Tuesday, December 29, 2009

James Cameron's Avatar Movie Review

Before this, I wish to credit IGN.com and the Avatar Wiki for the images used here.


"You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora, ladies and gentleman."

I never expected to anticipate Avatar. Movies with strong hype, coupled with supposed “genre-defying” gimmicks, seldom turn out well. I knew I had to watch it, given the crazy hype, but I never expected to look forward to it. Then, just a week or two before the movie was released, reviewers began praising this film, and I realized that perhaps it wasn’t destined to be as big a failure as I thought that it would be.

See, the thing is, when one doesn’t anticipate a film, it will turn out a whole lot better upon viewing. Many went into Avatar expecting the most gigantic, revolutionary film since the days of Titanic. Some came out utterly disappointed, with cries of “generic” and “unoriginal” thrown around. Let me ask you honestly though, was Titanic, the mighty Oscar winner of 11 awards, that original to begin with? It presented us with the same forbidden love romance story we’ve seen since Shakespeare penned it down in Romeo and Juliet (perhaps there are other classics before this, but I’m not scrupulous enough to think up any now).

Terry Pratchet once said that "The reason that clichés become clichés is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication." Yes, I know I lifted this from TvTropes.org, but Pratchett summarizes what I feel about Avatar: it’s not the most original, but it does what it needs to do fantastically. Avatar is most probably (it has to fight with Star Trek for that) my favorite movie this year. It is a space fantasy, like Star Wars, and much like Lucas’ phenomenal saga, Avatar takes old ideas and freshens them up.

And boy, does director James Cameron make cinema-going a thrilling experience! I gazed in wonder at the lush jungles of Pandora (the fictional moon that the movie is set on) as we are taken on a breathtaking flight over the trees. Through amazing 3D and sound effects, I felt myself immersed in the experience, as if I was literally breathing and feeling this exotic world. I could almost feel the wind whipping in my face as the characters rode their winged steeds at full velocity around dazzling floating mountains. As soldiers worked the graphical interfaces in their machines, I swear I could almost touch those screens; they looked so real with their reflective surfaces.

The story isn’t so bad either. Much like Titanic, the adventure here is beautifully told and should appeal to most people. The directing is strong enough to make you feel for the characters; an impressive feat considering the fact that most of them are feline, computer generated blue aliens. Despite initial fears of the aliens, known as the Na’vi, being to cutesy and Disney-like, the end result is very convincing and the Na’vi are, dare I say it, better characters than seen in most blockbuster movies of today.

Really, I came out wondering if anyone but James Cameron, that titanic (forgive the pun) director, could have pulled it off. Make no mistake, because Avatar is a beautiful experience that must be had by movie lovers. On the other hand, it’s also a brilliantly told archetypal epic story of love, war, tragedy and heroism. In a nutshell, it’s like going to Disneyland: you’ve seen Mickey and Donald on television, but despite your familiarity with these characters, Disneyland is a whole different experience that cannot be easily translated to words. Go watch this movie and if possible, watch it in 3D. And IMAX. You won’t regret it.

Pictures are property of the aforementioned IGN.com and the Avatar Wiki, and of course of 20th Century Fox.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Dino Megazord Figure Review

Go, go Power Rangers!

I guess the ultimate proof of geekdom is the willingness to buy toys that are nostalgic representations of your childhood. The new Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers toy line is now here, in an effort to introduce today's kids to the truly golden stuff of yesteryear. I, a proud Generation Y kid, must admit that I grew up on Power Rangers, and discovered it far earlier than Transformers, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, superheroes or anything that I currently love.

Bandai decided to remake the original Megazord toy, and the result is what I am reviewing tonight. I'm rather lazy to explain too much in detail, so I'll just post some pictures to "illustrate" the point.

Tyrannosaurus Rex Zord

Triceratops Zord

Saber-tooth Tiger Zord

Pterodactyl Zord

Mastodon Zord

The whole bunch of them

Tank Mode, remember it?

The King himself - The Megazord

The Megazord isn't the most articulated toy out there, but he is improved over the original. First of all, his knee swivels allow him to twist the legs to the side, giving him more leverage and poseability options. Also, I love the slightly spaced stance of the legs, making him look more heroic rather than the stiff, Frankenstein pose of the older one. Although smaller, he is taller in proportion than the stumpy original.

Other things to mention are that the chrome is gone, and some playability, such as the Triceratops' tail and the Mastadon's trunk, have been removed (they are no longer articulated). Personally I don't really care too much about them because those parts kept coming off as a kid, and now that their static, it's so much more durable.

