Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 [ Movie Review ] ★★★1/2

The Pitch

Kung Fu Panda was a blast. It was an awesome American comedic homage to Asian Kung Fu movies. Plenty of funny moments, memorable casting choices, loveable characters, heartwarming at times and blazing Kung fu action sequences that would please most Kung Fu fans. Needless to say, it made lots of money and became a household name. When that happens, Kung Fu Panda 2  naturally happened.

Well most of the original cast are back for this sequel and that's a good news. The Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen and David Cross), Sifu (Dustin Hoffman), Mr Ping (James Hong) and Po (Jack Black) will all be back for the second adventure. Gary Oldman will be taking over the antagonist role of Lord Shen and Michelle Yeoh will be spouting words of wisdom as the Soothsayer (effectively a replacement for Oogway). There's also a surprisingly supporting role of Master Croc for Jean-Claude Van Damme, well known for most Hollywood martial arts movie in the 80s and 90s but had been missing from the spotlight in recent years.

Will Kung Fu Panda 2 become a worthy successor or just another disappointing cash grab sequel (like many of it's animated peers)?  or  will Kung Fu Panda 2 achieved a rarity by being on par with the first one or even outshine the original material like what Shrek 2 and Toy Story 2 did? This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

The Plot

Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five – Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu.

It is up to Po and The Furious Five to journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it. But how can Po stop a weapon that can stop kung fu? He must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

(Plot Write Up taken from Kung Fu Panda's Facebook Page)

The Perspective

In a nutshell, Kungfu Panda 2 was entertaining and enjoyable. But it lacks that special ingredient to make it as awesome as the first one. This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

It could be that the threat that could end Kung Fu wasn't really a legitimate threat that could really stop Kung Fu. It's a threat that any fast moving stealthy martial art experts could get around it and disarm it. It felt that for the sake of a plot device, the Kung Fu experts had to "dance" around it to make it look more fearsome than it actually is.

It also doesn't help that Lord Shen wasn't really that effective as a villain as compared to Tai Lung. Yes, it's a different type of villainy and Gary Oldman was having such a dastardly time with his character that it was remisence of his performance as the over the top DEA officer in Leon but it just lacked the oomph that Ian McShane was able to bring for Tai Lung.

Sifu was notable absence for the bulk of the movie and the pairing of Tigress with Po lacks that certain chemistry that Po shared with Sifu in the first one. Besides Tigress, the other furious four didn't really have much to do except to assist Po for the big fight scenes and tagging along in general. Rather poor usage of the other "main" characters if you ask me. This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

Finally, the last nitpick would be that Jean-Claude Van Damme's Master Croc and the other Master felt excessive and unnecessary to the plot. There wasn't really enough dialogue for him to catch that distinctive Van Damme's accent in his portrayal of Master Croc either.

But then again, there were a few nice touches for Kung Fu Panda 2. Michelle Yeoh was a nice replacement for Randall Duk Kim as the voice of the wise man in this series. The parallelism between Po and Lord Shen's past was a nicely done to entertain both the kids and adults viewers. The choice to explore Po's past was an excellent idea as it helped to build more layers to Kung Fu Panda's mythology and set up some rather touching heartwarming scenes of this movie.

Last but not least, it was a blast to see all the characters once again. It's like meeting up with old friends and Po specially, is still so endearingly funny. It's also impressive to see how they managed to keep the fight sequences fresh and exciting. With all that being said, there's plans to make 6 movies out of Kung Fu Panda franchise and if the quality could maintain at this current standard, I would be catching everyone of them when it's released in the cinema. This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides [ Movie Review ] ★★★

The Pitch

Do we need another Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirates of the Caribbean adventure? The first was blast and it gave us the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow. The following back to back sequels were not that good and frankly, the novelty was wearing off. But the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had been racking in the cash and in Hollywood, when there's profits to be made, it will be made.

