Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Movie Review: Spy

Previous Review: Tomorrowland
Next Review: San Andreas

Over the years, there aren't many action comedy films out there that managed to convincingly pull off its genre ambitions. Fortunately, this one does. Believe it or not, Spy proved itself to be a highly entertaining, incredibly funny and thrilling spy action comedy film with a few surprising plot twists in between.

Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy, is a shy CIA analyst who's stuck behind a desk all day in CIA headquarters. She's obese and doesn't have any field experience whatsoever. Her main job is to assist active spy agents who are on the field by providing any crucial real-time information to them. This starts to change when her assigned field spy agent Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law, was killed in action. In order to complete the mission, Susan volunteered to go undercover for a track and report only mission to search for the missing portable nuclear device to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, which serves as the film's MacGuffin. Needless to say, she didn't do exactly what she's told by her superior and throws herself right into several unforeseen circumstances.

As a spy action comedy film, I have to say that there's a lot of outrageous, borderline ridiculous, yet remarkably funny action scenes in the film. Although some of them doesn't make much sense at all, but since this is a comedy, cut it some slack, just relax and enjoy the ride. There's a great amount of the usual American slapstick jokes throughout the film to keep the audience entertained. Everyone did a commendable performance in their respective roles, especially Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne and most certainly, McCarthy herself. Jude Law is the capable, handsome 'James Bond type' field spy agent while Rose Byrne plays a villain with an exceptional dry sense of humour.

Melissa McCarthy, with her unusual on-screen charisma and witty dialogues, truly outshine herself in her role and once again proved herself to be a brilliant comedy actor when she's given the proper film to act on. It's actually quite funny to see Susan stuck in tough situations that forced her to improvise a way out of them. (Well, to be honest, from her appearance, she's not exactly a spy material.) Surprisingly, it turns out that she's actually more than meets the eye. As the film progresses, it was clearly shown that she's very intelligent, highly capable in combat and has the ability to adapt and react promptly to any situation at hand. However, Jason Statham did a rather unusual role in this film as an incompetent, "all talk, no show" field spy agent (far different compared to his usual action hero roles in the past). He constantly made a lot of outrageous claims about himself as an excellent spy agent but fails to perform well enough to justify his claims, which is another funny element in the film.

There's also a 'James Bond like' opening, a nod to the well-established successful spy franchise. Undercover spy comedy films have been done countless times over the years, but not a lot of them been this much fun and entertaining. Overall, Spy is a fun watch and I've enjoyed it very much. I believe you will as well.

Rating: 7.5/10

Previous Review: Tomorrowland
Next Review: San Andreas

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Movie Review: Tomorrowland

Next Review: Spy

For a film that shares its name with Disney's futuristic theme park, with an original script both written by director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Ratatouille) and Damon Lindelof (Lost series creator, World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness), both who are also producers as well, combined with the veil of secrecy surrounding it, the film is sure to create a lot of buzz before its release. But does it live up to the hype? In my opinion, it does.

Tomorrowland is a suspenseful, thought-provoking, compelling, fun and entertaining sci-fi action thriller adventure. In a world that's filled with remakes and sequels (not to say all of them are bad), it feels fresh to see something new for a change. Based on Walt Disney's optimistic philosophy of futuristic innovation and utopia, Tomorrowland is a city of the 'future' (not literally, but metaphorically) free of real world politics, bureaucracies or any stringent law policies, built to give free rein for the hopeful creative thinkers and intelligent inventors to create and achieve wonders beyond imagination.

The film starts with a young Frank Walker who arrives at the 1964 World's Fair to enter an inventor contest with a personally designed jetpack that's not quite functioning as expected. The judge quickly dismiss his 'invention' by saying that it's utterly useless if it doesn't work. But young Frank argued that it's the idea, courage to pursue it and the will to keep trying that counts. That pretty much summed up one of the important themes of the film.

The film's greatest strength lies in its ability to draw the feeling of excitement, capturing the spirit of positivity in any of us by showing us the thrill of being in a journey of exploration and discovery with its central theme of mankind necessity for hope, dream and inspiration to outweigh despair and conformity; to encourage creativity, ambition and passion. Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof both did a great job by letting the plot unravels slowly to intrigue the audience while trusting their intelligence to draw real world parallels and understand what the story ultimately trying to say. (Some critics actually complain that a lot of the mysteries were left unexplained at the end, but I beg to differ. If you follow the story and listen carefully what the characters are saying throughout the film, you can figure out the answers yourself.)

