Category Archives: Movies

47 Ronin Trailer: The Return of The One

The trailer is as schizophrenic as my reaction to it was. I’m oscillating between “WTF is this bullshit” and “YEAH!! Looks neato burrito!”

As far as I can tell, 47 Ronin looks like a genre mash-up / bloody revenge fantasy. Keanu Reeves plays a half-breed Neo sought out by the 47 Ronin for his “The One”-esque abilities. They need him to save the world as they know it from Asian Maleficent, played by Rinko Kikuchi (Kinko Rikuchi? Kinki Rikichi?). Sounds familiar, but since its likely meant to pay homage to our favourite nerdy genre tropes, one can’t really get too irritated.

Pros

In the spirit of supporting my Asian brethren – AWWWW YISSSSSS!!! A badass Hollywood blockbuster (its budget was $200m+) featuring a predominantly Asian cast. That’s what I call WINNING!

Rinko Kukich- I mean, Rinko KIKUCHI – is coming off a geek-high from Pacific Rim. God, I love her. I vote YES to demon dragon-lady Kikuchi.

It’s that famous token Jap guy from the Last Samurai and a selection of other Westernized Asian films! Whoo! (For reals, Hiroyuki Sanada is the beezneez).

Mash-ups! We love genre mash-ups! (Well, if they’re good.)

Its gleefully bloodlustful atmosphere reminds me a bit of Tarantino. Its Django with Samurai swords, people.

Visually – its fuckin’ stunning. The rolling vistas, the intricate costuming, the moody cinematography. I love watching beautiful things. I’ll like something if its fuckin’ gorgeous even if it lacks substance. I’m superficial that way.

Cons

That’s some shitty trailer cutting. Why are they using metallic lettering from Transformers?

“An Outcast … Exiled.” That’s just bad English. An outcast is by definition someone who has been exiled. Mega tautology.

That dragon looks kinda danky. I get the concept – the traditional Chinese mythical dragon. I just hope it looks a lot better than that plastic green parasite I saw roll across my laptop screen.

Ugh, Keanu. Why do you open your mouth? Let us just appreciate those great genes that have seemingly halted all signs of physical ageing.

Conclusion

Let’s be honest, its not going to be Shakespeare. This isn’t going to be a complex intellectual exercise exploring the poetry of Classical Chinese literary themes. But the concept is fun, I love me some Asians kicking ass, and it looks delightfully action-packed.

I am someone that liked 300 and The Immortals. Hell, I even quite enjoyed Sucker Punch at times. I wrote off Pacific Rim due to a similar “WTF is this shit” reaction. I’m not likely to make that mistake again. As painful as it will be watching Keanu figure out how to use his words, I’m sure I’ll find something to like about 47 Ronin.

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Pacific Rim Review: An Ode to Robots and Monsters

I’m the type of person who likes to hear the bad news before sweetening up my life with a bit of the good stuff. So lets get the pain out of the way:

1. Stereotypical character tropes – there’s the wise black commander dude, the feisty Asian chick, the wildcard beefcake hero…etc etc

2. Awkward pseudo-love story undertones between the wildcard beefcake and the feisty Asian (at least it was inter-racial)

3. Hammy dialogue. Like, very hammy dialogue. (Beefcake to Asian: “C’mon, c’mon! Let’s do this… TOGETHER!”)

Now that we’ve eaten our veggies, let’s gobble up some yummy sweets.

I’ll be honest, I gave Pacific Rim a lot of shit when the first trailer came out. What did I say again? “The Transformers Take Cloverfield”? I suppose I also said some other colourful stuff involving Michael Bay, JJ Abrams, and poop. I forget.

After further consideration, I respectfully forego my preconceived notions and pledge my allegiance to the kingdom of nerditude. In other words, sorry for being a dick, Guillermo, because your movie effing ROCKS.

This summer blockbuster season has been promised to be filmic candy-land: Iron Man, Man of Steel, Wolverine, Monster University etc etc. All season though, everything has either been hitting below par or merely meeting expectations. Pacific Rim has outstripped my (admittedly, low) expectations unlike any other. I said that it was arriving at the butt-end of the blockbuster season, didn’t I? Instead of being part of the superhero discard pile, little did I expect that Pacific Rim was the freaking clean-up batter for the entire round-up.

Pacific Rim tells the story of Earth’s epic battle against extra-terrestrial monster invaders called Kaiju (“strange beast” in Japanese) that rise out of cosmic portal located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. These deadly leviathans can level whole cities, and that’s exactly what they proceed to do to the coastal population centres encircling the Pacific Rim. The Kaiju were sent to exterminate mankind to make way for alien colonists.

After realising the futility of conventional warfare, the world’s leadership unites to form the Pan Pacific Defense Corps. In a stroke of fantasy-level collaboration, everyone overcomes their political differences (except probably North Korea, because Kim Jong-Un is a spoiled prick) to pour their resources into humanity’s final solution – The Jaeger Programme. Meaning ‘hunter’ in German, the Jaegers are colossal military mechas powered by two human drivers through a neural link-up. With these super-weapons in our arsenal, humanity finally starts kicking some ass.

After a few years of being badass, the aliens adapt and send out their bigger guns. Jaeger losses are at an all-time high when world leaders decide to shut down the programme in favour of something a little more stupid. In an epic move of bureaucratic dick-baggery, our wise leaders decide that a “coastal wall” is the solution to our problems.

However, after a Category 3 Kaiju blows straight through the coastal wall around Sydney, Australia in a matter of hours, this prompts the remaining Jaeger rangers to form a resistance. They plan a last-ditch assault on the alien portal with a skeleton staff of lone ranger gunslinger types. A plan involving nukes. How could it go wrong?! Thus, shenanigans ensue. Oh man, do shenanigans frickin’ ensue.

