Sunday, 24 November 2013

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire



Despite from a young adult novel similar to Twilight, Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, or Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire proved to be a brilliantly made, well-paced, compelling sci-fi action drama thriller that's well surpassed the first film, and dare I say, even better than any of the recent young adult novel-to-film adaptations out there.


The film spends the first half of the film to explore and develop its thought-provoking themes:  totalitarianism (more specifically fascism, extreme far right of the political spectrum), inequality and class warfare, oppression, the abuse of social media and political manipulation, eventual uprising and revolution, hope, courage and sacrifice, and the psychological consequences of taking human lives. These are the thematic elements that make this film stand out among others.


Moreover, the film further addresses the personal feelings of the hunger games victors in the aftermath of the games in the first film...how they feel as a result of killing others. The film also takes time to further develop the love triangle relationship between Katniss, Gale and Peeta...Although Katniss' feelings with Gale (childhood sweetheart) remains unchanged, it is noticeable that Katniss really cared about Peeta and starting to fall in love with him as the film progresses. This makes the entire film comes across as far more complex, heartfelt than its predecessor.


At the young age of 23, Jennifer Lawrence managed to pull out such a great performance to carry the film and letting the audience feel emotionally engaged throughout the film. Although the scope of the film is getting bigger, the film never ceases to focus on Katniss' feelings, about how she deals with the situation. The set (jungle arena) and costume designs were amazing this time around as they get a bigger budget (Jennifer looks good in the 'wedding' dress).


However, the film does have its flaws. Most of the thrills of the tournament (to see more life surviving skills, danger or traps) are left out in order to develop the story. We don't really get to know the contestants in detail (other than they're the previous champions of the games), they're just there simply to be killed by others due to the tight-writing for the tournament scenes. It is not further explained in the film either on why some participants willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save others whom they barely know (possibly for the greater good as Katniss has become a symbol of hope for all the districts?). Furthermore, the shaky-cam filming for some of the action scenes hurts the film as well.


As mentioned in the title, this film is truly 'catching fire', exceeds expectations and further promises an epic conclusion near the end of the film. Now, I'm really excited and looking forward to see how Mockingjay is going to be adapted into two films (Part 1 & 2) to provide a satisfying conclusion to the series. Highly recommended.


Rating: 9/10



  • "Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience. (Howard Zinn) 
  • Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made" (Oscar Wilde)





Saturday, 16 November 2013

Movie Review: Stuck in Love

Stuck in Love is a heart-warming and satisfying romantic drama film about love relationships in a rather dysfunctional family of writers, each with different perspectives on love. The film jumps back and forth among three key storylines, explores the complexities of love - first love and heartbreak, loss, separation and eventual reconciliation, family relationships...that each character experiences without being overly melodramatic.
 Sam's skepticism of love and her unwillingness to engage in a meaningful relationship due to her parent's broken relationship or Rusty's first love and eventual heartbreak makes this film worth a watch.The film shows that no matter how much you love a person, you can't fix that person, the only one that could do that is yourself (Rusty eventual breakdown after realizing how broken Kate is, and that he couldn't help her in any way). It's also about having faith and develop trust in others, accepting and face life's challenges and enjoy the love that we experience along the way (Sam's eventual opening of her heart and returning love with Lou after countless meaningless flings).
The story is a bit all over the place at times, but the good characterization and lovable casts make it enjoyable to watch. The actors, especially the young ones, managed to provide decent convincing performances, bringing depth to their own specific roles.However, it does feel a bit too superficial as all the actors chosen to be in the film are deemed too attractive to be writers.

Overall, it's a feel-good romantic drama that's worth your time. Recommended.

Rating:8/10


Good Quotes from Stuck In Love:
"For love, there are two kinds of people in this world: hopeless romantics and realists. A realist just sees that face and packs it in with every other pretty girl they've ever seen before. On the other hand, the hopeless romantic becomes convinced that God put them on Earth to be with that one person."

