Saturday, September 6, 2014

Short Dolphin Tale 2 Movie Review: Its Parts Is Greater Than Its Sum



Sometime during the summer, I saw the trailer for Dolphin Tale 2 at the movie theater. It looked interesting and not cloying like I thought such a movie would be, so I went back home and watched Dolphin Tale. I was surprised by how much I liked it, which is how I find myself at the movie theater for Dolphin Tale 2.

The main cast is back, but the sequel has neither the magic nor heart of the first movie. The narrative is disjointed and episodic. There were some scenes that were really good, but these scenes were few and far between and were simply not enough the elevate the dull and boring script.

My thoughts about the movie were echoed by my fellow moviegoers. "The first movie was good, but this one is meh," said a lady to her friend. A kid told her mother: "The first part was good, then it got boring until the end when [a character] showed up."

It also doesn't help that the trailer for Dolphin Tale 2 does spoil the entire story, thus dissipating whatever tension the movie was trying to build up. Even if the trailer didn't, you would have known where this movie was going right from the start. Overall, very disappointing. I'd recommend you watch Dolphin Tale if you haven't yet and wait for the home video for this movie if you like what you see in Dolphin Tale.

2 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Short Restaurant Review: Brenda's French Soul Food at 652 Polk St, San Francisco

The beignets here (crawfish, apple, chocolate and plain) are all superb, although they do have to be eaten right away when it's hot or it will some of its deliciousness. The plain is by far my favorite, which is perfectly simple and sweet.

The BFC is good, but not really all that special that it deserves its own acronym ala KFC.

My favorite was the gumbo though, which was an utter delight.. Even my friend, who is not really a fan of gumbo, said she rather liked it.

That said, I I am rather baffled at the fervor this place has on diners so as to garner so many reviews.

The food is indeed good, but I am not really sure that I would be willing to brave the crowd that always congregate outside this establishment just simply to secure a table to eat here.

If ever I shall return to this place, it would be to order a takeout of plain beignets or a cup of gumbo.

4 out of 5 stars.

Short Food Review: BAMBU Desserts & Drinks at 6050 Geary Blvd, San Francisco

I have not tried the drinks here so I cannot attest myself to how good they are.

My review is simple for the pandan waffle, which they give the rather quaint name of paffle at this place.

Sad to say, I was very disappointed with it. The waffle is both crispy and fluffy at the same time, but I dare say I can hardly taste the pandan in it.

It tastes more like just a regular waffle. If you want a pandan waffle that truly has the taste of pandan in it, I'd suggest you try someplace else.

3 out of 5 stars.

Short Restaurant Review: Tommy's Joynt at 1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco

I've been to Tommy's Joynt several times over the past year; it serves up comfort food for an affordable price, and it is a cash only place.

The BBQ brisket is tender and tasty, although the BBQ is a bit too sweet for my liking. The roast beef is rather tasty too, although it is less tender than the BBQ brisket and not as flavorful.

The baked beans as a side dish is pretty good, and I like the bread they serve with the meals.

Don't get the mac & cheese here though; my friend and I both agreed that it tastes strangely sweet. which is not how mac & cheese should taste like.

If you have a hankering of buffalo, the buffalo stew is scrumptious; skip the buffalo stew because you are unlikely to get a taste of the buffalo since the chili and beans will overwhelm whatever flavor of buffalo there is.

A great place to stop by for a bite to eat whenever you are in town and hankering for some simple comfort food to brighten your day.

4 out of 5 stars.

Short Food Review: Mitchell's Ice Cream at 688 San Jose Ave, San Francisco

My friend had browsed through a book about ice cream wherein the writer of the book proclaimed that the mango ice cream at Mitchell's Ice Cream to be the best ice cream to be had in California. Intrigued, my friend and I set out there one night to try it.

The mango ice cream was good, but I was disappointed because it's certainly not the best ice cream I ever had in California, and my friend agreed. We've had better.

Mitchell's Ice Cream is indeed famous throughout San Francisco as far as I know, and they do serve good quality ice cream.

Just don't expect them to taste like the best ice cream you can get in California and you should be right satisfied with it.

4 out of 5 stars.

Short Restaurant Review: Cinderella Bakery & Cafe at 436 Balboa St, San Francisco

Wanted to try some authentic Russian food, so my friend and I came to Cinderella Bakery & Cafe one evening.

You order and pay at the front and they bring the food to your table when it's ready. The service is quick and friendly.

I didn't tip at first because I figured that there was no waiter service but they actually deliver the food to your table so I actually left a tip of $3 at the tip jar on the front counter after my meal.

I ordered golubtsy (cabbage rolls) ($10) and had sweet cheese blinchiki (a sort of crepe) (2 for $6) which I shared with my friend for dessert.

My friend ordered the borscht soup (beet soup) ($5) and some meat pelmeni (dumpling) ($10).

The portions were generous and the food was delicious. Even though I personally hate beets my friend's borscht soup actually tasted pretty decent to me.

Love this place. Would dine here again in a heartbeat.

5 out of 5 stars.

Short Restaurant Review: Mission Pie at 2901 Mission St, San Francisco

The pies are kind of expensive at $4 a slice but it is so totally worth it.

I've had the banana cream pie several, which seem to be their signature pie and do taste absolutely heavenly.

I didn't really like the strawberry rhubarb pie much though, which is a shame.

The walnut pie is also quite tasty and for those who have never tried walnut pie, it tastes kind like pecan pie.

The pies here are generally so good that I can't help coming here for dessert almost every time my friend and I eat out in San Francisco.

4 out of 5 stars.

Short Restaurant Review: La Santaneca at 3781 Mission St, San Francisco

Came here for the pupusas.

They were hella tasty and surprisingly filling considering their small size.

The service is friendly albeit a little slow.

My friend and I each had two pupusas. I had two pork and cheese pupusas while she had one pork and cheese and one cheese and bean pupusas.

After tax and 20% tip the bill came up to $9. Totally worth it.

4 out of 5 stars for me.

Short Restaurant Review: California Golden Cookies at 255 Kearny St, San Francisco

I've always wanted to try shawarma ever since I saw the after-credit scene of The Avengers eating shawarma after saving the city of New York.

The owner is rather a friendly chap, but I was rather disappointed that the shawarma seemed little different from its Mediterranean counterpart the gyros when I checked out the ingredients listed under each menu item.

The shawarma was decent but nothing special. I was totally disappointed with my falafel though, which was extremely over-fried and tasted horribly bitter.

I will probably try a different place when the urge to have some shawarma hits me again.

3 out of 5 stars for me.

Short Restaurant Review: Straits Cafe at 845 Market Street, San Francisco

Had a disappointing lunch here with my aunt. We were served quickly but the food left us wanting.

The calamari appetizer was okay but nothing to shout about.

My aunt's Hokkien noodles were made much too salty.

On the other hand, my Loco Moco was bland and the gravy tasted horrible which ruined the entire dish for me, so much so that I could not finish my food, which usually doesn't happen when I'm dining at a restaurant.

The total bill came up to a little over $52 after taxes and a 15% tip which was definitely not worth it for the taste and quality of the food we got.

2 out of 5 stars for me.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

If I Stay Movie Review: Superior In All Ways To The Fault in Our Stars In The Currently Popular Teenage Tearjerker Genre





From left: Liana Liberato (Kim Schein), Chloe Grace Moretz (Mia Hall), Gayle Forman (author of If I Stay) at the August 7, 2014 screening of If I Stay in San Francisco, at the AMC Metreon 16 movie theater.



