252 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
What should have been like an epic season finale ends up as a mid season filler
8 December 2017
It is no simple task for a movie to introduce 3 new characters, present a narrative of these characters coming together, build camaraderie, flesh out the stakes, the threat, follow up on existing plot threads from past movies and give closure to the development arc of Superman all within a mere 2 hours (including opening and end credits). JUSTICE LEAGUE is brief to the point of absurdity and most of its problems result from the post production process of editing and incorporating reshoots all in a bid to cater to the lowest common denominator.

Following the death of Superman, criminals have become emboldened, plunging the world into a state of terror. In London, Wonder Woman stops an extremist bomb Attack while back on Gotham City, Batman is investigating the appearance of flying alien creatures that seem attracted to intense feelings of fear. A close encounter with one of the creatures convinces Batman that the alien invasion he so feared was imminent and he proceeds to recruit the super powered individuals whom he discovered in the previous movie BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Meanwhile, the alien warlord known as Steppenwolf makes planetfall intent on stealing 3 ancient artifacts known as the Motherboxes in order to unite them and summon forth a power that will destroy the earth.

The first act is a hasty haphazardly edited sequence jumping around the world and from character to character. There is hardly a sense of chronology or flow to the scenes! Perhaps if the movie was edited to focus on one character at a time culminating in the arrival of Steppenwolf at Paradise Island it would have flowed better. Instead it feels like scenes just end prematurely to cut to a wholly unrelated scene only to cut back minutes later. Arguably the flow improves once the team gets together for their first mission to investigate mysterious abductions in Gotham.

Problems of its truncated narrative aside, JUSTICE LEAGUE does a good job of establishing its characters and building the camaraderie. The chemistry between teammates is impeccable. Their unique personalities play off each other beautifully and there are tender emotional moments interspersed throughout the script. My only beef with the script is all the random moments of humour. It just does not mix well. This is an end of the world scenario and you have awkward slapstick, flat jokes and even traditionally serious characters like Batman trying to be funny. With its laughable dialogue peppering even serious battle scenes, the stakes are trivialised and it becomes difficult to take their story seriously.

The hodgepodge Of 2 very differing styles courtesy 2 very different directors is evident from the get go with character even changing appearances between scenes clearly giving away evidence the insertion of reshoots. Even the overall look of the move was given an overhaul. Gone is the evocative colour filters of past movies replaced with a garish palette. Also in removing the filters, the CGI elements stand out more due to the lighting mismatch with the non-CGI elements.

This is a huge pity as much of the action depends on visual effects. Even the villain Steppenwolf is a full CGI character. Thankfully he is a compelling threat. His limited screen time gives him an air of mystery like one of those traditional slasher movie villains and his twisted personality really comes through. The action is also masterfully shot for the most part utilising dynamic camera angles and slow motion to give the perfect resemblance to comic book panels brought to life. Only the final battle comes across as disappointing and generic (and very obviously a reshoot).

It pains me to have to counter every positive with a negative but there is something I have always enjoyed and it is when movies go beyond being mere stimulators of adrenaline and endorphins, and instead address and explore deeper themes in the narrative. Movies that get you thinking. Justice League was none of this and it is sad because there was a lot of potential to explore. We are hinted at the more metaphorical aspect of a movie as a tale of reviving hope in the most hopeless of situations. We are hinted at moral conflicts and the ethics of Batman's sudden proposal to revive Superman with an alien device. We are hinted at a much deeper narrative surrounding the individuals and their emotional baggage. Hinted hinted hinted but never explored or even addressed outright. Themes that were explored in past movies, the deconstruction/reconstruction of a savior archetype, the impact of super powered beings on international politics, the world's reaction to such beings, and much more all abandoned.

The result is a truncated summary of an epic that could have been. Sacrificing thematic depth for levity robs the movie of any uniqueness it may have had in this day and age saturated with superficial superhero shows. It's inconsistency is it's greatest weak spot and seems to indicate that the studio had little interest in telling a compelling tale. The amazing action, the bombastic battles which showcase the extent of each characters' skills, and the near perfect portrayal of each character show that this movie was meant merely as a primer: a means to instill an audience with a greater interest in its characters so as to get them on board for the many inevitable spinoffs. It may make you see superheroes as cool again in a most perfunctory way, but little else beyond that.
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Shin Godzilla (2016)
Giant Monster and Biting Political Satire
2 October 2017
Japan is back in the game with their very own new Godzilla movie SHIN GOJIRA. Where Hollywood revived Godzilla as a tribute to his more heroic role in the late-showa era "versus" movies and the Heisei era, Toho Japan has gone back to the roots of the 1954 original Gojira and crafted a modern thriller about the horrors of mankind's misdeeds, the inaction of a government embroiled in bureaucracy and the impotence of a military in the face of this fiercer, meaner, force of nature Godzilla. .