"I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark." - What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

 





Friday, 15 November 2013

Short Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Since I've done a review of The Way Way Back, I think I should do a short, quick review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower as it is a truly wonderful coming-of-age romance drama film that successfully captures the highs and lows of growing up - dealing with the trait of introversion, studying hard to get in a good university, feels the taste of first love, meeting unforgettable friends that help us through life and the fear of losing them, to find their true self and sense of belonging to move on to the next stage of life...
The reasons why I'm impressed by this film so much because it felt personal, relatable, sincere and earnest. Moreover, the film remains true to the novel as the writer of the book takes the unusual step of writing (the screenplay) and directing his work. Truly grateful to the actors who managed to provide good performances to make the key characters spring to life. It's also a shame that I didn't watch this film on its release date last year. Very highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

A good quote from the film: "Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we're nothing?" "We accept the love we think we deserve."

Note: The film title means the benefits/privilege of being a loner, a shy person who no one really knows, but could be an interesting person if one actually talks to them.


Movie Review: The Way Way Back

 The Way Way Back is a remarkable, satisfying coming-of-age drama film about a 'wallflower', Duncan gradually finds his way in life, overcome his lack of confidence and learn some important life lessons by a cool water park manager and a nice girl who approaches and shows him the meaning of life and reveal his inner potential as a person.
Despite its familiar themes (a nice woman falls in love with a nasty jerk for some weird reason, a nice girl appears to provide comfort, etc), the film manage to create an impact by showing characters you can somehow relate to and let you empathize with them. There are many moments or scenes in the film that you might have experienced yourself in life.
The film done a great job in conveying the underlying themes throughout the entire film - There's no sets of definitive 'patterns' and 'rules' in life that you have to follow...life is a journey, you got to find your own way, a path that you never regret. Sometimes, life's seemingly insignificant moments are the ones that truly makes you happy and contented. But keep in mind that in real life, there won't be a nice attractive girl come looking to provide you solace (If there is, you're damn lucky).
Overall, this film is very familiar with another brilliant coming-of-age drama, The Perks of being a Wallflower but still wonderful in its own way. It's a shame that not many people interested to watch it or even know that the film exists.

Rating: 8.5/10








Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Movie Review: Thor The Dark World

 Thor The Dark World is another highly entertaining, action-packed sci-fi fantasy action thriller with some surprising plot twists and surprises throughout the film. The sequel surpasses the first film for its stunning depiction of the other realms (especially Asgard, which is lacking in the first film). The artistic designs for the costumes, weapons, set designs were nothing short of impressive and visually spectacular.

The film has a fine balance of action, humor and emotion. There are more enjoyable action scenes and several emotional scenes involving Loki in this sequel which proven to be better than the first film. The climatic battle and Dark Elves' assault on Asgard were shot brilliantly. There are several interesting cameo appearances which proven to be a delight to the Marvel fans as well. The lead actors managed to deliver charming and heartfelt performances and most of the character interactions in the film were great and handled very well (especially Thor and Loki's constant bicker).
However, the film has a rather short running time (a mere 112 mins) considering the number of characters they have included in the film. The characters of Odin, Heimdall, Sif or Frigga are simply not given enough screen time, which is a minor disappointment. The Asgardian army are shown to be too weak considering their ability to invent flying ships or even an Einstein-Rosen bridge (Bifrost Bridge). The main antagonist of the film, Malekith is not shown to be compelling enough or rather generic, his intentions are not fully elaborated and has to rely on two other villains to further the narrative. 
There are some unnecessary characters and scenes in the film (Notably overly-long scenes involving Ian or Richard). Strangely enough, the Dark Elves have their own alien language but the Asgardians don't (they speak English instead). The love triangle between Thor, Sif and Jane was not explored at all in the film.
Furthermore, how Thor managed to arrive in New York in The Avengers film is not further explained in this sequel as well(The Bifrost Bridge has been destroyed and it is expected for the sequel to provide a proper explanation...The Avengers film just briefly mentioned that Odin have to find considerable amount of dark matter to get Thor to Earth).
Overall, the film still succeeds as a decent entertainment and remain as a wonderful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that will not disappoint the fans and satisfy most casual moviegoers.

Rating: 8/10

Note: As for all Marvel films, be sure to wait for the mid-credit and after-credit scenes.






Little Things you should know/remember before watching Marvel films


*UPDATED* Oct 2016


Norse Mythology
Norse mythology is based on the Norse religion, the religious traditions of the Vikings prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia. Note that there are still people worshipping the Norse gods, albeit a small minority. The following information are taken from fictional version of Norse mythology by Marvel.

Yggdrasil - The 'great ash tree/world tree' that holds together earth, heaven, and hell by its roots and branches in Norse mythology, in connection to which the nine realms exist.