During a period when I ran out of books to read, I decided to check out books that were slated for a 2014 movie adaptation release, and that was how I ended up reading the beautifully penned Gayle Foreman novel If I Stay. Both the book and movie moved me like neither The Fault In Our Stars book nor its movie counterpart did. Unlike my movie experience of The Fault In Our Stars, where I felt like a total monster for being totally unmoved to cry when nearly the rest of the movie theater did, I couldn't help shedding a couple of tears during the final poignant moments of If I Stay, as I believe did many in the movie audience.

Surprisingly, who should pop up before the San Francisco screening I was at but Gayle Forman herself, along with stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Liana Liberato, to promote the movie. Chloe kept on exhorting us to go see the movie again when it gets released August 22, but I don't really know if I have it in me to go see it again, not because it's a bad movie, but because it not only moved me but also left me emotionally drained by screening's end.

The movie is mostly faithful to the book, and any changes that the moviemakers have made are understandable, although fans of the book will be disappointed when they realize that a madcap attempt by Adam to break into the ICU ward has almost been completely excised from its original book version. To have included it would have been tonally jarring to the melody of Mia's life that director R.J. Cutter is trying to compose on the big screen.

Chloe Grace Moretz carries this movie admirably by herself, and she is helped along by quite a strong supporting cast playing her family and friends. Jamie Blackley, who plays Mia's love interest Adam Levine is every girl's fantasy version of a near perfect boyfriend. He is therefore unfortunately the most unrealistic character in both the book and movie itself, although his many gestures of love to Mia are sure to set female teenage hearts aflutter.

For a movie that is mostly marketed in the trailer as a teenage romance drama, the most moving scenes in the film actually come from the interactions that Mia has with her family rather than from her scenes with Adam, which is quite a remarkably pleasant change from other teen movies I've watched before where romance is usually located front and center and backwards and sideways to the exclusion of almost anything else. In fact, the most gut-puncher of a scene was one between Mia and her grandfather, played by the ever fabulous Stacy Keach (Nebraska), which caused a few tears to involuntarily leak out of my eyes.

In handling such a difficult and delicate topic such as death, director Cutter is able to adroitly juxtapose scenes of happier times before with scenes that show the present tragic situation, so there are both laughs and tears to be had. Nevertheless, as with many movie adaptations, something is lost in between the translation from book to screen. In If I Stay, some of the more powerful feelings and emotions evoked from reading Forman's sparse simple prose, written in a first person Mia Hall narrative, unfortunately does not fully come through on the big screen.

Still, the movie is rather excellently and tastefully done and I definitely recommend catching this movie in theaters come August 22. If I have a few small complaints, they are minor ones. Personally, I didn't really like the songs that Adam sang throughout the movie; they just didn't resonate with me somehow and rather dispelled the movie's notion that he is supposed to be a rising rock star. I also felt that there were just one too many snogging scenes in the movie, one which I am sure the largely female-centric audience that will turn out for this movie would have no such issue with.

4 out of 5 stars for me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey Short Review: A Poor Man's live-action version of Pixar's Ratatouille



The movie is rather predictable and also slightly cheesy, but the movie's heart is in the right place. The romance between Manish Dayal's Hassan and Charlotte Le Bon's Marguerite is unfortunately rather bland and tepid, while it is fiery exchanges between Helen Mirren's Madame Mallory and Om Puri's Papa that really spice the movie up.

The movie's plot, its food pornography imagery and its script are all not as good as Jon Favreau's indie movie Chef (still showing in movie theaters), but it nevertheless still dishes up diverse and decent fare. The movie is also let down by a rather lackluster and anti-climatic third-act. A highly serviceable movie from Swedish director Lasse Hallström, whose last food-themed movie is the luscious 2000 movie Chocolat, featuring a Johnny Depp-Juliet Binoche pairing.

3 and a half out of 5 stars for me

Friday, May 30, 2014

Godzilla Short Review: An Almost Complete Snoozefest



Most monster movies are able to successfully create enough tension and suspense to tide movie audiences until they get to see the monsters in their fully glory. Movies such as Steven Spielberg's Jaws and J.J. Abrams's Super 8 are able to achieve this feat. Not so Godzilla. For three-quarters of the movie, the movie is such a complete snooze, with such an exceptionally bland and uninspiring human lead in Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Ford Brody, that when the last half hour gives us the payoff of finally being able to watch Godzilla rising to save humankind, it is too little and too late to salvage the movie itself.

My recommendation? Don't waste your money on this; go see X-Men: Days of Future Past or Maleficent for a more compelling movie experience.

2 out of 5 stars for me.

Maleficent Review: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent is Magnificent



Coming on the heels of the recent wildly successful Disney blockbuster Frozen, Maleficent will unfortunately be unfavorably compared with the former. Sure, Maleficent is hardly perfect, and while the movie does show visible scars from its many rewrites and reshoots, it is nevertheless a charming retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty story, one that gives a three-dimensional characterization to the most fascinating character in the 1959 Disney version, the self-proclaimed mistress of evil herself, Maleficent.

The storytelling is uneven, and the first act is so poorly constructed that it has to rely on the crutches of a narrator to prop up the story. However, once the story toddles through its clumsy first act, the movie soars on the magnificent portrayal of Maleficent by the always mesmerizing Angelina Jolie. Sure, the movie gives a rather weak reason for why Maleficent decided to curse Princess Aurora to die on her 16th birthday, and Angelina Jolie is made to do one too many gazing from the shadows in order to watch events unfold, but otherwise she truly shines and is the heart and soul of the movie, without which the whole movie would simply have collapsed on itself.

Sharlto Copley is somewhat miscast as King Stefan, and Elle Fanning, though a very talented actress (just watch her in Super 8 and you'll agree with me), looks and feels slightly demented here as a happy-go-lucky Aurora who cannot stop grinning like a maniac for no particular reason (I blame the fairy that gave her the gift of never feeling blue). Brendan Thwaites's Prince Philip feels more like a glorified cameo and his appearance seems more like an afterthought. The only vaguely interesting supporting character is Sam Riley's Diaval, who serves as Maleficent's raven shapeshifter and confidant.

As directed by first-time director Robert Stromberg, who was the visual designer for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and Sam Raimi's Oz The Great and Powerful, the visuals and settings are lovely to look at and serve as a enchanting backdrop for Maleficent to have her story told.

While today we consider Disney's 1959 Sleeping Beauty a classic, it is interesting to remember that when it was first released, the movie was such a critical and commercial disappointment that Disney subsequently abandoned making princess movies for the next few decades. Maleficent has received mixed reviews from critics, but I hope it does well commercially so as to encourage more retellings that would provide a more modern perspective of fairy tales, where the princesses are not just happy to sing and wait for their princes to bring them their happily ever afters, and where villains become full flesh-and-blood characters rather than just plot points to help prod these fairy tales along.

Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.

