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30 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
The Point of War - A Review of Red Cliff II, 6 February 2009

Red Cliff, the film by John Woo based on the epic battle of Romance of the Three Kingdoms is divided into two parts. While the first was engaging in its depiction of such historical characters in Cao Cao, Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu, the second is all about war itself, which can be a little daunting to some. But that is just how war is.

You see, war is not about a spontaneous fight between two opposing parties. It has nothing to do with sword wielding 'cling clang' or battle cries and fistfights. The distinction has to be made since war is by far a larger context than a battle, although war itself consists many. In Red Cliff II we will see what is at play when war is raged. It cannot be pretty can it? But it can as this is the romanticized version of history and on screen John Woo made it even prettier.

The cast is strong with Tony Leung Chiu-wai as viceroy Zhou Yu, Takeshi Kaneshiro as adviser Zhuge Liang and Zhang Fengyi as Cao Cao, to name just a few. The list is long. A good cast will more often than not up the aesthetical appeal to a movie. For the female audience, Tony Leung charms with his manly portrayal of Zhou Yu, and Takeshi Kaneshiro is always a pleasure to watch as he liven every scene with wit and humor. For the male audience, it is the childlike yet seriousness of Zhao Wei as Sun Shangxiang, and Lin Chi-ling's poise and compassion as Xiao Qiao that allures.

But can war really be pretty? If you think that killing each other is a good way to express beauty then perhaps you can be on the same page as the tyranny Cao Cao. In part 1, where the emphasis of battle was on land with a very elaborate tactic devised by Zhuge Liang, here in part 2 we witness the battle at sea, physically and psychologically.

Back to the main topic of war, it is crucial that victory must be sorted as numerous lives are heavily at stake, whether or not these lives are valued or not, be they as added numbers or as friends. In war the emphasis is on strategies and tactics to win. And on strategies and tactics, I guess we no doubt have to consult Sun Tzu's The Art of War and also take reference to The 36 Stratagems.

I can refer that the epic battle of Red Cliff has two points that stood out when referenced to The Art of War and that is The Attack By Fire and The Use Of Spies.

Recorded in the 36 stratagems is the use of the enemy's own spy to sow discord in the enemy's camp by Zhou Yu. This famous move is of correlation to The Art of War where it is stated as having converted spies, getting hold of the enemy's spies and using them for our own purposes. In war all can be done, there can be no holds barred because any weakness can be exploited by the enemy. Zhou Yu can be said to have brilliantly disposed off of Cao Cao's main strategic threat because Cao Cao slain both his most dependable generals who are most versed in sea battles.

When 50,000 has to fight 200,000, who could blame Zhou Yu for such tactics, especially when Cao Cao first provoked by sending dead soldiers across to Zhou Yu's side on wooden rafts, knowing that disease spread through this mean can greatly weaken his enemy.

The other account decisive of the battle of Red Cliff is the Chain Strategem, although modified by John Woo in its depiction, with the key in Lin Chi-ling's character, Xiao Qiao.

It is interesting to sit through 141 minutes witnessing a romanticized version of John Woo's Red Cliff. Personally I didn't feel that it was long, however to some who wanted to see a Lord of the Ring's type battle on screen could be disappointed.

Sun Tzu's The Art of War states that the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the war is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but a few calculations before hand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

The point of war however is that in war everybody loses. This should be what John Woo's Red Cliff is trying to tell us. I agree wholeheartedly with water in my eyes.

Ponyo (2008)
10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Return to Innocence - A Review of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, 6 February 2009

Said to be inspired from Disney's The Little Mermaid, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is Japanese animation master, Hayao Miyazaki's next big work after the well-received Spirited Away in 2001 and Howl's Moving Castle in 2004. In Ponyo, his signature style of animating fantasy realms and children characters are on display once again.