SHIN GODZILLA is likely the first Godzilla movie to focus squarely on the political scene within the government when a giant monster attacks. Past movies have always involved Scientists, soldiers, or civilians focusing on the chaos on the ground. This movies looks into the chaos at the top as we follow young civil servant Yaguchi, deputy chief cabinet secretary (the first in a long list of designations to come).

A regular day in the government is interrupted by the collapse of the Tokyo bay aqua line tunnel and mysterious attacks off the coast of Japan. While the aged officials hold fruitless meeting after meeting in an obvious parody of real life bureaucratic process, Yaguchi theorists that the disasters are caused by a living creature.

No sooner is his theory shot down than an enormous tail rises out of the water. As the government scrambles but always falling a step behind the escalating disaster, Yaguchi forms a task force of unorthodox civilian experts to figure out how to stop this creature.

As the government's tried and tested efforts become increasingly futile, USA sends a special envoy Kayako Ann Patterson with the promise of military aid and insider knowledge to this mysterious creature dubbed "Godzilla".

The creature is growing, mutating, and taking on increasingly dangerous characteristics. Yaguchi's team is forced to think outside the box for a new way to halt its rampage before the UN deploys nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.

Contrary to the trailers, this is not the dark depressing disaster movie that was promised. Instead we are treated to one of the smartest and most biting social and political satires in modern cinema. Right in the crosshairs is the inefficient bureaucratic processes of the government and their obsession with trivial minutia which results in a complete mishandling of the crisis posed by the constantly evolving Godzilla.

The satire comes in the fact that the film does not overly dramatize anything; what you see is as close to reality as one can get in an old fashion parliamentary government like Japan's. Each ministry out for itself, passing the buck wherever possible, defending only their own interests. Standard procedures take precedence over unconventional methods.

Scenes of the prime minister making an announcement of Godzilla not being able to come ashore, intercut with the revelation that not only has the creature made landfall but has started trashing the town, hearkened back to the perceived mishandling of past real life disasters in Japan.

Yet the message underlying this movie is not a strict criticism of the government but an affirming call to action aimed at a new generation of leaders to unite a nation. Where the traditional methods fail, innovation and initiative will be the true weapons of the future. Yaguchi and his team represent this perfectly; outcasts from their respective fields because of their unconventional ideas.

Their tenacity in the face of hopeless defeat soon inspires fellow citizens from all walks of life, engineers, mechanics, construction workers and other blue collar roles typically overlooked by a status obsessed people, to come together and stand against a God incarnate.

The titular monster is unlike any incarnation ever seen. It's keloid looking skin, seemingly torn in places, gives the impression of pure suffering. Yet his inhuman all staring eyes betray a being devoid of soul. It is as it was back in 1954; a soulless unstoppable force birthed from mankind's sins. The military is powerless, though not for a lack of trying.

Where previous Godzilla movies have shown the military in a less than flattering light (cowardly, incompetent, or unable to hit such a massive creature), SHIN GODZILLA shows a military force truly giving their all, only hampered by slow indecision from the top.

The special effects used to bring this colossus to life is arguably good. No where near Hollywood blockbusters but amazing once you consider the comparatively tiny budget Toho had to work with. The naturalistic direction an camera-work courtesy of Evangelion creator Hideki Anno and his crew give the movie an almost "documentary" type feel.

It is devoid of filters, using very natural looking lighting wherever possible, which enhances the realism of the events taking place. Though the cuts can be a bit distracting at times, alternating between rapid fire jump cuts to scenes that look as if Anno left his camera running and forgot about it. Equally distracting is some of CGI compositing on Godzilla and some of his movements which end up more jerky than a puppet's. These are just minor faults though and only an issue to the more OCD of viewers.

Perhaps the only thing it does lack is the element of human drama. It is unafraid to show the horrible consequences of a monster's rampage through a macro view of a country's key decision makers but in doing so it does not leave opportunity to get the audience invested in any particular character.

More than just a monster movie, SHIN GODZILLA is a smart political thriller that satirizes an inflexible system. Those expecting a brainless action blockbuster will no doubt be disappointed. But as long as one is willing to turn in the brain and appreciate this movie for the deeper more complex themes it tries to tackle, you will find a refreshingly novel giant monster movie which the industry definitely needs.
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Wonder Woman (2017)
Continuing DCEU's more serious and philosophical examination of superheroes
26 June 2017
The origin story of the quintessential female superhero is finally realised on the big screen. Only the fourth entry into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), WONDER WOMAN is an feature length flashback detailing the events behind the mysterious photo from the First World War that was shown in 2016's BATMAN V SUPERMAN.