3 and a half stars out of five stars for me. =D

Incidentally, I feel that the story of Sleeping Beauty is one of the fairy tale most ripe for retelling. If you be so interested, check out my short retelling of Sleeping Beauty here at: The Real Sleeping Beauty where Sleeping Beauty has to contend not with spinning wheels but the economic repercussions of spinning wheels being banned in her country.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past Review



As a young girl growing up, one of my favorite superheroes was Storm from the X-Men series, a character I came to love not through the comic books, but via the animated X-Men television series and the video game X-Men vs Street Fighters. I've always loved the X-Men better than almost all the other superheroes out there (with the exception of Spider-Man, who I grew to love from watching -the animated Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends television series, and Iron Man from Marvel video games). So, even though the Storm I love wasn't how I envisioned she would be, as portrayed by Halle Berry in the X-Men movie series (for some reason she has a tendency to use her powers only after she has been badly beaten up, which is utterly baffling) I still enjoyed the first two X-Men movies (as directed by Bryan Singer), X2 especially, and I was excited to see Singer return to helm X-Men: Days of Future Past so he can undo all the damage that Brett Ratner wreaked with his terrible X-Men: The Last Stand, a job which Matthew Vaughn had begun with his competently directed prequel X-Men: First Class.

And Singer delivers. While the movie was not as good as I had hoped it would be, what with the extremely high expectations I had that came from critics raving about the movie and it garnering a 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it still does a pretty decent job.

X-Men: Days of Future Past combines the cast of both the prequel and the original series, and the movie does necessitate that you have watched at least most of the previous films in order to be able to understand what is going on. The movie mostly takes place in the past, and the gist of the story has James McAvoy's Professor X and Michael Fassbender's Magneto fighting for the soul of Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique/Raven.

The entire cast and crew does a commendable job here, and while the huge cast of X-Men means that most of the characters apart from the main cast get rather short shrift here, Evan Peters as Quicksilver does steal the movie despite a rather small appearance. Hugh Jackman has never been better as the gruff Wolverine with his usual laconic humor present to alleviate all the tension and seriousness of the movie. Peter Dinklage does a decent job as antagonist Bolivar Trask, but I wished he and Lawrence actually had more to do with their characters, though it is a quite a thrill to actually hear Lawrence actually speaking Vietnamese in the movie at one point.

As the first movie to officially kick off the summer movie season, the movie is far superior to the other superhero movies that have been released this year, the rather bland Captain America: The First Winter Soldier and the amazingly tepid The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Although X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn't top the greatness that is X2, it is rather well worth watching. so I'd recommend going to see it on the big screen this summer.

4 out of 5 stars for me.

Ranking The X-Men Movies

1. X2



2. X-Men: Days of Future Past

3. X-Men: First Class



4. X-Men



5. The Wolverine



6. X-Men: The Last Stand



7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chef Review



It is a well-known fact that moviegoers can be a finicky bunch at times, and movie studios are forever in search of that holy grail of movie formula that will guarantee a box office success every time. What is supposed to be a sureproof move to reap in box office gold (Johnny Depp + Disney franchise = Pirates of the Caribbean-like box office plunder) can very easily end up as a bust (See: Disney's The Lone Ranger). What is supposed to look like business as usual can end up hitting the big jackpot in a huge and unexpected way. (See: Frozen and its billion-dollar plus worldwide gross)

I like to think that in the case of movies like Chef, we moviegoers can be easy to please as well. Give us good food, good music and a halfway-decent story, and we will walk out of the movie theater feeling so good that we are hard pressed to nitpick about a movie we know is clearly far from perfect. Instead we would be more than happy to spread positive word-of-mouth about it and encourage fellow movie lovers to go enjoy this cheerful flick, which can be a tremendous box office boost for an independently produced and distributed movie like Chef. (see The Blind Side and how positive word of mouth made it such a commercial success)

Like I said, the movie is hardly perfect. Some of the more clearly unrealistic parts of the movie include: a food critic who actually announces his visit to a restaurant he is planning to review (Most established food critics do not do that because they want to base their review an authentic dining experience instead of an experience especially catered to elicit a good review); Carl, as winningly played by Jon Favreau, actually having a rich ex-wife Inez, beautifully played by Sofia Vergara, who has a rich ex-husband Marvin, who, in a scene-stealing role by Robert Downey Jr, is available to help Carl out when things go south; A work colleague who is all too ready and willing to give up a job he just got promoted to in order to continue working with Carl; A hot sometime girlfriend for Carl in the shape of a sultry Scarlett Johannson who just seems to exist in the movie solely to slightly spice things up sexually and give Carl very life-affirming advice to pursue his dreams. All these hardly help the movie earn any real street food cred.

It is also not difficult to see how the food journey Carl goes through in the movie can very easily stand in for Favreau's real-life movie career in Hollywood. Favreau, having first successfully established himself in Hollywood with commercially and critically successfully movies such as Elf, Iron Man and Iron Man 2, failed with the critically panned and commercially unsuccessful Western-Science Fiction crossover Cowboys and Aliens. Now, having been slightly burned by Hollywood, Favreau is returning to his indie roots with Chef.

Chef does tread a rather well-worn and overly-familiar road in its storyline rather than try to be daring and break out of its well-established mold, which feels somewhat contradictory in a movie about a chef who doesn't want to keep on cooking the same creatively-unchallenging dishes and instead wants to keep things fresh by experimenting on something new and different.

However, there is real heart behind the movie, and the deliciously scrumptious and luscious scenes of food being lovingly cooked and eaten ("Food porn!" I whispered excitedly to my movie companion at one point in the movie, causing the lady beside me who overheard what I said to burst into laughter), all accompanied by catchy jazzy music, will make you happy enough to groove along for this food truck ride, no matter the slightly bumpy ride.

My verdict: Take a break from all those superhero movies you've been going to for the last month, and go see this charming little food comedy instead. It will cleanse your palate for the action-heavy summer movie schedule that is just a few school bell rings away.

4 out of 5 stars for me.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Belle Short Review



Belle is indeed beautiful to look at in a Jane Austen period-piece sort of way, but viewers would be left disappointed by how the movie squanders much of the potential it could have achieved with its source material. While Gugu Mbatha-Raw shines as the titular character, oftentimes the script does not give her enough to do and she ends up giving one too many wide-eyed puppy-dog stares throughout the entire movie. Instead, the movie chooses to rely on the clunky pronouncements of love interest John Davinier, played by Sam Reid, to inject a dose of social consciousness to its narrative, which falls utterly short despite the movie's best intentions. Given that the movie is told mostly from Belle's viewpoint, it does feels slightly odd and rather sexist that the movie's main comic relief comes from Penelope Wilton as her spinster aunt. The presence of Matthew Goode as Belle's father, Sir John Lindsay, is keenly missed as soon as he leaves the picture. However, it is Tom Wilkinson, bringing a certain gravitas in his nuanced performance as William Murray, the Lord Chief Justice of England, who provides the balance that this movie sorely needs. 3/5 stars for me.

To find out more about the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the little that is known to us from history, you can check out this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2618656/Portrait-mystery-lady-The-incredible-story-18th-century-painting-inspired-new-movie.html

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Short Review



As unnecessary as it is lucrative, even the wonderful chemistry between Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is not enough to save this sequel, with its over-bloated, disjointed narrative and overabundance of characters. 2 1/2 stars out of 5 stars for me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Neighbors Short Review



Neighbor's plot is incoherent and lackluster but then again what frat movie has or even need a coherent decent plot to work? Most of the frat humor didn't come across as funny to me since I am not really a fan of frat humor or frat movies in general, but there were really some nice laugh-out-loud moments even for non-frat fans, so it is still somewhat worth seeing. 3/5 stars for me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Transcendence Movie Review



Transcendence is the directorial debut of long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister, whose list of credits include Inception, Moneyball and The Dark Knight trilogy. The movie premise is an interesting one but unfortunately the script doesn't seem to know where to go with it, leaving us with a half-baked movie with a third act that was both baffling and a disappointing letdown.