Adapting Tim Power's book, On Stranger Tide to fit into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, this installment would see Johnny Depp's Captain Jack embark on a quest to seek out the fountain of youth. There will be old and new crew joining force to helm this latest installment. Geoffrey Rush (amazing performance in The King's Speech) and Kevin McNally would be returning as Barbossa and Gibbs respectively while Penélope Cruz will be playing Captain Jack's love interest Angelica and Ian McShane (Kungfu Panda) will be taking on the villainous role of Captain Blackbeard. Rob Marshall (9 and Chicago) will be taking over Gore Verbinski as the director.

Could this installment kick start another trilogy for Disney? or will it reaffirm that this series need to be put to rest? Will the absence of Gore Verbinski,  Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) hinders the success of Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides ? Read on to find out This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

The Plot

The Spanish had discovered the map to the Fountain of Youth and they are on their way there. Not wanting to be outdone, King George II wants to send Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who had the map to the Fountain of Youth to guide an expedition to locate the Fountain of Youth before the Spanish. The expedition will be lead by Jack's old enemy Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who turned into a privateer after losing Jack's ship, the Black Pearl and his leg.

Unwilling to comply, Jack escapes and soon found his father who warned him about the dangers of the Fountain of Youth. He also discovered an impostor who had been recruiting a crew for the search of the Fountain with his name. That impostor turned out to be Angelica (Penélope Cruz) a former lover whom Jack had abandon many years ago. This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

Jack was unable to escape from Angelica's clutches and ended up on board of Blackbeard (Ian McShane)'s ship, The Queen Anne's Revenge. He found out that there's a prophecy that Blackbeard would be killed by a one-legged man and to circumvent that prophecy, Blackbeard wants to locate the Fountain of Youth. Jack also discovered that to make the Fountain work, a tear from a mermaid and two chalices from Juan Ponce de Leon would be needed. This set up a race between the Spanish, the British naval lead by Captain Barbossa and the Pirates consisting of Captain Jack, Angelica and Blackbeard to locate the fabled Fountain of Youth. This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

The Perspective

On Stranger Tides serves it's function as a entertaining blockbuster for the summer crowd. If you are not expecting much, you would be satisfied with Johnny Depp doing his Jack Sparrow routine and the mystical pirating fun adventures that one would expect from this franchise. But if you are looking for more substance and comparing it to the first movie, this series is getting tiresome and this installment was not well constructed to give the audience the same buzz that the first movie had achieved.

The biggest problem with this movie was that it tried to take on too many characters and subplots. There's three different groups of people heading for the Fountain of Youth, two different couples trying to make their untimely (and unlikely) romance work and there are two archetype of villainy at play here. These characters and their motivation were adequately presented but there were enough time or focus to make us care about them.

The weakest character in the midst of all the new characters woul be Blackbeard. The pirate that all other pirates fears was not that scary at all. There were hardly any buildup to make it believable that he was the pirate that everyone else feared. The script didn't help when this fearsome pirate was on a quest for the Fountain due to a prophecy that he would be killed by a one legged man. How's that for bravery? Ian McShane was fantastic as the villain to reckon with when he voiced Tai Lung in Kungfu Panda and sadly the same result didn't replicate here.

Mermaids, best part of the show
The romance between the two couples here felt mishandled. It's not as clear cut or well established like the romance between Will and Elizabeth. The chemistry between Angelica and Jack Sparrow felt that it needed a little bit more work on it or maybe a little bit more screen time to make it convincing. The love story between the mermaid Syrena and Philip, the religious man who tried to redeem Blackbeard soul felt rather squeezed in to make the Fountain plot device work. It could have been easily written off and it would not have make any major impact to the story. Personally, the love story between Syrena and Philip bogged the pace of the story down. This review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

If On Stranger Tides was the first movie, I don't think they will be making so much money or churning out sequels like this franchise did. This installment felt bland and is running out of creative juice to drive this franchise. But then again, my friend who went in with low expectation had a jolly good time watching Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Perhaps it would be wiser to be less critical of this movie and just go with the flow on this one.


