Monday, June 8, 2009

What's Wrong with Terminator Salvation?

I went to see Terminator Salvation yesterday, and spent this day figuring out what's wrong with it. There are parts of it that I loved, but the film somehow lacks the drama and depth of its prequels. Here are my thoughts:

The film should be about John Connor. The only story of Terminator left to tell is the tale of how John Connor become the leader of human resistance, or the story of how he won (or lost) the war. Another possibility is doing the movie completely from other character’s perspective (possibly Kyle Reese’s), while John Connor figure is only heard through the radio as the voice of hope.

The only character that has a story is Marcus Wright, and Sam Worthington showed us that he may be one of the biggest stars of the future. He stole all the scenes, despite showing his Australian accent in one or two scenes.

Anton Yelchin did a great Kyle Reese. I am instantly reminded of Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese in the first Terminator film. His name will be the one to watch in the future, just like Worthington.

The action scenes, especially at the beginning, were all superbly crafted. I thought it was nothing short of spectacular. A perfect feast for a summer blockbuster movie. Money well spent, I say.

The whole look of the environment and the bleak world in the future was spot on. I personally thought that McG nailed this Terminator, visually at least.

While I adore Bryce Dallas Howard very much she didn’t have any meaningful scenes. I don’t even believe if John and Kate were really in love. Common, who played as Connor's right hand man also didn't have anything to do, and the romance between Marcus and Blair is somewhat undercooked and forced.

The relationship between John Connor and Marcus Wright should have been introduced earlier and given more depth, which would gave them both more time to establish their man-machine relationship, just like the previous Terminator series. Marcus giving up his life for John Connor didn’t really hit any emotion vortex of me.

They repeatedly saying John Connor were a prophet, and people keep listening to his orders and voice even though he’s not the leader of the resistance, but I couldn’t see why people believed in him. What kind of prophet-like things did he do? It sure ain’t there on the screen.

At the end of the story, this movie achieves nothing. John Connor is still not the leader of resistance, Kyle Reese is still the same kid we’ve seen in the first couple of minutes of the movie, and the war hasn’t even won or lost, which brings us to square one.

Overall, a disappointing addition to the Terminator franchise. While it will satisfy the need for a great action movie, it missed many great parts of the previous installments. I'm hoping that they won't be saying "I'll be back" too soon. At least not until they find a decent story to tell.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What a Week Part III: Watching the Watchmen

I've been trying to write a proper review of Watchmen for quite some time now, but I can't seem to wrap around my feelings towards the film. I just can't. So, I'm gonna summarise the whole film in just a few sentences (and couple of images).

The good: The visual is just spot on. It's like putting the whole page into the film. The feeling when you read the book is there when you watch the film. The opening montage is superbly done. It effectively pave and visualize the world of Watchmen. It got even better with the decision to play Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changing (which coincidentally one of my favorite songs ever) in the background. Not only has it blended well with the montage, but the lyrics itself represented what happened in Watchmen’s world. Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach is the best of the cast. He IS Rorschach. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian and Crudup's Dr Manhattan are also great.

The Bad: The whole scenes on Mars is a waste. When you summarise an important part of the story which takes about a chapter in a book into a 4 minute scene, you just couldn't see its importance. The conclusion is also felt rushed. The whole conclusion is a 2 chapter long that explain Veidt's vision and attempts to get his plan in progress. Snyder spent too much time doing the first half of the book (which he copied directly panel to panel), and somehow neglects the important second half of the book. Malin Akerman's casting is disastrous. She's not capable of pulling off a troubled Laurie/Silk Spectre II.

The Ending: The ending is being altered from an alien invasion, into a godlike fury of Dr. Manhattan. Both has the same effect. However, i found it very hard to accept that people would just live in peace with each other without blaming the United States. It was the US that used Dr. Manhattan as a walking H-bomb, and importantly, it was also the US who angered Dr. Manhattan, which leads him to exile to Mars. So when Veidt orchestrated the plan to make Dr Manhattan as the scapegoat, aren't other countries going to blame the US for making Dr. Manhattan angry? That's the hole that is bothering me.