Two and a half out of five stars for me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies Released So Far

1. The Avengers (92%)



2. Iron Man (93%)



3. Captain America: The First Avenger (79%)



4. Thor: The Dark World (65%)



5. Thor (77%)



6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (89%)



7. The Incredible Hulk (67%)



8. Iron Man 3 (78%)



9. Iron Man 2 (73%)



The percentages listed in paranthesis are the scores these movies earned on the movie aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Short Review



Captain America: The Winter Soldier was subversive alright, but its subversiveness doesn't really help to elevate the movie much. There was too much wham bang explosion as well, causing me to reach my action saturation point well before the end of the movie. It's better than Iron Man 3 though, which is not saying a lot since I hated Iron Man 3 and found it awful. I was never bored during the movie but nor was I fully engaged either. And the Winter Soldier in the movie title felt more like a subplot than anything else. I'd recommend waiting for the DVD release to watch it. 2 and a half out of 5 stars for me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Short Movie Review: Cuban Fury

Cuban Fury starring Nick Frost is a delightful little British film. The storyline was hardly original or inspired, but it was funny in parts and I love British humor, so I had a good time. 3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Divergent Short Movie Review



It's a not-bad movie adaptation of a YA book, but it's not great either. Shades of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games abound, but the movie is infused with neither the wonder of the Harry Potter universe nor the sense of urgency and tension of the Hunger Games.

2 and a half out of 5 stars for me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Short Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel



As madcap and whimsical as only a Wes Anderson film can be, this is a lovely, lovely little indie film. Not quite as good as Moonrise Kingdom but still delightful in its own right.

Three and a half out of five stars for me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Short Movie Review: Need For Speed: Even an episode of Top Gear has a better script and plot than this shoddy video game film adaptation



Just watched one of the worst movies ever. Seriously the scriptwriter needs to be taken out and shot. Even an episode of Top Gear has a better script and plot than Need For Speed. If you have any discerning taste at all please don't go see this movie. 0.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Short Review: You've already seen all the best bits in the trailer



When watching the movie, I felt as though I had already seen all the best bits before, in the trailer. The first half of the movie featured Walter Mitty and his fantastical imaginings that are at times funny, while the second half of the movie felt like a National Geographic documentary. The movie lacked the emotional heft and storyline to back up the lovely visuals. The movie ends up being very boring because it is so predictable as well; from the start I knew where the missing negative was and what the missing negative would feature, which took out a lot of the fun/mystery I would have watching the movie.

Nebraska Short Review: Nearly as dull as the small town American life it depicts



Nebraska the movie is as slow-paced as the small town life it depicts, and about as interesting. The film starts with the highly ridiculous premise of an old man who is sent one of those lottery scams in the mail. Convinced he's won a million dollars, he manages to coerce his son to take him from Montana to Nebraska to collect his winnings. Unfortunately, the story meanders and doesn't go anywhere. Recommended only if you want a glimpse of American small town life, or if you are fan of Alexander Payne's recently acclaimed The Descendants starring George Clooney.

August: Osage County Short Review: Awesome Ensemble Cast



The entire cast shines in this film adaptation of the Broadway play August: Osage County. It is a delight to see two acting juggernaut Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts constantly have a go at each other as embattled mother and daughter. Benedict Cumberbatch as unemployed 37-year old Little Charles Aiken and his on-screen father played by Chris Cooper steal the few scenes they are in in this female-dominated family dramedy.

Saving Mr Banks Short Review: Absolutely Delightful Little Movie



Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are absolutely fantastic in their roles as Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers. Unabashedly sentimental yet not cloyingly so, this is a lovely and delightful little film to catch during the holidays. Four out of five stars for me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Left Me Feeling Desolated



Let me start by saying how badly I wanted to like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I had been counting down the days for the last few months and it was with bated breath that I went to see it on Saturday, only to be crushingly disappointed by the end results. Warning: minor spoilers ahead as I state the many beefs with the movie I have below.

Like many other reviews have pointed out, this installment of the Hobbit trilogy is vastly superior to the first Hobbit movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. However, sometimes it feels that such an assessment gives the movie more praise than it warrants.

Like the first movie, this movie continues to be bloated, overlong and in this instance, suffers from middle narrative issues as well. Not much progress seems to be made by our band of dwarves and one hobbit, as they get into scrape after scrape as they try to reach the mountain where Smaug now dwells in order to retrieve the Arkenstone, which will give Thorin Oakenshield, the exiled king of the dwarves the right to call on his kinsmen to battle or some such, as explained at the beginning of the movie in a meeting between Gandalf and Thorin 12 months before the events of the second Hobbit movie really begins.

There is a strong sense of unwelcome deja vu as one watches the first Hobbit movie, and the problem persists here as well. As with The Two Towers (the second movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy), where the characters have been separated and have to continue on different quests and journeys, this happens as well in this movie. Unfortunately, unlike in The Two Towers where the disparate journeys have been edited almost seamlessly to weave a tight narrative, here the effort is jarringly jerky, making the movie seem very very disjointed. While I do understand that music plays an integral role in telling us how to feel when watching a movie, as in the first Hobbit movie, I felt endlessly manipulated when themes used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy are reused to try to evoke happy memories and feelings associated with a particular character or object, which instead of successfully evoking whatever emotion I am supposed to feel, just ends up leaving a very sour taste in my mouth.

Along their journey, they are met by faces old and new. Beorn the shapeshifting bear is disappointingly underwhelming in his short interaction with Gandalf and the dwarves, being much more fascinating and charismatic in the book. I am a fan of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit books, but I am by no means a strict purist. I was fine with Arwen turning into a sword-wielding Elf-maiden in The Fellowship of the Ring (first Lord of the Rings movie), and was nonplussed by the angry outrage of many fans. And so, I was fine with Orlando Bloom reprising his role as Legolas even though he never actually appears in the Hobbit book. His father Thranduil is the elvenking in the Hobbit, it does make a certain sort of sense that his son Legolas would be hanging around in Mirkwood when the dwarves are captured by Thranduil's elves. Similarly, I was fine with the complete creation of the elven warrior maiden Tauriel by the movie's scriptwriters to create some sort of female presence in the very very male-dominated Hobbit Middle-earth universe. That being said, weaving an inter-species love triangle amongst Legolas, Tauriel and a dwarf does beggar belief and stretches things too far into the realm of fan fiction. Likewise, the expansion of the characterization of Luke Evans' Bard the Bowman, who in the movie is demoted to being just Bard the Bargeman, while understandable since Bard is pretty much a cipher in the book, takes the expansion too far and cause the movie to unreasonably drag.

With the addition of new characters and the expansion of existing ones, where does that leave the characters in the title, the titular hobbit Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins and his nemesis the dragon Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug? Apart from moments where Bilbo begins to get corrupted by the ring and the many times he has to get the dwarves out of the scrapes that they have gotten themselves into, poor Bilbo seems to have been relegated to the background of the film and it feels like for most of it, he is just standing around not really doing much as the dwarves try to figure out their next move.