Before she became a hero, Diana of the Amazons had only known a paradise of sisters forged in the ideals of cooperation and a Mission to defend the world against Ares, the last of the old Greek gods. Her perfect world is shattered when war comes to Paradise Island in the form of the American spy Steve Trevor and a ship full of German enemy pursuers. Diana in her innocent idealism believes Ares to be responsible for the war and leaves the island with Trevor in the hope that killing Ares will spare innocent lives from the horrors of war.

Giving life to the character of Diana is actress Gal Gadot. Gal is a dead ringer for the iconic superhero, looking exactly like she stepped out of the comic books. The earnestness she brings to the role perfectly conveys Diana's innocence and idealistic outlook. Much time is spent focused on the characters such that even side characters receive decent characterisation and development.

Diana shares a magnificent chemistry with co-star Chris Pine playing the world weary captain Steve Trevor. Their romantic sub plot can be compared to classic romances like Casablanca, masterfully and tastefully realised on screen. But the more intriguing aspect is when the movie goes into their minds, showing their contrasting perspectives on life.

Diana approaches her Mission like a child approaching a fairy tale story. Clear black and white morality, destroy the bad guy and the world is saved. That simple. Unfortunately, it is not that simple and her entire story is one of growing up and seeing the truth about humanity's ugly nature. On the flip side, Trevor straddles the line of cynicism; he knows full well the worst that humanity is capable of yet cannot bring himself to break Diana's innocent worldview.

What begins as a relatively run of the mill superhero origin story morphs into a surprisingly deep narrative that seeks to shatter viewer expectations. True to the DCEU, WONDER WOMAN, like its predecessors, explores some heady themes against the backdrop of war. Key of which is weighing Diana's idealism against worldly cynicism and outright nihilism.

The movie explores those perspectives through its characters, never preaching one over the other and coming to a mature conclusion that ties into an ongoing theme of "hero by choice, not by obligation" that the DCEU movies had been conveying.

The movie never shies away from showing the true horrors of combat, broken families, broken people, a hero helpless against the odds, a truly dark time serving as a stark contrast to the amazon's paradise island. Into this darkness comes Diana herself who is given ample opportunity to flex her powers in a spectacular show of Super heroics. Patty Jenkins approaches the action like a pro, keeping to the more fantastic, speed ramped portrayal of superhero fighting as established by Zack Snyder, while adding her own touches such as the amazons' uniquely cooperative battle tactics (which gets a wonderful payoff later in the movie). Her masterful direction extends to the balanced tone of the movie. Many comic book movies prefer to stuff their narrative with humour, even in the middle of intense battle scenes, such that the movie fails to take itself seriously. WONDER WOMAN does not fall into that trap.

The battles are approached with respectful gravitas, and a genuine sense of peril. Bookending such sequences are character centred scenes in a peaceful setting which help to develop their relationships in a very natural and heartfelt way. There is humour and it is used sparingly, never detracting from the underlying themes or the seriousness of the setting.

This balance gives us a product that can easily appeal to everyone. Diana as a character is one that anyone who had ever been a child can relate to. The epic action, consistently focused on the characters and set to an emotionally rousing score by Rupert Gregson Williams (Legend of Tarzan), will please the typical blockbuster fan.

For those who love the deeper more thematically complex cinematic offerings, you will not be disappointed by the themes explored in this move. And as a refreshing surprise, WONDER WOMAN features what I can unabashedly say is the most genuine and well written romance in a comic book movie, ever.

Truly wonderful.
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Wonder Woman (2009 Video)
Before Gal Gadot, there was this wonderful little animated movie
31 May 2017
Wonder Woman makes her live action solo movie debut in 2017, but that is not her first feature length film. In 2009, the animated Wonder Woman movie was produced by Warner Premiere as part of its then-new direct to video series of movies. Overshadowed by higher profile releases like Batman Gotham Knights (no doubt bolstered by the success of Christopher Nolan's dark knight trilogy), the 2009 Wonder Woman animated movie failed to perform as well in terms of sales. Surprising when you consider that on its own, WONDER WOMAN is a well made, thought provoking, energetic little movie that deserved much more recognition than it got.

Our story opens in ancient times where the amazon women wage a bloody war which ended with he imprisonment of Ares, but at the cost of many lives. As a reward, the Greek gods grant the amazon queen Hippolyta a child fashioned from clay: Diana. The amazons flourish in isolation on paradise island where Diana grows up into a fine young warrior. But a part of her seeks greater adventure outside the boundaries of the island. Her chance comes when pilot Steve Trevor survives a frantic mid air battle and crashes on the island.