As many would say, a film won't work without well-defined, likable characters to support its themes. Britt Robertson and George Clooney both delivered fine performances as Casey and old Frank. When we see the world that Casey lives (space exploration program has been shut down and Casey's dad will be out of job soon), I couldn't help but to think how closely it resembles our world today. People no longer reach for the skies and desire for change, they're mostly money motivated, lack of imagination or just thinking for themselves. Old Frank's character is a reflection of what most of us have become.

On the other hand, Casey's youthful charisma shows her reluctance to give up a possible better future and her sense of wonder fuels her desire to change things for the better, traits that most of us in the real world are lacking now. But it's Raffey Cassidy's character who steals the show. Her character is crucial to the storyline and she's the main driving force for two leads to meet and work together. Given the complexity nature of the script, it's suffice to say that it's no easy task for a 13 year old to play a child with an adult's intellect, especially in one of the emotional key scenes of the film. However, it's rather unfortunate to see that Hugh Laurie's villainous character, Governor Nix having very limited screen time. His character's personality shows a sense of irony when he's giving a thoughtful speech about humanity embracing their inevitable demise by giving up easily through their inaction in addressing real issues, but he is no less different than us. I believe the film will be a certified masterpiece if the writers are willing to allocate enough screen time to explore his character further.

The visuals in Tomorrowland were splendid as expected and it was more than enough to create feelings of excitement, wonder and satisfaction for the viewers to enjoy (ILM done a great job again). The film is essentially showing us a 'vision' of the future, that everything is possible once the discovery of tachyons and gravitons is confirmed and humans are able to harness the capabilities of the particles (In real world, tachyons and gravitons are both hypothetical elementary particles. Tachyon is the particle that travels faster than light at all times while graviton is the particle that mediates the force of gravitation).

However, many of the critics complained that the film doesn't give enough scenes of Tomorrowland and leave them wanting for more instead (Personally, I think it's enough but it wouldn't hurt to show more though). Furthermore, some of them were underwhelmed by the film's ending (saying that it could have been so much more), but they neglect the fact that it's the journey that counts, not the destination. In my opinion, it's one of the best movies that this year have to offer (so far). It's definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 9/10

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." - Albert Einstein

Next Review: Spy

Friday, 15 May 2015

Movie Review: Dragonball: Resurrection of F

Previous Review: The Age of Adaline
Next Review: Tomorrowland

After the successful Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods, here comes another sequel of the hugely popular manga/anime series. The films set years after the Battle with Majin Buu and before events happening in GT (if you consider GT is canonical, some fans don't). Original manga creator Akira Toriyama is deeply involved in these films, providing the story and character design concepts of the films, so these new films are considered as the new continuation of the Dragonball storyline. So does it live up to the hype?

In this sequel, a familiar iconic villain of the past is revived once again to wreak havoc and determined to seek revenge against our main hero, Son Goku. There's no need to guess who the villain is, since the film poster shows it quite clearly, dear old Freeza. 'What? Freeza again?' That's my initial thought before watching the film. After the Battle with Kid Buu, I expect that Freeza should be a far simple foe to defeat for the Z warriors. There's no need for Goku or Vegeta to fight him, Trunks, Goten or Gohan should be more than enough to take him down.

Sadly to say, Trunks and Goten are both 'removed' from the film because Gohan afraid that they would do something rash. Seriously?? Even without Gohan telling them about the resurrection of Freeza, they should be able to sense the unusually powerful Qi energy from Freeza and rush to the battlefield to help. Guess what's even more shocking? Despite his Super Saiyan form, Gohan is not capable of defeating Freeza due to his severe lack of training again. What?? So Goku must be the one who arrives in the nick of time to save the world again.

The film features some of the old characters back again, Kuririn, Piccolo, Tenshinhan, Bulma, Android 18, Pilaf Trios, Beerus and Whis from the Battle of Gods and many more. It also shows Goku and Vegeta's newly achieved Super Saiyan form, Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan (Yes, you heard me right! It's essentially a 'new' form of Super Saiyan with Super Saiyan God aura leftover from the Battle of Gods...). The only difference between a Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan and the normal Super Saiyan is the hair and aura colour (blue instead of gold). Not to mention, Freeza's new powerful form is no different than his previous final form (except the colour difference again, gold instead of white). The battle scenes definitely improved a lot compared to the old films but story and character designs are lazy and lack of creativity.

Overall, this film is rather disappointing as the plot is too simple and straightforward for my taste. Some of the old Dragonball classic films (Wrath of the Dragon, Fusion Reborn, Broly the Legendary Super Saiyan remains the best) are far better than this new film. While the film should be nostalgic for fans, that's definitely not the case for general audience (even for a hardcore Dragonball fan like me). It's great to see the Z warriors back again, but I would prefer a far better and improved storyline and new character designs instead. Save your money for other films instead.