Sosuke (Hiroki Doi), the boy lead in the film discovers a 'goldfish' trapped in a glass jar while playing by the seaside below the cliff. He stays with his mum, Lisa (Tomoko Yamaguchi) above and atop it. Sosuke shakes the jar forcefully to try and get the 'goldfish' out but the little 'goldfish' is stuck. He then tries to pull it out but it just cannot come loose. Sosuke then place the jar on the ground before smashing a small rock onto it, breaking it into pieces instantly while suffering a small cut on the finger. He then checks inquisitively to see if the 'goldfish' is still alive. As he observes it, the 'goldfish' reacts by licking the blood off his finger suddenly. Excited, Sosuke quickly rushes back to the house and put the 'goldfish' in a small bucket of water in hope that it will survive. It did and he named it 'Ponyo'(Yuria Nara).

The above scene would signify what is to come for the remainder of the film. It is of the interactions between Sosuke and Ponyo. And it is one that Hayao Miyazaki did meticulously well in portraying. He must have a keen sense of observation and understanding of how children behave before he depicts this chemistry of communication between the two main characters. The behavior of the children would also extend into the rest of the film in their further encounters.

The affection between Sosuke and Ponyo grew as the film progresses from the moment Sosuke brought Ponyo to school in Lisa's car. The best moment came when the two were reunited after a brief separation when Ponyo's father, Fujimoto (George Tokoro), a magical sea dweller recaptures the errant Ponyo before encapsulating her in a magic bubble with kind intention.

Fujimoto who was once human has grown to refer humans with disgust for polluting the sea and stealing its life. But all Ponyo wants is to be human and be with Sosuke so for a second time she escapes, accidentally emptying his father's precious store of magical elixir into the sea, creating a storm of tidal waves and engulfing the small town in the process.

What follows are the adventures of Sosuke and Ponyo in the flooded town.

Is there a happily ever after in this one? Would true love prevail? You find out.

Looking at the art in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, there appears to be a deviation from Miyazaki's past works in terms of rendering. It looks unfamiliar because the environment apart from the characters at play in every scene is not colored in the usual fashion as in Spirited Away (2001) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004). The aesthetical appeal is discounted from what appears to be color penciled drawings. The objects and characters are also not as detailed as before.

This is peculiar if taken on face value but from the way the story is written and told, the possible explanation is that Miyazaki is allowing the audience to view the film with a child's tint, yet allowing the adults to reminisce on a Japan when they were younger. This move could have prevented prospective moviegoers, new to Miyazaki's work to see it. The trailer did nothing to promote Ponyo as well. Taking the case to Japan however would be a different story as Miyazaki's credential far than exceed any marketing technique.

In summary though, the whole did not equal to its parts. Aside from Miyazaki's ability to cast vivacious and animated characters, the film lacks elements of thrill and wonder when measured against previous works, resulting in a deficit of big screen presence.

The sparks of Ponyo and Sosuke failed to light up the film in a big way but moments of warmth, kindness, and love can still be found in recognizing the film as one that is not made for the kids, but of the kids who everyone is or once was.

Ip Man (2008)
39 out of 57 people found the following review useful:
The Martial of Virtuosity - A Review of Ip Man, 6 February 2009

Ip Man (1893-1972) is the expert in the Wushu fighting style of Wing Chun, and is the master of the famous Bruce Lee. As there has never been any previous film record of Ip Man, this film produced by Raymond Wong and directed by Wilson Yip will be the very first.

The movie opens and dates back to 1935 Foshan, with the city bustling with activities and various schools of martial arts are seen busy with the practice of their craft. In the people's mind however there would be only one martial artist who is the best. He however would have no interest in opening a school to teach his art. He is Ip Man, played by Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen.

Our introduction to Ip Man began on the day when Master Liu (Chen Zhi-Hui) visits Ip Man at his residence when the latter is having dinner with his wife and son. Being the typical martial arts enthusiast that Master Liu is, he declined to leave when advised by Ip Man to come back at another time, choosing instead to stay and wait until Ip Man have finished his dinner. He is eager to test his skills against Master Ip Man. The mood here is not of hostility but of a light hearted and humorous fashion. Ip Man even invited Master Liu to sit and have dinner with his family when he spots him restlessly waiting by the living room. We see here the humble and modest character of the protagonist.

When the sparring finally got underway, it ended as swiftly as Ip Man's strokes suggest. Because in three strokes and a set of quick fists, he had Master Liu at his peril, well defeated yet without injury, as this was all but a friendly exchange in the spirit of martial arts. The essence of Ip Man's fighting style, Wing Chun, is characterized by its tall narrow stance with effectiveness demonstrated through speed and power. It reminds of the time when Bruce Lee had to slow his punches down during filming, as they were just too fast for the cameras back then to capture.