The encounter between Bilbo and Smaug, while a delight in the film that almost reaches the giddy heights of Bilbo's encounter with Gollum in the first movie, nevertheless gets ruined when, rather than have this encounter continue to play out between the two of them, brings the dwarves into the equation. The result? Long tedious chase scenes where Smaug (despite his professed ability to smell dwarves) fails to eat or fry any of the dwarves. And then it gets worse; the dwarves then try to pull off a MacGyveresque plot to kill the dragon which laughably and predictably fails. Then, before you know it, the movie abruptly ends, causing the guy sitting in front of me to start shouting at the screen. Usually when a middle movie ends, at least something has been resolved and then we are left with some other danger that looms on the horizon. Not so here. None, and I mean NONE, of the many different story threads get resolved one way or another and the audience as a whole is left hanging over a wide precipice, with no resolution to be had anywhere.

All this being said, would I recommend that people go and see the movie? By all means, they should if they have been waiting all year to see it. The movie, despite its many many flaws, still manages to be mildly entertaining, is good value for your movie money, and is not a bad way to while away nearly three hours of your time. You might however, end up coming out of the cinema more frustrated than satisfied though, like I did.

Two out of five stars for me.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review: This Is As Perfect As A Book-Into-Movie Adaptation As It Can Get



I am a huge huge fan of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and while I did somewhat enjoyed The Hunger Games (2012) directed by Gary Ross, I didn't agree with his vision of the book; some of the changes made from book to movie seemed to serve no purpose and were at times, just frankly baffling because they didn't add to the story or helped to tighten it in any way.

Cue my relief when it was reported that he would not be returning to direct the sequel, Catching Fire and that Francis Lawrence, the director of the post-apocalyptic movie I am Legend and the romance drama Water for Elephants, would be stepping in instead. While I had not been overly impressed by I am Legend myself, I did enjoy the underrated Water For Elephants, and felt that Lawrence's directing credentials would better equip him to direct a thoughtful action movie rather than Ross, director of such small and intimate movies like Pleasantville and Seabiscuit.

And he is. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is about as perfect as a book-into-movie adaptation can get. It is the best book-into-movie adaptation I have ever watched, and that includes the Harry Potter series and even The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Sorry Legolas!). All the changes made from the book to the movie made sense, either to tighten the story or to create a better narrative flow. Also, gone are the annoying shaky camera techniques so liberally employed by Ross in the previous movie. Under Lawrence's guidance, and with a tight screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael DeBruyn (pseudonym for Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) the movie excels as both an action blockbuster and emotional drama while still successfully bringing the political and social undertones of the book into the forefront and adding to the movie's depth.

The movie is also helped by a doubling of budget. Whereas in the previous film the special effects were apparently done in-house and at times looked pretty hokey, here the movie employs the excellent digital wizardry of Weta Digital, the company responsible for the special effects on the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy. Plus, whereas, the palette of the clothing worn by the people in the Capitol in The Hunger Games made them all look like they all went and shopped from the same department stores, in Catching Fire, new costumer designer Trish Summerville (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo) has created a myriad of unique and eye-catching looks worn by the cast and extras alike. All these and more help to ramp up the visuals and make for an seamless viewing experience that is a veritable feast for the eyes.

If there was one thing Ross did right, it was his casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Here in Catching Fire as in The Hunger Games, She remains the heart and soul of the movie. As her emotions writ large, raw and wrenching across her face, you can't help by feel for her and fear for her as she continues to try to overcome the ever increasing odds that are never in her favor.

Lawrence is supported by an ever growing and immensely talented cast. Elizabeth Bank as Effie Trinket is finally allowed to act as a real, albeit still ditzy person here, as opposed to her one-dimensional caricature in The Hunger Games. The rest of the original cast are all great in their own ways, but it is the new cast who are a revelation. Fans who have been wringing their hands at the casting of Sam Clafin (Snow White and the Huntsman, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) as Finnick Odair can finally relax; Clafin is cheekily charismatic as Finnick, and plays his part of cocky playboy with mighty aplomb. Jena Malone (Pride & Prejudice, Sucker Punch) also does a great job as the loose canon Johanna Mason, while Philip Seymour Hoffman brings a certain gravitas as the new Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee.

A lot of times, what happens with young adult book-to-movie adaptations is that the actors do not seem to really bother to take their roles seriously and are just merely happy to coast through them. Not so in Catching Fire. Everyone brings their A game here, and this is one of the main reasons why the movie truly does shine. Despite having read the books and knowing all the fates of the characters, I got emotionally close to tears at some moving scenes, covered my mouth involuntarily at what some of the horrors our beloved characters had to go through, and at one point, my hands grabbed ineffectually towards the screen of their own accord to try and prevent some of the characters from getting themselves into yet even more danger and heartache. For someone who has read the books and know what the characters are in for, I consider that no mean feat.

A lot of critics have been whingeing at the 146-minute running time as overlong, but trust me, there are no dead spots in the movie and it never drags. As the final scene unfolds and the credits roll out, you would be caught by surprise to find that it has ended much too soon, and will be counting the days till the next installments come out. Following the recent penchant by movie studios today to break the last book into two parts so as to milk the franchise for all it's worth, that'll be Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) and Mockingjay Part 2 (2015) In director Lawrence's very capable hands, and with the superb cast led by the amazingly talented Jennifer Lawrence, I have to say for once I will be happy to let them milk me twice for my movie money.

4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars for me. Everyone who loves movies owes it to themselves to go see it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thor: The Dark World Short Review

Thor: The Dark World was good but not great. Although far from the best in the Marvel Universe series. it is entertaining enough. Mostly cured of hubris from the first movie, in this sequel Chris Hemsworth's Thor becomes a somewhat dependable, though ultimately boring superhero, while it is his villain brother Tom Hiddleston's Loki and Stellan Skarsgard's Dr. Selvig who steal all the scenes they are in and the film is all the poorer when they are not on-screen. Three out of five stars for me.

Thoughts on the Fifth Estate

The Fifth Estate was totally disappointing; it seems that Bill Condon has forgotten how to direct a good film after helming the last two Twilight movies.

Last Vegas Short Review

Anyone hoping for a Hangover-ish plot would be disappointed. Nevertheless the plot was shallow and at times the script and direction the movie was going in was terribly predictable and more than a little contrived and forced. Still. the effortless and sometimes cheeky camaraderie amongst movie thespians Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline brings some easy and happy laughs to the audience. Ultimately enjoyable but utterly forgettable as well.

12 Years A Slave Short Review

12 Years A Slave was a great movie, and having read the book did prepare me for some of the horrors depicted in the film. Nevertheless it was still harrowing and depressing to watch. If it was depressing just to be watching it for 2 and a half hours within the comforts of a movie theater, imagine how infinitely worse it was for the million of slaves whose spent their entire lives living in such abject fear and terror at the unspeakably inhuman horror being inflicted on them of every single hour of every single day because the fear never ever goes away, not even for a second. Truly, the institution and system of slavery can poison the entire soul and integrity of a whole nation even if it wasn't practiced by all, because even to condone it is an unspeakable evil in of itself.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Elysium: Over-simplistic plot bombarded with too much wham-bam action and not enough thought



"I don't know if I should go watch Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," I complained to my sometime movie companion on Facebook. "It's only rated 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I've read the books and I want to watch it on the big screen," I moaned plaintively. "Go see Elysium," my friend suggested. "It's pretty cool." "Maybe I should watch that instead," I vacillated, and my friend immediately urged: "Yes! Go. Go." So on Saturday afternoon I stood in front of the box office, trying to decide which movie to watch. I finally chose Elysium because I figured the Mortal Instrument screening would be packed seeing as it was opening weekend for the latter whereas I should be able to get great seats for Elysium running in its 3rd or 4th week.

