Sunday, 31 August 2014

Movie Review: Café. Waiting. Love (等一个人咖啡)

Previous Review: Lucy
Next Review: Temporary Family


Café. Waiting. Love (等一个人咖啡) is a romantic comedy film based on the novel of the same name written by Giddens Ko (柯景腾/九把刀) , who's also the writer/director for the 2011 Taiwanese hit that captures the hearts of audiences of all ages, You Are the Apple of My Eye (那些年,我们一起追的女孩). The film is directed by Jiang Jin lin (江金霖) instead of Giddens Ko himself (but he's still the screenwriter and producer of the film). So this time around, did they manage to replicate the success of the previous film? Unfortunately, no.



The story is about Si Ying, a college freshman who gets a part-time job at "Café. Waiting. Love" coffee shop because she develops an instant crush for a good-looking popular boy named Zeyu, who's a frequent customer at the café, after he 'saved' her from a bus accident. Si Ying eventually meets with Ah Tuo, a 'legendary' college senior at the coffee shop. The two eventually become good friends after Si Ying daringly stands up for him when he is teased by his friends. As time passes, Si Ying learned that Ah Tuo is a passionate, honest, straightforward and sincere young man who has been working multiple part-time jobs to realize his dream of travelling around the world and formed a bond with him. On the other hand, Ah Tuo is also deeply attracted to her kindness and unique sense of justice. However, Si Ying only sees Ah Tuo as nothing more than a good friend because of her crush on Zeyu, until finally when he decides to leave Taiwan for his travels then she finally realizes where her heart truly belongs.


While You are the Apple of My Eye (那些年,我们一起追的女孩is a memorable, feel-good yet bittersweet romantic comedy that gives the audience a familiar, nostalgic feeling about real-life adolescent romantic relationships (which I gave a high rating of 8.5/10), the romance presented in this one is rather unrealistic, nonsensical and occasionally silly to the point that it feels like it could only happen in films. Moreover, the romance is hampered by the film's lack of seriousness and unrealistic portrayal of the characters. (Come on, who is stupid enough to be willing to dress in a bikini and carry a cabbage for long periods of time and delayed his graduation for 7 years just because he lost a few college bets?) The character romances are handled rather poorly as the film lacks coherency and doesn't take itself seriously enough to let the audience feel that the romance is a serious matter.


The film is filled with too many cheesy, corny and cringe-worthy dialogues that makes some scenes really unbearable to watch. Aside from the ridiculous 'supernatural' or 'magical' scenes between the leads involving hot sausages and bowls of dou hua (Chinese hot sweet soybean pudding), the film also comes with a few surprising plot twists that doesn't make much sense either. In my opinion, the café owner's (played by Vivian Chow) tragic love story is incredibly overdramatic to the point that it feels artificial and hard to relate with. Some of the romantic subplots are not resolved properly...the café's lesbian barista's feelings for the cafe owner is not addressed further or touched upon later on in the film.


However, I have to admit that the film is beautifully shot, well-edited and wonderfully casted. Despite its silliness, some of the slapstick humour does work in some cases and manage to provide the audience a few laughs here and there. Jiang Jin lin (江金霖) and Giddens Ko (柯景腾/九把刀) do know how to pick suitable good-looking stars with sufficient appeal (and knows how to act as well) to attract the audiences. The assembled cast (especially Vivian Sung 宋芸樺, the female lead) tried their best to convey the necessary character emotions convincingly to the audience.


Although the romance between the lead characters is there, the film doesn't express its themes well enough. Basically, the film tries to show us the difference between love and infatuation. Since infatuation can sometimes lead to real love, these feelings are most often confused for each other by many people. Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by passion without reason and depends largely on physical attraction. When you experience infatuation, you tend to have difficulty concentrating and your mind is totally consumed by thoughts of the other person. You constantly wondering about what they do, who they're with and your mind filled with uncertainties about whether they really love you or not. Eventually, you develop an idealized vision of what this person is like without truly knowing him/her at all (by imposing various qualities we desire most in that person). This is the reason why, each and everyone of us end up spending most of our time and energy waiting for that someone at some point in our lives...hoping that one day the idealized version of the one we're waiting for eventually appears.


However, true love is something different. Love is a tender, passionate, intense affection for another person. Love is a gradual process that only deepens with the passage of time. You can tell this person anything about yourself...he/she is someone you can express yourself freely, a person you can fully trust and confide your secrets with. You tend to feel safe, secure, peaceful and comfortable when you're with that person. Most importantly, you truly care for the person even after knowing his/her faults and flaws. There's respect, mutual acceptance and tolerance.

The film has mistakenly emphasized the wrong elements in the wrong places at the wrong time. The central theme of a story should be the main point you're trying to make or the message you want to convey to your audience. Without it, the storyline becomes muddled and the film will lose its focus and direction.


Overall, this film is a massive letdown that didn't live up to my expectations. If you're fan of the novel or Giddens Ko (柯景腾/九把刀), you might be able to sit through most of the silly scenes and forgive its flaws and absurdities. But for me, it's definitely a miss.



Rating: 5.5/10



Previous Review: Lucy
Next Review: Temporary Family


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Concise Explanation about Lucy abilities and other details


The purpose of this article is to provide further explanation about the abilities of the titular heroine, Lucy,  who appears in the film, Lucy (and other details about the film as well).


For my review of the film, please visit this link:


SPOILER ALERT: This article is mainly about the film Lucy. Please do not read this article if you haven’t watched the film and if you do not wish to know the specific details of the film.

Note: The following explanations are provided based on my understanding of the film and what I know about the basics of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. If there are any mistakes found in this article, please kindly provide any comments below so I can rectify it.