In the world of martial arts, with all its attractiveness, it also brings with it the competitive nature of those who practice them. With competitiveness taken the wrong way, things can go awfully wrong when all one wants to achieve is to have the other beaten so as to prove who the superior fighter is. A thug in Kam Shan-chau (Fan Sui-Wong) later arrives and challenges the various schools, defeating their masters ruthlessly, until he came face to face with Ip Man. Kam lost to Ip Man with a lesson he ought to have learn, only that he did not and left Foshan with only disgrace in his mind. The people celebrate as they hail Ip Man the savior who brought glory to Foshan by sending the thug away.

The fight ends but the story have only just began, and with it a change of mood from lightness to heavy because war has broken. The Japanese have seized Foshan.

What follows will be Ip Man's struggles and challenges as he has to make ends meet for his family in the dreadful time of adversity. It is here we see the true character of Ip Man, who has captured the hearts of the people of Foshan and their respect. This is most notable among his friends in Chow Ching-chuen (Simon Yam), his son Chow Kong-yiu (Calvin Cheng), and Crazy Lam (Xing Yu).

To mistake this film, as one of just good versus evil is easy because in a movie that has a hero, there must be a villain. There are a few characters here befitting of the role. We have the Japanese general, Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi). We have the aforementioned thug, Kam Shan-chau. We also have police officer turned interpreter, Li Chiu (Lam Ka-tung) who appears to be a traitor. The film here however should not to be seen as a fight against evil but rather of the depiction of humanistic values that Ip Man himself would possess.

There are many meaningful messages encrypted in the various plots and subplots in this wonderful film that really is about virtues more than anything else. As producer Raymond Wong would suggest on why the production team had chosen to make this film, it is that of really making a kung fu movie that is authentic and real, moving away from past attempts at glorifying and stylizing violence on screen. The intention is to make a film that would reflect the spirit of Chinese kung fu, and what better than to portray it through the virtuous character of Master Ip Man.

I would have like to compare this film to Fearless aka Huo Yuan Jia (2006), starring Jet Li, which strings from a similar root, but at the very core, the approach is different. While Fearless is written in a more dramatic nature, with a more compelling story and edited with a creative dimension, Ip Man is honest and direct because that is who our protagonist is.

What stood out for me in Ip Man is when he ponders in introspection about what use his training and expertise in Wing Chun all his years would come to. It would appear that there is destiny waiting to be fulfilled. And he would also influence those around him with what he has and even lead those who have been wrong to do right despite the pressure of circumstances, because to the very basis, it is the right thing to do in humanity.

History means nothing if its lessons are not learned.

The film also stars the stunning Xiong Dai Lin as Cheung Wing-sing, Ip Man's wife, and I must also not forget to mention that the acclaimed Sammo Hung directs the action.

Disturbia (2007)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Movie Review: Disturbia, 1 August 2007

For a movie titled "Disturbia", it is not really disturbing, or should I say it is disturbingly undisturbed. When the tagline reads, "Every killer lives next door to someone", I am thinking toward a film that is suspenseful and thrilling.

So is Disturbia the movie starring Shia Labeouf a movie of such? It is disturbingly not, at least for the most part.

Kale (Shia Labeouf) is a typical teenager in a growing up phase. He is carefree, fun loving and shows a keen interest in the opposite sex, but all that is about to change. That change came when he loses his father in a car accident one vacation.

All that enthusiastic energy is depleted and things got worse when he lands himself 3 months of house arrest for punching his Spanish teacher.

What can a teenager do when he cannot even leave his house? He spends all his time playing video games and watching loads of entertainment on television of course. Great you'll think but only until his mum (Carrie-Anne Moss) decides that enough is enough because Kale is neglecting everything else. She cancels his Xbox, iTune and best of all cut off the wire to the television when Kale snaps at her sensitivity.

The boy will have to look for other things for entertainment and so he invents his own reality channel; he spies on his neighbours. One of whom is a hot and sexy girl, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), who has just moved in next door while the other is boring Robert Turner (David Morse) who mows his lawn twice a day. The focus of the movie will revolve around Kale's interest in the two, one with sexual curiosity and the other with suspicious animosity.