So given all those things, I still don't know what to think of the film. I thought the book is a freakin' masterpiece, hence the films should also be. The only explanation of why I couldn't love it as much as the book is that it couldn't be translated into a 3-hour film. It will only work if they make a 12 episodes miniseries, that explain each and every chapter of the book thoroughly. I'm gonna have to watch this over again. On blu-ray, preferably. I'll probably write a proper review about it then. That is, if I feel like it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What a Week Part II: Living in Technicolor

So, Coldplay decided to go to Australia promoting their latest album, Viva la Vida or Death and all his friends. Wasn’t that excited at first. I thought their album was kinda okay, nothing special or anything. However, people are praising it everywhere. They got nominated, and subsequently won many Grammys, their album also made numerous critics’ top ten album of 2008. Many of them also dubbed it as their finest record to date. I tried to listen to the album again several times. My opinion improved, slightly at least. I thought it was a great record. Lots of great songs, but I felt the entire record was boring if you listen to it at once. Anyhow, they’re planning not to do one, but three shows here at Melbourne. When the ticket opened, the general admission tickets sold out in less than 3 hours. I was left unconvinced whether to give it all up or try to search for it on Ebay. I waited until a week before the concert on the 5th of March before I began searching for tickets via ebay. Luckily I found someone who sell it only $4 more than the actual ticket price, and at last I found myself going to my second concert of the week.

Let me explain my expectation towards the concert; it was low. I wasn’t all pumped up like when I was going to see Sigur Ros, or Death Cab for Cutie. The idea of a big band, with many followers kinda turned it off for me. They’re a great band, sure. But I think they sometime tried too hard to follow Radiohead’s footsteps.

Come the 5th of March, my friends were all excited towards it. We were planning to go early as possible to get a good view of the show. However, since we were going together in great numbers it was hard to be on time. We ended up going in when the opening band, Decoder Ring, already opened their show. We still managed to get a decent view though. The stage was obviously bigger than other concerts that I’ve been to. It was U-shaped, the back drop is covered in black layer, which kept us figuring out what it was. Three big screens on both sides of the stage and there’s this big balloon like decoration above our heads.

The first opening band, Decoder Ring, was actually good. I was pretty impressed, to say the least. They sounded like Explosions in the Sky, and Mogwai. They even got this video on the screen that they played during their performance. It was beautiful. The video fits well with their music and it kinda feel like we’re watching a beautiful silent film. Half an hour in, they played their last song before bidding good bye to the audience. That’s a great way to opened up the concert, I guess.

The lights were turned on again as the second opening band prepared to perform. I began to feel curious what the second band will sound like, given the first opening was a great one. Little did I know that the second band were awful, at least for my taste. I didn’t remember and didn’t bother to look for the name of the band, but neither their song nor their performance was worth mentioning. Their vocalist was like this middle aged guy who acted so peculiar on stage. I’m not talking about Thom Yorke peculiar here, I was gunning for shitty peculiar. He acted like a body builder, showing his muscles while singing his song. Wow, that was just…… wrong. His lead guitarist was more or less the same. He wore this red outfit, spikey hair, a scarf, and sunglasses (in a stadium? Come on!). My friends look disgusted, and so did other people on the venue. Their performance felt very, very, very long. I even shouted “You Suck” at some point during their performance. It was a joy watching them stepping off the stage. Seriously, they were that bad.

So we proceed to the main concert. The stage was cleared, the soundcheck was finished, and we’re in for the main show. The stage was now layered with a curtain, indicating that Coldplay was gonna play behind those. Not long after that, the sound of Life in Technicolor echoed through the stadium. Everybody roared, as one by one the members of Coldplay entered the stage. The curtain is then lifted and they played Violet Hill as the second track. During this performance, I was suddenly pumped up. I don’t know if it’s the crowd or it’s the energy of the song but I got really excited. The backdrop was revealed to be the gigantic picture of the cover album. Chris Martin, despite his third time playing at Melbourne, still showed his best. The crowd also helped him with screaming the lyrics out loud.

From there, I felt ashamed that I only had low expectations towards the concert. It was superb. The sound was perfect, the stage was great, the lighting was marvelous, and their performance was a joy. The lights and effects really played a big part in the concert. It always sets up the song perfectly. Whether the yellowish flashing light with balloons when they performed Yellow, or the dim blueish ambient when they played Fix You, it was all perfect. The orbs above the stage also provided a unique tone to the show. It was used to project the video and images of the band. Also, when they performed Lovers in Japan, they showered the concert hall with paper butterflies of various colors. Very cool indeed

As for the performance, the evidence of fatigue is there. Chris Martin sometimes slipped when he began to sing, especially in Viva La Vida. However, this was not a big deal because the crowd helped him singing. The crowd was wild. They were enjoying it so much. Now the band also has a great control of the stage. Chris Martin ran around the stage. The band even played two songs on the left side of the U shaped stage. That’s not all, on the middle of the concert they went through the exit door and proceed to the upper stage opposite the stage and performed all the way up there. The people who sat back there was so excited. They performed Speed of sound and Beatles’ I’m a believer acoustically. Wow, this is the first time I saw a concert in which the band give a damn about the audience sitting far up from the stage.