Some people are complaining about the fact that the science behind your film — the whole idea that humans only use 10 percent of their brains — is not true. What’s your response to that?
Writer/Director Luc Besson's response:
“It’s totally not true. Do they think that I don’t know this? I work on this thing for nine years and they think that I don’t know it’s not true? Of course I know it’s not true! But, you know, there are lots of facts in the film that are totally right. The CPH4, even if it’s not the real name — because I want to hide the real name — this molecule exists and is carried by the woman at six weeks of pregnancy. Yes, it’s true that every cell in our body is sending 1,000 messages per second, per cell. And in fact, the theory of the 10 percent is an old theory from the ’60s. It’s never been proven. Some people worked on it, and it sounds like it’s not the truth. What is true is that we’re using only 15 percent of our neurons at one time. We never use 100 [percent]. We use 15 percent on [the] left, and then after, we use 15 percent on the right. But we never use more than 15 percent at one time.
The 10 percent is a metaphor in a way. So that’s why I was not bothered by that. I’m always amazed by these people who become scientists at the last minute and go, “This is wrong!” Of course; it’s a film. [Laughs.] What’s more interesting — more than the 10 percent or the 15 percent — is that if we get the capacity of full intelligence, in the film, we say that the first step is the control of the cell, the second step is the control of others, the third is the control of matter, and the fourth is the control of time. And I talked to a lot of scientists, and they believe that at least the first three are possible. They don’t say it’s true, but it’s at least logical. The good thing is when you take a lot of things that are totally right and mix them very well with a few things that are wrong, at the end of the film, you think everything is real. And that’s the magic of film.”

  • What if the synaptic networks of our brain are so perfectly connected that we are capable of transmit more information at one time?
  • What if we have access to all our motory functions, deepest memories and knowledge in fractions of a second?
  • What if we are capable of using 100% of our cerebral capacity, consciously at the same time (all regions of the brain are pushed to the limits and we are able to control the subconscious regions of the brain)?
  • What would happen if a person eventually gains complete control/mastery of elementary/subatomic particles that exist in the quantum realm?


10% brain myth - We use only ten percent of our brains.

Humans use most of their brain capacity in various ways. The notion that humans use only “10%” of their brain is proven to be false, despite the fact that how the brain actually works still remains a mystery. Most parts of our brain are not accessed consciously but rather subconsciously most of the time. 
  • Conscious activity occurs when you’re solving daily work issues, thinking about your loved ones or even as simple as trying to remember where you put your wallet. These conscious activities occur in different regions of the brain. 
  • Subconscious activity occurs when we are doing simple activities such as walking, jumping, keeping the body in balance, dreaming or even lifting your hand to reach for your cup of coffee. There’s a reason why you can think about anything in your mind while walking around in the streets.


According to neurologist Barry Gordon, our brain is active almost all the time and we use virtually every part of the brain for our daily routines. Neuroscientist Barry Beyerstein even provide some evidence to disprove the myth:
  • Various studies of brain damage: If we were only using 10% of our brains, then any trauma to our brain wouldn't be a serious problem. However, every single medical case of brain damage proves that the reality is quite the opposite. Studies show that even the slightest damage to small areas of the brain would have catastrophic effects on a person.
  • Brain imaging (neuroimaging): Technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allow the activity of the living brain to be monitored. They reveal that even during sleep, all parts of the brain show some level of activity. Only in the case of serious damage does a brain have “silent” areas.
  • Localization of function: Our brain has distinct regions for different kinds of information processing. Decades of research have gone into mapping functions onto areas of the brain and there is no part of the brain that is absolutely not functioning.
  • Neural disease: Unused brain cells have a tendency to degenerate. If 90% of our brain were inactive, autopsy of adult human brains would reveal a large-scale degeneration.

Brain scans have shown that no matter what one is doing, brains are always active (but not all regions of the brain). Some areas are more active at any one time than others. The brain is enormously costly to maintain compared with the rest of the body, in terms of oxygen and nutrient consumption. It requires up to 20% of the body's energy—more than any other organ—despite making up only 2% of the human body by weight. If only 10% of our brain are useful, it will be a large survival advantage to humans with smaller, more efficient brains instead. It is highly unlikely that natural selection would allow such redundancy to happen.

Sources:



C.P.H.4

It is unknown what the CPH4 real name is. In the film, it is said to be a natural molecule that pregnant women produce after six weeks of pregnancy in very, very tiny quantities and is intended to promote fast cellular growth for the fetus.  From the description, it could be referring to Thyroid hormones as they’re crucial for brain maturation during fetal development. They are also required for normal cell differentiation, development, and body growth. The following is obtained from wikipedia:

“Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) is released from hypothalamus by 6 – 8 weeks, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secretion from fetal pitutary is evident by 12 weeks of gestation, and fetal production of thyroxine (T4) reaches a clinically significant level at 18–20 weeks. Fetal triiodothyronine (T3) remains low (less than 15 ng/dL) until 30 weeks of gestation, and increases to 50 ng/dL at term. Fetal self-sufficiency of thyroid hormones protects the fetus against e.g. brain development abnormalities caused by maternal hypothyroidism.
The thyronines act on nearly every cell in the body. They act to increase the basal metabolic rate, affect protein synthesis, help regulate long bone growth (synergy with growth hormone) and neural maturation, and increase the body's sensitivity to catecholamines (such as adrenaline) by permissiveness. The thyroid hormones are essential to proper development and differentiation of all cells of the human body. These hormones also regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism, affecting how human cells use energetic compounds. They also stimulate vitamin metabolism. Numerous physiological and pathological stimuli influence thyroid hormone synthesis.”

However, there is also a molecule known as CPH4 in medical science. Its full name is 6-carboxytetrahydropterin synthase. This is an enzyme found in the cells of millions of organisms, but primarily in bacteria. Enzymes in cells are used to produce other types of molecules that are necessary for the cell to function. The CPH4 enzyme produces Queuosine. Queuosine is a modified nucleoside that is present in certain tRNAs in bacteria and eukaryotes and it essentially helps to hold the tRNA of bacteria cells together. The Queuosine modification may have the potential to influence cellular growth and differentiation by codon bias-based regulation of protein synthesis for discrete mRNA transcripts. However, there is no evidence to support that it has any impact on human intelligence or brain capacity.