Kale suspects Mr. Turner to be a serial killer when a report hits the news that the suspect drives a blue Ford Mustang similar to that of his neighbour. With the help of best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and along with love interest Ashley, the trio will attempt to uncover the mystery behind Robert Turner.

The pace of the film is rather slow to begin with. I find myself questioning what kind of a movie am I really watching. Is this a comedy or a thriller? Director D. J. Caruso probably wanted it to be both. It felt like a swing most of the time, teasing with the possibility of suspense and thrill then suddenly shifting the momentum to comedic exposition. Disturbing, very disturbing.

The thing behind the suspicious Mr. Turner lacked depth. Many questions were left unanswered. It appears that the storywriters, Carl Ellsworth and Christopher B. Landon are more interested in making the romance work between Kale and Ashley rather than having the "who really is Mr. Turner?" work out. At least there was a climatic scene at the end to save it even if I thought it as being too convenient a plot to drop the curtains with. The murderer just messed up.

So "Every killer lives next door to someone"?

Try "Every hot girl lives next door to someone". That sounds more like it.

Captivity (2007)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Movie Review: Captivity, 30 July 2007

It baffles me. Captivity, the movie starring Elisha Cuthbert, directed by two times Oscar nominee, Roland Joffé and written by Larry Cohen of Cellular (2004) and Phone Booth (2002) really baffles me.

First up, the marketing really killed it. I learned a new term for the sub-genre of horror films known as "torture porn". Torture porn refers to movies that feature nudity, torture, mutilation and sadism. Although Hostel (2005) was the first film to be given this label, the classification is also relevant to the Saw franchise and movie like the more recent Turista (2006). You'll be surprised that even The Passion of Christ (2004) falls under this category. The selling point of such films is the gore factor. Most of the time the story is lame and poor thus the term porn. Porn is sex without a story.

That is where the marketing for Captivity went awfully wrong. The controversy that surrounds it in the United States before its release on July Friday the 13th is over hyped. No doubt its bad publicity that drew complaints for its "horrific" billboard posters was considered a success, but to market Captivity as a "torture porn" movie is still a big mistake.

I found out that Captivity was actually completed two years ago. Director Roland Joffé had envisioned it as a psychological thriller type movie that is about the public's obsession on celebrities. It was even said that Paris Hilton was part of the inspiration. It will only make sense if viewed upon from this angle. An Oscar quality director and a rated film writer stooping low to make a "torture porn" movie would be a great story for a horror movie by itself.

There wasn't meant to be plenty of gore in Captivity. It was meant to be a story about the abduction of a celebrity model, Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert), how she had to suffer the mental tortures of her captor and how she ended up in the end.

It asks the questions about who her captor was, what are his intentions and why another man, Gary (Daniel Gillies), was also held confined.

Since 2004 with the introduction of Saw, a movie produced at just $1.2m that grossed over $100m worldwide, there suddenly grew a huge interest for such films. It was highly profitable and the public loved it.

So Roland Joffé's Captivity was re-edited. In comes the gore, Jennifer Tree was made to drink a horrible concoction of body parts, made to choose the fate of her beloved pet dog and strapped to a dentist chair for further physical torture. Almost a third of the film was re-shot and edited by the production company's CEO, Courtney Solomon. It was also rumoured that another writer, Joseph Tura roped in for the re-write.

So there you go, a film that does not know what it wanted to be. A psychological thriller remade as a "torture porn" wannabe.

It may appear that I am defending this film. I certainly am not. I just felt it should be given a much fairer justification. I do not even think Elisha Cuthbert did a good job in the role but she sure is a looker. The poster of her behind a fence with a mascara-smeared teardrop rolling down the cheek is a very good piece of graphic design imagery. That attracted much of my attention to this movie.

I can say the same for the cinematography in Captivity but when it comes to the full product, it is nowhere near greatness. Not that it was intended to be but a movie that is lost in its true essence is a nuisance. This is one film I thought was poor on first sight but afterthoughts and background research made it clearer that it was a film that did not lived up to its potential.