I was happy with the setlist. It seems that they balanced the old and new songs really well. Most of the songs in Viva la Vida album were sung. The others are equally proportioned from their earlier album. After performing Death and All his Friends, they said their thank yous and goodbyes and left the stage. It was at this moment, my roommate initiated the howling of Viva la vida. Me and the others helped him did that and clapped our hands in the air. It was short after that the audience started to follow us and sang. We kept doing that for a couple of minutes, and then the awaited encore arrived. Chris Martin walked back on stage and reached for his piano. He sang The Scientist, one of my favorite songs. They proceed to played their last song of the night which was Life in Techicolor II. After that, they wrapped the concert for good. I didn’t know what else to think. Coldplay is a great band. They played one hell of a show and that night was the proof of it.

Concert highlights: there are two songs that I viewed outstanding that night. It was Fix You and Politik. Fix You was a showcase of the greatness of the band. Chris Martin played his piano and sang flawlessly the entire song. His bandmates also provide great backup to him. Politik, on the other hand show cased the awesomeness of the whole concert. In this song the sound, the stage, and the lights blends together. When the lyric goes “open up your eyes” we were jumping up and down with our hands thrown in the air. The other interesting fact is the 5th of March is actually Chris Martin’s birthday. So during the break from one song the crowd sang happy birthday to Chris. He was so touch and thanks us all.

Final Judgement:
Performance: 4/5
Stage/Décor/lights: 4/5
Crowd: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Monday, March 9, 2009

What a Week Part I: Narrow Stairs

What a week. That’s all I could say to sum up this past week. I’m gonna break this topic into three parts. The first two will cover the two concerts I’ve attended this week, and the third one will cover the full review of one of the most anticipated movies of 2009, Watchmen.

Welcome to the first part.

Wednesday, February 24th 2009.

I’ve been waiting too long for this. Being a big fan since their Transatlanticism days, I’ve been waiting for Death Cab for Cutie’s concert for a long time. Ben Gibbard is my favorite singer of all time along with the late Elliott Smith. He’s got the kind of voice that blends perfectly with the sound of acoustic guitar. While many singers tried too hard to channel John Mayer’s raspy voice, Gibbard’s voice was the opposite of Mayer’s, but sounded equally great. That being said, I missed last year’s Death Cab for Cutie concert due to the lack of funds at that time (damn you, new apartment!). I didn’t expect them to go back this soon to Melbourne, but when the opportunity presents, I didn’t hesitate to buy the ticket. This time I was accompanied by my other 3 friends.

We tried going to the venue as soon as we can. That was about 3 hours before the initial concert. We got to the venue, Forum theatre, at approximately 2 hours before the door open. We searched for the gate and only found a couple of people lining up before the door. It’s a bit too early, and the weather was quite windy so we decided to look for a coffee shop nearby. About two blocks away we stopped at Starbucks. What a coincidence, drinking Seattle’s coffee before seeing an actual Seattle-based band, I thought. I took a seat with a friend while my other friend queued for coffee. Two minute later, someone walked in on the door behind me. My friend, who sat opposite me, looked up and wrinkled his chin as if someone familiar has walked in. He then called me and said, “hey, is that Ben Gibbard?”

I took a glance toward the man walking to the counter. His hair was at the length of his shoulder. It was a brown-ish colored checkered shirt. Beside him is a tall almost-bald fella. My heart started to pound. “No way, man.” I said dismissing his remarks, even though I know that this guy fits the description of Ben Gibbard, at least from behind. My friend insisted,”That’s him. That must be him. Look at his shirt. That’s Ben Gibbard’s kind of shirt! And that guy next to him must be the drummer. DCFC’s drummers is kinda bald”.

Being filled with excitement and curiousity, I decided to get up and take a closer look at these guys. I went to the counter pretending to go to my other friend who’s waiting for his order at the pick-up counter. I got a good look at them from there. Holy shit, It WAS Ben Gibbard! I was jumping up and down (on the inside, at least). There he was my favorite singer, only three feet away from me. Two of the members of my favorite band. Getting coffee in the same coffee shop as I was, at the same time too. What are the odds? I told my friend, Kevin, who’s at the counter and pointed at him that Ben Gibbard is there at the counter. He confirmed it. He was also 100% positive that it was indeed Ben Gibbard. I called up my friend who’s sitting at the table to join us at the counter. And then Kevin gather his courage and approached Ben.