Sources:



Lucy - Australopithecus afarensis


“The first woman was named Lucy.” In the film, we saw Lucy drinking water by the stream. Lucy is the common name of AL 288-1, several hundred pieces of bone representing about 40% of the skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis. It was discovered in 1974 at Hadar in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia's Afar Depression. The discovery was extraordinary and provided an enormous amount of scientific evidence about human ancestors. Lucy is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago and is classified as a hominid.

It remains unsure whether Lucy is truly the first human ancestor or not as there’s another older hominid specimen found in 1994. Ardi is the fossilized skeletal remains of a human-like Ardipithecus ramidus. Ardi is the most complete early hominid specimen and is estimated to have lived 4.4 million years ago. As of now, the discovery of Ardipithecus raised a lot of scientific debate regarding its place in human evolution and it is unconfirmed whether Ardi’s species eventually developed into Homo sapiens as Ardi cannot be a common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans due to its skeletal feature.

Sources:


Lucy's abilities

Note: The abilities that Lucy possesses share many similarities with a character, Dr. Manhattan in the film Watchmen (2009).

Omnipotent:

  • Enhanced physical abilities: perfect marksmanship, extreme agility, instantaneous reflexes, fast absorption of knowledge, immunity to pain and fear, etc

“100 billion neurons per human, of which only 50 percent are activated. There are more connections in the human body than there are stars in the galaxy. We possess a gigantic network of information to which we have almost no access.” – Professor Norman

“Learning's always a painful process. Like when you're little and your bones are growing and you ache all over. Do you believe I can remember the sound of my own bones growing? Like this grinding under the skin. Everything's different now. Like sounds are music that I can understand, like fluids. It's funny, I used to be so concerned with who I was and what I wanted to be, and now that I have access to the furthest reaches of my brain, I see things clearly and realize that what makes us "us" — it's primitive. They're all obstacles. Does that make any sense? Like this pain you're experiencing. It's blocking you from understanding. All you know now is pain. That's all you know, pain.” - Lucy

The brain controls all the motory functions of the body. Any reflexes are controlled by the brain. Pain is a sensory feeling triggered by the brain to motivate the person to withdraw from damaging situations as soon as possible, to protect a damaged body part while it heals, and to avoid similar experiences in the future. If Lucy has full control of the ‘subconscious portion’ of her brain, she can simply turn off (or enhance it to full capacity) any brain sensory function at will. As she doesn't experience any pain, she no longer needs to be fearful of anything at all. However, this comes with heavy consequences.

“My cells are reproducing at a phenomenal speed, several million per second. I’m having trouble precisely evaluating the time of my death, but I doubt if I’ll last more than 24 hours.” - Lucy

Lucy’s body starts to destabilize and disintegrate due to information overload. The synapses of the neurons in Lucy’s brain have become so well-connected to the point it becomes extremely unstable. She is constantly pushing her brain to its limit without control. In order to sustain the rapid cell damage, she needs to consume large doses of the synthetic drug to sustain herself (C.P.H.4 is said to promote fast cellular growth).

  • The ability to interpret/decipher/control various electromagnetic waves (TVs, internet or cell phones)
“I can start to control other people’s bodies. Also I can control magnetic and electric waves, and — not all of them, just the most basic — television, telephone, radio. … I don't feel pain, fear, desire. It's like all things that make us human are fading away. It's like the less human I feel, all this knowledge about everything, quantum physics, applied mathematics, the infinite capacity of the cell's nucleus, they're all exploding inside my brain. All this knowledge. I don't know what to do with it.” – Lucy

“If you're asking me what to do with all this knowledge you're accumulating, I say, pass it on … just like any simple cell, going through time.” – Professor Norman

Particles have wave-like properties. If she is able to fully control subatomic particles at will, then most certainly she is capable of controlling various electromagnetic waves. If Lucy capable of understanding how subatomic particles behave in quantum realm, then deciphering electromagnetic waves into useful information would not be that difficult right?
  • Telepathy
A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. These signals between neurons occur via synapses, specialized connections with other cells. Neurons can connect to each other to form neural networks. Neurons are the core components of the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and the ganglia of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which comprises the central nervous system (CNS). Through accessing the target's brain synaptic networks, either by touching or through various electromagnetic waves, Lucy is able to read, control minds or knowing what the person thinks at that particular point in time.

After fully aware of the quantum realm, Lucy starts to lose grasp of the 'World' we see and losing her humanity - our macroscopic World. In the film, she briefly kisses the French policeman as a “reminder” that she’s still a human.


“I feel everything. Space, the air, the vibrations, the people, I can feel the gravity, I can feel the rotation of the Earth, the heat leaving my body, the blood in my veins. I can feel my brain. The deepest parts of my memory.” - Lucy

  • Immortality 
Energy or matter is essentially the same thing (Einstein's mass-energy equivalence). Elementary particles are essentially energies, they are unaffected by time and do not age. At the end of the film, Lucy has truly become a transcendent being. She no longer need a human body and she has become part of the energy or matter that exist in the Universe.

“I AM EVERYWHERE” - Lucy

  • Invulnerability 
Since energy cannot be destroyed, she is invulnerable to all harm.

Pierre Del Rio: [During the high-speed car ride through Paris with Lucy driving] “I'd rather be late than dead.”
Lucy: “We never really die.”


  • Manipulation (Transmutation) of matter or energy
It was shown in the film that as Lucy starts to disintegrate; she is losing her ‘boundary’…This strips her off from the fundamental forces that hold matter (her) together. As she starts to lose her body, for some unknown reasons, she can ‘see’ the quantum realm and able to learn how to control elementary particles at will. Therefore, she is able to alter her body size, colouration, density and strength, disintegrate other forms of matter and reconstruct them to a supercomputer. She is also able to 'see' the life energies of living beings.