First of all, this movie made me irrationally proud of being human. HUMANITY, FUCK YEAH! I felt a little bit like I was in the bleachers for a massive football game – HUMANS VS ASSHOLE ALIENS. Go Team Human!!!

Secondly, Pacific Rim is an exercise in human innovation and  passion. In the years of late, the film horizon has been littered with blockbuster tentpoles that are pale imitations of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. I was getting incredibly sick of the dark-cynical-gritties that Hollywood was churning out at an astonishing rate.

Del Toro’s Pacific Rim is a colourful and imaginative entity. Most importantly, it is a completely original one. When was the last time we saw a movie of this scale that wasn’t based on a comic book, a novel, or a fucking Hasbro toy?

The universe of Pacific Rim is so expansive and so richly fleshed-out. Not since Underworld (before the slew of piece-of-crap sequels) has a filmmaker been rewarded for daring to tackle a such a visionary canon in a little under two-hours on the big screen. Maybe it was for this reason that I felt a flutter of nostalgia for the good old days when movies were original properties and not just some adaptation of the latest YA faux-Twilight craze.

What’s even better is that Pacific Rim manages to pay homage to the genre of Japanese Kaiju without ripping off scenes and monsters from other films (yes, I’m talking to you Tarantino). Despite the mostly god-awful dialogue and the paper-thin characters, it felt like I was living a well-crafted throwback graphic novel. We have our heroes and we have our monsters, and that’s that. (Plus, I’ve been watching a lot of SyFy’s special effects makeup reality competition, Face Off, which has given me a newfound appreciation for creature design.)

Let’s admit, though, that the majority of the reason for why I’m letting the shitty character development fly is because Guillermo Del Toro assembled a cast that’s got charisma leaking out of their eyeballs.

Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, aka. Beefcake Loose Cannon

Beefcake Charlie was more of a cypher than he was a character. I overlook that because I’ve liked Charlie since I saw Nicholas Nickleby on The Hallmark Channel. Perhaps that’s not the best testament to his acting talents. He was awesome as that Civil War douchebag in Cold Mountain. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Sons of Anarchy, but he’s probably good in that too because he’s good at everything. Random note, ‘Beefcake Charlie’ would be a great name for home-style fast food joint.

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, aka. Feisty Asian Badass

Props to the writer/director for NOT turning her into exotic Asian sex kitten with heeled boots and bootie shorts. There was only so much stereotyping I could handle. Rinko is awesome, mainly because she’s my Asian brethren and I feel irrationally supportive. Yay for Asians in big blockbusters! I could’ve done without the awkward sort-of-but-not-really love story with Beefcake Charlie though. But then again, we totes need more inter-racial lovin’ on screens, folks!

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, aka. British Nick Fury

Idris Elba is such a badass. He is the token wise black dude that Morgan Freeman has made a career out of.  He walks around, dropping corny bits of sage wisdom. However, the lame dialogue somehow turns to honeyed gold when it falls out of his mouth. That man could turn a Damon Lindelof script into Shakespeare with his voice alone. If this acting thing doesn’t work out, I suggest going into vocal acting for e-books. In all seriousness, he imbued the character with a depth and gravitas that obviously didn’t exist in the script. I would totally follow this man into war.

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, aka. Cocky Douchebag Golden-Boy

I’m gonna be upfront – I’m really biased because I’m falling in love with Rob Kazinsky on True Blood. He’s so bloody earnest. So, it was actually incredibly jarring when he plays an asshole in Pacific Rim. Chuck Hansen is the cocky ranger with the best Kaiju kill-record. He pilots the Australian Jaeger, Strike Eureka, with his papa, Hercules Hansen (yeah, no joke, his name is Hercules. I can’t laugh because I have a cousin named Achilles). He’s the Val Kilmer character in Top Gun, that starts off disliking Charlie Hunnam’s Tom Cruise, but then starts acknowledging him as an equal once he proves himself. Credit where its due – him and Max Martini (who plays his dad, Hercules) have the sole scene in the film that might be remotely capable of spurring a real emotion in the audience. Its at the end, and its kinda sad / touching. On a brighter note, Australian outback represent!!

(I know this pic is so corny, but I couldn’t help myself.)

Diego Klattenhoff as Yancy Becket, aka. Brother Beefcake

*SPOILER* (Heed the spoiler warning lest you wish to be eaten by a Kaiju)

OMG Guillermo! How could you kill of Shane Oman / Mike from Homeland within the first 5 mins of the movie?! He is the bomb! But yeah, that’s right, Raleigh Becket’s brother is SHANE OMAN FROM MEAN GIRLS. HAHAHAHA. Random note: I’ve always found Diego Klattenhoff’s name so weird. Diego is Spanish, Klattenhoff sounds German, and he looks Irish. Its SO confusing to me.

Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as Doctors Geiszler and Gottleib, aka. Comic Relief

Their the odd-couple crack research team. We have the fly-by-the-pants scientist rockstar, Charlie Day, providing a foil to Burn Gorman’s, straight-laced British professor. They bicker. They do funny stuff. They become friends despite their differences. The Internet writes gay fiction about them. Yup. That’s how humanity rolls.

This is the cast that pop culture geeks are vibin’ with. They’re all from popular TV shows, they’re all kinda under the radar, and they’re all totally awesome. (Plus, Ron Perlman makes a sweet cameo to remind the world why he’s the best.)