The rest of us were waiting, with a camera ready at our hands.

“excuse me, are you Ben Gibbard?”

“Yes, I am.”

Kevin replied once again, “THE Ben Gibbard?”

“I think so, yeah”

“We’re a big fan. We actually are going to your concert tonight.”

“Oh. Cool.”

“Wow. (Long awkward pause) Mmmm… Do you mind taking picture with us?”

“Not at all. But can we do it outside?”


Kevin walked back toward us, looking as excited as ever. I knew that, like me, he LOVED Death Cab for Cutie. Like me, He loved Postal Service. And like me, He loved Ben Gibbard (as a singer, I mean). We patiently waited outside while peeking at Ben and the drummer, Jason McGerr. They came out and we were ready. We asked a random guy to take a photo of us with Ben and Jason. And snap! Just like that we got our very own photo with half of Death Cab for Cutie. We said thanks to them for the photo op, and wished them a good show tonight. They walked off right after that, presumably to the concert hall, and we were left standing there outside Starbucks, in disbelief of what just happened.

Now, we proceed to the venue, with big smile on our faces. I pitied those who waited with us at the door, because they didn’t know what we just experienced. The doors were opened on time. We managed to buy the merchandise before entering the hall. The four of us bought the same t-shirt, and wore it instantly. We were like one of those crazy fanboys. At 7.45 pm the lights were dimmed, and Youth Group opened up the concert. Didn’t really care that much about them because I saw them opening for Interpol last year. However, they were not bad. Some of the songs managed to make me feel dancy. They‘re on for about 30 minutes, and we’re on for the real show.
Death Cab took the stage. Under the cheering crowd, Ben Gibbard took the right side of the stage, Walla on the left, Nick Harmer on the center, and McGerr sat on his drum set right behind Harmer. Interesting facts, Gibbard and Harmer wore the exact same shirt when they met us earlier that day. That means they just ran for a quick coffee, by themselves, and went straight back to prep whatever it is they were preparing. The stage wasn’t all that big. No decoration or backdrops were visible. A bit disappointing.

The opening track was Marching Bands of Manhattan, a song which I always viewed as the perfect opening for their concert, along with Bixby Canyon Bridge. There were some sing along in the song, and Gibbard’s voice was just great. After they finished the song, Gibbard greeted the crowds with “We’re Death Cab for Cutie! Dig it!”. And just like that, the crowds roared. Cheerings are heard all over. It was going to be a great show. Of course it was.

From what I saw, they performed better when they’re live. Chris Walla, the guitarist, may look like (and surely dressed like) a dork, but it was clear that he was the driving force behind the band. His guitar fills and riffs really gave the extra edge to each and every song they make. Hammer is a great performer. With his new beard, which gave him the Leonidas vibe, he rocked the hardest. Swinging his bass, pounding hard on those strings and even jumped once on stage just to show us how excited he was. McGerr, on the other hand, is very cool and precise. Never let emotion took over, and never made a mistake either. Ben Gibbard showed me why I loved his voice in the first place. Everything is just as I imagined. Gibbard and Walla traded some occasion to play the piano on some songs.

Concert highlights: After finishing Soul Meets Body, Walla and Harmer sat tightly on the stage as Gibbard played I Will Follow You into The Dark acoustically. It was greeted with mass sing along among the crowd. For the whole song Walla, Harmer, and McGerr kinda mesh with the crowd and enjoyed Gibbard’s performance, which was flawless in my opinion. Transatlanticism, the last song they played, was also a joy to watch. It builds up slowly before reaching its peak when the song reached the “I need you so much closer” part. It was the perfect song the end the concert.
The bad part of the whole concert was the crowd. I thought the crowd was neither eager nor excited to watch them performed. Most of them just stand there and stare without moving their bodies or sing along to the songs. That was a major disappointment. The stage and decoration was very minimal. No evidence of great lighting or exquisite set decoration.

The concert lasts for about two hours. The words “I need you so much closer” still echoed afterwards, even when I was back at home. I went to sleep with a complete playlist of my favorite Death Cab songs running on my computer. It was a great night.