The idea was a good one but in the wrong hands… You know the rest. The wrong expectation played up by marketing can ruin a moviegoer's experience.

It really is just Cs for Captivity; Controversy, Cuthbert and Courtney Solomon.

Vacancy (2007)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Movie Review: Vacancy, 25 July 2007

I think it bogs down to your level of threshold for "thrill", "scare" and "experience" for this one. Vacancy, the film starring Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson is very much textbook stuff when we talk about the genre of horror and thriller.

Although nothing really new, the idea remains interesting. David (Luke Wilson) and Amy (Kate Beckinsale) are driving home one night when the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

Almost conveniently there is a gas station and motel nearby where help can be found. It'll be futile to think the two of them are going elsewhere. That is not going to happen. They will stay at the motel and they will be trapped. If not then where is the story?

So then the two quarrelsome duos will discover in their creepy "Honeymoon Suite" that a collection of videos featuring gruesome images of violent murder are filmed exactly where they are. Imagine yourself in their shoes. I bet you'll be freaked out too.

The thrill in Vacancy is how David and Amy tries their best to outsmart their captors who are watching from every possible hidden camera if to escape the fate of those seen in the videos.

The scare in Vacancy is how director Nimród Antal uses the textbook stuff of leaving spaces in between scenes for your imagination to enter.

Literally that is what the word "Vacancy" means, a vacant spot for you to fill in. It is also no wonder that the three psychos, led by motel manager Mason (Frank Whaley) are obsessed about their game. This out of place motel in the middle of nowhere is awfully lonely.

The scene where the mechanic played by Ethan Embry saying to the couple, "I should pay you for giving me something to do," tells it best. The idle mind really is the devil's workshop.

Vacancy the movie however cannot be described as believable. Again here is one those films that can be enjoyable only if we take logic away from it. As I've mentioned earlier, how much this movie works is largely dependant on your threshold for "thrill", "scare" and "experience". To me Vacancy is not very scary or thrilling. Due to it being unbelievable, and based on my experience with the thriller and horror genre, the plot is pretty much laid out for me. I knew what was going to happen, but it did not stop me from having fun watching the film.

Ever wondered why some people could laugh at the sight of horror on screen? I found the answer in Vacancy. It being unreal and sometimes silly is laughable. I wanted to question its authenticity but gave up because it is not documentary or comparable to the Saw or Hostel franchise. There's nothing gruesome in Vacancy, just a simple game of cat and mouse played within an isolated vicinity of a creepy motel. It is at the very least an entertaining getaway into the darkroom with a big screen.

Those with a higher threshold might beg to differ but I sure had fun watching Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale playing the victims.

Vacancy is not the best of its kind but definitely not the worst. Have you got time to kill? Why not fill your vacancy with Vacancy?

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 16 July 2007

Chris Columbus did the first and the second, Alfonso Cuaron did the third, the forth was done by Mike Newell and the fifth, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is by David Yates. Who are these people whose names I've mentioned? They are the directors of course.

Oh… you didn't think they matter do you? I cannot deny the fact that what matter the most is Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). He is after all the main character of the series. You might even care for his two best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and even Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), but seriously if there is no director then there is no character. It would be like reading a Harry Potter book only not written by author J.K. Rowling.

Are you getting me yet?

If you do please read on… If not please take another moment to think about what I've said.

The adventure or plot of the Harry Potter series is only going to get darker. If you are to be still stuck in the realms of innocence and magic of what Chris Columbus has created on screen with the first two Harry Potter films, namely "the Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets" then you're hereby warned.

If you are to be in the mood to argue that Alfonso Cuaron's "Prisoner of Azkaban" or Mike Newell's "Goblet of Fire" is the best you've seen, then you are warned as well.

With a different director at the helm at "Order of the Phoenix" and the continuation of a darkening story, you should be able to feel the differencing treatment as early as when the movie opens. It feels like a horror movie rather than a children fantasy adventure.

Harry is seen sitting on a swing in the middle of a playground. His cousin Dudley and gang came and started antagonizing him. In anger, Harry whipped out his wand and pointed it straight up Dudley's throat. All of a sudden dark clouds formed and everybody started running. Harry and Dudley found shelter beneath a tunnel but two ghostly Dementors located them and started sucking the souls out of the poor boys.

