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The Expendables (2010)
I feel like a little girl again. :)
I'm an 80s girl so I grew up watching most of the cast including Jet Li in his earliest works. Seeing all of these guys plus new gen action heroes like Jason Statham on the same screen at the same time was pretty much a dream come true.
To start, I just want to say that we don't really watch action movies for any sort of compelling plot. I have no illusions about that so The Expendables' lack of said compelling plot doesn't particularly disappoint me. Still, I have to say props to Mickey Rourke for somehow, when you least expect it, drawing the viewer into this senselessly violent world and making something human of it. I've never gotten misty eyed at an action flick before, this was the first time.
Generally, the cast was colourful and entertaining, I enjoyed their idiosyncrasies and Stallone's willingness to take potshots about his age. His age definitely was showing in this film, (though I am relieved to see that his arms aren't so grotesquely enormous this time around *cough*RamboIV*cough*) but he still retains a kind of gritty, lumbering charm that many of us Rambo fans know and love.
I really liked what was planned with the action scenes but I have no love or praise for the camera work. I could only barely follow what was happening with the camera sweeping back and forth rapidly between characters and scenes in uncomfortable angles. The movie was fast-paced enough as it was and the camera didn't do it any justice. I think it was the only thing that really ruined it for me.
Overall, I was drawn into the funny and action-packed world of these soldiers of fortune. It was a pleasure to re-experience the same wide-eyed visual thrill-ride of my youth. Supposedly there's a sequel in mind, I have to admit I'm looking forward to it. :)
Sex and the City 2 (2010)
All That Glitters
Two years after the end of the first film, we return to Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. Carrie is married and beginning to feel a little restless, Charlotte is struggling with motherhood, Miranda hates her job and Samantha... well, you know Samantha.
The trailers and teaser pics drove fans into a frenzy, more so when clips of John Corbett (as Aiden Shaw) were revealed. The whole thing built up expectations and painted a diamond-like illusion. Unfortunately, what we got was a Swarovski crystal.
I suppose I should first touch on what I liked about the film:
The first half was probably the best, the opening set a very familiar mood and tone that welcomed fans back to the series. Stanford/Anthony shippers like myself also received the ultimate fanservice in the form of their wedding.
Long time watchers such as myself (I break out the DVD collection every so often), will have a fun time spotting the numerous homages they paid to the original series.
It had its moments outside of the homages, some of it had the audience in stitches. Those moments were few, but when they happened, the movie shone.
Now for what I disliked:
The fashion was really a hit and miss for me. In fact, some of it was downright bad.
The second half of the story was just contrived and floppy. Even though the whole Abu Dhabi (filmed in Morocco really) part was supposed to be the highlight of the film, it just didn't do anything for me. I enjoyed some of the scenes there but the plot just started to twist illogically.
Among other things, I disliked that the film pulled away New York proper and from what many fans loved. We followed these women through six seasons and one movie to see them be with the loves of their lives, yet much loved characters like Steve and Harry received minimal screen time. Even less than the first movie if it's to be believed.
In fact, despite the fact that these women started the series with some key problems that they needed to work out, we spent half the movie watching them cavort around in a foreign country and then those problems are magically solved in the 5-10 minute ending.
What I loved about the first film is that while it had a rather somber tone for the most part, it showed how these characters worked through their issues. It's a little something called 'character development', something that only occasionally brushed the surface of this second film.
Props to Miranda and Charlotte's story lines though, because if it weren't for them, there wouldn't have been anything in the story that would've been particularly relevant or down to earth for the viewers to connect with. I just wished I could've seen more concrete (plot) and less sand.
Aiden's return was one of the most horrible things to ever happen in the movie despite the fact that it was supposed to be a major plot point. I for one thought that the Carrie/Aiden saga had reached a very nice end note at the start of season 6 when she sees him married with a child. Instead, the writers chose to rip that wound wide and gaping open again. And it was for no other reason than to provide some kind of climax to the tepid storyline. It was disappointing and cheap. It would have been less cheap if they threw Carrie in a women's prison where the women have real problems like abusive boyfriends who beat them up and make them take drugs (and maybe end with a Madonna medley) ala Bridget Jones.
Another thing that many other formal reviewers complained about, was the portrayal of Abu Dhabi. The general sentiment was that it was 'stereotypical' and 'racist'. I'm going to approach it from a different angle. It was stereotypical and racist, but mostly in ridiculous behaviour of the four American women in a foreign country.
I mean, we all know that Samantha is "politically incorrect and inappropriate", she behaves in ways that are so inappropriate that she manages to get herself arrested. Remember what I said about the illogical plot? Somehow, we've forgotten the fact that the reason why she's even there was partially because of a business venture. As inappropriate as she might behave, I honestly doubt she'd so unprofessional as to screw that up. Unless of course there was a really bad script writer who realised that they had run out of things to talk about in Abu Dhabi and needed some silly reason to get the characters home to New York.
For us non-American viewers, we mostly got a screening of 'Har har look at the stupid Americans behaving inappropriately. They have no respect for anyone's religion or culture.' Fans try so hard to think of the four protagonists as intelligent women, yet every so often the script writers seem to go out of their way to prove us wrong. I have no idea why and it's a shame.