There's a scene at the end of the Credits. (Scroll Over to Read)It shows the abandoned Angelica sitting alone on the beach and She discovered Jack Sparrow's voodoo doll being washed up on the shores. Angelica takes the doll and smiles with a wicked intention for revenge (End of Scroll)

Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides Character Poster

Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides Character Poster

Updated: Movie Review

Geoffrey Rush / Captain Hector Barbossa Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides poster
Penélope Cruz / Angelica Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides poster
Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides Mermaids poster
Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey / Syrena & Philip Swift / Sam Claflin Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides poster
Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey / Syrena Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides poster

Johnny Depp Captain / Jack Sparrow Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides poster
Ian Mcshane / Blackbeard Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides poster

Disney Studios SG just posted a new poster for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides on their Facebook Page. Looking forward to 19th May 2011


Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides Johnny Depp Captain Jack Sparrow poster

Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides Teaser poster

UPDATED: Pirates Of The Caribbean On Stranger Tides Characters [ Posters ]
Updated: Movie Revie

Monday, May 16, 2011

Insidious [ Movie Review] ★★★1/2

The Pitch

James Wan and Leigh Whannell first burst into the Hollywood scene with the original Saw movie. That low budget "torture porn" became a surprisingly hit and went on to spawn six sequels. Their next collaboration as director / writer didn't fare that well as Dead Silence received mostly negative reviews and was a box office bomb . Insidious would mark their third collaboration and even though it poaching on the overused haunted house / possessed kid elements, this movie might just mark a return to form for them.

Beside the Saw franchise creators, Oren Peli, the guy who wrote and directed the latest horror box office phenomenon Paranormal Activity would be performing producer duties for Insidious. Can the creators of the two highly successful horror franchises come together to create another horror hit or perhaps another horror franchise?

Looking at Insidious US box office collection, this $1.5 million movie went on to earn a gross revenue of $51,681,000 (as of May 15th). That's around the ball park of the first Saw box office collection. Does a healthy box office collection equate to a good horror movie? Read on to find out...

The Plot

The Lambert family just moved into their new house. Things appeared to be normal until the night when Dalton heard noises in the attic and decided to investigate. He had a fall while trying to turn on the light. His cries caused his parents Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne ) to rush up the attic.

The next day, Josh tried to walk Dalton for school but Dalton was unresponsive. The panic stricken parents rushed Dalton to the hospital where the doctor couldn't find anything wrong with him. Dalton remained in the unexplained coma and the parents decided to bring him home. That when the spooky eerie stuff started to escalate. Renai had enough of these paranormal activities and wanted to move out of the house. Feeling helpless with the chain of events, Josh agreed but the haunting kept taunting Renai.

Josh's mother (Barbara Hershey) believed that the haunting that Renai encountered were true and introduced her friend Elise (Lin Shaye) who specialized in supernatural exorcism to them. Elise and her team went into Dalton's room and she quickly identify a red face demon who was watching over Dalton comatose body.

Sensing the direness of the situation, Elise revealed the truth behind Dalton's unnatural coma and attempted to rescue Dalton's spirit before it's too late. But the demon turned out to be too powerful for Elise to handle. Running out of options, Elise revealed a past that Josh had forgotten and seek his cooperation to attempt a dangerous rescue mission for his son .

The Perspective

Insidious started out in a slow and mundane fashion. It might be a bit of wait but when the haunting escalate, it's one heck of a scary ride that don't stop till the end. The spooky moments are well set up that it kept me on the edge of my seats and some scenes stood out for it's eeriness.

The revelation of what happened to Dalton and Josh past was a refreshing change from the usual horror flicks. While it's a bit of stretch, the filmmaker made it work for Insidious. Personally I also enjoyed Lin Shaye's performance as the exorcist and the "inventive" exorcism.

But there might be complaints on how unoriginal Insidious was and to a degree, it's true. There are traces of Poltergeist, The Exorcist and Paranormal Activities but personally, the film was such an entertaining ride that comparison of the similarities came only as an afterthought and it didn't diminish the enjoyment of watching Insidious.