As the amazons hold a contest to determine the one most worthy to escort Trevor back to America, Ares escapes with the help of a traitor just as Diana wins the contest. Tasked with tracking down Ares, Trevor opts to help Diana as the enter man's world in search of the missing god of war. But Ares has a far more sinister plan in the work, one that could spell the doom of the world and the extinction of the amazons.

Right from the get go, the first thing that struck me was the dialogue in the movie. Written by comic scribe Gail Simone, the dialogue is witty, clever and mature. Take the visuals out of the equation and it feels like watching a well written live action movie or prime time TV show.

Our characters are brought to life by a perfect cast; Alfred Molina is truly menacing as Ares, Rosario Dawson as the regal queen, and Keri Russell imbuing a nuanced inner strength to Diana.

However the true standout performance is Firefly's Nathan Fillon as daring scoundrel pilot Steve Trevor. Steve is part Han Solo, part Maverick Mitchell from Top Gun and Fillon slips into it perfectly. He completely owns the roll, delivering his dialogue in the most natural way possible, sharing a magnificent chemistry with Russell.

The story is deeper than your average cartoon. Aside from being an origin story for Wonder Woman, showing her growth from reluctant and slightly defiant girl to a champion of the oppressed, the narrative weaves in many underlying themes relevant to our times.

Themes of sexism, gender bias, racial privilege and the differing expectations on man and woman are all interwoven into the narrative and brought to the forefront. It is refreshing to find a movie that is this smart in its handling of such themes; indeed a rarity in American animated works.

Unfortunately, the movie is not without its flaws and WONDER WOMAN's flaws are in the visuals. The animation was done by Moi Animation, a Korean studio who worked on many critically acclaimed works such as Legend of Korra and Young Justice. WONDER WOMAN was their first feature length work, having only done animation in the past for TV shows like TEEN TITANS and BOONDOCKS. The animation is OK. Nothing horrible but nothing as stunning as their later works. The often uninspired way the fight scenes are done does not help matters. Fights either involve one too many cuts or just do not feel as dynamic as other later DC animated movies.

The art work is also up to personal taste. Director Lauren Montgomery brings a look that mixes 90s Disney cartoon aesthetic with the more simplistic designs of the Bruce Timm cartoons, but the mix tends to look a bit lazy at times.

I personally did not like it as all the women looked the same, with big emphasised lips and angular hips, only differentiated by different hair styles. The few attempts at using CGI for vehicles just came off looking cheap and unprofessional.

On the bright side, composer Christopher Drake bring an epic score to the movie, giving otherwise mediocre fight scenes a sense of intensity and danger.

At 75 minutes, some would call the movie short, but i call it succinct. A lot happens in that time, going from paradise island, to America, to the depths of the underworld, and then to a climatic showdown in Washington DC. This brisk pace may leave it up to the viewer to connect some of the sub plots but the main story of Diana's more innocent nature contrasting with the ways of the modern world works to develop her character from sheltered princess into a true warrior and hero. This movie in a word is terrific, let down only by its technical shortcomings. If you can forgive that, that you would be in for a truly wonderful experience.
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Easily the most true to the source material among all the movies
1 May 2017
The first RESIDENT EVIL movie was a scary fun romp. It's key downside was having nothing to do with the original video games outside of a few characters designs and settings. RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE is the sequel and tries to right the ship by introducing us to some of the characters from the actual video games. Video game characters Jill Valentine, Carlos Olivero and A few others are finally adapted into live action and the results are amazing. The movie finally feels like an actual adaptation, taking the setting of RE2 and 3, as well as many plot points and faithful recreations of key scenes.

The movie starts when the Umbrella corporation opens the underground facility known as the Hive in which the T-Virus outbreak occurs. The virus spreads to nearby Raccoon City (which looks a lot like Toronto Canada) turning the dead into zombies and showing us the chilling societal degeneration into chaos. Amidst this chaos, Umbrella head scientist Doctor Charles Ashford loses his Daughter Angela during a frantic evacuation. As local armed forces attempt to stem the tide of undead, Umbrella corp releases a newly weaponised Alice, having been granted superhuman abilities. In a desperate bid to reunite with his Daughter, dr Ashford manipulates Jill, Carlos and Alice together to rescue his Angela. But a new bioweapon is loose in the city. The hulking, chaingun toting Nemesis.

Alexander Witt in his debut role as director eschews Paul WS Anderson's claustrophobic filming style of the previous movie and instead ops to mimic the "camera" placement of the video games. Gone too are the scares of the first movie replaced by a straight forward action movie plot. The cinematography is crisp and clear, showing the action in full. But that also means it shows some poorly crafted special effects in full.