Everything from the cast, to the concept, to the frickin’ monsters – everything feels like Guillermo has made a film just for us movie nerds in the world. It could’ve been a hot, hot mess (and some parts were). However, Pacific Rim isa testament to the fact that there are still some filmmakers out there who geek out to the same shit we do and are willing to invest millions into creating a high-quality movie for the fans.

How do I know that I loved this movie? Well, when I got home, I spent 2 hours perusing the Pacific Rim wiki, researching everything from the name of the sick-ass Kaiju with the wings (its “Otachi”, btw) to Stacker Pentecost’s drive-suit size (sadly, that info is not available).

If you’re not a pretentious douchebag whose favourite auteur is Godard, GO WATCH IT. This embodies the sense of batshit-awesome that summer blockbuster season was always meant to be.

Random Anecdote: When I left the cinema, I couldn’t stop yammering to The Boyfriend about how The Sister and I would totes make a great Jaeger team. (The closer your bond, the better your Jaeger will fight.) The Boyfriend, being the incredibly sarcastic and dispiriting person that he is, had this to say: “Oh yeah, I’m sure you guys could drive a Jaeger. What would it be called? “Spicy Noodle”? — UM, YES?! We are Asian. We are feisty/spicy. We love noodles.

Jaeger Spicy Noodle

The Internet’s going nuts over its newest toy – the Jaeger Designer. Check out this Buzzfeed list of incredibly convincing Jaeger options. Guillermo, take note for the sequel.

BONUS – Do you doubt just how much care and detail was put into this film? Listen to Guillermo Del Toro wax nostalgic about his “beautiful poem to giant monsters”. Btw, note how how talks about how he stays away from referencing previous films? TAKE A NOTE, TARANTINO. You can still make exciting films without plagiarism.

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Man of Steel Review: Hair of Steel & Jesus’ Abs

As I sat at my desk printing out the e-ticket for Man of Steel, I was practically humming with excitement. Superhero movies are my jam.

The film industry has really outdone itself in the last decade in giving us a slew of exceptional superhero movies. No more gimmicky caped-crusaders. Just a lot of gritty Dark Knighting and suave Iron Manning. Plus,  I have a great appreciation for ab-tastic supermen. 

As you can imagine, I was extremely, unabashedly excited. I expected majestic things. Unfortunately, this left me in a state of mild disappointment by the end of the film.

As I said, Marvel and Christopher Nolan have really ruined me. Alas, it was my own lofty expectations that left me stranded in the abyss of indifference, through no fault of Zack Snyder or his magnificent cast. That’s not to say though that there weren’t some very real flaws.

Let’s just recap the story for fun (since if you don’t know who Superman is, you’re very likely an extra-terrestrial or a Amazonian tribesman. Actually, I bet even the tribesmen have heard of Superman).

Henry Cavill is Kal-El, a.k.a. Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman. He comes from Krypton, sent to Earth by his parents Lara (Ayelet Zurer) and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) to escape the doomed fate of his home planet. Krypton is dying because the greedy Kryptonians have exhausted it of its natural resources.  Zack Snyder made a point of smacking us over the head with this allegory throughout the film – ZOMG HUMANS, if we continue this way, we will be Krypton! Stop over-consumption or even Gladiator Maximus won’t be able to save you!

Well, he might save you, but only to embed you with Messiah-like properties. All children in Krypton have long been artificially manufactured from a central DNA codex. It encrypts a predetermined future, so that everyone in society has a place. Waste not, want not and all that. Its all very Giver-esque. Kal-El is the first natural-born child of Krypton in years. To protect the future generations of Krypton, Gladiator Maximus – being the rebel that he is – stole the DNA codex and embedded it into Kal-El’s very cells.

Now you’ll notice that I’m saying Kal-El an awful lot. This is not because I’m some Superman purist. I’m no mega geek of Sheldonian-Cooperian proportions (even though I am going to Comic-Con this weekend – whoo!). This is because Zack Snyder made a superhuman effort to emphasise Superman’s alien-ness – something that really sets it apart from previous incarnations where he’s just Clark Kent, man with super strength and pervert eyesight.

In all seriousness, the exploration of themes surrounding Kal-El’s isolation and his struggles with the freedom imparted by the idea of choice/free will is a highlight of the film. This is where you see the puppet-strings of Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. They’ve painted the Man of Steel as the saviour/protector of the Earth, giving us petty humans an ideal to strive toward and delivering us from the materialistic hands of the Kardashians.

So in other words, Superman is Jesus.

Please, Henry Cavill is much prettier than Brad Pitt.

Speaking of Henry Cavill, Zack Snyder may have produced the most PERFECTLY CASTED film in recent history. Everyone from the leads to the supporting cast are glorious. Like, Beyonce levels of pitch perfection.

HENRY CAVILL IS Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman. This man was delivered unto Earth for the sole purpose of breathing life into this stale comic-book relic from a time long past. He is just so damn earnest. Like, that sweet neighbourhood boy who grew up being bullied and as a result is unflinchingly kind (which makes a lot of sense considering how he used to be Fatty Cavill). He practically vibrates with goodness. It also helps that he’s easy on the eyes. His beauty (yes, beauty) is otherworldly (like an alien – hehe).

For research purposes, let’s examine Exhibit A – his naked torso. Now, we have all seen a lot of shirtless men in our lives. Trust me when I say that the first time you see Mr Cavill’s bare pectorals in motion on a 15m-high screen, you’re brain is going to have a mild stroke.

POW!!

That’s from this one bit where he emerges from the sea, all semi-naked and wet and sexy as all hell. It reminds me of that infamous BBC Pride and Prejudice scene where Colin Firth declares himself as every woman’s fantasy lover by walking out of the water in a soaking white shirt.

Only less muscles and more pastiness.