If it's anything, it was the ending that was a bit of a let down. Personally I felt that they tried to be too smart for the audience and while it's chilling, it contradicts a couple of things that were set up during the movie.  Otherwise, it's a good o' school horror school with plenty of scary moments. Insidious comes highly recommended.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beastly [ Movie Review ] ★1/2

The Pitch

Beauty and the Beast adapted to cater for the Twilight crowd. Good looking Hollywood youngster like Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens and Mary-Kate Olsen are likely cast to draw in the teenagers. Last but not least, put one or two really talented actors (Neil Patrick Harris and Lisa Gay Hamilton) in to support the main cast, just in case the main cast performance turned out to be disastrous.

Should be able to rake in a decent amount of profit out of the teenage demographic.

The Plot

Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfer) is a rich, good looking, rude and arrogant high school student. During a green committee president election, he cross path with an eccentric school mate Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) who vandalized his election posters. He also encounter Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a green committee treasurer nominee whom he had a spark of romance with.

At a post election party for his victory, Kyle attempted to set a public humiliation to insulted Kendra for being ugly. He didn't expect that Kendra is actually a witch in disguise and for the last insult, she cast a spell on Kyle, rendering his face and body horribly disfigured. To remove the spell, he need to find someone that truly love him within a year or stay disfigured forever.

The Perspective

I didn't promise you a rose garden ... but I love you so I built one for you
Beastly achieved the unimaginable. It's actually worse than Twilight. Looking beyond the angsty teenage romance, this movie couldn't even deliver a simple and effective "Beauty and the Beast" love story. The delivery was choppy, unconvincing and filled with weak characterization. The attempt at romance was cringeworthy, juvenile  and rather hard to swallow.

The adaption tried to squeeze as much of Beauty and the Beast into this movie while catering to the Twilight crowds. The result was blatantly bad as the insertion was awkwardly done it only serve to remind us how good the classic was.

The only remarkable performance from this movie would be Neil Patrick Harris as Kyle's blind tutor and Lisa Gay Hamilton as the house maid. Their performance was at least entertaining and a breathe of fresh air after going through Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens's subpar performance. In no way is this a recommendation to watch this movie solely for Neil Patrick Harris and Lisa Gay Hamilton. It's wasn't not that good.

Do yourself a favor. Skip this and grab the Disney Beauty and the Beast Dvd instead.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Detective 2 | B+侦探 [ Movie Review ] ★★ 1/2

The Pitch

In the original Oxide Pang's The Detective, Aaron Kwok's Chan Tam was a C+ Detective (a C grade detective). In this sequel, Tam gets a "promotion"after solving the case in the original movie and now he is a B+ Detective.

While the original movie wasn't as well known as Oxide Pang and Danny Pang (the Pang Brothers)'s The Eye, it was definitely better than Forest of Death and other crappy stuff that they have been churning out. There's something about C+ Detective that stood out even though the story wasn't that good (C grade at best).

The thing that stood out for the first movie would be Aaron Kwok's performance as the C grade detective and his partnership with Liu Kai Chi. The last movie also captured a distinctive dirty gritty atmosphere in Thailand that hard to replicate elsewhere.

Now that the main cast from the original film are back in Thailand for another go at The Detective story, will B+ be better than a C+?

The Plot

After solving the murder mysteries in The Detective, Tam (Aaron Kwok) gained popularity as a private detective. His pal in the police department, Chak (Liu Kai Chi) had just been promoted. But they have not gotten out of the downturn yet. Tam is still hounded by moneylender and Chak's new supervisor is a tough guy to work with.

In order to help each other, Chak enlisted Tam's help to solve a new set of mysterious serial murders.

A man was stabbed to death at his home with a confession letter from his wife but the victim was a single man. A prostitute was murdered and the murderer gave the impression that she was raped when he actually used a pipe to fake the rape. A loan shark was killed at home with his penis sliced off and stored it in a jar.  A beautiful young drug peddler was killed by a pencil and her tongue has been cut out by a kid's scissor.  There are not apparent linkage between these murders but Tam think otherwise.