The infamous cgi Lickers are back, though now half enshrouded in darkness so they do not look as bad as before. On the other end of the spectrum is the Nemesis bioweapon, a hulking behemoth with a mini gun that looks exactly like a big guy in a suit and rubber mask. His platform heels, obviously meant to make the actor look taller, are laughable and makes this lumbering leather bound lunk move stiffly. He looks exactly like he does in the game though, which I guess is another plus, and he is meant to hunt down our main characters. Not that he exudes much air of menace or as if it the audience would care about the main characters.

Protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) has developed a hint of personality here which can be summarised as "badass lady". That is it. Still as shallow as a pan with an abrasive snarky attitude, Alice is near invincible with her superhuman agility, strength and cunning, taking the spotlight away from others in what is blatantly becoming Paul Ws Anderson's fan fiction. Which is a pity as Carlos Olivero and Jill Valentine make for much more appealing protagonists. Sienna Guilroy looks exactly like her game counterpart from the outfit to the way she walks and holds a gun. An intriguing backstory is hinted at but never developed on, instead cutting back to Alice since she is the main character.

While I do give points to RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE for being an action packed zombie blockbuster with a plot hearkening back to the shallow 80s macho action movies, its underdeveloped but wholly more appealing side characters and insistence on a bland protagonist does hurt the enjoyment. It is a mash up of my 2 Favourite genre of films and more faithful to the games yet it is plagued by Low Budget special effects and horrible antagonists.
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X-Men (1992–1997)
A cartoon right out of the comics
1 May 2017
Nostalgia. It is a disease that infects our senses to perceive products through rose coloured glasses just because of some fleeting connection to good memories of our younger days. In reviewing the much loved X-MEN THE ANIMATED SERIES it is only right that nostalgia is removed from the equation and we can review those show as objectively as possible to the standards of that era. The end result is really a mixed bag with its ups and downs when it comes to technical quality, writing, artwork and voice acting. It is not a bad show but not the epitome of perfection that many may choose to believe.

An roaring action packed opening sequence, beautifully detailed art and amazing animation, kicks off each episode to the electronic fanfare of the now iconic X-men theme. As we segue into the episodes proper the drop in quality is very noticeable. There has always been a trade off between the level of art detail and the smoothness of the animation motions. Here, they tried to mimic the detailed art of the era's comics. The designs are straight out of the 1990s comics particularly those drawn by artist Jim Lee, maintaining lots of shadows and contrast with lighting effects, clothing folds and skin creases painstakingly drawn frame by frame. The level of detail is almost on par with direct to video Japanese Anime of that era, no simple feat coming from Korean studies AKOM. Unfortunately the quality of the animation leaves much to be desired. There is a stilted look to many scenes particularly in the more crowded action sequences. Backgrounds seem unfinished at times and the occasion animation error can be quite jarring. Close up shot fare better only because there is less to animate and the detailed art more than makes up for the mediocre animation.

The stories are very close adaptations of tales straight out of the comic books, particularly the best works by Chris Claremont and Fabian Niceza. Overarching story lines spanning multiple episodes give each season a grander more epic feel. Stand outs include the Phoenix Saga, the Cable and Apocalypse conflict, and of course Magneto's Insurgency. There is a good mixed of "event" episodes and more intimate character Centred ones where there is less emphasis on action, more on drama and development.

Initially both scripts and actors fell into the trappings of typical Saturday morning cartoon fluff: overacting, juvenile dialogue. Come season two and the script took on a more mature tone (again a result of adapting lines directly from the comics). Characters die and relationships get broken then healed as the episodes tackle themes of discrimination, extremism, illegal experimentation, and even some existential philosophy. The status quo continually changes unlike many other cartoons which always revert to status quo by the end of the episode.

Slowly but surely the voice actors eased into their roles and by season 3 they were emoting like experts; subtle, nuanced, perfect. Many of the voices like Iona Morris' extra dramatic Storm, Norm Spencer's heroic leader Cyclops and Cathal Dodd's scowling Wolverine have gone down in history as being THE iconic voices of the characters that comic readers hear in their heads whenever they flip through their Favourite books.