Boy was I to regret it. Elysium is not a bad movie per say, but coming from the director of the sleeper hit District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, I expected something better, and I was disappointed with the results.

The story goes; in the not-too-distant future, Earth has become ravaged and overpopulated. The wealthy elite have migrated to a luxurious space station called Elysium where they own houses with huge lawns and are served by robotic servants, while the rest of the human population are stuck trying to eke a meager living on Earth policed by ruthless robots. Our main character Max De Costa starts out as an orphaned boy who dreams of making it to Elysium one day. As an adult played by Matt Damon, he is an ex-thief and current parolee who works at an assembly that manufactures robots. A work accident leaves him with only 5 days to live, and De Costa is determined to make it to Elysium before then so he can cure himself on one of the Med-Bays that are present in every home in Elysium. Throw in a childhood sweetheart who has a young daughter dying of leukemia and you can pretty much figure out how the plot is going to go.

So there I am in the movie theater, mostly bored as I watch the movie unfold with utter predictability, ironically enough with the plot pushed along by the antics of a crazily unpredictably maniacal villain with no real motivation to speak of.

Matt Damon is decent in the main role, although after he has a powerful exoskeleton fitted into him to help him fight off the robots his character then begins to function almost mechanically and one finds it hard to connect with him. Jodi Foster is terrible as a very one-note villain who is even more robotic than her robotic servants, while Sharlto Copley is baffling as a completely unhinged psychopath.

Most of all though, my disappointment is with director Neill Blomkamp. I was expecting a science fiction movie that was thoughtful and thought-provoking in the vein of his 2009 movie District 9. Instead what we get is a very straightforward action film with twin threads of healthcare and immigration political commentary woven into the story, albeit too simplistically and often relegated to the background by too many empty explosions and action-packed fight scenes, especially in the second half of the movie.

Elysium is not a bad movie by a long shot, but it is not a very good movie either, and more's the pity, because it could have been so much more, and it unfortunately isn't.

2 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Derivative fantasy flick which is nevertheless superior to anything the Twilight saga has to offer

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pacific Rim Review: Awesome Fighting Scenes But Alas, No Plot To Speak Of



Trying to review Pacific Rim is like trying to review two totally disparate movies mashed into one- the incredible fighting scenes between Kaiju and Jaeger (sea monsters and the robots built to do battle with them), and the abysmal interplay of human drama in between these awesome fight scenes.

True, one does not go to a movie like Pacific Rim expecting Shakespeare, but I still expected a somewhat decent and coherent storyline to tie the whole movie together. Alas, that was not to be. The dialogue between the human characters are simply terrible and cringe-inducing. At first I was disappointed with director Guillermo del Toro, who I assumed was the sole screenplay writer, until I realized that he actually shared writing credits with Travis Beacham, who also wrote the screenplay for the devastatingly bad remake Clash of the Titans. So I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised at just how godawful the script was.

The character motivations of the various characters in the movie are just as laughably bad, weak and cliche-ridden. The main character Raleigh Becket (played by Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy fame) is a Jaegar pilot haunted by memories of his brother being killed while they were piloting a Jaegar together. Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi of Babel fame), who plays Becket's new co-pilot, is here unfortunately reduced to a disappointingly insipid female lead. I was so excited when I heard that one of the main characters piloting a Jaegar would be a female character. Imagine my disappointment when Mako, upon meeting Becket, is reduced to a mass of quivering fangirl; she takes to spying on Becket through her room's door peephole, blushes furiously, stutters in his presence and make gooey moon eyes at him. Becket, who spent the last five years after his brother's death working in construction amongst other dirty and sweaty men, is probably very flattered by such adoration from such a lovely female specimen, which may explain why he is so quick to reciprocate this crush. And so what we get is basically the instalove formula that is the stuff in so many badly written teenage books like the vampiric Twilight series.

The other pair of Jaegar pilots who share the screentime with Becket and Mori are an Australian father-son pair with superficial parent-child issues haphazardly thrown in to give the characters some so-called "depth", while the Chinese triplets and the Russian husband-and-wife team who pilot the other two remaining Jaegers are unsurprisingly given short shrift here.

You would think that such a movie would not be worth watching at all. Oh, but the fight scenes, the glorious, glorious fight scenes. The wonderfully and gorgeously choreographed fight scenes. Such beauty amongst such an epic scale of carnage and utterly delightful mayhem. Bigger, louder and better than anything a certain director can conjure up in his Transformers series; eat your heart out, Michael Bay. It is almost worth suffering through the completely banal human scenes to watch these huge monsters and robots have a go at each other with entire metropolitan cities as their playground. Stunning, just simply gobsmacking stunning, so very very cool and so fun to watch; The kid in me who used to build robots out of Lego sets is happily delighted.

So, my verdict? One star for the human scenes. Five stars for the fight scenes. That makes the movie, on average, a 3 out of 5 star movie for me. My recommendation: go watch it for the breathtaking fight scenes; just don't expect much of anything in the way of a decent plot.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Despicable Me 2: Underwhelmingly Disappointing, Bland and Predictable Sequel



I wanted to like this film. I really did. I loved Despicable Me and when news came in that Despicable Me 2 was trouncing The Lone Ranger so badly in box office receiptss, I wanted to know what all the fuss was all abou and knew I had to see go it.

The results, were, sad to say, totally underwhelming. The plot was utterly predictable and very bland. Everything felt very cobbled together. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus reads: It may not be as inspired as its predecessor, but Despicable Me 2 offers plenty of eye-popping visual inventiveness and a number of big laughs."

At one point halfway through the movie, I realized that I could have actually taken off my 3D glasses and watch the movie without missing much of anything; the best 3D effects in the movie were too little and too late, seen only when the credits began rolling. I had a few chuckles throughout the movie, but they were few and far between. Definitely no big laughs.

Certainly if you enjoyed Despicable Me, you should check out Despicable Me 2, if only to find out what more about what happens to Gru and his new family and to enjoy the silly antics of his yellow Minions. But I'd say save your money, skip watching the movie in the movie theater and just rent it when it comes out in DVD.

2 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Lone Ranger Review: Basically a Pirates of the Caribbean movie set in the Wild West



I have to admit, I wasn't all that impressed with The Lone Ranger when I first saw the trailer. I also wasn't sure if there was going to be sufficient on-screen chemistry between Johnny Depp who plays Tonto, and Armie Hammer, who plays the titular character, to help propel the narrative along.

But then, being a huge fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, though alas not the tepid 4th Pirates flick On Stranger Tides, I was nevertheless still intrigued by the movie. After all, the major players from the Pirates trilogy are teaming up once again to make what Disney hopes will become another huge moneymaking franchise à la Pirates of the Caribbean. Director Gore Verbinski, check. Actor Johnny Depp, check. Writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, check. Music scorer Hans Zimmer, check. I was really interested to see what was going to come out of their latest collaboration.