“Every cell knows and talks to every other cell. They exchange a thousand bits of information between themselves per second. Cells join together forming a joint web of communication, which in turn forms matter. Cells get together, take on one form, deform, reform — makes no difference, they're all the same. Humans consider themselves unique, so they've rooted their whole theory of existence on their uniqueness. "One" is their unit of "measure" — but it’s not. All social systems we've put into place are a mere sketch: "one plus one equals two", that's all we've learned, but one plus one has never equaled two — there are in fact no numbers and no letters, we've codified our existence to bring it down to human size, to make it comprehensible, we've created a scale so we can forget its unfathomable scale.” - Lucy showing her perspectives on human concepts of measurement and distinction.

For example, let's take the comparisons between Newton's law of motion and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. In your opinion, which one is correct? Well, the answer is both are correct. But the difference between them is precision. The formulas and calculations proposed by Einstein are far accurate and precise compared to Newton's. Moreover, Einstein managed to provide an explanation about what gravity is but Newton doesn't. However, it doesn't mean that Newton's law is wrong. Both mathematical calculations actually provide a close approximation to how matter behaves on a macroscopic level.

Antimatter is part of ordinary or visible matter. Antimatter works exactly like matter and reacts to the same forces. You could say that antimatter is just like a mirror image of matter. Dark matter is something completely different than matter. Dark matter is a mysterious type of matter that no one can see but makes up 26.8% of the content of the Universe while visible matter (you, me, all stars and galaxies) accounts for only 4.9%. The rest of the Universe, 68.3% is made of dark energy. Nobody knows what it is yet. It is the biggest mystery in particle physics. So the question now is: Do our laws of physics apply to dark matter or energy? We do not know.

  • Force field projection 
If Lucy is capable of manipulating her surrounding atomic particles, she is able to generate a force field strong enough (by adjusting quantum mechanical wave functions and control quantum fields at will) to stop Mr. Jang’s second in command from escaping with the drugs.

  • Telekinesis 
All objects or matter are actually constructed by elementary particles themselves. With complete control over elementary particles, Lucy is able to move objects without physically touching them, even herself (levitation).

Omnipresent:

  • Quantum teleportation 
Since she has control over elementary particles and capable of converting surrounding particles into energy for matter transmutations, she is able to perform interplanetary and intergalactic teleportation by just physically decompose the target’s body and reconstruct the target’s body at a specified destination.

Teleportation can also be explained with quantum mechanical tunnelling. Quantum tunnelling is the instantaneous teleporting of the particle to a place outside the nucleus. In quantum mechanics, a particle has a finite probability of appearing on the other side of any physical barrier (regardless of its height or width) that classical mechanical physics says it shouldn't be able to. These barriers are any potential energy greater than the kinetic energy of the particle. Quantum tunnelling is a consequence of the wave-particle duality of matter.

 (Near) Omniscient: 

  • Atemporal (free from limitations of time) and able to perceive time in a non-linear perspective
Lucy: “Time is the only true unit of measure, it gives proof to the existence of matter, without time, we don’t exist.”
Professor Norman: “Time is Unity.”

Space and time are involved in a special relationship. So tight that you might wonder whether either of them could exist without the other. This interconnected relationship of space and time is called the space-time continuum, which means that any event that occurs in the universe has to involve both space and time. A simple example of this relationship would be that of two objects that cannot exist in the same space at the same time, they have to be in their 'own' space, or they might occupy the same space, but at different times.

According to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, time differs from place to place or time runs more quickly (the actual time speeds up) at higher altitudes because of a weaker gravitational force.
The effect of time passing at different rates in regions of different gravitational potential is called Gravitational time dilation. The lower the gravitational potential (closer to the centre of a massive object), the slower time passes.

Humans live in ‘macroscopic levels’ of space-time dimensions that are bound by the four fundamental forces – strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetic radiation and gravity. They travel relative to one another at slow speeds, generally unaware of the distortions in the passage of time and perceive time linearly.

Each of us, like any massive object, also warps the spatial fabric in close proximity to our bodies, although the comparatively small mass of a human body makes this a minuscule indentation. (Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University)

Humans are unable to reach the full awareness, understanding and complete control over ‘quantum (microscopic) levels’ of dimensions. However, a being (such as Lucy) who ‘sees’ or ‘lives in’ (later on) the quantum realm will perceive time in a non-linear perspective, whereby fully aware of and experiencing everything simultaneouslyunaffected by the space-time dimensions.

Lucy is capable of observing and controlling subatomic particles in the quantum realm (where all elementary particles that has “orbital speeds” that equals the speed of light). At quantum level, subatomic particles cannot be measured in terms of its exact position in space at a given time. The particles are also as likely to move backward in time as it is to move forward, and can appear to be in two places simultaneously. (Quantum uncertainty) Due to quantum superposition, she is able to see her own past, present and future simultaneously (non-linear perception of time). By physically touching others and gain access to their quantum realm, it is possible that she can also see their past, present and future simultaneously as well.




“Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge.” – Lucy

“…the crucial part of our philosophical reflection we have today: can we therefore conclude that humans are more concerned with “having” than “being”?” - Professor Norman

“One neuron, you're alive. Two neurons you're moving. And with movement, interesting things begin to happen.” – Professor Norman

“If its habitat is not sufficiently favourable, or nurturing, the cell will choose immortality, in other words, self-sufficiency and self management. On the other hand, if the habitat is favourable  they will choose to reproduce — that way, when they die, they hand essential information and knowledge to the next cell, which hands it down to the next cell, and so on. Thus knowledge and learning are handed down, through time.” – Professor Norman

 “We have been subordinate to our limitations until now. The time has come to cast aside these bonds and to elevate our consciousness to a higher plane. It is time to become a part of all things.” – Ghost in the Shell (1995)

“If you can analyze a comic book, a TV show, a movie and extract real correct science out of it, then superheroes are just the right tool for explaining science, allowing students to find science more interesting.” – James Kakalios


“It can also be argued that DNA is nothing more than a program designed to preserve itself. Life has become more complex in the overwhelming sea of information. And life, when organized into species, relies upon genes to be its memory system. So, man is an individual only because of his intangible memory... and memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind. The advent of computers and the subsequent accumulation of incalculable data has given rise to a new system of memory and thought parallel to your own. Humanity has underestimated the consequences of computerization.” –Ghost in the Shell (1995)





Movie Review: Lucy

Previous Review: Break Up 100
Next Review: Café. Waiting. Love


First and foremost, Lucy isn't exactly the typical sci-fi action film that you would expect. The film shares many similarities with Limitless (2011), Watchmen (2009), The Matrix (1999), The Tree of Life (2011, especially the abstract imagery of the Universe and our planet), Her (2013) and Transcendence (2014). The film has a slightly misleading neuroscience premise that's based on the age-old, silly '10% of brain' myth that most humans use only 10% (or less) of their brain capacity. In actual fact, humans use nearly 100% of their brains in various ways...with many parts of our brain are not accessed consciously but rather subconsciously most of the time. However, humans never actually use 100% of their cerebral capacity consciously at the same time (full control and pushes its limit).



The film is basically a fictional story about a woman who is being forced to work as a drug mule who manage to 'unlock' her entire brain capacity, consciously at the same time and gain exceedingly powerful physical and mental abilities after a packet of a newly-developed synthetic drug called "CPH4" breaks inside of her body. However, her body becomes highly unstable and starts to disintegrate due to the limitation of the human body and she needs more and more of the drug to sustain herself.

The film asks thought-provoking 'what ifs' questions that are meaningful, provocative and worthy of our attention:
  • What if the synaptic networks of our brain are so perfectly connected that we are capable of transmit more information at one time? 
  • What if we have access to all our motory functions, deepest memories and knowledge in fractions of a second? 
  • What if we are capable of using 100% of our cerebral capacity, consciously at the same time (all regions of the brain are pushed to the limits and we are able to control the subconscious regions of the brain)
  • Most importantly, what would happen if a person eventually gains complete control/mastery of elementary/subatomic particles that exist in the quantum realm?


The film gives some rather clear answers that may seem absurd, nonsensical or silly to many, but some of them actually makes perfect sense if you think about it carefully. However, it is true to say that the film borrowed a few scientific principles (the basics of quantum mechanics and brain functions) and embellished them a bit for entertainment purposes. At first, the person acquires various enhanced physical and mental capabilities: perfect marksmanship, extreme agility, instantaneous reflexes, fast absorption of knowledge, immunity to pain and fear...and subsequently, increasingly powerful abilities such as telepathy (through accessing the target's brain synaptic networks, either by touching or through various electromagnetic waves), telekinesis, the ability to interpret/decipher/control various electromagnetic waves (TVs, internet or cell phones) as particles have wave-like properties, atemporal (free from limitations of time) and able to perceive time in a non-linear perspective, clairvoyance (the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known senses), quantum teleportation across space-time continuum and matter or energy manipulation.


In short, the film is actually a mixture of facts and fiction. Some parts of the film do require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief from audiences as the writer/director has taken some creative liberties with its grand and rather ambitious sci-fi premise (Besson has admitted that this film is a lot more fiction than science). Although some of the main lead's abilities look downright silly and ludicrous, they're actually quite new and imaginative: The scenes where Lucy 'vomits' pure energy and light, deciphering phone signal waveforms, typing on two laptops while absorbing useful information at the same time or growing slithery black goo that attaches itself to surrounding matter in the room, converting energy from matter, to supply her with limitless power, etc.


While all facts are not necessarily 'true'; some fiction are not entirely lies either. Just that the 'world' around us behaves like so, we tend to perceive it like so. This doesn't mean that in other parts of the Universe, the same rules apply. While some people might find it hard to understand, all things, including living beings, consist of matter which has mass and each of them occupy a space-time dimension. We are bounded by the laws of motion and gravity. We are our own observer as time is relative while we're moving through space-time. For example, let's take the comparisons between Newton's law of motion and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. In your opinion, which one is correct? Well, the answer is both are correct. But the difference between them is precision. The formulas and calculations proposed by Einstein is far accurate and precise compared to Newton's. Einstein manage to provide an explanation about what gravity is but Newton doesn't. However, it doesn't mean that Newton's law is wrong. Both mathematical calculations really just provide a close approximation to how matter behaves on a macroscopic level.


Although the film's premise is not horrible or completely illogical, the execution is rather sloppy at places. The film shows the evolution of living things on this planet and the Universe by cutting in various shots of nature, the birth of the galaxy, scenes of animal species engaging in sexual intercourse for the purpose of reproduction, footage of cheetahs hunting gazelles, glimpses of a cell undergoing mitosis and splitting in two, a scene of an early hominid, Australopithecus drinking water from a lake a few million years ago, etc. Unfortunately, all these pieces just don't fit together nicely and seems rather out of place. There are numerous plot contrivances to allow characters to perform a certain action just to move the plot forward. There's no character development and backstory. The characters in the film don't have any significant emotional attachment to any other person on the screen.


Despite its shortcomings in characterization and plot, Scarlett Johansson managed to pull out a great performance to carry the film. Her panic shaking as she cries and begs for her life when she meets Mr.Jang for the first time or even when she wakes up after heavy sedation feels real and truly gives the feeling that she's in peril. Later on, when she is able to access her deepest memories and cry profusely during the phone conversation with her mum, it clearly shows her character's vulnerability. But as Lucy rapidly evolves, her lack of expression shows that she is gradually losing her emotions and humanity. It shows that she has truly become transcendent and no longer has any petty human concerns. On the other hand, Choi Min-sik done a great job as the merciless, frightening Korean drug kingpin, Mr.Jang. His presence on screen shows that he's not the man you would want to mess with. Unfortunately, Morgan Freeman doesn't have much to do with his character other than delivering exposition for the audience to know more about the premise.