Before they could get any further with the investigation, Chak was assaulted by a black van and Tam was chased down the alleyways by a biker with steel rod. Undeterred by the threats and hitting a brick wall in solving the case, Tam decided to seek help from a psychopathic criminal that he helped append recently.When he was told to get into the psychic of the killer, he finds that the killer shares an eerie connection.

The Perspective

To put it bluntly, there not much improvement from C+ to B+. The whodunit aspect of this movie runs largely on autopilot and was incoherent at times. There are hardly any sensible deduction of the murder cases. It felt like the filmmaker was making the things up as they move along. The elaborate murders mysteries did not produce an satisfying revelation or explanation. To summarize, The Detective 2 is not the type of classic murder mystery movie that you go for.

But if you are going for Aaron Kwok's quirky performance as Tam, the camaraderie he share Liu Kai Chi and the general moody atmosphere that could be found in the first part, The Detective 2 isn't that bad as a time waster. It would at least draw you in with the hope that the final revelation would be worth the wait. It wasn't but then again, there are bits and pieces in The Detective 2 that were genuinely good.

Such as the scene when Chak get knocks down by a van and he could only lie helplessly on the ground while the van hangs around with murderous intent. It managed to capture a sense of helplessness when Chak had very few options in that situation. It put the viewer in Chak's shoes,  feeling the dread and wondering how could one outsmart the assailant while being immobile.

There's also a possibility of a third movie that becomes strangely an attraction. Given that both the first and second movie are mediocre at best, there's a strange unexplainable desire to catch the third movie if they ever get to that stage. I am guessing that it would be an expansion of the subplots on Tam's parents that had been brought up in the first two movies but had not been fully explored. It could be the last major case that Tam takes in part 3 when he finally becomes A+ Detective. I would attribute to the endearing factor of Aaron Kwok's Tam and his supporting acts that make me interested in finding out what happened to his parents.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gantz | ガンツ [ Movie Review ] ★★★1/2

The Pitch

Gantz has been in publication as a Manga series since 2000 and is currently going on strong. This gory manga depicts a group of people who were plucked right before their death and given a mission to kill aliens with futuristic weaponry. Folks who had not read the manga and wondered about it's popularity could finally get a taste of Gantz with the two part movies adaption.

To sweeten the deal, this film stars Kazunari Ninomiya and Kenichi Matsuyama as the two protagonists of Gantz. Kazunari Ninomiya career in Japan ranges from being a singer, songwriter, actor and radio host. For movie fans and the rest of the world, he probably more well known for his performance as Private Saigo in Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima.

Kenichi Matsuyama on the other hand, has been making regular appearance in recent Japanese movies that were shown in Singapore. Movies such as the Death Note franchise (as the iconic L), Detroit Metal City (switching from Johannes Krauser II and Souichi Negishi), Kamui Gaiden (as the reluctant ninja Kamui), Kaiji the Ultimate Gambler (doing a supporting role) and the recent Norwegian Wood which was shown just a couple of weeks ago. With these two popular Japanese actors / idols fronting the adaption of a popular manga series, it's intriguing to see what Gantz the movie has to offer.

The Plot

Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) and Masaru Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama) tried to help a man who had fallen onto a subway tracks and after saving the man, they were hit by the oncoming train. Instead of dying a gruesome death, they were surprise to find themselves intact and teleported into a Tokyo apartment with a strange looking black sphere at one end of the room. They soon realized that they were not alone. The others were equally bewildered and no one could give a concrete explanation on  how they got there and what's going on.

After sometime, the black sphere known as "Gantz" was activated and presented a weird mission to the people in the apartment. Gantz then opened up and to their surprise, there a bald naked man with a breathing apparatus  They also found suits and a range of weapons inside three racks that protruding from Gantz. Before they could figure out what's going on, they were teleported back out to a Tokyo suburb to commence their alien hunting mission.

The Perspective

As a newbie to the Gantz story, this movie was an entertaining introduction to the world of Gantz. The premise for Gantz was pure escapism and high octane adventure that does not shy away from gore. The concept of hunting aliens in a wide variety of forms with a range of futuristic weaponry would appeal to fans of gaming, manga and fantasy.