Harry managed to fight off the Dementors with a Patronus spell but was later informed of his expulsion from Hogwart. He had violated the rules by using magic in the presence of a muggle (or beings without magical powers).

But he was later rescued by Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix, a secret society formed in the times of Harry's father as a resistance against the evil Voldemort.

The story will move away from an atmosphere of magic and wonder from the previous films and into a more grown-up stressful fashion. Before even fighting the evil of an advancing Voldemort, Harry and friends will have their hands full with a new teacher who would slowly gain control of Hogwart. She is Delores Umbridge, played in truly self-absorbing fashion by actress Imelda Staunton. Here is one character that gives all who loves pink an evil sense of deportment. All of what will happen is due to Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge's refusal to acknowledge the fact that Voldemort is back.

The ignorance of those in positions of leadership can be so frustrating to those who truly knew better.

It will fall to Harry and his friends to take matters to their own hands. As the tagline suggest: "The Rebellion Begins". On the suggestion by Ron and Hermione, Harry will gather like-minded schoolmates and friends to form "Dumbledore's Army".

Like in all Harry Potter's film, the evil Voldemort will surface right toward the end with a climatic battle between good and evil ensuing.

Good and evil will be very trying for Harry. This is the darker theme that will follow our poor wizard hero. The film will be very much focus on Harry's internal battle. Just what is Voldemort's relation with Harry, and why is Voldemort unable to kill Harry is what the Order of the Phoenix will set you in ponder.

The prophecy says, "Neither can live while the other survives".

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is very well produced. There is a beauty in the cinematography seen from the capture of every scene. They were well thought and well edited. The details on the set of the Ministry of Magic, with its glossy black look is chilling yet cool.

Look out for new character, Luna Lovegood, played by the wonderful Evanna Lynch. She is the character that Harry will be relating to the most. They share the common perception of the word, death.

Although the movie is at 2 hours and 18 minutes long, it is the shortest among all five in the Harry Potter series so far. A lack of action and cinematic wonder made it felt long though. "Order of the Phoenix" is more inclined to the thinkers than those who are watching for the visual adjuration of the active kind. Maybe it is due to the lack of Quidditch in this one.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will leave you with anticipation to the next one, which is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

All shall be revealed, soon, only two more to go.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Movie Review: Die Hard 4.0 a.k.a Live Free or Die Hard, 13 July 2007

Die Hard (1988), Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Die Hard 3: Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995) and now after twelve years, Bruce Willis is back as NYPD detective, John McClane in Die Hard 4.0 a.k.a Live Free or Die Hard.

The first Die Hard was considered the best action movie of its era and was also responsible for creating the "action star" archetype. No prizes for guessing who shot to fame.

The question however should be whether a 52 year old Bruce Willis can reprise his role as detective John McClane. There's also the query upon the movie title with its numeric four decimal zero.

As the film opened, I immediately knew why. The movie title flickered and Mai Linh (Maggie Q) was seen chatting up a hacker, Matthew Farrell (Justin Long) with an exchange of payment and information. Moments later another hacker's home was blown up as he presses the Delete button on his keyboard. Something is definitely up and it has got to do with hackers but I still do not know what is really going on. Suspense is created by curiosity.

But where is detective McClane? He's introduced in the movie spying on his daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at a college car park making out with a boy. In this scene we are reminded of the relationship strain between our courageous hero and his daughter. The screenplay here will set the tone of McClane's communication style. There is a sense of authority, wit and involuntary charm about McClane's character that is compelling.

The other character you'll be made much aware of is Matthew Farrell, the hacker who McClane is specifically assigned by the higher ups to escort to the Federal Bureau soon after the argument with Lucy. That would signal the start of 2 hours of non-stop action. The first explosive sequence will see McClane and Farrell fighting and escaping five gun-welding assassins decorating Farrell's apartment with bullet holes. Just at a time when I thought stunts and bullet dodging was a lost art in Hollywood, the production crew here sure showed me. The breath-taking actions never stop until the bad guy is.