Final judgement:
Perfomance: 4/5
Stage/décor/lights: 3/5
Crowd: 2.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lyricus Hocus Pocus

"... we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side"
(Leash, Pearl Jam)

I've never been someone who pays much attention towards lyrics, but lately for no apparent reason I caught up with some interesting lines that lies in some songs. One of them is the lyrics of Pearl Jam's Leash that I've written above. Never been a big fan of the band, though I enjoyed Eddie Vedder's voice nonetheless,not a big fan of the song either. It sounded very early 90's/ Seattle sound-ish. However, there's something that hits me in the chorus. It's the lyrics. I don't know why but there's something that I can connect with in that line. Well, probably a lyric will hits you when you feel exactly like it. In my case, that was probably it.

There's another song that I really liked because of the lyrics. It's Bright Eyes's At the Bottom of Everything. The song itself is very simple, only three chords progression is used in the song. It started with Conor Oberst (the vocalist) narrating a story about a woman and a man in a plane and continued with the strum of folk guitar. His lyrics reminded me of how Bob Dylan wrote his songs. It was like a critical view on his surroundings, how he felt towards the world, and he put it in a very delicate way. Oberst is not your ordinary lyricist, he's more like a poet. A comparation with Bob Dylan is inevitable, as they have so many things alike, from their lyrics to their musical style. This is is the lyrics I'm talking about;

We must talk in every telephone, get eaten off the web
We must rip out all the epilogues from the books that we have read
Into the face of every criminal strapped firmly to a chair
We must stare, we must stare, we must stare

We must take all of the medicines too expensive now to sell
Set fire to the preacher who is promising us hell
Into the ear of every anarchist that sleeps but doesn't dream
We must sing, we must sing, we must sing

And it'll go like this, all right

While my mother waters plants, my father loads his gun
He says, "Death will give us back to God
Just like the setting sun
Is returned to the lonesome ocean"

Now, since I'm already on the music topic, I'm gonna have a say about some of the music that caught my ears lately. First off, did any of you saw the Grammys? More specifically, did you see Coldplay and Radiohead's performance? Holy cow they were great. Coldplay did an awesome job with Lost, in which they collaborated with Jay Z, and Radiohead blew my mind with their live version of 15 Step. Interestingly, rather than using drum machines like they did in the album, they invited the whole USC marching band to serve as their percussion. What a great touch! Thom Yorke is one crazy cool motherfucker. Look at how he moves on the stage with all that energy. That was one great live performance from my favorite band!

Secondly, I've browsed myspace for new music a couple of days ago and found this new under the radar band called The Winston Jazz Routine. They got me interested because I thought they sounded like a blend of Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, with the vocal that sounded like Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. In short, it was a blend of everything I'd like to hear from a band. I searched everywhere and downloaded their album called Sospiri. Calling the album decent would be an understatement. I thought it was a good album. Suited for those who like Indie or Post-Rock genre. Curious? This is their myspace page;

Thirdly, I chatted with an old friend of mine, who's musical opinion I've always held high. He recommended this local indie band called The trees & the Wild. I was actually surprised when he gave me the link to their myspace page. While the local major scene has been dominated by crappy love songs with whiny lyrics, the local indie scene was also stuck with bands that sells generic rock n' roll sound. Now, the trees & the wild isn't like any other so-called indie bands. While their sound didn't actually original, they managed to offer genuine sound that echoes like Sigur Ros's songs with a John Mayer-ish vocal. They created this peaceful and relaxing melodies that no other local band have ever made before. Apparently, they haven't release an album yet, but some of their songs that they put on their myspace page are good enough for me to buy their album. Here, check out some of their songs at

Ha! Enough ranting for today, I've spent way too much time doing nothing and this is how I deal with boredom. I thrive on it by writing nonsensical bullshit. Well, hope you still enjoyed it though. Until next time, fellas!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What Happened to DC comics?

As a long fan and follower of the (American) comic book industry, I tried my best to digest as many comics as possible. But for the past 2-3 years, my comic preferences has shifted heavily towards marvel comics. I stopped giving DC any chance after the disappointing Final Crisis series, written by the great Grant Morrison. Now, let's try to analyze this by pieces.

DC is the home of some of the iconic names in superhero business. I'm talking about the DC Trinity that consists of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Those are the household name of superheroes. They got support from many other great characters in comics such as Green Lantern, The Flash, and Aquaman which are also some of the most popular superheroes even for those who didn't read comics. Their stories has been told since the 30's and 40's.