It is easy to see why the series garnered such a wide appeal, pleasing both casual viewers and Long time comic readers alike. It's faithfulness to the source material and visual aesthetics of the comics are tampered with necessary tweaks to make the continuity less convoluted. Having read the comic, I dare say that some of the changes are actually an improvement over the original stories. The cartoon's biggest asset is its willingness to show the more mature subject matter of the comics without dumbing stuff down for kids. The artwork is beautiful in all its rich detail, a cut above other cartoons of that era but sadly let down by sub par animation. Though it takes it's time to find good footing, X-MEN THE ANIMATED SERIES is right up there among the best of 1990s cartoons. Not perfect, and definitely not aged well when compared to shows of today, but excellent nonetheless.
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More Mad Max with Zombies than Resident Evil
1 May 2017
The word "extinction" points to an end, the dying out of a species, the final full stop after a long story, usually coming after a series of disasters that drive home the finality of the situation. And what better way to do that to a movie franchise based on a video game than to totally disregard anything to do with the source material in favour of a clichéd mish mash of other well loved movies. We are in familiar post apocalyptic territory as the events of the previous RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE has led to a global T-Virus outbreak which is implied to have caused lakes and rivers to dry out and the land itself to die, turning the whole continent into a barren desert. Las Vegas is covered to its buildings' rooftops in sand, zombies roam the land, cannibal gangs lie in wait for unsuspecting victims, survivors form convoys to stay alive and on the movie. Good golly, it's MAD MAX all over again and every other post apocalyptic movie ever.

Some time has passed since the end of RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE and the virus has spread, slowly killing the world and mutating its population. Alice, now cursed with psychic powers, wanders the desert of central USA searching for survivors. A convenient twist of fate puts her back together with former allies Carlos Olivera and L.J, along with new companion Claire Radfield and her convoy of survivors heading toward the ruins of Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the Umbrella Corporation is desperate to replicate the special powers that manifested in Alice, creating clones and putting them through conditions that replicated the events of the first RESIDENT EVIL movie. Another series of convenient twists put Alicia back on Umbrella's radar and head scientist Dr Issacs will stop at nothing to recapture his lost Super weapon.

Ties to the video game are nearly non-existent here as we are throw into a rather generic post apocalyptic wasteland type of tale. The cast does their best with the material they were given but they never go beyond generic archetypes. It is hard to distinctly describe each character only because they are so bland. Newcomer Ali Carter barely resembles Claire Radfield from the video games. This is a major disappointment after how Sienna Miller perfectly portrayed the video games' Jill Valentine in live action. Which brings me to my other pet peeve: where's Jill? Where's the little girl from the previous movie? All this is never explained. Instead we are treated to a half hearted attempt at a character arc with Alice feeling more disconnected with her human feelings thanks to her growing powers. Some form of digital correction seems to have been applied to Milla Jovovich's face, giving this slightly off focus effect. Maybe it was meant to make her seem less human but it just serves to emphasise her lack of emotional range, keeping her stern stare and neutral expression looking even more artificial than usual.

What makes up for all these short comings is the amazing production design and the action sequences. The costumes, vehicles and facilities are uniquely crafted and just screams "badass". And this movie sports some of the best looking action sequences courtesy of director Russel Mulcahy (of Highlander fame). His wide crane shots and sweeping cinematography make the otherwise generic fight scenes look a lot better than they should.

With connection to the games all but severed, we could call this movie "Alice in Zombie Land" or "Fight of the Limping Dead" instead of "Resident evil". It is the best looking entry in the series with the best fight choreography and camera-work but Character development and motivations take a back seat to sweeping action pieces and one too many convenient twists.
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Resident Evil (2002)
Who the heck is Alice?
1 May 2017
Resident evil 2002 review

Hello. This is the resident evil movie franchise. And this is its story. The start of its story. It was conceptualised as an adaptation of the "Biohazard" horror genre video game, renamed "Resident Evil" for the global market. Paul Ws Anderson, director of the successful Mortal Kombat movie, was chosen to spearhead the project. But something seemed wrong. The characters were different from the game. Changed. Unrecognisable. It seemed as if he read the synopsis at the back of the video game box then tossed it out in favour of his own script. A script. Consisting of dialogue as silted as the first paragraph of this review.

Considering that the games were never well liked for their characters' flowery discourse or Shakespearean soliloquy, the creators of the movie cut and pasted elements from other movies in Paul Ws Anderson's DVD collection then give it some cosmetic do-over to resemble the video games. Special force team sent to deal with an unknown threat in a cavernous facility? Aliens (which Anderson is unabashedly a fan of). The facility is "alive" and trying to kill you? Event horizon (also directed by Anderson). Actress Milla Jovovich in a skimpy red dress, combat boots, scenes teasing near nudity and doing all sorts of nimble kung fu to show off her lithe hot body? Straight out of Anderson's wet dreams. Jovovich plays Alice. Who the heck is Alice? We do not know as she's got amnesia. But clues to who she is are sprinkled throughout the film and it is fun to piece it all together by the end. What can I say? Other than that, Alice is a blank slate audience surrogate. The ultimate escapism protagonist titilating the men and allowing women to feel empowered by how she maintains her stunning beauty while fending off shameless groping perv.....I mean, shambling groups of zombies which only appear more than halfway through the movie.