The bad guy is Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), the mastermind behind a very elaborate virtual terrorists attack to shut down and take over the United States. The story gets interesting when we know whom the bad guy is but we do not know what he is up to. That is where the suspense, thrills and actions become Die Hard 4.0. The atmosphere is intense to a fault. I was hoping for a break in all the drama to give me some space to breathe and thankfully it came around the hour mark.

Here is the light hearted moment where McClane and Farrell gets to know each other a little bit better when they converse about their lives to each other.

Right after the break came the kick-ass fight scene between McClane and Mai Linh or the sexy and seductive Maggie Q. When I mean kick-ass I do mean kick-ass. Whoa!!!

We all knew McClane die hard so it became no surprise that Gabriel wanted to take things more personally with the kidnapping of Lucy which sets up a fight to the end.

"I'm gonna go kill this guy and get my daughter. Or go get my daughter and kill this guy. Or kill all of 'em!"

Die Hard 4.0 is the movie to describe the word "adrenaline".

I must commend director Len Wiseman and his crew for giving me the rush. (To get a taste of the rush I felt, go to the official website and soak in to the soundtrack) There is another name on the crew list that I must mention. He is Patrick Tatopoulos, the production designer. His artistry as seen in movies like I, Robot, Underworld: Evolution, Silent Hill and Pitch Black gave Die Hard 4.0 a rich visual style. All that and in combining with the vision of Len Wiseman and cinematographer Simon Duggan is a captivating Die Hard film. I especially like the way the camera catches the details of surveillance objects throughout and the use of cool and warm lens filter to set the mood.

The cast is excellent, Bruce Willis is great, Justin Long is convincing in his role as the geeky yet irritably funny hacker, and so is Cliff Curtis who I almost fail to mention, in his role as the F.B.I top man. My only complaint is not having seen enough of Maggie Q. I feel she is really maturing into the niche of the female action star genre having last seen her in Mission: Impossible III.

The story by Mark Bomback and David Marconi really tells of the possible terrorist threat in a computerized environment and possibly inspired by the subject of security breach after the events of nine eleven. Having such a heavy dependency on high technology, computers and the Internet in this modern era of ours, it would be terrifying to know they can easily become the means for a terrorist attack. When the title reads 4.0, it says something about computer programming or a serial version of a software. It serves to remind us of the hardware that we have so taken for granted in everyday living, namely the people around us who we often forget to care. On the other hand, Live Free or Die Hard would be saying that we must remain vigilant to prevent our freedom from being compromised.

"All you gotta do is go pick up a kid in New Jersey, and drive him down to D.C. How hard can that be, huh?" John McClane was lamenting about his job shortly before launching a police car into a pursuing helicopter.

All you gotta do now is go see how he did it. How hard can that be? Show your appreciation, It'll be well worth it.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
This is NOT a real Transformers movie, 8 July 2007

As the title of the film suggest: "a Michael Bay film, Transformers"

Transformers (2007) is Michael Bay's version of the Transformers of which he described as a "stupid toy movie" before he was educated about the subject matter by Hasbro. The movie therefore reflected Bay's vision of the Transformers which in ways are different from the original.

Apart from that is also the fact that the movie is just a commercial film for the mass market filled with Product Placements.

Even with all the effort and brilliance in creating the live action movie using CGI & special effects (which is entertaining to the mass market), the movie really fell short on capturing what should be the essence of the original Transformer characters.

As a film it did not do strongly on story telling, creating a compelling atmosphere & developing characters. What it did however was to put on a show of explosion, crashes & cheap humor.

Sure the film entertained in terms of giving its audience a cinematic experience with visual & sound (mostly bass) effects but is a good film based just on that alone?

Whatever happened to script writing, screenplay, cinematography, directing, editing & complimenting musical score?

Is this the way movies should be made even if the audience should cheer & applaud them?

As a media of great influence, shouldn't movie makers at least consider what values & messages they are sending out by their creation?

When Optimus Prime & his Autobots made up their mind to save earth and the human race, just what kind of a world are they really saving?

A world of destruction, a world that sees commercial values above all else and a world whose people view a film like Michael Bay's Transformer something of high regard?

Just who are these robots in disguised as the Transformers?