Armed with free tickets to see a preview in San Francisco, we couldn't get into Monday's screening but managed to nab great seats for the Wednesday screening. The narrative begins in San Francisco, 1933 (which, when the wording appeared, was punctuated with whoops and cheers from the San Francisco audience) where a young peanut-munching boy dressed up as The Lone Ranger meets an elderly Tonto who is displayed as the noble savage in a carnival exhibit. It is through this narrative device, an old Tonto recounting to the boy how the Lone Ranger came to be, that the story is framed, which unfortunately gets tired pretty quickly when the narrative is constantly being interrupted by the young boy contradicting some detail of Tonto's story.

Despite the rather lengthy screening time of 149 minutes, I was never once bored throughout the movie and had a rollicking good time. The movie was funny, violent and silly. At times my movie companion would hunch forward in her seat and cradle her head in her hands because she just simply couldn't believe how silly some of the stunts were, but the movie is silly in a good way. As in "so silly you can't believe this is happening but you are still enjoying it and going along for the ride silly". Not "please God when will this horrible shtick end" kind of silly.

For both better and for worse, throughout the entire movie I was almost consistently reminded of Pirates of the Caribbean. There is more than a hint of maverick Jack Sparrow in Depp's Tonto, and Armie Hammer's John Reid and Ruth Wilson's Rebecca Reid basically take the place of Orlando Bloom's Will Turner and Kiera Knightley's Elizabeth Swann as the requisite romantic couple. Instead of a scene-stealing monkey or parrot, here we have a scene-stealing white stallion. And when a minor villain who serves as a comic relief character cross dresses with bonnet and parasol, you'll go, "Hang on, don't we have a character just like that in Pirates of the Caribbean?" and you'll be absolutely right. Even the elaborate stunts in The Lone Ranger has the energy and vibe reminiscent of the stunts in Pirates of the Caribbean. And if it seems like I am punctuating every sentence with the phrase "Pirates of the Caribbean", it is because I was constantly reminded of it when I was watching The Lone Ranger. Does that make The Lone Ranger a bad or good movie? Well, that depends on whether you like the Pirates of the Caribbean triogy, and whether you actually care to see its antics reprised in the Texan desert instead of on the high seas.

3 and a half stars out of five stars for me. 4 out of 5 stars for my movie companion.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Superbly crafted and acted zombie flick



I am not a zombie fan, and the many production woes plaguing World War Z didn't exactly further entice me to see the movie. I'll have to admit upfront that my sole interest in seeing the movie was the glorious Brad Pitt. Even so, I was planning to wait for the DVD to come out to watch it, but events were to decide otherwise.

My movie companion and I were in San Francisco last Monday trying to catch an early preview of The Lone Ranger but couldn't get in, so we had to pick a different movie to watch. I wanted to watch World War Z, but my friend was squeamish and so we eventually decided to go see different movies, her off to the kid-friendly Monsters University while I went to see World War Z.

The movie is very much like Steven Soderbergh's 2011 medical thriller disaster film Contagion, though in the case of World War Z, the virus is spread by zombies, and rather than featuring an ensemble cast, Brad Pitt is front and center in this movie and surrounded by a supporting cast of mostly unfamiliar faces.

Pitt plays family man Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator. While sitting in heavy traffic with his family in Philadelphia, they are suddenly attacked by zombies. They manage to flee the carnage and hide out in an apartment building before being extracted by helicopter to the relative safety of a UN ship out in the sea. In return for ensuring his family's place on the ship, Lane reluctantly agrees to help investigate the source of the outbreak in the hopes that such findings would lead to a cure.

And so begins a globe-trotting mission for Lane. He first travels to South Korea, then Israel and finally Wales. Along the way Lane is able to observe how the zombies operate and learn more about them. As the audience, we see everything through Lane's eyes, and make the same connections he does.

Pitt, who is also produced the movie, originally wanted to make a more political movie but noted that the underlying social agenda became "too much for a summer blockbuster...We got bogged down in it; it was too much to explain. It gutted the fun of what these films are meant to be."

Nevertheless, there are several beautifully crafted moments interspersed through the film; a Hispanic couple who do not speak English selflessly taking in Pitt and his family into their tiny apartment, with the couple's bilingual son helping to break down the language barrier; a crowd of Palestinians and Israelis , overjoyed at being alive, singing together, only for the noise to attract the zombies and lead to their downfall; Lane being shielded and protected by female Israeli soldiers (such a strong female presence is so rare in summer blockbuster movies as to be virtually non-existent. Where else do you see a summer blockbuster movie hero being comfortable being protected by female soldiers instead of being the one rescuing helpless damsels in distress?)

What makes World War Z by far the best movie I've seen this year is that the filmmakers were able to create a very effectively scary and suspenseful film; throughout the movie I was at the edge for the seat, being really afraid for Lane and the other supporting characters. It is not something I get to feel when I watch summer blockbuster movies these days. Case in point: while watching Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3, I found it hard to care for any of the characters because at no point in the film did I believe that any of them were in any real danger.

It helps also that Pitt is really very believable as a family man, and that he is surrounded by a very strong supporting cast. Lane is very much the reluctant hero, with every action he takes grounded and motivated by his family's continued safety and survival. Again not your typical blockbuster hero, which is a refreshing change from snarky action heroes with their sarcastic one-liners. (I am looking at you, Iron Man 3)

I came into this movie skeptical that I was going to enjoy it. I left the cinema unable to stop raving to my movie companion, who mildly enjoyed Monsters University even with confusing it as a sequel to Monsters Inc (Monsters University is actually a prequel), about how beautifully crafted the entire movie was and how well acted it was. With the movie expected to turn a decent profit for Paramount, a sequel is in the works. When it comes out, I won't be waiting for DVD to come out; I will be one of those catching it on opening week.

4 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

10 reasons why Superman is the most boring popular superhero ever



1. He's not even human. He's an alien from the planet of Krypton. If his alien status was discovered, he'd probably be deported from American soil.

2. His real name is a mouthful. Kal-El. Strange doesn't even begin to describe this weird moniker.

3. He commits an unforgivable fashion faux pas. The man wears his underwear inside out, for Christ's sake.

4. He wears the worse disguise ever. Is just clapping on a pair of glasses supposed to be an effective disguise?

5. The man is out of his time. If he is living in the modern day, he would be out of a job and be joining the unemployment line. Journalism is a lowly dying industry and I doubt he would be able to get a job as a journalist.

6. His choice of changing room. The man changes into his Superman costume in a phone booth. Good luck trying to find one in today's day and age.

7. He's perfect and basically the Gary Stu of superheroes. I like my superheroes with real flaws and human frailities thank you very much.

8. His only weakness is Kryptonite, which is like the rarest substance on Earth, but for some reason his opponents always seem to have no trouble at all procuring.

9. Hs alter ego Clark Kent is the blandest person to walk the earth.

10. Too many superpowers. The guy can even shoot lasers out of his eyes. It makes him overpowered and always overmatched when he has to face off against his enemies, which makes watching him or reading about him an extremely dull affair.