The main history began in 1985. At this very year, DC tried to rid many inconsistencies in their story. For example: at the early comics Superman can only jump and leap over length and the over some time, he managed to fly. Then came the story of Superboy, who is claimed to be the adventure of young Clark Kent before he was Superman, and Superboy can fly while he was supposedly to fly when he's older. Almost all DC characters at this point have no back story. So DC came up with the idea that all of the characters in their comics, up to this point, are from different universe. They establish something called Multiverse. Superman, Batman for example, are from Earth One. The old Flash, Jay Garrick (the one with the plate over his head), and the entire Justice Society of America is from Earth-Two. Superboy is from another universe called Earth Prime.

After that been established, DC created a tie-in cross over for all of their title called Crisis on Infinite Earths. The aim for this is to erase all the Multiverse and created one single universe for their comics. In this comics we see Superman from Earth One team up with Superman of Earth-Two (older superman), and Superboy of Earth Prime to destroy the threat that exist because of the existence of the Multiverse. The conclusion, Earth-Two and other universes are destroyed, leaving only Earth One. With the series now finished, DC writers can now re-invent their characters from scratch. Almost all of the characters are given new back story and now a modern era of DC comics is created. That was in 1985.

In 2005, 20 years after the original Crisis, DC opened up again the idea of Multiverse through series called Infinite Crisis and 52. At the end of these two series, DC universe now has 52 universes. For me, this is where the confusion begins. Old characters are popping up, back stories are added to further complicate the story, those who are dead came back, and tons of other things that i couldn't mention one by one. The culmination of those are concluded in Final Crisis. This event actually has potential when Grant Morrison, who wrote great comics like All star Superman and New X-Men, was announced as the writer and JG Jones was the assigned artist. I thought this would be the turning point of DC. But apparently I was wrong. I tried so hard to keep with the pace of Final Crisis for a couple of issues until I decided to give up after issue #3. The plot is meandering, far too many characters, the action didn't kick in from the beginning, the art was inconsistent (mainly due to JG Jones withdrawal from the series), and delay on the production. By the end of the event, I can only say; what the fuck?

On the contrary, Marvel Comics garnered success with their major crossover event of this year, Secret Invasion. It got more compact and less complicated story, great art, brilliant conclusion, and most importantly, it delivers its premise.

The other thing I've noticed is almost all of the great writers in comic industry are in Marvel. Brian Bendis, Mark Millar, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Joss Whedon,Brian K. Vaughan, etc. The only writers in DC that hold the same standard as those writers are only Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, and Greg Rucka. Johns is great with his job at Green Lantern, which is the only DC title that worth picking up regularly. I have mixed feelings about Morrison after his disappointing Final Crisis, and Greg Rucka was great if he's writing detective story, just like he and Brubaker did on Gotham Central 5 years ago, other than that he was pretty mediocre.

In terms of characters, Marvel have always been more relatable than DC. People are finding that it's easier to relate themselves to Spiderman/Peter Parker, a nerd outcast with superpowers, rather than to Superman/Clark Kent, who's an alien with perfect personality and seemingly able to do anything. This has always been DC's problem for a long time. Stan Lee, Marvel creator, said himself that he meant to create superheroes that are more relatable to the public than DC's superheroes. This can be seen and reflected by the characters job, and issues that's brought up by each story. My point is that the relatability of the character to the reader is one of the most important reasons for people to buy comics. And in this case, Marvel has got the upper hand.

Of course, DC still could regain their glory days if they invented stories with less complications and less pointless crossover. I still remember how much fun it was reading JLA back when I was still in Junior High. They were a lot fun. I really. really wanted to read a good DC title. For all I care, I only pick up DC if it were written by Geoff Johns. They need more people like Johns because he understand the characters so well and he can wrote a perfectly fun comics. Look at what he did with Green Lantern and Action Comics. Those two are the only title that works. I'm still crossing my finger hoping that DC can regain its glory. Until that time comes, I'm gonna stick with the currently more superior Marvel comics.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Year End Review: Part 2

I've spent this last week catching up on the remaining movies of 2008 that I haven't watched yet. And after some serious consideration, I've managed to compile al ist of my favorite films of 2008. This list isn't in any order or whatsoever;

In Bruges

This is the film that seemed under the radar for some time this year. However, this film appeared on many critics top 10 films of 2008, and I can see why. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell played 2 Dublin hit men that are sent by their boss, played by Ralph Fiennes, to Bruges after a job gone awry. In that very city both of them are given hard options as the consequences of their previous job. What made this movie great is it offers dark humor without losing depths of its story and characters. And it certainly shows that hit men have their own conscience and ethics, which led one of the characters made a bold choice at the end. The cast didn’t disappoint, and the overall movie is a great blend of comedy and thriller.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

“My name is Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. While, everyone else was agin', I was gettin' younger... all alone”. This was the opening narration on Benjamin Button’s life that sets up the whole film. The film isn’t just about how a man that aged backwards live his life, but it’s about how he embrace his unfortunate condition and changed that into a life worth living.