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Movie Review: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 14 June 2007

When the trailer is better than the movie, what does it says about the movie? That is how Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer turns out to be. I'm going to be wicked. The filmmakers should rename the sequel to 2005's Fantastic Four to Plastic Flaw: Fall of the Silver Surfer.

The hardest review to write is having nothing good to write about. So if you, the reader expect any good here then you may be disappointed. There could be a couple of things good but mostly there are more, I shouldn't say bad, but just not good.

I really liked how the Silver Surfer looks in the movie but it is just that for a film based on the comic-book genre, it is awfully thin. (Comic books may be thin in physical appearance but they are usually big on ideas and graphics) When I say thin, I'm thinking three things, the script, the CGI (except the Silver Surfer) and Jessica Alba.

I liked 2005's Fantastic Four despite it being critically bombarded by many reviewers. It is at least entertaining and I could relate to the feelings of each Fantastic Four characters. This sequel however gave nothing valuable for the price of an entry ticket.

What happened? I needed some answers. Let us check what shuffling was done in the production shall we?

A check on the crew list reflected a change in the personnel that did the screenplay. Mark Frost and Michael France who did the screenplay in the first film were no longer there. Actually it was only Michael France who was missing. The two of them gave Fantastic Four some very interesting and fun dialogues that a comic-book genre movie needs. That part is not apparent in Rise of the Silver Surfer. The screenplay turned out to be bland, uninspiring and mostly uninteresting. It was hardly moving and nobody's even laughing at the funnier scenes.

Mark Frost and Don Payne did the screenplay instead. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is loosely adapted from the stories in the original comic book. And according to Don Payne, the story in the film is based on Fantastic Four #48, where Galactus makes an appearance and #57-60 where Doctor Doom steals the Silver Surfer's powers.

Mark Frost was also the one who wrote the story and it was OK. Why does the film need a storywriter? Isn't it based on the Marvel comic book? Lest you forget, a film still needs to be written so it can be played out on the big screen.

If you're not a comic book fan or if you had not read Fantastic Four then you should be as clueless as I am. As good as the Silver Surfer looks with that chrome body of his that is all so cool, the movie did not tell us who he really is except that he was once named Norrin Radd and he works for something or someone known as Galactus, who or what looks like a cosmic storm cloud and is said to be a devourer of planets.

I cannot imagine what the fans will think of this film. I can only guess they will be disappointed.

If you had read this far then I think you are interested to find out more so here goes and I'll lead you into the film.

The movie begins with the Silver Surfer flying away from an exploding planet and into earth. Bursting through the air space in various parts of earth, he caused a climatic shift that sees snow fall in Egypt. Large craters then appears and it was found that every planet that the Silver Surfer goes, it dies in eight days.

Meanwhile the Fantastic Four has gotten used to their extraordinary lives with the Human Torch (Chris Evans) seemingly enjoying much of the limelight. The Thing (Michael Chiklis) having found love with the blind Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington) after his wife left him because of his hideous looks is looking OK. Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffuld) and Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) are getting married. Everything is looking all right until the Silver Surfer arrives and mess up their lives again.

Quarreling and fighting, the team of four with their diverse persona will come clashing with one another. Underneath their appearance is another layer of skin that cannot be seen with the eyes. That part needs to be understood by those who care. Who are they?

With the earth's existence threatened, the team of four needs to work out their differences to save the world. Things are not helped by the return of power hungry Victor or Doctor Doom (Julian McMahon), the villain from the first film who has escaped his captivity in Latveria. Evil as he is, he has a different agenda although first appearing to be helpful.

How can the Fantastic Four save earth from a force so powerful that devours cosmic planets? Look to the title of this film for the answer.

The plot is interesting isn't it? I thought so too. But if you refer to the top, I changed the name of the movie. Plastic Flaw because even as a film that relies on CGI and special effects as its selling points, it is flawed in appearance. Everything except for the Silver Surfer looks only superficial and adds nothing new to what we had already seen before. And Fall of the Silver Surfer because the Silver Surfer fell off his board quite literally just as the movie did.

Watch if you're a fan because surely you will. And watch if you've got 90 minutes to kill. But if it is an entertaining, inspiring and fantastic movie you're looking for then you'll need to look elsewhere.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is not fantastic, just ordinary.

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