Overall, while this toy isn't the most articulated, especially compared to modern Transformers, it retains the charm that captured my heart so many, many years ago. It felt like being a 5-year-old kid again. I'd recommend this toy over Transformers for kids, because Transformers are far too complicated and fragile for young ones of 4-7. This toy can probably withstand a beating and still be fun.

For collectors however, if you're a robot fan, chances are you probably grew up with Power Rangers. Get this for the pop culture and nostalgic value, if nothing else. This robot is one of the ultimate representations of the 90s! Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek was released on DVD and Blu-ray last month, meaning most people will now be able to get a good copy of this incredible film. Sincerely, it is a testament to my incredible laziness that I have not reviewed my favorite movie of the year (so far). I originally planned to write this review earlier, but better late than never, I guess. So without further ado, let’s begin!


“I have been and always shall be, your friend.”

How many of you are Star Trek fans? (*counts number of hands raised) Okay, that was sad. It is very true that most Malaysians aren’t fans of Star Trek. I didn’t even know who Captain Kirk was just 3 years ago! Unfortunately this causes many Malaysians to not want to give a chance to this latest movie. Some claim Trek is too old-fashioned, while others say that the action is lacking. Excuses, excuses, and let them hinder you no more! Star Trek is a GREAT movie!

For those not familiar with the premise (and many of you undoubtedly aren’t) the Star Trek TV shows and movies tell of a future where humanity has put aside their differences and has fostered harmony, peace and progress. Wealth and prestige are no longer sought, because these future humans view scientific enquiry as the ultimate goal. They seek to go “where no man has gone before”. It is through this utopian unity that humans have developed starships, explored the heavens and built numerous alliances with other extraterrestrial species. The most significant outcome of this is the forging of an intergalactic “United Nations” known as the United Federation of Planets.

Most Trek shows and movies focus on a crew of space explorers and their ship. This movie, in seeking to break of past conventions and to attract new audiences, portrays an alternate reality of Star Trek’s most famous crew, that of Captain Kirk and his USS Enterprise. The vengeful villain, Nero, has travelled back in time and altered history so much so that Kirk and crew will no longer have the same destinies as their 60’s counterparts.

This was a brilliant decision because now the filmmakers are free to deviate from the original series and create new stories of their own. They now have creative and artistic liberty to implement whatever they feel is appropriate to breathe new life into the franchise. The results are spectacular, showcasing breathtaking CGI and sound effects which bring Trek action to amazing new heights. It’s not that the special effects are the best in the industry, but rather it was how director JJ Abrams weaved what he had into heart-racing and fantastically directed action scenes. For example, the opening fight scene didn’t have anything that Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith couldn’t do 4 years ago. Yet, by muting the sound in certain scenes he created powerful moments of tension and adrenaline. Through this and other ingenious moments of directing ad cinematography, the movie used what available resources it had to excel (unlike Revenge of the Fallen, which had too many resources and couldn’t decide what to do with them).

What was really impressive however, is the amazing chemistry that existed between the various crew members off the USS Enterprise. One thing that I thought I would be disappointed with was the crew interactions, mostly because this was the biggest pulling factor of the original Star Trek. When I watched the original series, I didn’t watch it for the special effects (though those were decent) I watched it for the emotionally-laden friendships that existed between all the crew members, in particular the power trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Imagine how surprised I was at how well these “newbie” actors took on their roles and at how they breathed new life into them. Chris Pine’s Kirk may not be the same as Shatner’s, but you can certainly see the main defining characteristics in his unique take on the character. The same goes for all the actors. Instead of replicating the original actors’ portrayals, the new group puts a new spin on the established characters why keeping the spirit of them intact.

Of course there are those story twists in the movie that will make the Trek fan in you scream, "OH MY -". Rest assured though, unless you really, really can't stand changes (then why are you watching this?) those twists are well justified and very dramatic and shocking.

There is so much more to say about this movie, but I really mustn’t keep you from watching it any longer. So in short, this movie really did a great job because it respected the franchise and at the same time brought innovation and creativity to the table. The most ironic thing is, it is the first Star Trek movie in years (since First Contact, 1998, in my opinion) to actually “go where no man has gone before”. Live long and prosper!

"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Facebook Problem

YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS! If only I can share this on Facebook, anybody know how? (See the power of Facebook addiction!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

In anticipation for the upcoming DVD release (October 19th), I present to my loyal readers, a review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Hopefully it will help you guys decide whether you want to buy, rent, or obtain (in unscrupulous ways) the movie.


"Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing."

It's as if the first Transformers movie in 2007 wasn't pushing special effects enough, for Revenge of the Fallen adds more robots, more fight scenes, more spectacular settings, and ultimately, more trademark Michael Bay (the director, if you didn't know) explosions. The entire run of its two and a half hour running time threatens to explode your mind with eye candy.