After trawling the Internet for trivia-goodies, I came across this gobbet on the Man of Steel IMDb Trivia page:

 Zack Snyderinstructed Henry Cavill that his physique should look so great that in his shirtless scenes, he had to look like a “freak”.

Goal definitely accomplished. Furthermore:

 Zack Snyder gave him a tub of ice cream and pizza to reward him for his Herculean effort for the shirtless scenes.

How nice. Suffer for months and months, and I shall reward you with a slice of Domino’s and some Ben and Jerry’s. Oh right, I’m forgetting the thousands (millions?) of dollars in compensation too. Pretty sweet deal. If someone paid me a few million to work out for a living, oh hell yeah. I’d do it for a few hundred actually. Any takers?

Aside from Mr. Perfect, his Ms. Perfect is also pretty perfect. When I first heard that Amy Adams had been casted, an automatic eh? drifted through my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I worship at the altar of Ginger Adams. She is the June to my Bug. I guess we’ve all just been programmed to picture Lois Lane as brunette and Teri-Hatcher-like.

Nevertheless, she was amazeballs, as per usual. I had joy leaking through my pores. There is just something so badass about a woman dedicated to her career and uncompromising in her principles. But she was no dragonlady. Amy Adams projects a sheen of innocence and erudition that underscores every action she takes. I love, love, LOVE Ginger. She’s my lesbian love.

The best bit of supporting casting was inarguably – THE PARENTALS.

First off, Russell Crowe as Jor-El. I’m not a huge fan of his super bogan, hyper-machismo ways. But Gladiator Maximus’ echoing wisdom-voice is definitely something that I would listen to when imparting great life lessons about being an alien. Russell Crowe is a scamp, but, my goodness-graces, he has gravitas.

And then, who better than the man who built The Field of Dreams to guide you steadily through life’s tough lessons? Kevin Costner was a revelation. And how has no one ever thought of casting Kevin Costner and Diane Lane in a rom-com together? They are Beyonce-perfect as the Kansan couple that raise the morally-just Clark Kent. If some TV exec is reading this, I’m telling you that you need to get someone to pump out a Lifetime film with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane reprising their roles. Romance in Smallville: Jonny & Martha Kent – it’ll be an unexpected hit.

And what about the supporting personnel?

Let’s see… oh yes, we get a Matrix reunion! Lifelong rivals Morpheus and Lock are back for more action. Except this time, Morpheus is the diversity hire for the Daily Planet (only joking, he’s Lois’ editor, Perry White), and Lock is back to being General Dickbag (although he becomes less dickish as the movie goes on).

Also, we have Christopher Meloni who, when not saving rape victims at the Special Victims Unit and moonlighting as The Vampire Authority, is Colonel Dickbag (who also becomes less dickish as the movie carries on). I love me some Meloni. Do you think his surname has anything to do with the melon-shaped item on his shoulders?

Yes, that is indeed Mr. Meloni attempting to fight off a Kryptonian with an army-issue knife. LOLS.

And FINALLY, the crown jewel of our cast – MR. MICHAEL SHANNON. If you haven’t seen him in Take Shelter, you need flick over the Pirate Bay and torrent that shit right this instant. Michael Shannon is terrifying, yet touching as General Zod. His back-story and characterisation is somewhat similar to Khan Nooniem Singh in Star Trek: Into Darkness. Sad to say, but I think Benedict Cumberbatch may have overshadowed him in this regard. His Khan Nooniem Singh was on a whole other level of menace and poignancy. General Zod might do well as one of his henchman. But like, a senior henchman, who is supervisor over Khan’s other disposable henchman. No offence, Michael – you’re still a crazy maniac (and I mean that as a compliment).

Oh yeah, Zod has some pretty badass minions too. Faora-Ul is freaking hardcore:

Now that I’ve tooted Zack Snyder’s horn a little, let me bring up some minor concerns.

(a) Stiff dialogue

(b) Really shit pacing (as is the case with many Snyder films – I mean, have you seen Watchmen?)

(c) Stunted character development

(d) Action scenes, while cool, were a bit ham-handed in terms of editing

As for Item D, all I can say is that Superman should’ve heeded the words of Edna Mode:

I must say though, Zack Snyder really has an eye for detail. Man of Steel, you say? Thus, he must have HAIR OF STEEL! (Seriously, what kind of gel are they using because Henry Cavill’s coif is as solid as a helmet.)

All in all, I had a smashing good time. Especially since a lot of that time was spent wallowing in Henry Cavill’s baby blues. Despite the structural inadequacies here and there, the charisma and charm of the cast, coupled with Zack Snyder’s epic vision of our Kryptonian saviour, really does result in something special. Maybe not the kind of Avengers special where you shit your pants in excitement. Nor the kind of Dark Knight special where you ponder how a caped crusader made you regain faith in humanity. Its that kind of special where you witness the unsteady rise of something special, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. Hey, I didn’t really like Batman Begins. Let’s hope Man of Steel 2 pulls a Dark Knight on us. C’mon Lex Luthor!

Plus, who doesn’t want to spend another two hours with this adorable couple?

UPDATED – Its been reported in the last few days that Superman is dating Penny from Big Bang Theory. What about LOIS, Clark? What about LOIS? For reals, wasn’t he dating Haywire’s Gina Carano, badass MMA Fighter not too long ago? I guess Henry Cavill wants to be famous in the USA and a girlfriend that can kick the shit out of you doesn’t quite fit into Superman’s squeaky clean image. It doesn’t get more All-American, Girl-Next-Door than Kaley Cuoco. She literally is the NerdGirl Next Door. (For the record, I think its a publicity stunt and they wont make it past Christmas. They share the same publicity firm, after all. I thought you were better than this Henry.)

