Thursday, May 27, 2021


Finally, I can check this off my list! Expecting the cinematic train wreck of the century based on how a lot of people had reacted to it, I was surprised to find a pretty decent X-Men outing, albeit a tad too vanilla. The story and script is a little weak, but not exactly the worst offender either. There are pretty decent performances here, especially from Sophie Turner who got to do quite a bit of dramatic flexing. The action was a bit messy at times, but it’s still exhilarating to see the X-Men synching their abilities when fighting enemies. And it’s a nice touch to show them as celebrated heroes for once as they have been discreetly and thanklessly vigilanting in past installments. That’s how I remembered them in the comics, so it’s nice to see that. I also felt that the handling of the Dark Phoenix story was way better than X-Men 3.

Shocker, I know, but I enjoyed it.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: Mortal Kombat (2021) ⭐️⭐️1/2

Take a franchise filled with grotesque characters, plan a couple of gory money shots, and tie them all together with some superfluous plot fillers - what do you get? It’s a horror flick that also happens to be a video game adaptation. I knew it when I saw James Wan credited as one of the producers. The good: the money shots delivered. Some of it were even pretty clever. As a Mortal Kombat fan, you will be satisfied by all the callbacks and all the blood and gore. Hiroyuki Sanada really added a lot of legitimacy to all the daftness that’s happening. Sub-Zero was easily the best villain, played menacingly by Joe Taslim of The Raid fame. Kung Lao was great! Lewis Tan isn’t bad as the eye candy lead. And there’s proper martial arts, yes! Not too bad and could have done with a little bit more, but at least some effort was put in. Also, that opening scene was so classily done that I was a bit shocked the production design and filmmaking quality started to dramatically nosedive from that point on, which brings me to... The bad: The set designs were really cheap-looking, like Sonya Blade’s crib that looked like they just randomly picked and shot the nearest junkyard they could find, and the more exotic locales like Raiden’s temple and the Outworlds felt like recycled Star Trek TV sets, and felt small and cheap. There are many TV shows nowadays that looked better than this. But what’s worse was how disjointed the movie felt. It’s as if there were 10 different directors shooting it. The filmmaking quality varies from segment to segment. The writing and the editing; not good. Bottom line: if you’re a fan, you will at least watch it. Non-fans should just treat it as a low-budget horror of the week, and you wouldn’t feel so disappointed. And if you’re wondering which is better to me - it’s those YouTube shorts that some guy did that had Katie Sackoff in it. They were far superior on every level except the money shots. RANDOM THOUGHTS: - When Liu Kang appeared, I was really holding out hope that it was Robin Shou. But dude’s turning 61 this year - SIXTY ONE! So it wasn’t him. Some other guy. - Tadanobu Asano was Raiden??? Yes, it’s Hogun of The Warriors Three himself! But jeezus, he wasn’t good here. He’s a good actor, but he looked uncomfortable doing this for some reason. - Chin Han, the guy who Batman grabs from Hong Kong in The Dark Knight, and also Togusa in the live action Ghost in the Shell, plays Shang Tsung. He’s also Singaporean like me. Sadly, he didn’t make me forget Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Tagawa is better by far. - The Mortal Kombat theme wasn’t very well-used here. The 1995 film did it better and saved it for the best moments.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review: Arrival

My most anticipated movie of 2016. It's a "pure" science fiction movie like 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Martian where the emphasis is more on the science than fiction. Just like how The Martian made botany cool, Arrival does the same for linguists. The fun thing about the movie is trying to figure out what the aliens want, and to do that you need to figure out how to communicate with them. This movie approaches that process with a high degree of realism, which I've always felt is a lot more interesting than trying to simplify it (e.g. make aliens speak in perfect English using magic tech) because you're afraid the general audiences will not understand or appreciate it. Of course, the movie is not just all about that. There is a mystery behind the aliens' intentions and a lesson to be learned. Overall, this is a thrilling and fascinating movie that makes you think more than the average crowd-pleasing sequels. Very well directed by Denis Villeneuve, who did Sicario previously, and will direct the sequel to Blade Runner next. Because of one minor gripe (see below, but with spoilers), this is a good but not great one for me.


My minor gripe is that its resolution plagiarized the same time paradox idea used in movies like The Terminator and even Interstellar. Different packaging (because of the linguistic angle), but same content nevertheless. People who hasn't seen many sci-fi movies, especially kids will have their minds blown by the ending, but for jaded connoisseurs this felt like an unnecessary retread that came too soon after Interstellar had done the same thing just three years ago.

Proof of Purchase

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Taken & Taken 2

I'm taken by Taken, and Taken 2 too. The first one plays on every father's paranoia about his daughter's safety in this dark and cruel world. Imagine having to reluctantly agree to your 16-year-old daughter's parentless trip to Paris, only to have her kidnapped by human traffickers immediately after landing. But what if you're an ex-CIA operative with "a very special set of skills"? What would you do? Use your spy connections and razor sharp instincts to find your daughter, and your combat experience to shoot and karate-chop the living crap out of everyone who's responsible, of course. It's every father's wish-fulfilment fantasy. It's also a thrill to watch an improbably efficient, resourceful and lethal ex-spy go to work.

Taken 2 actually spoils Taken 1 if you haven't seen the first, because the poster instantly tells you that the hero survived the first movie; either that or you thought the sequel was about his twin brother. Of course it isn't, but you have to wonder... what are they going to do with the sequel; kidnap his daughter again? So they go with this premise that I thought was pretty clever - remember those people he killed in Part 1? Apparently, human trafficking is a family biz, and their dads and brothers and sons are not too happy with their kin dying in the hands of some American fellow. I couldn't understand the heavy Albanian accent during the funeral scene, so I just imagined them saying "at last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi; at last we will have our revenge." It's our hero who gets taken this time, and his daughter does the rescuing. Great to see Liam Neeson rampaging against the backdrop of Istanbul.

Ludicrous but fun. Recommended.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Resident Evil: Retribution (Part 5)

Despite what the critics say, I really enjoyed the Resident Evil movies. Silly, but still darn creative in finding ways to present zombies and to eliminate them (guns, missiles, sidekick to the head, psychokinetic powers, coins, etc.) But the fifth one, Resident Evil: Retribution, is probably the first one that I didn't enjoy. The creativity level dropped so drastically in Part 5 that they almost rehashed every highlight from the past four movies and use a holodeck-like facility as an excuse to bring them back to this movie. I can't tell you not to watch this one if you are dying to know what happens after Part Four, but be prepared for ANOTHER cliffhanger at the end of Retribution. We're all going to have to watch Part Six now. Thanks a lot. Surprised to see Li Bing Bing play a debuting major character from the video game. Expect one or two more surprises from it. Not enough to save the movie, though.