Benjamin Button is an achievement of superb storytelling. If you think a story of a man aging backward is interesting enough, you should see the whole movie. The story will move you emotionally. It gave us a deep look at the turning points of a man’s life, in this case Benjamin’s life. It filled with exquisite moments that will leave you touched and amazed. Director David Fincher certainly knows how to work his magic. Along with scriptwriter Eric Roth, he managed to shot scene by scene with such beauty without giving up its heart and cleverly added a sense of surrealism that helps develop the film. Watching Benjamin Button made me believe that everything is possible, even for someone as unfortunate as Benjamin Button. By far this has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had after watching a film.

The Dark Knight

I’ve written my full review of this a couple of months ago on this blog, so I guess it needs no more preambles. The main thing about the Dark Knight is that it wasn’t treated as just another superhero films. It treated as if the director wanted to make a great film that will make other films wanted to be it. This is the excerpts of what I’ve already written before;

First, and foremost, The Dark Knight is a crime drama. The kind of crime drama that has the same tone as The Departed, or Heat. Secondly, it's not solely focusing on the hero, but rather to the whole cast. This is the main strength of the movie. The cast that consists of Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine have done a superb job in their role.
Christopher Nolan has never failed to deliver a great story to audience with with the perfect execution. He dare to question the morality of the actions that is taken by Batman, Dent, and Gordon, something that is often left out by other superhero movie. This question haunts the movie until the very end. An end that ultimately answer the question, as Batman did the most heroic act no other superhero has ever done.

All that being said, The Dark Knight will not only be the best superhero movie ever, but also possibly one of the best film of the decade. Iron Man, and Spiderman 2 may be the definitive superhero film, but The Dark Knight is not just another superhero film, it's a superhero epic. It's the first Oscar worthy superhero film, it's the Godfather of superhero films, it's the Empire Strikes Back of all Batman films.

Iron Man

As the opening of summer movie, this film has got it all. You can find my full review a couple of months ago here on this blog, so feel free to scroll down and search. Or if you don’t have the will or thinking it’s too much effort to scroll down, I’ll jot down the conclusion for you.
Iron Man is the perfect example of a superhero movie which respect its original material, and turned it into something way much cooler. Anyone who doubt Jon Favreau capability to direct this movie can just get their ass kicked (yes, i got my ass kicked). He made all the right decisions in making the movie. He cast the dead perfect Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Stark is one of the biggest brain in the planet, an alcoholic, and a womanizer at the same time. Downey have had some of those problems in the real life before. That's what made him perfect for the role. He also made Tony Stark character funnier, with his perfect timing of comedic punch lines. Iron Man will satisfy those people who demanded pure summer blockbuster movie, and also the-hard-to-be-pleased fanboys.

Tropic Thunder

These past two or three years finest comedies have been brought by the Apatow gang, however this year’s funniest came from the hands of Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux. This is a bit surprising for me because I don’t think Stiller is capable to star in a film, even directed it, as funny as this. His previous works has been mediocre at best, but he hits a home run with this one. Simply put, Tropic Thunder will make you laugh hard. I mean REAL hard. The cast is just perfect. Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise put in memorable performances. Downey as the Australian actor playing a black dude, and Cruise as the menacing producer. I’d say those two performances deserved a recognition. The fake trailers in the first scenes are a brilliant way to introduce the characters. It started the movie with a bang, and what followed is another set of hilarious scenes in the jungle. However it still has some weaknesses. For instance, Stiller’s performance as an actor is still mediocre, and Jack Black’s character is very hard to be liked. But those weaknesses can be quickly forgotten with the performance of the supporting actors and cameos that gave their best. It’s good to see that a great R rated comedy can come from other source than the usual Apatow gang.

The Wrestler

If last year we have Daniel Day-Lewis getting out the best of him in a blistering and mind blowing performance in There Will be Blood, this year we have Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Rourke stars as Randy “The Ram”, a wrestler that reached his peak of fame in 80’s. He was the people’s champ, he’s the god among wrestlers, simply put, he was the best. Now almost 20 years after that, he still wrestles, although in a far smaller stage that before, and he’s dealing with his failure outside his wrestling career. He has an estranged daughter that didn’t want to see him, his body is failing him because of his age, and his career isn’t exactly as successful as before.