Kaley – I guess this is an upgrade from Johnny Galecki. Going from dating Superman’s nerd-shipper to Superman himself? Way to level up like a pro.

“Oh hey, paps! Don’t mind us, we’re just getting some groceries like regular folks. Don’t mind the perfectly coiffed hair or the fabulous sunnies. This is how we always look.”

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Monsters University Review: Mike & Sulley go greek

The last Pixar film I watched was Brave. That movie was a big wet fart. It was pretty abysmal.

I say that out of love, of course, because I hold Pixar to insanely high standards. Standards that they themselves have established. And you know what? All studios should strive to be what Pixar is. We should all stand in agreement that any movie being made needs to blow us out of the water in order to be considered remotely worth making. For crying out loud, the budgets for some of these films could feed the entirety of Haiti for a year. Lets do better than Oblivion, movie industry. Let’s do better than After Earth. Let’s definitely do better than freaking World War Z (seriously, how can Brad Pitt even call it World War Z? IT IS NOT WORLD WAR Z.)

I digress.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is Pixar is like the Roger Federer of the movie industry. He  was always number one most consistent player. At his peak, you could go to a Federer game and watch him deliver time after time. And then, Roger Federer stumbled a little bit when Rafael Nadal got in the way (i.e. DISNEY). He tried adjusting his game, and as a result, lost a few tournaments (Brave and Cars 2 – CARS 2 – why the hell did they even make Cars 2?!)

This tennis metaphor isn’t really working out. In conclusion, Pixar has been shaky the last couple of years. I went into it not expecting all that much. But then, lo and behold, as I sat watching it unfold in the darkened theatre, Roger Federer delivered a pretty good game.

Monsters University tells the story of Mike Wazowski and James P Sullivan’s epic friendship. It focuses on widdle Mike Wazowski, who for all his life, dreamt of being a big bad scarer.

LOOK AT THAT CUTIE PATOOTIE

In a world where your entire self-worth is defined by your scaring-potential, Mike’s adorable little eye and adorable little frame set him at a significant disadvantage. Nevertheless, he buckled down, studied and studied, and got accepted into the prestigious Monsters University Scaring Programme.

Mike meets Sulley for the first time in the lecture hall, where the big blue oaf saunters in, cocksure and dismissive. James P. Sullivan is a legacy – people expect great things and he, at least on the surface, really delivers. He’s a naturally scary brute. However, over the course of the semester, his lazy arrogance leads to his own failure as he begins to be outstripped by the hard-working and studious Mike. Their competition comes to a head at their Semester Finals, where failure leads to automatic termination from the Scaring Programme.

Dean Hardscrabble, the ruthless Head of the Scaring Department, is unimpressed by Sully’s lack of commitment and Mike’s lack of general scariness which leads to her personally dismissing them both from the Scaring Programme.

Helen Mirren voices Hardscrabble. She really is the scariest dragon-lady. The clicking of her centipedal feet made my skin crawl and gave me heart palpitations. She’s Severus Snape in centipede-dragon hybrid-cross form.

The ultimate boggart in the wardrobe.

Devastated, Mike is determined to get back into the programme no matter what. He finds inspiration in MU’s annual Scare Games – a competition between the fraternities/sororities to prove who is the scariest monster of them all. Mike masterminds a very public wager with Hardscrabble for his place back in the Scaring Programme if he wins the Scare Games. Of course, he needs a frat team to do so which leads him to joining ultimate loser frat, Oozma Kappa, and reluctantly accepting Sulley as their final team member. If they win, Hardscrabble accepts the entire team into the Scaring Programme. If they lose, Mike and Sulley leave MU forever. (I can’t imagine any university dean pulling that shit in real life, but I suppose, the rules are different when you’re a dragon-winged insectoid nightmare.)

This is where it gets interesting. The Pixar team clearly put a lot of effort into crafting these hugely fun scenarios, integrating the best of their natural Pixarian storytelling genius with some creative Dreamworkian intertextuality. From here onward, it was a bit like that TV show, Greek, meets The House Bunny, except instead of hot Emma Stone in some ugly-girl spectacles, you have a bunch of awkward monster misfits. Folks, meet Oozma Kappa:

It took more than a push-up bra and some mascara to fix these weirdos. It was quite heart-warming seeing them band together as they tried to conquer the Scare Games. Anyway, shan’t spoil it, but it’s pretty frickin’ adorable.

Then of course, you have the rest of Greek Row:

The Jocks (a.k.a. the morons that use performance enhancers)

The Goths (a.k.a. the witch coven from The Craft)

The Southern Belles (a.k.a. Elle Woods and The Bitches in Pink)

And finally, the Slytherins to our Gryffindors (if Gryffindor was kinda loserish like Hufflepuff, that is):

The Privileged Legacies (a.k.a. the assholes that hang with people like the Winklevoss Twins)

Yeah, thats right – look closely at the Roar Omega Roar picture and you’ll see a special guest appearance by resident dickbag, Randall Boggs. Its kinda sad – Randall wasn’t always the Draco Malfoy of Monster World. You’ll see why if you GO WATCH THIS FILM.

While not as heart-warming or as thoughtful as Monsters, Inc, Monsters University is hugely entertaining and engaging. It explores the touching relationship that develops between misfit best friends, Mike and Sully, while shining spotlight on the oft-overlooked Mike Wazowski. He is the brains of bunch and its high time that he got a little credit.

VERDICT: Go watch it if you’re a passionate believer in a mighty good comeback! It ain’t ground-breaking, but its a super fun ride. If this is any indication of the future, I expect Pixar will be back on top very soon. Don’t let Disney stamp out your light, Pixar!