However, plot-wise, the movie keeps it (maybe overly) simple, telling of how a certain baddie is revealed to be actually under the command of an even bigger, ancient baddie who threatens to destroy our beloved Earth. Of course naturally it's up to fearless leader Optimus Prime and his heroic Autobots to stop said baddie's Decepticons and their plans. Things grow more complicated when Shia LaBeouf's character Sam Witwicky is proven to be the key to the Earth's salvation, but he's not especially keen on involving himself in the war all over again.

But wait, some of you ask. What on earth are Transformers? For the uninitiated, they are alien robots who can transform/morph/transfigure themselves into another mode or form (commonly vehicles) which provides them with disguise. So, in the Transformers world, that Chevy Camaro you're driving might actually turn out to be a robot in disguise. There's more to them than meets the eye!

In theory it all works, actually. Yet, effectively, not so much, as poor editing and directing has made the movie far too long and poorly paced. What's worse is that the-powers-that-be thought it would be a good idea to add all sorts of cheap toilet jokes and sexual humor into the mix of the film. By the time of this writing, the movie's infamous twin robots, Mudflap and Skids, have been torn to bits by the media for being potty-mouthed and racist. Besides that, there's a cute little robot who humps Megan Fox's leg. I'm not sure whether that's more offensive or the fact that another giant robot has wrecking balls dangling from between his legs DESPITE THE FACT THAT HIS VEHICLE MODES HAVE NO WRECKING BALLS WHATSOEVER.

Looking back retrospectively, however, one can easily argue that perhaps the movie wasn't quite as bad as it was initially perceived. After all, I did manage to state all that was wrong in the movie in just one paragraph. There are still loads to like, from the beautiful visuals to the cute, if two dimensional characters. Many moments were extremely dramatic and exciting in a geeky sort of way. When Optimus Prime takes on three Decepticons in a forest all on his own to protect Sam, I nearly squealed in excitement. Also, Bay succeeds in making more coherent fight scenes this time, with more drama and desperation. I would say that the opening scene and the aforementioned forest battle were true highlights of the film. Besides, it's bad points have also evolved into camp value, and now friends can easily just sit back and laugh at the many bad lines in the movie as much as with any other B-movie (except this time, it has an A-budget). Why do you think Army of Darkness, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Star Wars prequels, and other such movies remain so enjoyable after all these years? However, really though, the movie is fun and enjoyable if only a little mindless in execution.

I'll take you all on!

For fans of the 2007 predecessor, how does Revenge stack up? It's difficult to say, but I would gauge it as about the same. Much has been improved, such as better fight scenes, visuals and coherent directing. Yet, it's now riddled with poorer pacing and crude humor. It depends really, but I enjoyed both. So, in conclusion, I do recommend this movie, it's fun, exciting, and stupid in a good way. Besides, with all of today's societal problems, it's easier to catch a movie like this rather than a heavy drama that will make you even more depressed.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen images are owned by DreamWorks LLC., Paramount Pictures and Hasbro. Additionally, these images were taken from TFWiki.net.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Teardrops on my Guitar

She looks at me
I fake a smile so she won't see
What I want and I need
And everything that we should be

I'll bet he's wonderful
That guy she talks about
And he's got everything
That I have to live without

She talks to me
I laugh 'cause it's just so funny
I can't even see
Anyone when she's with me

She says she's so in love
She's finally got it right
I wonder if she knows
She's all I think about at night

She's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star
She's the song in the car I keep singing
Don't know why I do

She walks by me
Can she tell that I can't breathe?
And there she goes, so perfectly
The kind of flawless I wish I could be

He better hold her tight
Give her all his love
Look in those beautiful eyes
And know he's lucky 'cause

She's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star
She's the song in the car I keep singing
Don't know why I do

So I drive home alone
As I turn out the light
I'll put her picture down
And maybe get some sleep tonight

'Cuz she's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only one who's got enough of me to break my heart
She's the song in the car I keep singing
Don't know why I do

She's the time taken up but there's never enough
And she's all that I need to fall into
She looks at me
I fake a smile so he won't see

Modified from Taylor Swift's "Teardrops on my Guitar", so all credit goes to her. And no, I do not play the guitar.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Transformers 3 in 2011 confirmed

Link in sentence below:

Michael Bay confirms 2011 as the release date of Transformers 3

At long last director Michael Bay has confirmed on his official forums the release date of Transformers 3. That seems rather soon, so I hope they get a good movie going for this sequel. Here's best of luck to Mr Bay and all his cast and crew and please, don't screw up.