In my opinion, this is by no means a terrible film, it's rather fast-paced, thought-provoking and entertaining. The purpose of science fiction is to seek answers for big important questions, to pique your interest or curiosity to further question, to find the truth and making sense of the world around us. This film succeeds in this aspect, despite its flaws. I believe that you'll appreciate this film more if you're willing to make an effort to take a step further to ponder and think, seek answers to extract the facts included in the film.



Rating: 7/10


Note: Please don't be stupid enough to ever think that drugs can make you smart. C.P.H.4 is just a fictional synthesized chemical drug that's based on (as mentioned in the film) a natural molecule that pregnant women produce after six weeks of pregnancy in very, very tiny quantities and is intended to promote fast cellular growth for the fetus (brain cells, bones, etc...said to be 6-carboxytetrahydropterin synthase or thyroid hormones) No one actually knows what other chemicals is included during the production of the synthetic drug. Even if the synthetic drug does exist, it doesn't mean that any humans can survive after taking large doses from it, only (possibly, maybe) a few selective humans can do that.



For those who are interested to know more about Lucy abilities and other specific details, please visit this link:


Previous Review: Break Up 100
Next Review: Café. Waiting. Love


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Movie Review: Break Up 100 (分手100次)

Next Review: Lucy


To be honest, I have to say that the first half of Break Up 100 is rather boring. The film introduced a lot of irrelevant supporting characters that doesn't provide much to the story other than serving as comic reliefs. Surprisingly, there's a lot of HK movie celebrity cameo appearances throughout the film but none of them are actually compelling or memorable enough to make a deep impression on the viewers. Occasionally, it tries hard to be funny with some rather unusual moments here and there, but nothing seems to work. It feels like the film doesn't have a plot. But just when you're ready to dismiss Break Up 100 as yet another one of those long line of disappointing romantic comedies, things start to improve, when the tone of the film starts to shift to become more serious in the second half of the film.


Break Up 100 is a story about an on-off couple, Sam (Ekin Cheng) and Nam (Chrissie Chau), who have been romantically involved for 8 years. Nam is the more mature and responsible of the two, who often worries about everything, including their future, while Sam is the irresponsible, carefree man-child, who doesn’t worry or think too much about anything. As a result, Nam becomes the dominating and controlling partner who often threatens to break up with Sam, pushing him to change his behaviour. They have already broken up and reconciled 99 times. For 99 times, she insists that he should be the one to apologise. When Sam finally decides to do something useful with his life, Barbara quits her job to support him. Unfortunately, the inevitable 100th break up happens again and this time it comes with serious repercussions and consequences that put the relationship to the test.


The film gives a realistic portrayal of love between Sam and Nam. It carefully avoids most of the cringe-worthy nonsense found in many romantic comedies we've seen in the past. The on-screen chemistry between the leads is convincing enough for the audience to watch them going through life together. Chrissie Chau's acting ability has improved a lot this time around and I believe this is her most mature and engaging performance I've seen so far. On the other hand, Ekin Cheng is convincing enough as the free-spirited childish adult who's willing to change for the sake of his partner.


As the film progresses, it poses some serious questions about relationships: Does true happiness in a relationship come from compromise and obedience or mutual understanding and acceptance? Should we compromise to the extent that we should sacrifice our own identity to become someone else to suit our partner needs?

The film tries to point out one of the major issues in today's relationships: As years goes by, you slowly discover your partner's imperfections and you would likely want your partner to change his/her faults and annoying habits to be the way you want. So you tend to respond by blaming, putting more emphasis on the rights and wrongs, insisting on changes and keep on reinforcing your ways on your partner. Sure, you can help them change their habits and behaviours, but not the core personality that defines the person...even if such changes would be in that person's best interest. In long term, they will start to lose their own personal identity due to overcompensation and it will push them to the point where they don't love themselves anymore. When we feel unappreciated, unaccepted and unloved by someone we hold dear, it’s easy to fall into apathy or despair. We will eventually feel that nothing we did really make a difference, thus losing the ability to love.


While it takes the film quite some time to reach these points, it does closely examine these questions and daringly gives an open ending that leaves its audience with much food for thought. Although Break Up 100 doesn’t have a great script to back its thoughtful premise, it does handles itself quite well by making it not too weepy or melodramatic. It's still worth a watch.


Rating: 6/10


“Love is like an affogato. It’s sweet, yet bitter, and hot, yet cold.” 



Previous Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Next Review: Lucy


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Previous Review: Guardians of the Galaxy
Next Review: Break Up 100


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a modern reboot of the 30-year-old popular franchise of the same name. This film is directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay. For those who are not familiar with the franchise, it's basically a story about four mutated turtles who grow up in the sewers, raised and trained by a mutated rat who knows the art of Ninjutsu to fight against the evil Foot Clan led by Ninja Master Oroku Saki, also known as The Shredder.



First and foremost, I have to say that there are some new changes to the origins and designs of the turtles in the film which might upset a lot of fans of the franchise. I'm probably one of the few who are fine with most of the changes. Honestly speaking, the original storyline is quite ridiculous: Splinter was originally the Ninja Master Hamato Yoshi's rat and he was smart enough to imitate his fighting moves to become a master without the mutagen (although the best storyline would be the current depiction of Splinter in the 2012 ongoing TV series, who is actually Hamato Yoshi himself). The four Turtles were accidentally exposed to the mutagen after a traffic accident with their young owner as a bystander...So you can't really say the film actually wrecked your childhood, TMNT fans.