BONUS – check out the impossibly cool website that they’ve created for Monsters University. Its more comprehensive than my university’s website. Freaking hell, they even have a merch store! Who DOESN’T want a four-armed hoodie?! So when are they accepting applications? I’m looking for a good uni to go to after I matriculate from Hogwarts.

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Savages Review: Oliver Stone is so hip

The Boyfriend: “That was a stupid f*cking movie.”

Indeed.

Savages is Oliver Stone’s mid-life crisis embodied in a crime-thriller about marijuana and polyamory.

The story is told via a nasally faux-existential narration by Blake Lively who plays O (short for Ophelia). Her character is probably loosely inspired by the Story of O by Pauline Réage, an erotic BDSM novel about a polyamorous consensual sex slave. Blake Lively, whom I generally deplore as an actress, was actually perfect for this role as a vapid needy Laguna Beach-girl whose beauty is her only redeeming quality. Her status as an object of lust comes to define her entire role in the film. Like I said, PERFECT – since its the same role she plays in everything since Gossip Girl.

Anyway, Laguna Beach Serena Van Der Woodsen is in a three-way relationship with Taylor Kitsch (Chon) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ben), two best friends cum drug entrepreneurs who run a successful non-violent business manufacturing and distributing high-quality weed. They become so well-known that the Mexican cartels, headed by a Cleopatra-haired Salma Hayek, want to join forces. The boys say no. They try to run. The cartel gets mad. They kidnap Serena. The boys go into full-on rage mode, trying to get her back. Unsavoury and incredibly graphic events transpire.

You know shit’s getting real when John Carter of Mars and Kick-Ass don their festival masks.

As for the villains, Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta’s symbiotic relationship as a second-string drug enforcer and a crooked DEA agent, respectively, is unintentionally ridiculous. They’re both despicable to the nth degree and both retarded-ly stupid. Well, in that case, they made pretty good, hate-able villains. Just not very fearsome ones.

The Failed Drug-Impresarios: Dumb and Dumber

Okay, I’ll admit. Salma was moderately awesome as drug kingpin.

She’s got a basket full of asps and she’s not afraid to use them.

As a man slowly sinking into decrepitude and professional mediocrity, Oliver Stone probably peed himself (out of excitement and maybe incontinence) when he heard about Savages. Weed? Cartels? Three-ways? Omg, I’m going to be so popular with the grandkids!

Savages feels like a accidental parody of pseudo-stoner culture. It uncomfortably straddles the line between ludicrous and gritty. Its not quite sure if it wants to be absurdist or realistic. As a result, its a hot hot mess. Save yourself from this gimmicky, tacky-tastic excuse of a film and go watch an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians instead. I promise you that the latter will feel more genuine.

I leave you with a myriad of quotable brain farts that found its way out of the editing room. Clearly, Oliver Stone is so down with the youth of today:

Serena VDW describing sex with ex-army, John Carter: “I had orgasms. He had ‘wargasms’.”

John Carter: “You let people think you’re weak – sooner or later, you’re going to have to kill them.” / Stoner Kick-Ass mu: “Buddha would not agree.”

John Carter while turning down the Mexican cartel deal: “You want us to eat your shit and call it caviar.

Salma talking to Serena VDW about her dead family: “I have botox. In my heart.”

Here’s the trailer. Venture there, if you dare:

I totally believe Salma as a druglord. She was literally the only thing that made this movie bearable. Watch her take a giant shit on Benicio (not literally):

Um, and then I came across this video. A snake appeared during an outdoor interview with Salma for Grown-Ups. Okay, I believe her as a druglord a bit less now:

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The Sound of Music Flashback: Cpt Von Trapp blows my whistle

I recently felt the overwhelming urge to watch The Sound of Music again. This urge has not reared its saccharine head in almost a decade. But, all of a sudden, I was struck by this resounding need to watch Julie Andrews yodel while running through the hills.

Okay, so she doesn’t actually do that in the movie, but when one thinks of The Sound of Music, one thinks of yodeling, hills, and lots of drape-clad children.

Green Drapes-Lederhosen: the hot new trend

Like I said, I hadn’t watched The Sound of Music in its entirety for years. I’d always remembered it as this fluffy family film that takes a random turn towards Nazis. This never really sat well with seven-year-old me – it was just completely bewildering. It got all serious and tense all of a sudden. Why weren’t they singing Do-Re-Mi anymore? Why is there a GUN?! Baffling.

The Sound of Music was always just a “yeah, it was pretty good” movie for me. I never understood is timelessness. However, re-watching it as a young adult with a comprehensive knowledge of the atrocities committed by the Third Reich, I’ve completely fallen in love with the hope and joy it unashamedly exudes in the presence of something as ugly as Nazism.

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why its a classic. It’s totally un-cynical celebration of innocence in the face of a brutal reality.

I read somewhere that, in the event of a nuclear strike, part of BBC’s broadcasting programme consists of playing The Sound of Music as a way to lift morale with survivors. Well, I don’t know about you, but if I happened to survive being irradiated to an inch of my death in an atomic mega-blast, I would find it incredibly comforting hearing Fraulein Maria singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Its all right, my darlings. Nuclear fallout can’t hurt you. Simply remember your favourite things, and then you won’t feel so bad.

Another thing I failed to notice in my previous watchings of The Sound of Music was how dashing Christopher Plummer was. I mean, look at him! He’s such a babe. I’m not British, and I never use this term, but if there existed an exclamation more appropriate for this man, it would be ‘PHWWOOOARR’:

Being the huge film trivia scaveneger that I am, I immediately launched a fanatical expedition to discover as much as I could about Young Christopher Plummer. After hours (okay, maybe 20 mins – I’m not crazy) of stalker-ish behaviour, I uncovered various gems that I’d like to share. Initially, everything I found melted my insides. Please, watch for yourself and join in me bliss:

And then I thought, ‘my, doesn’t he look familiar?’