All in all, while I enjoyed the good parts and tried to blank my mind to the bad parts, I didn't really feel that Sex and the City 2 was worth my rushing with the weekend crowd and paying weekend ticket prices. I gave it a 5 on the basis that I'm a fan of the series, but I honestly think that even fans are better off just waiting to rent it. It had plenty of glitter, but it just ain't gold.
L: Change the World (2008)
Not Death Note. For Fans Only
The biggest complaint you tend to hear about this movie is that it's 'not like Death Note'. That's because it's not supposed to be Death Note. It's a movie about L. And as far as that goes, I say it's plenty entertaining. Granted, there were so many scenes that sent the entire audience screaming in laughter, but hey, they were already doing that in The Last Name. Some people said that L was made out to be too action-y, but those who followed the original series will remember that L had a surprisingly athletic side to himself as well, playing tennis, mastering Capoeira, who's to say he can't go on the run with a pair of children? All in all, in the end, the ending doesn't really matter, you technically knows what happens in the end. What's important is what's in between, and what that was, was a highly entertaining, if mindless spin off showcasing L and his genius deus ex machina ways for all the fan girls out there. Don't think too much, just enjoy L as he is. I know I had fun watching it.
Death at a Funeral (2007)
Predictable But Funny Nonetheless
Death At A Funeral features a fairly rounded cast of actors you don't quite expect to see in a comedy. Matthew MacFadyen's sad 'kicked puppy' expression is perfect for the role of hapless Daniel while Alan Tudyk essentially steals the show. There have been complaints of 'homophobia' in the plot, but I think it's simply people being overly sensitive to any notion of the sort and not any genuine prejudice to homosexuality. The reactions of the characters are honest and, quite frankly speaking, to be expected of anyone in such a situation.
On a slightly dull side, the plot follows a fairly predictable route of pretty classic gags. But regardless of its lack of originality, even the most repeated jokes can still be funny if presented right. This film does this quite magnificently, providing some good laughs without being stale.
Parasaito Ivu (1997)
Forget the movie, order the book.
I'm a fan of book to movie releases. Regardless of whether I've read the book or not, I enjoy spotting the differences and considering how well the movie conveys the gist of the plot and how the actors portray the characters. This time round however, I was sorely disappointed.
My first contact with the Parasite Eve series was during the Playstation game's release in the 90s. Enthralled by the bioscience driven story, with the chill of the idea that your own body might rebel against you, I began looking up the original novel that started it all. At the time, the book remained untranslated, but I managed to find a graphic novel version translated to Chinese at the local comic shop. The plot, essentially a prequel to the game, completely blew me away. It explained so much of the game's background in a style of brutal science fiction horror.
This movie, an adaptation of the novel, abandons most of that. While I can forgive the fact that the special effects aren't exactly 'up to standard' given that it is a film from the 90s, I cannot forgive the utter mangling of the plot and the bad acting. I honestly don't understand how they managed or decided to drag the film out to two hours long while failing to convey even half of the original story.
Instead of the evenly paced bioscience thriller where the rush to stop Mitochondria Eve actually *fails* and her scheme is only foiled by a miscalculation on her own part, a frightening salvation of mankind only by a single chromosome; the plot is inexplicably dissolved into a two hour long, woodenly acted angst-fest of a man who forgot his wedding anniversary and greatly regrets not spending time with his wife. The story of the mitochondria rebelling seems to take second place to this, especially in the anti-climatic 'grand finale' where he somehow stops the independently acting Mitochondria from carrying out their plot because for some reason, in the process of making their host fall in love with him, they have come to develop feelings for him too (or imply that 'Kiyomi', his wife, is still 'in there', which is even cheesier and more unbelievable). To top it off, the movie even fails to provide the aftermath of what happens to the other characters, leaving behind plot holes aplenty.
All in all, if you really want to something that stays true and keeps to the spirit of Parasite Eve, just order the book off Amazon, they actually have it translated now.
The Descent (2005)
Plot less violence
I watched this movie just yesterday because we had nothing else to watch that would suit the times of all the group members. We had no real idea just what the movie was about exactly so we had no preconceived expectations.
Each girl was as generic looking as the other. With the exceptions of Nora-Jane No one and Natalie Mendoza I could barely tell one character from the other. It starts out mildly innocent enough, a very bland, typical plot a bunch of friends on a cave expedition with one character they place a little emphasis on making her look a little more suspicious than the others. We can only come to the assumption that other than Shauna McDonald (the supposed 'main character') and this other character, the remaining women are supposed to simply fill the generic roles of 'the siblings', 'the over confident jackass who dies first' and the rest are just 'unfortunate cannon fodder who die tragically and gorily'.
The creatures that dwell within the cave resemble LotR rejects and we half expected them to begin coughing 'Gollum! Gollum!' and biting fingers off by the time they made visible appearance in the film. The already lack of any real, deep or engaging plot then quickly degenerates into a bloody kill fest of blood, gore and more blood and more gore.
I couldn't believe I spent 10 dollar, and an hour and a half of my time on this.