Moreover, I find the new designs of the turtles to be quite realistic, modern, very distinctive looking and look cool. The CGI renders of the turtles look great on screen. However, my biggest gripe is the depiction of their size and strength in the film. Sure, they act like teenagers, but they don't look like teenagers. Their larger physique show that they're much too powerful compared with the villains (except Shredder with his suit) in the film. They even look stronger compared to their previous live-action or animation counterparts. These turtles are not to be messed with...they can crush vehicles easily, deliver punches and kicks strong enough to send you flying.


The best thing about the film is that it did a great job in portraying the turtles on screen, retaining the distinctive personalities of the turtles we've known for years:
  • Leonardo - the eldest, most disciplined tactical leader of the turtles who fights with two katanas, 
  • Donatello - the nerdy and geeky turtle with a bo staff, who's the brains of the group, 
  • Raphael - the hot-tempered, strong, aggressive and tough turtle who uses a pair of sai, 
  • Michelangelo - the wisecracking, easygoing, goofy but lovable turtle who uses a pair of nunchaku, who's essentially the provider of comic relief among the turtles.
Among the turtles, Raphael and Michelangelo are the ones that stand out in this film. The family dynamic between the turtles and Splinter was really good. The film shows the camaraderie of the turtles and how they interact with each other throughout the film...from the usual brotherly in-fighting between Raphael and Leonardo, with Raphael often challenges Leonardo's leadership, the mutual love, fear and respect for Splinter to the brotherly banter between Michelangelo and the turtles. Despite the fighting and arguments, they're still brothers and they really do love each other.


There's a few good character moments especially Mikey's crush on April, Raph's touching confession near the end of the film, the amusing turtles elevator scene, Mikey losing himself when Splinter tempting him with pizza, Mikey and Raph Victoria Secret ad. The film also delivers some great action scenes, notably the awesome Splinter VS Shredder fight, the spectacular, fast-paced, exciting snowy mountain action sequence and the climactic Turtles VS Shredder battle.


There's a lot more fun when the Turtles finally appear on screen. It's such a shame and rather unfortunate that the film gave too much screen time to April and her cameraman, Vernon. (It's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, so give them more screen time!) The human characters in the film are dull and forgettable and they're just sort of there to serve the plot. Not to mention, the film’s storyline has some noticeable flaws. It has numerous plot logic issues, plot contrivances, bad dialogues and some unnecessary human scenes. Occasionally, it also feels like there's some gaps between scenes throughout the film. Some of the character lines are poorly written as well.


Furthermore, the film lacks a memorable and compelling villain for the story, just like many of recent blockbuster films. There's a lack of character development for Shredder and Karai. Karai is merely a subordinate of Shredder, nothing more. Shredder is a strong villain for the turtles mostly because of the giant mechanical suit and there's not much depth in him. His character motivations were unclear. I'm also not quite happy with the portrayal of Foot Clan as a local crime syndicate...who are no longer the highly trained ninja/assassins like they used to be, but soldiers with guns instead.


Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't great, but it's still a fun and entertaining sci-fi action comedy film, mainly because of the turtles, just don't expect a great story with meaningful catchy dialogues. In my opinion, it's still a far better film compared with the previous TMNT trilogy despite its apparent flaws. There have been many versions of TMNT throughout the years, but the ongoing 2012 TV series is still the best one so far.



Rating: 6/10



2012 TV series ninja turtles



SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read the following if you haven't watched the film.

Questions regarding the plot:

  • Why didn't April show her boss the photo of the turtles jumping off the roof to convince her that they're real, but she showed to Sacks instead?
          Couldn't answer this. Script issue.
  • By the end of the film, the turtles thank April for not revealing their existence to the public. But wouldn't it be true that there's at least someone who have seen them during the climactic battle and start asking questions? 
         Couldn't answer this. Script issue. Probably no one actually seen the turtles...who knows?
  • April’s dad, after knowing his scientific research will be put to evil use by Shredder and Sacks, he burns his lab to destroy all the research files...with himself and his daughter in it? If her dad's intention is to destroy his work and if Sacks mentioned that everything was lost in the fire, why April still have copies of his father's research in her house? Why Sacks never approach her to find the copies after all this time? If April’s dad really died in the fire, why later on Sacks mentioned that he shot her dad to death...Huh? 
         Major script issue.
  • Why the lab became empty and it was so easy for April and Vernon to inject high dosage of adrenaline to allow the turtles to have strength to escape? Where are the Foot soldiers?
Raphael probably had taken out all the Foot soldiers near the lab to allow April and Vernon to enter. He was also shown holding off the Shredder while April and Vernon releasing the other turtles. Minor Plot convenience. 
  • Splinter has mutagen blood. Why Sacks only interested in capturing the four turtles but not Splinter as well?
          Couldn't answer this. Script issue.
  • How did Splinter knows about Shredder's existence and his prowess if he was only a rat?
 Splinter spends most of his time in the lab. He becomes intelligent and capable of understanding human speech due to the mutagen. Most likely that Splinter heard Sacks mentioned about the Shredder and his plans in the lab or perhaps even brought the Shredder to the lab at one point to examine his work progress. I don't have an answer regarding how Splinter knows that Shredder is a formidable foe. It's a script issue. The film suppose to show us these things, instead of letting us thinking by ourselves.
  • The enemy's big plan: What's the point of releasing the poison gas in such a large scale? Although Sacks have the antidote, would it be enough for everyone in the city? What's the point of controlling a city if all its inhabitants are dead?
          Script issue.
  • What was Shredder's or Sacks' plan of escape after releasing the poison gas? 
          Should have explain or show this in the film. Script issue.
  • In the beginning, April wants to become a professional investigative reporter. What happens in the end after she got fired? No mention of it whatsoever. The film doesn't even have a scene that shows her hesitating for a moment before making the decision to keep the turtles' existence a secret. 
          Script issue.