Perfect Distraction
Not forgetting the babelicious eye candy Kei Kishimoto (Natsuna Watanabe) who provides a nice distraction from all the alien hunting going on in Gantz.

What the movie didn't do that well was the characterization of the Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato. Both came across as whinny as they struggle with their respective issues. The whole issue with Kei Kurono's childhood dreams of being a hero and Masaru Kato's being overly worried about his brother just slow down the pace of the movie. Instead of being excited about their new powers and thinking of how to  survive the next mission, they spend their time mopping about with their past problems. Personally it just felt like the wrong genre to explore such personal issues.

But overall, Gantz was fun and a great introduction to the manga series. It might inspire one to pick up the manga to see what's missing from the movie adaptation. It also wet one's anticipation for the sequel Gantz Perfect Answer. Let's hope that Gantz does well in Singapore so that the distributor would bring in Gantz Perfect Answer.

Kei Kishimoto (Natsuna Watanabe) So Sexy and Kawaii that I am going to post her picture again!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Lost Bladesman | 關雲長 [ Movie Review ] ★★★

The Pitch

Donnie Yen as Guan Yu? Can he pull it off? We have idealized Guan Yu as a 7ft tall man with long beard and red face. Donnie Yen is not exactly the tall guy that people would immediately think of when there's any casting rumor for the role of Guan Yu.

But since Donnie Yen is currently the hot property in the Hong Kong / China martial arts film industry, he is obviously the go to guy if you want to sell a martial arts film. Nevertheless he has also shown us that he could carry a dignified aura when he portrayal Ip Man in recent years so the height difference might not matter that much.

It would be interesting to see if his portrayal of Guan Yu could help boost his career in the same way as Ip Man had done previously.

Beside that, he had also roped in directors Alan Mak and Felix Chong (co directors for Lady Cop and Papa Crook & Overheard) and Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly) into this movie about Guan Yu's uneasy friendship with Cao Cao and how he crossed five passes while slaying six Generals. This story arc of Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms that focus on these two iconic characters had not been adapted for the big screen before and it's likely to draw the fans of epic historical battle of China in.

The Plot

During the warring period of Han Dynasty, Cao Cao (Jiang Wen) had attacked his rival warlord Liu Bei (Alex Fong) and managed to capture Liu Bei's family members. Liu Bei managed to flee while his sworn brother Guan Yu (Donnie Yen) remained under Cao Cao's command. Guan Yu was a formidable warrior and Cao Cao tried to enlist his aid by showering him with gifts and honorary title. However Guan Yu was a loyal friend of Cao Cao's enemy Liu Bei and he rejected Cao Cao's offer.

As Cao Cao tried to sway Guan Yu over to his side, he discovered that Guan Yu is secretly in love with his sworn brother's concubine Qilan (Betty Sun). In a last bid to buy Guan Yu's loyalty, Cao Cao sent Liu Bei's family members back and attempted to trick Guan Yu to show his love to Qilan with aphrodisiac wine. However Guan Yu managed to stay rational and stopped himself from taking advantage of Qilan.

A messenger arrived to inform Guan Yu on Liu Bei's whereabouts and after knowing where his sworn brother was located, he left Cao Cao's camp with Qilan. Cao Cao was unable to stop Guan Yu and due to a previous agreement, gave orders to his generals to give Guan Yu a safe passage through his territory. His generals on the other hand felt that it's a mistake to release Guan Yu back to the rival camp, so they plot to kill Guan Yu as he embarks on the journey back to Liu Bei.

The Perspective

Not being well versed in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Last Bladesman was rather tedious and bewildering. There were plenty of things that were left unexplained or shown and being a first timer to this story arc of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it was difficult to stay afloat with the sequence of things that happened. Let's just say that I had to Wikipedia after the show to get a better idea on what happened.