For much of the first half we are treated to a whole sequence of a special forces team breaking into a dark scary mansion to find Alice and another guy named Matt. The mansion is a cover for a hidden entrance to The Hive, a massive underground facility that had been had been mysteriously sealed. The artificial intelligence Programme dubbed "red queen" had killed all personnel in the hive and it was up to this special team to find out why. This is essentially a modernised haunted house story with the "house" being the hive and the red queen springing traps to kill the intruders. Though lacking in actual zombies, the film maintains a brisk pace and an increasing sense of dread as we descend further. The appearance of another amnesia named Spence compounds the mystery when they learn the lockdown was initiated by a virus outbreak and the red queen was merely acting to contain the virus.

When the action kicks in, it is fantastic. Sure the characters do some silly things that fly in the face of common sense but the fight scenes are well shot with tight angles and claustrophobic feel which heighten the sense of panic when facing the zombie hordes with no escape.

The mystery story is well plotted and shot but the experience is dampened by some of the corniest special effects even for a movie of its age. Near the end, they have a run in with a Super powered Monster rendered in the worst cgi ever. Why they decided to use rudimentary computer graphics instead of practical effects, puppetry and make up astounds me. The creature never blends with the rest of the footage and the disappointment is that it could easily have been done with a stuntman in a suit or animatronics.

With an eventual resolution leaving more questions than answers, RESIDENT EVIL is undoubtedly a fun guilty pleasure. It does not follow the story but retains the tone of the games. A shallow superficial plot is at least held up by consistent tension and decent pulse pounding action. Once you can forgive all the familiar elements borrowed from other movies, RESIDENT EVIL proves itself to be a decent start to a Long running science fiction horror franchise.
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Fit for a kid, not for a king
10 April 2017
KONG THE ANIMATED SERIES is what you get when you take an iconic giant movie Monster and turn him into a Saturday morning cartoon to cater to the pokemon generation. Created in 2000 as a competitor to the then successful GODZILLA THE ANIMATED SERIES, KONG purportedly takes place Long after a loose retelling of the original movie. Unlike its reptilian kaiju counterpart which still maintains a plausible continuity within the world of the movie, KONG goes right off the wacky end with kooky technology, ancient artifacts, demons, cloning, and more feeling less like a King Kong show and more like a mash up of DIGIMON and 90s era Saturday morning cartoons.

In this series, King Kong dies but a scientist Dr Lorna Jenkins clones Kong using DNA of King Kong and her grandson Jason. Many years later, Jason gets invited to his grandmother's secret lab on "Kong island" (because "Skull Island" may be too frightening for little kids) along with his Friend Eric Tannenbaum and university professor Ramone De La Porta. Dr Jenkins has apparently been researching magical primal stones and created the cyberlink technology which allows users to merge with creatures turning giving them a power boost and turning them into humanoid giant Mutants. Lo and behold De La Porta turns out to be a bad guy and his cronies steal the primal stones and some cyberlink headsets. This causes some demon to slowly awaken. The race is now on to retrieve the stones from De La Porta before the demon Chrios awakens.

The digimon influence is readily apparent in the character of Kong himself. He is an animal Friend/Guardian who can power up to a stronger form in times of need. He and Jason share a loyal sibling type relationship with a few charming moments. With the , You have a scantily clad shaman girl Lua that serves as romantic foil to the protagonist, the comic relief sidekick Tennenbaum, the mentor type in dr Jenkins, all of these staples of old Saturday morning cartoons. Yes they are just as bland as those old cartoons but special thanks goes to the voice actors who lend much needed energy to otherwise insipid scripts.

Fans of anime would be able to recognise voice acting veterans like Kirby Morrow, Saffron Henderson and many others infusing their characters with distinct personalities while sharing good chemistry with each other. David Kaye and Scott McNeil are the stand out performances here with Kaye portraying De La Porta as a smooth cunning criminal with a fancy foreign accent (which tends to slip now and then between Spanish and French accent) and McNeil doing a range of voices from the comedic Tennenbaum, to one of De La Porta's African henchmen, to Kong himself.

The futuristic tech and unexplained magic, also staples of such cartoons, are effective hand waves for the inconsistent sizes of the giant monsters; one moment Kong can fit in a warehouse and the next he's towering over the same warehouse. Or we could just chalk that up to lousy animation courtesy of the Philippine Animation Studio inc. The studio's claim to fame were the horrible last season of the 90s X-men cartoon and some of the worst animated episodes of Animaniacs. In this series, the animation is serviceable. There are moments of Super smooth movements that stand out among the sometimes choppy and other times overdone character motions. For some reason, characters tend to gesture a lot when they talk in this cartoon and sometimes it turns out corny like something out of a stage play. As mentioned, such gesturing alternates between awkward and excessively expressive. The gaudy neon bright Colours and simplistic art work really do not help matters, which is a real shame especially when it comes to the giant Monster fights.