Rating: 5.5/10

 Previous Review: The Age of Adaline
Next Review: Tomorrowland

Movie Review: The Age of Adaline

Previous Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

How does it feel like to stay young forever and never age a day? It should be every woman's dream to stay beautiful forever. Consequently, what happens is you have to watch everyone you love grow old and die, to hurt those you care about, spending most of your time alone and keeps everything only to yourself because you cannot be truly honest about who you are. Would you still want it? The film is essentially a mix of fantasy and bittersweet romance.

The Age of Adaline is a romantic drama that tells the story of one woman, Adaline Bowman who was born in 1908 but stopped aging completely due to a bizarre car accident. In order to prevent herself from being a subject of experimentation, Adaline spent most of her life running and escaping using fake identities, living n different locations and the same solitary existence for sixty years due to her unique condition. She's afraid of falling in love...as Adaline puts it, love and happiness is impossible when there's no growing old together. Without that, love is just heartbreak.

The film tries to show the reality of eternal youth...that immortality can be a curse that makes your life empty, meaningless and devoid of happiness. Adaline lived most of her life running and escaping that she never truly had a life. The film has an intriguing premise but it was never fully explored. The film heavily relies on expository narrative to let the audience understand what is happening throughout the life of Adaline, but never show the price of eternal youth explicitly and this has taken its toll on her, which hurts the film a lot. Many of the plot points aren't fully fleshed out and feels rather underdeveloped. Not to mention, it's difficult to emotionally invest on a character who's young and highly attractive like Blake Lively to begin with...(how is it a sad thing?) Don't tell us, show us more instead.

Furthermore, the love romance between the two leads aren't very convincing either as the on-screen chemistry just not strong enough to let the audience believe that Adaline found a reason to start living again and really learn to let go through Ellis. However, Blake Lively do perform far better in some of the key scenes. The ending is rather disappointing and predictable. It could have been far more interesting if the screenwriters willing to take a step further into the extreme or unknown. 

In short, the Age of Adaline is still a decent drama to watch. I just wish that it could explore more of Adaline's best and worst moments of her life to give the viewers an emotional resonance with the film.


Previous Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Previous Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Next Review: The Age of Adaline

The Mad Max franchise is back again after 30 years. The story is relatively simple and straightforward. Our titular hero, Max Rockatansky, is a former cop who struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic barren wasteland where people simply rob and kill you for water, food or gasoline due to the scarcity of resources. Nothing makes much sense anymore in this world as many newborns would die young due to poor health. Max prefers to be left alone but tend to get caught up with strangers he needs to help along the way.

First and foremost, I have to say that the world-building in Mad Max was one of its kind. The designs of the vehicles, set, weapons and character costumes were out of this world and unique. The ugliness and harshness of the world is clearly presented throughout the film as we can see that most of the villains were dressed in weird costumes and makeups to show their abnormalities as well.

The entire film is packed with fast-paced, loud, chaotic and bombastic mad action violence from start to finish but not gory to the point that it feels disgusting. There are lots of gun-fighting and car chasing, crashes, destructions and explosions along the way. Thankfully, each action scene is each to its own and it doesn't  feel repetitive. It was said that most of the action scenes were real, carefully planned and mostly achieved via practical means.

The main leads, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron both put a fine performance for this new installment. However, Tom Hardy's character, Max does take a backseat and seemed like a supportive role for Charlize Theron's new character, Furiosa who stole the main villain's most prized possessions - his five wives (Take note that in a post-apocalyptic world, there aren't many fertile beautiful women for breeding). There's a noticeable feminist element, "We are not your things/properties!", voiced out by the Five Wives in this film. Throughout the film, we can see these five beautiful women tried desperately to free themselves from the authoritative rule of a mad man, King Immortan Joe.

One of my biggest gripe of this film is that there isn't much character development as the main focus is entirely on the wild and crazy cat-and-mouse action chase between the good and bad guys. The story never spends too much time on character backstories and their tragic pasts (but it's briefly shown and hinted through hallucinations though). The action is no doubt impressive and feels epic but none of the emotional scenes (yes, there are quite a few in this one) are memorable enough to make a lasting impression. Overall, it's an entertaining action thriller from beginning to the end with spectacular visuals. Action junkies would definitely be pleased with it. Watch it for the action.

Note: You don't really need to watch the first three films for this one. Our main character's backstory is briefly shown or mentioned in this film and it's easily understood. There's another sequel in the works as well, titled Mad Max: The Wasteland.

Rating: 7/10

Previous Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Next Review: The Age of Adaline