Of course, I should’ve quit while I was ahead. He wasn’t the dapper gentleman with the Hugh Jackman personality that I had pictured him to be. Why must I always go ruin my perfectly good fantasies with reality?

1. He hated being in The Sound of Music. So much so that he called it ‘The Sound of Mucus’.

2. He ‘flirted’ with Liesl, the eldest Von Trapp, on the set. *shudder* 

3. He was a huge arrogant dick and a nasty drunk with anger issues.

4. He was really pretentious about the whole acting shtick:

So, he basically, he was kind of a bad boy. Too bad I’ve never been too fond of bad boys. Key operating word being “boys”. I’ll stick to men, thanks.

Is there anything more off-putting than an actor being un-gracious about a role that has pretty much immortalised him in cinema history? Thankfully, it seems that old age has mellowed him out a bit.

 

That’s the Christopher Plummer I’d like to remember – the living legend who is an ever-charming class act.

 

 

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Pacific Rim Trailer: The Transformers take Cloverfield

Michael Bay and JJ Abrams shat out this high-def video game and somehow got Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam involved.

Sleeper hit? It IS Guillermo Del Toro, who is pretty awesome, but has a sketchy record at the box office. Its also coming out on the butt-end of summer. Kinda like a discard from the reject pile after a slamming blockbuster season filled with Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and The Wolverine.

Let’s hope its more Transformers than it is Battleship.

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Silver Linings Playbook Review: Katniss is a sexy goth nutjob

So THIS was what all the fuss was about? I TOTALLY GET IT.

Silver Linings Playbook is like a bowl of instant noodles. It doesn’t look like much, but when you smell it, you’re like ‘ohh thats yummy, I’ll give it a go’. Then you taste it, and you’re like, ‘F*CK, that’s good.” Okay, maybe not instant noodles. Maybe like the fine dining equivalent of instant noodles. But, don’t knock instant noodles – THEY ARE THE BEST.

I think what I’m trying to say is that Silver Linings Playbook, like instant noodles, hits all the right spots and leaves you all happy inside.

Bradley Cooper gets his crazy on as Pat Solitano, a bipolar former high-school teacher who is in the nuthouse for beating the shit out of his wife’s manstress (man-mistress). He’s released into his parents’ care – an OCD Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver. At a point in his life where things literally cannot get any worse, Crazy Bradley Cooper is determined to find a silver lining.

Crazy Bradley has some goals: (1) get fit, (2) get it together, so he can (3) get his wife, Nikki, back. While trying to assimilate back into his old life with his old friends, he meets Tiffany (Goth J. Law). She is equally nuts, being a young widow and an apparent nymphomaniac.

They strike up an explosive friendship and she promises to help him get Nikki back if he will help her by being her partner in a dance competition. Yeah, its weird, but they’re both weird so its totally normal. For example, bonding over meds – kinda weird, right?

Kudos to David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook must’ve been a hugely intimidating movie to film. Maybe not – I wouldn’t know because I’m not an award-winning director. This movie could have been a huge catastrophe. It deals with unsettling issues of mental illness yet manages to strike a perfect balance between heart-warming and humourous. That’s right, David O. Russell made a comedy about mental illness and no one got offended. That is an ACHIEVEMENT.

Okay, so it was more of a dramedy. Big deal. The point is, Silver Linings Playbook was a beautifully wrought film that explored themes of family, love, and happiness without disintegrating into a clichéd sob-fest. It was a TRIUMPH.

Let’s just take a gander at how it swings seamlessly between the dramatic, to the humourous, to the completely absurd:

There was so much that could’ve been misconstrued as insensitive or distasteful. Luckily, they had a stellar cast. They had De Niro for chrissakes.

Bradley Cooper more than deserved that Oscar Nom because his Crazy Bradley was a boatload of insane. His staggering screen presence elevated this loser bipolar guy to a charismatic, offbeat antihero whom you couldn’t help but root for. It would’ve been so easy to play Pat as a caricature of mental illness and go for the easy laugh. But, Bradley Cooper, being way more finessed than that, gave Pat a soul. (I know that sounds über corny, but this is my review so I can say what I want!)

He was backed by a freaking awesome cast too. Robert De Niro as his super OCD father (his remotes MUST point a certain way or the Eagles will lose, goddammit!). Jacki Weaver as his patiently exasperated mother (“I made crabby-snacks and  homemades”).

And then we’ve got the random gems. Like Julia Stiles! Holy crapper, where has she been hiding? Do you think David O. Russell is a fan of Save The Last Dance? And Chris Tucker! Seriously, where has this guy been since Rush Hour? Holed up in some bordello somewhere with Jackie Chan, probably. See the following for Chris Tucker’s awesome-ness:

Obviously, we need to talk about Jennifer Lawrence. Sorry, excuse me – Academy Award-winner, Jennifer Lawrence. I agree with the vast majority of critics – she delivers a scene-stealing, organic performance as Tiffany. Now everyone, please don’t throw Internet stones at me for what I’m about to say. Maybe I’ve been tainted by the Oscar buzz, but she wasn’t as good as I thought an Oscar winner should be. In fact, it kinda seems to me like Jennifer Lawrence is playing a derivative of herself – only louder, and more vulgar. I sort of get it. She plays Tiffany with charm and intensity that very few could pull off and still feel like a real-live human.  Its awesome, but is it Oscar-awesome?