While the plots for the episodes are varied enough not to fall into a set formula, the overall story does meander a lot often losing track of the core story of retrieving the primal stones to stop the demon from awakening. The scripts are simplistic and borderline juvenile at times, betraying the magnificent performances of the voice cast. It's mediocrity from both a technical and artistic standpoint, along with its cliché ridden premise, only does a disservice to the legacy of King Kong as a timeless character.
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The King reigns again
10 April 2017
He's big, he's loud, hairy and proud. He is King Kong! This giant ape is to Hollywood what Godzilla is to Japan, having undergone multiple remakes ever since the classic movie from 1933. From the cheesy but fun 1976 version to the fairy tale-like period piece by Peter Jackson of LORD OF THE RINGS fame, to being borrowed by Japan for a couple of movies and facing off against Godzilla himself. Not to mention the deluge of imitators cashing in on the giant ape Monster concept.

Unlike previous attempts by Hollywood, KONG: SKULL ISLAND is not a remake of the classic tragedy. The original movie and its remakes were centred around a tragic "damsel and Monster" pseudo romance: people go to a mysterious island, Kong saves damsel in distress, falls for her, gets brought back to America, runs amok, captures damsel, gets killed by aeroplanes. This 2017 movie eschews that tired storyline for an original one set during the closing chapters of the Vietnam war.

Out to prove the existence of ancient mega-sized monsters, Bill Randa and Houston Brooks of the MONARCH organisation tag along with an expedition to a recently discovered island shrouded in storm clouds. With them are photojournalist Mason Weaver, biologist San Li, survivalist Conrad as their guide, Scientists from LANDSAT on a geological survey and a team of soldiers as escort. I loved the pacing of the set up and the plot evokes a sense of nostalgia. It is an exploration into the unknown, a little like Jurassic park with a team of unlikely heroes sent to a mysterious island, tragedy happens and they pull together to survive. The strange colossal creatures are revealed and portrayed in a way similar to the appearance of the first dinosaur in the classic Steven Spielberg movie, with that sense of awe and majesty.

Unlike Jurassic Park however, Kong is not a peaceful herbivore but a fierce protector guarding a dark secret beneath the island. The awe turns to horror as The humans' actions have awoken an ancient menace, angering Kong who decimates the helicopters and scatters the group. Conrad leads half of the group toward an evacuation site while Colonel Packard gathers what remains of men to strike back at Kong for killing his comrades. But the island holds many fearsome secrets and their only hope for defeating a blood thirsty race of predators is Kong.

Right from the get go, the all star cast nails it! Spot on delivery and portrayal of every character, their motivations and quirks completely fleshed out. They are not particularly complex, many of the soldiers fall into the "typical squad" mold that we have seen in many other movies featuring squads of soldiers, but the main characters are great. Tom Hiddleston's Conrad oozes badass charm and undergoes an arc that brings him from aloof loner out for himself to someone who puts the date of his teammates before himself. Samuel L Jackson's Packard is my favourite character. His quest for revenge against Kong and his slow descent into madness feels like something out of Apocalypse Now. It is a natural progression of his arc and the best part is that it does not feel contrived. His reasons are noble, having failed his men before and not wanting to fail them again. His relationship wit Kong becomes a sort of Ahab/Moby Dick dynamic which leads to a powerful pro-environmental message about humanity's tendency to destroy what they do not understand or cannot control.

The main attraction however are the giant monsters rendered in CGI using motion capture. The effects are magnificent, rendered primarily by Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) the studio behind the effects of Transformers and Star Wars. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts brings clear camera-work with wide angles and sweeping shots allowing the action to be beheld in full. The cinematography by Larry Fong is astounding in itself, imbuing Skull Island with a rich atmosphere of unrestrained beauty. The shot near the opening of Kong rising against a setting sun is just one example of the many breathtaking sequences. My only gripe was how Kong's fur was rendered. There seems to be an unexplainable stiffness to the fur which at times looks less natural than 2005's rendition by Weta Digital.

By all counts, KONG: SKULL ISLAND is a rip roaring adventure with a sense of nostalgia accompanied by magnificent visuals, and clear action scenes pushing the boundaries of the giant Monster movie genre. It gives equal focus to both human characters and its titular titan, never getting bogged down in either element. The icing on the cake? KONG: SKULL ISLAND sets up a shared Monster universe, a "Monsterverse", and a sequel where the King will face off against a God.
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