Ragnarok - The Doom of the Gods. In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of future great battle events, which was foretold to ultimately result in the death of the Aesir gods (Odin, Thor, Frigga, Tyr, Loki, Baldur, Heimdall, Idun, Bragi), during which the nine realms are destroyed and subsequently re-created.


 The nine realms are:
  1. Asgard, the world of the Aesir (Asgardians), ruled by Odin, the Allfather, king of Asgard, father of Thor, adopted father of Loki.
  2. Vanaheim, the world of the Vanir (sister race of the Asgardians), home of the Warriors Three - Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun, Frigga - Queen of Asgard, 
  3. Svartalfheim, the world of the Svartálfar (Dark Elves), ruled by Algrim the Strong/Kurse (during the absence of Malekith, the Accursed).
  4. Midgard, the world of humans.
  5. Jotunheim, the world of the Jötunn (frost giants), ruled by Laufey, father of Loki, King of the Frost Giants.
  6. Alfheim, the world of the Ljósálfar (Light Elves). It is ruled by Frey, a Vanir, father of Frigga.
  7. Niflheim, realm of death, also known as Hel, world of the Dead, ruled by Hela, daughter of Loki.
  8. Nidavellir, the world of the Dvergr (dwarves), ruled by Eitri, King of the Dwarves, one of the greatest of Forgers and weapon makers in all 9 realms.
  9. Muspelheim, the world of the Muspeli (Fire Demons), ruled by Surtur, the flame giant/destroyer, great enemy of the Asgardian ruler Odin and his son Thor.

Thanos 
Born from Titan, known as the The Mad Titan/Avatar of Death, the feared Conqueror of the universe, the Dark Lord/Intergalactic Warlord, master of the Other, leader of the Chitauri army, worshipper (love) of Death (the cosmic entity), threat to the universe and the future primary antagonist of Avengers. Being widely considered as the strongest being in the galaxy.

Chitauri Army - Powerful cybernetic alien race, a hybrid between organic beings and machines. Leviathans are intergalactic beasts and warships for the Chitauri. The Chitauri army were granted to Loki by Thanos as his personal army to conquer Earth in exchange for the Tesseract, but were defeated by the Avengers. They're mainly controlled by a Mother Ship which never shows on the battlefield, and acts as one during war. They have superhuman physical attributes, energy-based rifles and flying vehicles.

Celestials 
Being referred to as "space gods", they are gigantic ancient armoured god-like beings which existed near the birth of the universe and created life and death along with the Marvel multiverse. They're capable of moving or destroying planets at will and have existed long before the Asgardians and Dark Elves. The severed head of a deceased Celestial, becomes an intergalactic port station called 'Knowhere'.
A living Celestial who wielded the Power infinity stone to destroy planets

Infinity Stones/Gems 

6 immensely powerful stones that represents soul, time, space, mind, reality, power. Before the universe was created, the Infinity Stones existed as a singular force, tied to different aspects of the Universe. It is said that whoever holds all the six stones in the Infinity Gauntlet will gain omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and absolute dominion over all realities. It was created by the four cosmic entities: Entropy, Infinity, Death, Eternity.
Each of the stones possesses unique capabilities. It is said that only beings of immense power can wield the stones. It was shown by Tivan/The Collector that the Celestials used the Orb (Power stone) as a means to place judgement on worlds (by destroying them). It is said by Tivan/The Collector that only once in recorded history, nine cosmic beings (Elders of the Universe) attempted to harness the power stone by linking themselves together. Unfortunately, the energy of the stone was too powerful that all nine beings were disintegrated after a few short moments.

The Infinity Stones can appear in different shapes and states. Their power can only be contained and controlled by The Infinity Gauntlet.

Represents
Name
Powers/Capabilities
Current Location

Space
Tesseract
Capable of providing instant access to any location throughout the universe if used correctly, moving any object anywhere through reality.
Asgard
Mind
blue crystal on the Chitauri Scepter
Capable of controlling minds of others, fire powerful blast of energy, communicate across space through a form of astral projection
Earth
 
Reality
Aether
a dark, red, viscous liquid that’s capable of converting matter into dark matter, and seeks out host bodies in order to draw strength from their life force, granting that person immense strength and power, but drains their life energy that would eventually kills them. The Dark Elves know how to control the stone’s capabilities.
The Collector’s Museum
Power
Orb
Capable of annihilating any lifeforms or entire planets, granting the user great cosmic power. The Orb was created by the Celestials to contain the stone’s power.
Nova Corps
 -
Soul
 -
 -
 -


Time
 Eye of Agamotto
 Allows the user to control over the past, present and future, including seeing into the past, creating time loops, slowing down or reversing the flow of time and, traveling through time. 
 Kamar-Taj

 Infinity Gauntlet - An artifact that allows the user to hold and control all the 6 powerful infinity stones/gems together.
Current Location: Asgardian Weapons Vault (right), Thanos (left).