The significant of Guan Yu "Crossing Fives Passes and Slaying Six Generals" didn't translate well in this adaption. It felt like an excuse to showcase one fight sequence after another. The Wikipedia page on this segment also revealed that The Lost Bladesman had diluted the original tale so that they could fit in the unconvincing love angle between Guan Yu and Qilan. It would have been preferable if they had stick closer to the source material and abandon Qilan as love interest.

Otherwise, it was a relatively entertaining film to introduce newbies to this story arc of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Donnie Yen was adequate as the legendary Guan Yu but it was Jiang Wen who had stole the show with his rendition of Cao Cao. It might be an unfair comparison as Cao Cao definitely had more intriguing materials to play with. Not exactly a must watch but it wouldn't hurt to catch it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shaw Lido Soft Opening & The IMAX 3D Experience [ Preview ]

Shaw Lido has finally reopened after months of renovation and it's bringing in Singapore's first and only IMAX's Digital Theatre System. I was lucky enough to win an invitation to Shaw Theatres Lido Soft Opening and here the lowdown of my trip to the new Lido this morning.

The biggest draw to this soft opening would be the showcase of Shaw Lido IMAX. It promise to be an immersive cinematic experience and I gotto say, I am impressed with Shaw Lido IMAX cinema. While the Shaw Lido IMAX theater is actually a "smaller" version of the old Lido 1, it's actually well constructed and specifically designed to bring the movie to the audience as the movie directors had originally intended.

There's 421 seats for the normal IMAX movie and 319 seats for the 3D movies. Why are there lesser seats for 3D movies? This is because the audience by the sides won't be getting the full 3D experience and Shaw will not be selling those tickets. Kudos to Shaw for taking in less profits so that they could give the audience the right type of movie watching experience.

Been told that IMAX format has been configured to what the directors would like his or her movie to be seen. The screen is also curved to give a better immersion experience. After sampling the trailers of upcoming IMAX movies (in  both 3D and 2D), I have to agree that the viewing experience is definitely in your face and it's a real treat from what we have been getting in the normal cinemas.

Personally, I am not a 3D fan as I have been technically immune to the 3D effects. At best, 3D in local cinemas had always been a gradient effect, nothing special that I would pay extra for. But the Shaw 3D IMAX trailers looked quite spectacular. Specially the Hubble 3D and Born to be Wild documentaries. Both gave me a sense of closeness of a 3D movie that tempted me to reach out to touch the objects that shown in front of me. Other normal 3D cinema could only project the 3D imaginary while the IMAX 3D could project the 3D image further so that it would appear closer to the audience. Needlessly to say, I will be getting my tickets for those two documentaries in 3D.

Although I do not like to advocate the increase of movie ticket price (specially for 3D movies), IMAX (3D) is one film format that need to be seen / experience. The tickets for the normal IMAX movies are priced at $17 and $20 (on Weekdays and Weekends Fri to Sun respectively). Tickets for the IMAX 3D would cost $19 on Weekdays and $22 on Weekends.

Hopefully that movie watching in IMAX format would not become too addictive. This is not a cheap way to watch movies but the difference in format is simply undeniable. One got to be selective or could easily go broke from watching IMAX movies. Which to choose? There's the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kungfu Panda 2, Super 8 and Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon to choose from. It's quite a hard decision to make.

Beside the grand inclusion to Shaw Lido, there some other stuff to take note of after the renovation.

The MacDonald , KFC, Subways and other mini fast food joints at the level 5 had disappeared. In place of them, there a more classy ticketing counter and a snack bar. When I was there, the tables and chairs were missing too.

There's a central circular sitting area underneath the big screen but otherwise, the waiting area look sparse and empty. The guide told us that there are plans to bring in the chairs and tables in the future. It would be a shame if there's so much space but no where to sit and hangout while waiting for the movies.

Shaw Lido has gone from a 8 theaters to 11 after this renovation. The thing is that they took the old theater number 1 and split it into 3 cinema. The IMAX theater is actually smaller than the old number 1 and cinema number 2 and 3 is basically the top area of the old cinema 1.The new Cinema 1, 2 & 3 are to be access from the top while the rest generally remained where they were previously.