Darren Aronofsky shows the loneliness of The Ram’s life by making us felt like Ram. The camera often follows Ram from behind and with each silent moment he walked, we can feel Ram’s sense of self failure. His hope of fixing his messed up life lies on the shoulders of his estranged daughter, Stephanie, and a stripper with a heart of gold named Cassidy. As he tried to establish a relationship with these 2 persons, I grew fond of Ram and, later, even empathize him. The final scene where Ram made a speech on the ring before making his comeback is the most powerful scene. He declared his love of wrestling no matter what his situation is at the time. That, my friend, is your Oscar winning scene right there.


Watching Wall-E is like watching a beautiful silent film. Its power is not in its dialogue, cause there’s a few of them, but it’s in the actions and gestures of the little robot. The animation is, dare I say, the best that Pixar has ever done. With little dialogue it’s hard to achieve the level of emotion that this film has. The most important thing about this film is its morality. It gave a brief prediction of what’s gonna happen if the Earth neglects its environment, and at the same time, it provides hope that even a single insignificant robot can make a huge different to the world. The love story between Wall-E and EVE is also very sweet and romantic. This is the film that children and adults will love. There’s no age barrier to watch this movie. Wall-e is really something extraordinar-e.

Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle is the only director that I believe can direct anything given to him. He’s done junky film in Trainspotting, horror film in 28 Weeks Later, Sci-fi/horror in Sunshine, and even a kid film in Millions. So when I came to know that he’s directing a film with all Indian cast, set in India, I have absolutely no doubt that he’s gonna nail it. And he did it big time. Slumdog Millionaire is a story of a teenager named Jamal who reached the final round of Who wants to be a Millionaire? and is accused of cheating.

The investigation on how he knew all the answer led us to swim through the flash back on his very colorful, if not, unfortunate life. Then we learned that Jamal has gone long way to the show because of his love with Pitka, whom he met when he was young. Within these moments lies great obstacle that Jamal must face with his brother, be it running from Muslim haters, being told to work under abusive employer, or posing as a fake tour guide in Taj Mahal, he survived those with a big heart. And this is what I’ve come to admire in the movie. It’s the sense of pity and joy to know the eventful life of Jamal. The star of this movie is no other than Danny Boyle. He managed to show the beauty of India’s slums. He showed the hard life of Indian people. And he sure showed us one hell of a movie.

Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In)

I’ve always been a fan of anything vampire-y. It’s no secret that I loved Buffy and Angel, but Let the Right One In isn’t your ordinary vampire flick. It’s a blend of an unadulterated love story, horror, and drama, and it sure as hell ain’t Twilight. This is a tale of a 12 year old boy who fell in love with a girl vampire that moved next door. The premise may seem overly plain and straight, but I assure you this movie will engage you in an emotional roller coaster which will also test your heart and brain at the same time. The backdrop of snowy Sweden serves as a perfect set up for the grim atmosphere of the film. The thrill and horror is building up from the beginning, with some of the most effective horror scene I’ve ever seen, and reached its climax at the final scene that took place in the swimming pool.

However, what I really loved from this film is there are so many scenes that are open for our own interpretation. I browsed the web for forums and opinions from fellow viewers that made me watched the movie all over again. I haven’t had this much fun interpreting a film since Donnie Darko. Things like Oskar relationship with his father, Hakkan relationship with Eli, Eli’s gender issue, are some of the things that we could draw up our own interpretation. The main strength of the movie is how the director managed to direct scene by with such intensity and getting out the best of the two kids who are the main characters of this movie. Every scene is poetic in its own way. This is a masterpiece of anything that related to vampirism. This is the movie that will get overlooked just because a more hip and cheesy film like Twilight has more budget and more access to audience around the world.

If I had to pick a favorite, I guess I'm gonna have to go with The Wrestler, or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as the best of this year. Mickey Rourke, in my book, is undoubtedly the best actor of the year. Academy awards, or Golden Globes will probably go for Slumdog Millionaire or Benjamin Button as the best picture, while The Dark Knight will probably not getting any love because of its status of superhero film. Sean Penn will be most likely get the best actor award for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, rather than Rourke. As for the director I'd love to see Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, and Danny Boyle to compete for the best director award. One other nominee will probably go to Gus Van Sant (Milk), or Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon).

That's it, I'm done for the night. Hope this little post will interest you to pick up some of the movies I mentioned above. Let's see if you have the same thought as me regarding those movies.

until then,

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