Previous Review: Guardians of the Galaxy
Next Review: Break Up 100



Sunday, 3 August 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Previous Review: The Teacher's Diary


No doubt, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, entertaining, spectacular sci-fi action comedy adventure. However, despite the rave reviews from the critics and mainstream audience, it's not the 'perfect' Marvel film that I was hoping for. I just don't think the film actually lives up to the hype. Let me explain why.


The story is mainly about a band of interstellar thieves, thugs and assassins - Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax, who got caught up in a huge galactic threat when one of them retrieved a highly-desired mysterious orb from a desolated planet. These individuals eventually decided to work together as a team and become heroes along the way to stop the impending threat.


Before this, the Guardians Of The Galaxy consists of characters not known by many, even among the Marvel fan base since it's not a well-known Marvel comic book series. It's actually the first Marvel film that ventures into space, introducing the general audience to the expansive, limitless intergalactic worlds in the Marvel Cinematic Universe...with an entirely new team and not the previously established Avengers. It brings the audience to a whole new unseen world, featuring a multitude of alien species with distinctive personalities and abilities, with addition of exciting spaceship battles and chases as well.


The visuals in the film are spectacular and the action scenes were great. Many of the 1960s/1970s pop classics that forms the soundtrack blends in quite nicely with the film. Each Guardian have their own kick-ass, cool or funny character moments in the film. The action scenes between Drax and Ronan or Korath, Gamora and Nebula, Star Lord and the Sakaaran army are really well done. But, among the Guardians, it is actually the giant walking tree and the talking raccoon that stole the spotlight compared with the others. Some of the awesome, beautifully done or emotional scenes with them: Groot extends his arm and pierces through a few Sakaaran army soldiers and repeatedly slams them against the walls, the 'We are Groot' scene or the scene in the finale where we get to see Rocket's teary expression and later on Drax tries to comfort him by gently petting his head.


All the Marvel films, since Iron Man, did a great job of making fun at itself by injecting decent amount of humour and witty lines into the story, keeping the audience laughing along the way. This worked out fine for most of them...the engaging sense of humour actually helps to balance out the drama and action, making the films fun and entertaining to watch. But this time, they went overboard with it. Guardians of the Galaxy is so overly playful with itself that it has gotten too self-absorbed with its humour along the way. As a result, it felt cartoony at times and loses the tone and seriousness required to be an epic film. It's been shown in the film that billions of lives are at stake and even the entire galaxy is under threat. How do you expect the audience to even care about what's at stake when the film doesn't take itself seriously? (Moreover, some of the jokes presented in the film didn't work for me.)


The film has too many new characters and most of them only make brief appearances...there's a lot of new unfamiliar places or locations which are previously unheard of. There's no character depth for each of the Guardians, so you don't feel like you know them much by the end of the film as their backstories were only briefly touched upon. (Don't just tell us about them, show us instead.) Why Gamora, also known as the 'galaxy's deadliest assassin' or the 'Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy', trained by Thanos, gets easily beaten by others in the film? The romance between Gamora and Star Lord feels forced as well. I was also slightly disappointed that Thanos only make a brief cameo appearance...I expected more of his involvement in the film, but he didn't. The film didn't manage to create long-lasting impression for the characters, much like Captain America: The First Avenger and Iron Man did for their main characters. The pacing doesn't flow quite well as the story never slows down and there's too many things to cover in the film.

  • Five Guardians aside, you have Ronan, Yondu, the whole Nova Corps, Nebula, Korath. 
  • Brief appearances: Thanos, The Other, The Collector, Carina, Rhomann Dey, Denarian Saal, Ravagers Crew. 
  • Places or Locations: Earth, Chitauri space, Kyln, Xandar, Knowhere, Morag, Collector's Museum, Milano ship, Dark Aster ship, Ravager ship... 
There are so many small fine details that the general audience (those who are unfamiliar with the Marvel Universe) most likely won't know or understand: No one knows who Tivan/The Collector actually is or the Yaka arrow that Yondu carries around with him...the film didn't clearly explains what the infinity stones represents (mind, power, reality, space, soul, time), no mention of the Infinity Gauntlet, who is the giant figure that uses the Power stone to destroy planets, etc. Most of these details should be explained in this film instead of relying on the next sequel to do the job.


Like all the previous Marvel films (except Thor, who has Loki), Guardians of the Galaxy lacks a memorable and compelling villain for the story. There's a lack of character development for Ronan The Accuser. His character motivations were only briefly touched upon in the film. Ronan’s lieutenants, Korath and Nebula (also Thanos’ adopted daughter), bring nothing to the table and we barely know them at all. They're just simply there to be taken down by the Guardians in the finale. For those who are expecting a great epic teamwork battle in the finale will be disappointed. Why would a villain who hates an entire race and planet, who tries to avenge his father's and ancestor's deaths could be so easily distracted when the opportunity arises? "What are you doing?" I find myself having the same response as Ronan, questioning the director's decision for making Star Lord pulling such a ridiculous act on screen in the finale. Come on, you have a villain who's in possession of the Power stone and this is what you can do with the character?



Like I mentioned earlier in the review, the film was fun and entertaining, but nothing feels serious at all. It's certainly not the best Marvel film ever made. In my opinion, X-Men: Days of Future Past still remains as the best Marvel film of the year.



Rating comparisons with other Marvel Cinematic Universe films:
Iron Man
2008
8/10
The Incredible Hulk
2008
7/10
Iron Man 2
2010
7/10
Thor
2011
7/10
Captain America: The First Avenger
2011
8/10
The Avengers
2012
9/10
Iron Man 3
2013
8.5/10
Thor: The Dark World
2013
8/10
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2014
8.5/10
Guardians of the Galaxy
2014
7.5/10

Note: The post-credit scene was quite disappointing and not worth the wait. They suppose to add something that raises the expectations for future films but they didn't. That sucks.




Little Things you should know/remember before watching Marvel films:

Previous Review: The Teacher's Diary