Seats at Shaw Lido had all been upgraded to the same type of chairs in Shaw Nex. Definitely more comfy and even though we didn't have a chance to visit all the cinema halls, the guide assured us that all the halls will be fixed with the new seats.

That's all I got to say about the Shaw Lido Soft Opening. See you at Shaw Lido IMAX soon! In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the new Shaw Lido cinemas, click the link here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Water For Elephants [ Movie Review ] ★★★★

The Pitch

How to be remembered after the Twilight Franchise ends? Or does Robert Pattinson has a career beyond the realm of Twilight? Let's just say that not many people have caught his last two non-Twilight flicks "How to be" and "Remember Me". These days, it's hard to rely on good looks and fan base to establish a acting career in Hollywood.

Water for Elephants might just be the break for him. Based on Sara Gruen's novel that was on New York Times Best Seller list for 12 weeks, the tale about a man running away with the circus might just be the one that gives him a chance to convince the non-Twilight fans of his appeal and charisma beyond the sullen Cullen persona.

Besides that, Robert Pattinson is getting support from two Oscar winners. Christoph Waltz made his mark with his memorable portrayal of SS Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, will be menacing the adulterous couple as the circus ringmaster. Reese Witherspoon who did a fantastic rendition of June Carter in Walk The Line will be circus star performer and the unwitting love interest in a complicated love triangle.

The Plot

Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) a young veterinary school student suffers a major blow in his life during the final paper. His parents passed away in an automobile accident and the bank was taking back all the property that his parents had mortgaged for his school fees. Lost and devastated with the chain of events, he wandered about on a train track and came across a traveling circus.

Since he is a veterinary student who almost completed his  degree, he was taken in by the charismatic but brutal ring master August (Christoph Waltz). Jacob soon form an uneasy relationship with August and his wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the a performer of the circus who works with animals.

As Jacob and Marlena works together with Rosie the elephant (a recent acquirement by August) to form a new star attraction for the circus, they started to grow fond of each other. August grew suspicious of their relationship and confronted them with threats and physical abuse. Could these two lovebirds escapes the ringmaster crutches and set off to find a better life elsewhere?

The Perspective

Water for Elephant turned out to be surprisingly good. First and foremost, this movie managed to capture the pure escapism of running away with a circus. It also did well to convey the sense of old school grandeur that only a circus could provide. It provided reminders on why the circus is such a place of wonderment and danger that mesmerized us.

Besides the glam and glitz of the circus act, it also dealt with animal abuse issues that plague the circus group for a long time. How are the animals treated in circus and what do they do to make them perform. The case here would be Rosie, the elephant that could not be trained. What do you do when that happened? Getting Rosie was a considerate sum of investment and the circus workers need to make a living. Water for Elephant gave an interesting perspective to both sides .

The cast were fabulous in their respective roles. Hal Holbrook short performance as the old Jacob who was narrating this story was a strong anchor to start and end the movie. Christoph Waltz shined again as a morally conflicted villain who was effortlessly charming but yet with a menacing edge. This is one performance that makes you forget the lame Green Hornet villain that he did recently.

Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon would be one of the most badly mismatched couple on screen in recent years. They both gave a great performance but when they appeared on screen together as a couple, the chemistry between them are just not there. It's easy to believe Jacob's lovelorn feelings for Marlena and Marlena's conflicted emotions but when they come together, they simply don't look like a couple in love.

There are also some rather apparent loopholes in this movie. The biggest one would be why did Jacob went on a journey after his parents passed away. Even though he became homeless, it's likely that his school fees had been paid in full and he was just one exam away from being a certified vet. Why would he abandon his last chance of making a living, especially during the Great Depression period?

Nevertheless, it's easy to forget those glaring loopholes and get swept away by the chain of events that occurred in Water for Elephants. It brought back some of the old magical charms of circus life and the love triangle between the three main characters were well handled. Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon might be the mismatched screen couple of the year but lucky that bit could be easily overlooked. Water for Elephants come highly recommended.