Overall, Silver Linings Playbook is one of the few movies that definitely deserve a massive A++. If you can make me genuinely laugh while watching an absurd family fight that still wrenches at my heart, you’re awesome. And you’re also called David O. Russell. Go watch it, plebeians!

BONUS Bradley Cooper Between Two Ferns

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Martha Marcy May Marlene Review: Baby Olsen goes topless

Martha Marcy May Marlene tells the story of a young naive girl named Martha who escapes a Manson family-type cult and struggles to go back to living like a regular human being.

The film opens with scenes from a quiet communal farm that could be called idyllic if the people didn’t look so derelict. Young strapping men are at work fixing up the farm while bedraggled girls sit around doing womanly domestic things like hanging up the laundry and cooking. At dinner, we see the women serving the men first while they crowd in their rickety kitchen, waiting for their turn. Its all very Mormon. That is, if Mormons had crazy sex orgies with multiple partners on their commune (yup, there’s one of those later).

Idyllic, just like a Little House on a Prairie up in here

Idyllic, just like Little House on a Prairie

Yeah, this is totally normal in the 21st Century

Yeah, this is totally normal in the 21st Century

Martha wakes up one morning and runs away into the woods. The ‘family’ chases after her, but she makes it into town. She’s tracked there by one of the young men. He offers to take her home, but she refuses. He leaves her, saying “take care of yourself,” which feels almost like a veiled threat.

This is one of the hallmarks of Martha Marcy May Marlene (I’m just gonna call it M4 now because I can’t remember the order of the names without Googling it). Everything seems calm and quietly pleasant on the surface, but there always seems to be something uneasy roiling beneath. Sean Durkin, the director, did a beautiful job of capturing the stillness of every scene, allowing the often shocking content to stand on its own. Half the time, you almost don’t understand what you’re seeing until its over – it’s as if you’re seeing it all through the fresh, naive eyes of Martha.

Martha is picked up by her older sister, Lucy, who takes her home to the holiday lake-house she shares with her husband, Ted. Played by Sarah Paulson and the delicious Mr Claire Danes, Lucy and Ted are the ultimate 21st Century Yuppies. Martha struggles to assimilate herself to their lifestyle, doing and saying a number of strange things that discomfit the Yuppie Couple. For example, Martha doesn’t understand why only the two of them live in such a spacious house, or why it’s not okay to swim in the nude.

That's an interesting choice of swimwear.

That’s an interesting choice of swimwear.

Or, why its not okay to come into the room and lay down on the bed when your yuppie sister and her husband are boinking.

Mr Claire Danes: "WTF?! I'm out."

Mr Claire Danes: “WTF?! I’m out.”

Martha is played by Elizabeth Olsen (yes, sister to Mary Kate & Ashley of bag-lady fashion fame). Baby Olsen delivers a STUNNING performance as Martha. She projects both maturity and purity simultaneously. She is magnetic. And god, her voice is so lush. She reminds me of Carey Mulligan in An Education. YES, I am putting that out there. Elizabeth Olsen is THAT good. She’s got her tits out an awful lot though. I suppose that’s how you’re meant to know that this is a *serious art film*. Maybe if it had been deployed a bit less freely, it might’ve been okay. It made me feel really dirty seeing Baby Olsen’s boobs. But then again, that was probably the point.

The Magical Miss Mulligan: future Elizabeth Olsen, but with less chest-icular exposure

Another notable mention is John Hawkes as Patrick. No one could’ve embodied the charisma and the menace that he somehow projects so organically. He’s frighteningly seductive. Like, you’re totally freaked out because you could see how you would fall under his spell.

Hey, darlin’. I’m not creepy at all.

The beauty of M4 was how it seems to drift seamlessly between the past, the present, and her paranoia. You’re never quite sure if the cult is after her, or if it’s all in her head. You’re never sure of what will trigger Martha’s memories. And as much as this is marketed as a thriller, don’t go in expecting blaring horns and tense orchestral strings. The peaceful quiet is what sets your hairs on end.

You go, Sean Durkin.

ps. I wish I could be snarkier (and more entertaining), but I refuse to treat M4 with the least bit of disrespect. Its a stunner.

pps. I know you’re super curious to know where Martha, Marcy May, and Marlene come from. The trailer kinda reveals two of them, but I guess you’ll just have to watch to find out the third! Muahaha!

Go see it (if you haven’t already, you uncultured buffoon)!

BONUS – Here’s some classic Carey, whom I love greatly and dearly:

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Now You See Me Trailer: Magic is for the cool kids

In the immortal words of The Boyfriend: “This is either going to be really shit, or really good.”

So in that spirit, let’s explore the reasons why I hope this will be good and not shit.

Now You See Me looks a bit like The Prestige wrapped up in the glitzy Vegas packaging of 21 It tells the story of four young magicians, ‘The Four Horseman’, who perform some serious rockstar-David Copperfield magic to rob banks and so forth. The effects look like they’re going to be really cool, but then again, I get super excited for that kind of superficial crap. Hopefully, it’ll err more towards incredibly imaginative real-world magic, and not outlandishly ridiculous Harry Potter stuff (I LOVE HP, but Harry Potter magic should stay in Harry Potter).

At least the cast looks relatively promising. I’m down with anything Woody Harrelson deems worthy. Here are your Horsemen:

Discount Amy Adams, Mark Zuckerberg, Cowboy Haymitch in a Suit, Doucheface Franco

I mean, it can’t be that bad if ALFRED, THE HULK, and GOD are in it:

Mafia Alfred says GIVE ME MY MONEY

No green rage monster this time, folks. Just a gun.

God is big-time pimpin’

Anyway, here’s the trailer. Pretty intriguing, non?

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