (2009) June 5, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Anime/ Manga, Asian Cinema , 2 comments

Blood: The Last Vampire is based on the popular Japanese animated movie of the same name released in  2001.

It stars Gianna Jun, better known as Jun Ji Hyun of “My Sassy Girl” to the rest of us. She plays Saya, a Half Human Half Vampire who hunts Demons in the quest to bring out Onigen played by Koyuki of “The Last Samurai” fame.

The first half of the story is very close to the animated movie, storywise and visually. Though where the animated movie ended too early, this movie continues on with a deeper plot of Vengeance against Onigen who killed Saya’s Father.

The agency that Saya works for sends her undercover to a School on a US Naval Base. Putting on a Japanese school girl uniform I could say that my Jeon Ji Hyun fantasy was fulfilled and the rest of the movie really didn’t matter. But it gets better as we see her in some furious non stop action scenes where she takes on numerous demons. Some chick named Allison Miller is also in this movie as a pissed off General’s daughter. Saya has to spend a lot of time saving her ass out of pity.

The action is heavy on the CGI, all the blood sputters are CGI and I believe purposely so to give the movie an animated look as it resembles the animation very closely. Jun Ji Hyun is perfect in the role of Saya, so cold and calculated, she doesn’t even crack a smile throughout the movie except in some flashbacks. You’d hardly realise it was the same actress who played the crazy, adorable girl in “My Sassy Girl”.

There’s a lot of unexplained things in this movie which made me think they might be holding back something for a sequel. There’s a double cross half way through the movie but this plot point isn’t revisited and there’s no explaination as to why it happened. Also the Demons Saya fights seem drawn to Allison Miller’s character, trying to kill her every chance they get. Why is never explained, maybe they just needed an excuse to have action scenes with her in them. Her role is nothing else but to ask questions and get answers to what is happening on behalf of us watching.

Since the movie has Koyuki and Jun Ji Hyun, two actresses whom I consider to be among the top 5 most beautiful in the world I was quite happy to see them end up fighting each other. It’s worth the price of the admission alone to see them go at it. Although I’m not too sure as to the actual outcome of the conflict since it seems to take place in a dream world that isn’t real. It’s like the Director  thought the movie suddenly needed to end now and brought forward the final confrontation.

The real problem with the movie is that there’s no humor. It’s far too serious an affair for a movie with a Japanese school girl slaying demons for 90 minutes. There’s also zero chemistry between the main characters and I dare say that the translation from animation to live action was done too perfectly, looking too cartoony and dampening any sense of danger. Visually impressive and who doesn’t like half vampire school girls killing demons with a Samurai sword? Just needed more heart.

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