Thanos with Infinity Gauntlet (together with all 6 infinity stones)

Taneleer Tivan/The Collector - One of the Elders of the Universe, virtually immortal, wielder of the Power Primordial, among the first of the universe's races to become sentient in the wake of the Big Bang. In order to provide a meaning to his life, he started to collect countless lifeforms, artifacts throughout the universe for 'safekeeping'. Knowhere is the home of The Collector's Museum.

Cosmic Entities - Entropy, Infinity, Death, Eternity
A group of cosmic entities responsible for the creation of the Infinity Stones. Since the beginning of time, these cosmic entities was "born" along with the universe itself. Entropy's purpose is destruction and Death's purpose is to reduce life while Eternity's purpose is creation and Infinity represents all space in the universe and its expansion. Together they keep the cycles of creation and destruction in balance. They have no true physical form, but can manifest in forms to interact with other physical entities. In the comics, Thanos is in love with Death, to the point that he is willing to destroy half the universe just to please her.
Death (top left), Eternity (bottom left), Entropy (top right), Infinity (bottom right)
with six infinity stones in the middle

In Guardians of the Galaxy, the walls of the Temple Vault on Morag displayed the murals of the four entities.
The Collector showed a hologram of the mural when he explained the history of the infinity stones to the Guardians as well.

Dormammu
Inter-dimensional conqueror, ruler of the Dark dimension. One of the most powerful mystical entities in the universe. Dormammu uses pure energy and matter, to increase his power, always seeking to consume more which leads him to many other worlds, including Earth. Within the Dark dimension, he claims his power rivals that of Zeus, the Olympian God and is powerful enough to destroy the mighty Celestials. He even once tried to tackle Eternity himself, the living embodiment of the entire universe. 
 Faltline - Dark Dimension
The Dark Dimension is the home to all kinds of unsavory species and characters (Dormammu). It contains access to many other pocket dimensions, giving Dormammu passage to places like Asgard or Earth. The Dark Dimension is a place of incredible energy that Dormammu sought to combine it with his own power making him ridiculously strong and a match for anyone Marvel has to offer. 

The Living Tribunal
It was shown in the Doctor Strange film that Mordo wields a weapon he names as "The Staff of the Living Tribunal". He explains that some "magic" is too powerful to be sustained by humans alone, so artifacts are used to carry the burden.
The Living Tribunal is the embodiment of the Marvel Multiverse, a cosmic entity that oversees and maintains balance in all realities of the Marvel Multiverse, including the current universe and all other alternate universes. Its three faces represent "Equity" (hooded face), "Vengeance" (partially shrouded face), and "Necessity" (fully shrouded face).
He serves as a judge of these realities with virtually limitless power. It usually intervenes when the cosmic balance is seriously threatened and prevents the Infinity Stone from being used in unison. He is second to highest entity, "The One Above All" - the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God of the Marvel Multiverse.

Ravagers - An intergalactic group of thieves, bounty hunters and smugglers (space pirates). The leader of Ravagers is the blue-skinned Centaurian, Yondu.

Nova Corps - An intergalactic police force that keeps peace throughout the galaxy. Its main headquarters is at Xandar, the homeworld of the Xandarians. The leader of the Nova Corps is Nova Prime Irani Rael. The Nova Corp runs an interstellar prison facility called The Kyln.

Kree - a technologically advanced militaristic, blue-skinned humanoid alien species from the planet Hala that resemble the human race but far stronger as their bodies are different having adapted to various environmental characteristics on their home planet.
The Kree have been at war with the people of planet Xandar, until a peace treaty between the two planets is signed. However, Ronan, a radical high-ranking member of the Kree military, forge an alliance with the dark lord Thanos, promising to find him the Orb in exchange for the forces necessary to annihilate Xandar.

Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Gamora - The last of the Zehoberi race, adopted daughter of Thanos. Known as the galaxy's deadliest assassin or the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy.
  • Rocket - A genetically and cybernetically enhanced Earth raccoon, giving him sentient intelligence (by an unknown alien race). Also a gunslinging mercenary.
  • Peter Quill/Star Lord - A human/alien hybrid (In the comics, he's the son of Jason of Sparta, Emperor of the Spartoi Empire, however, director James Gunn has confirmed that his father will not be the same character in the comics) who was kidnapped and raised by Yondu during the 1980s on Earth. Leader of the Guardians, pilot of the intergalactic spaceship Milano, lived in space for 26 years. 
  • Groot - An intelligent, gentle tree-like organism from the species Flora colossus, planet X. Groot's robust and heavyweight physiology causes the organs of his acoustic generation to become stiff and inflexible, limits his speech to the phrase, "I am Groot."  Frequent partner-in-crime of Rocket.
  • Drax the Destroyer - Origin unknown. Driven only by desire for revenge after Ronan murdered his wife and child. 
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Iron Legion - a group of remote-controlled Iron Man armours (by J.A.R.V.I.S.), ranging from Mark VIII to XLI (Iron Man 3), that serve as Tony's main support in battle after he realizes that Iron Man and War Machine might not be enough to defend the Earth from the next alien invasion. The Iron Legion is used to guard civilians when the Avengers are fighting dangerous battles. Most of the armors were all destroyed by Stark's "Clean slate" self-destruct protocol by the end of Iron Man 3 but it seems like Tony has started to recreate the Iron Legion after the Avengers become independent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ulysses Klaue/Klaw - a black-market arms dealer, smuggler and gangster operating out of South Africa, a former acquaintance of Tony Stark’s from his weapons-dealing days. In the comics, Klaw was responsible for the death of Black Panther's (another superhero) father, T'Chaka.

Vibranium - A very rare, indestructible metal that was first discovered by researchers from the fictional African nation of Wakanda (Black Panther's birthplace) during the early 20th Century. Klaue and Stark wanted Vibranium due to its unique vibration, lightweight (stronger than steel and a third of the weight) and kinetic energy-absorbing properties. It's the material that makes up Captain America's shield.

Chitauri HYDRA soldiers - After the revelation of HYDRA's existence and its infiltration within S.H.I.E.L.D in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Avengers decided to raid all HYDRA outposts to stop Baron Wolfgang von Strucker's human experiments and retrieve the Chitauri scepter. During the raid, it was shown that the HYDRA operatives wear Chitauri armour that they've collected after the Battle of New York in The Avengers.

Dr. Helen Cho - a geneticist, one of the pioneers of synthetic tissue technology and a friend of Bruce Banner. She's an ally of the Avengers.

The Twins:
 Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff) - superhuman speed and reflexes
Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) - telekinesis, hypnosis, and energy projection
 First appearance: Post-credits sequence of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 

Natives of the Eastern European country of Sokovia who grew up together. They became orphaned at the age of 10 when a mortar shell (with Stark label on it, that's why they hated Tony) hit their living quarters and they defend and look out for themselves and each other since then. Wanda and Pietro, along with other volunteers from their town, undergo a series of HYDRA experiments under the supervision of Wolfgang von Strucker, where they were exposed to energy from the Chitauri Scepter and achieved superpowers as a result, which had fatal effects on the others.

In comics, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are born mutants and children of Magneto of X-Men.  But due to the rights owned by 20th Century Fox over mutants and X-Men, "mutant" is replaced by "Miracle or Enhanced" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Vision
  • Density Manipulation: Capable of altering his own density.
  • Enhanced Strength: Can increase physical strength, by raising his own density.
  • Levitation: Capable of flight, by lowering his own density below the density of the atmosphere.
  • Intangibility: Can make his density so low he can phase through solid objects.
  • Energy Beams: Able to project intense energy beams from his forehead. 
A highly-advanced synthetic android made of vibranium and synthetic human tissues. Originally Tony Stark's A.I. system/companion,  J.A.R.V.I.S. that runs his mansion and Stark/Avengers Tower and serves as a user interface in all his Iron Man armours. His body was created by Ultron and scientist Dr.Helen Cho and programmed by efforts of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Vision is considered worthy of lifting Thor's hammer, Mjolnir.