That being said, despite having scored only a lacklustre rotten rating of 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, regular moviegoers seem to be having really enjoyed it, to the tune of over $200 million worldwide in its opening week. I am rather curious as to whether the filmmakers succeeded in making him a less boring of a character and how they managed to update him to resonate with today's audience. I won't pay to see it, but I'll most probably check out the DVD when it comes out. Plus, I've always liked Henry Cavill ever since I saw him in 2002 The Count of Monte Cristo.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

First look at Benedict Cumberbatch in Twelve Years A Slave



Caption from USA Today for the photo: Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his first owner Baptist preacher William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) maintained a remarkable friendship. Unfortunately, Solomon's time with Ford was relatively brief during his 12 years of slavery.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ruminations on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Teaser Trailer, in Which I Had Eyes for Only Two Characters. Bilbo Baggins who?



Nope. we don't get to hear Benedict Cumberbatch voice Smuag yet, but we do get a first glimpse of him. When I showed the image of Smaug to my British friend, he quipped that he could see certainly see the resemblance between Cumberbatch and Smaug. It must be those cat eyes of Cumberbatch he sees in Smaug's dragon slitty syes.





(Nope, I don't see the resemblance there. On a side note, you can check out this lovely story of Cumberbatch fulfilling the "Make a Wish Foundation-like wish of a girl with cystic fibrosis while he goes about studying lizards at the London Zoo for his role as Smaug: http://wabbitwanderer95.tumblr.com/post/15782615973/meeting-benedict-cumberbatch-the-full-story)

On another side, okay maybe main note, lots and lots of Legolas in this trailer! Peter Jackson sure knows the way to a woman's wallet; more Legolas! I am sure that there would be many female fans of Legolas (mayhap including even moi) who would gladly pay to watch Orlando Bloom reprise his role as Legolas on the big screen at least once, maybe twice, and maybe even more times than that for some of his very rabid fans.



(International trailer, with a slightly shorter running time)

As for me, I'm just simply delighted to see so much of Legolas in the trailer, which should indicate that he will in the movie for a significant amount of time, maybe say twenty minutes to thirty minutes out of a probably 3 hour running time (we are talking about a Peter Jackson movie after all, the guy does have some serious editing issues...remember that 3-hour plus running time for his King Kong movie? The man gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "bloated movie"). All year long my British friend kept on reminding me of a rumor he heard that Orlando Bloom was being paid $2 million for just a 2-minute cameo and my uncle would smile and slightly shake his head every time I express hope that Legolas will be in the movie for at least 5 to 10 minutes. I guess this trailer most likely will prove both of them wrong. Ha! =D



No more having to make do with substitute hot dwarf archer Kili from the first Hobbit film (see image above), which in my shallow, superficial and unfettered female mind's eye was the loveliest highlight of the first Hobbit movie. (Yes, I never thought I'd come to see the day I would ever call a dwarf hot, but Peter Jackson is aware that he's got to have some Barbie Hollywood hunks amongst 13 dwarves or just simply lose our interest entirely, hence Fili, Kili and a very undwarf-like looking Thorin)



(Legolas comparing bow and arrow pointers with Bard the Bowman, played by Luke Evans)

Instead, we female Lord of the Rings fans will now have the original hot archer, the immortal elf Legolas in all his blond locks and blue-eyed glory to once again shoot cupid arrows of adoration into our fluttering hearts. Altogether now, Squeeeeeee! (sounds of millions of Legolas fangirls simultaneously squealing with unbridled delight upon clapping eyes on said Hobbit trailer)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Teaser of Benedict Cumberbatch's Short Film Little Favour



Bigger image here: https://twitter.com/adamackland/status/343356521020796929/photo/1

Photo courtesy of Adam Ackland, Producer of Litte Favour. Photo taken from his Twitter page.

Caption reads: Not a stunt double.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Musings on a second viewing of Star Trek Into Darkness 3D

1. The movie is too damn long. The first 20 minutes of the film could have been done away with without out taking much out of the story and making it less ridiculous, especially since because of what occurs in the first 20 minutes, Kirk is demoted and then reinstated within about 15 minutes of screen time later. Makes the Starfleet organization seem really messed up.

2. Not enough Cumberbatch. We only see glimpses of him in the first half of the movie and even then not enough of him in the second half. I really have no idea why Spock could rightly say that Khan betrayed the Enterprise. Poor guy is the one who has been shafted throughout the movie. First when he is woken and his crew held hostage. He then gets the crap beaten out of him even after he has surrendered. Later on he teams up with Kirk and Scotty only to have Kirk backstab him at the end. Khan just seems to be reacting to how he is treated. Not condoning what he did at Starfleet Headquarters and Section 13 or denying how savage he was aboard the bridge of the Vengeance, but are we supposed to just take it for granted he is the epitome of evil just because his name is Khan and Old Spock says so?

3. Kirk is an ass. He can't stop harping about how he saved Spock's life. What a prick. I wouldn't want him saving my life.

4. The plot holes become even more glaring on the second viewing, if that's actually even possible. Lots of physic holes too.

5. Didn't really appreciate Simon Pegg's Scotty enough the first time around. Appreciate him a lot more in the second viewing. Will be sure to check out more of his other films.

6. What's with all the weak female characters? Uhura basically serves as Spock's love interest. Dr. Carol Marcus's idea of disabling a live torpedo is just to rip the whole thing out. And she strips down to her undies for a flimsy reason. Even though there are a few female officers at Starfleet headquarters, you get the impression that there were only men present there. Guess women still haven't achieved equality even centuries into the future. *Sigh*

7. Just a tad disappointed that the scriptwriters actually recycled quite a huge chunk of Wrath of Khan for this movie. You would think that in the 4 years between Star Trek and Star Trek into Darkness, they would have come up with something more original, especially since they created an alternative universe in the first rebooted Star Trek movie to get away from the canon in the first place.

8. Magical blood, really? One finds it hard to care for the characters if we know that none of them are ever going to be in real danger.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch as Humphrey Bogart in an Electric Cinema trailer

Slight, Strange, Superficial Coming of Age Story



"It looks interesting, but I don't think it will be as good as The Way, Way Back," my movie buddy pronounced her verdict upon watching the trailer for The Kings of Summer.

At the end of the screening of The Kings of Summer at the lovely Embaradero Center Theater in San Francisco, her assessment remained unchanged: "[The movie] is okay, but I like The Way, Way Back better.

Both The Way, Way Back and The Kings of Summer premiered earlier this year at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Both are coming-of-age comedic-drama films airing this summer. And here the similarities end.

The Way, Way Back tells the story of 14-year-old Duncan who is forced to spend summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend and his daughter at his summer house. The awkward and introvert Duncan, who has trouble fitting in with this strange family unit, instead finds himself bonding with a group of oddballs running the nearby water amusement park and begins to find his place in the world while working there. Sort of like the 2009 Adventureland starring Jesse Einsenberg and Kristen. So, despite its indie roots, a very much conventional coming-of-age film.

The Kings of Summer, on the other hand, tells the less straightforward story of a couple of small-town suburban teenage boys. One summer, the two of them inexplicably decide to run away away from home and build a house in the middle of a nearby forest, where they can live like men and not be bound by the rules of their overbearing parents. At one point, Patrick, one of the two teenagers, compared the incoherent ramblings of his mother to that of Street Fighter II character Blanka, and I nearly died laughing.

Watching this movie as an adult brought moments of real nostalgia for the innocence of my adolescent childhood; as I watched these teenagers gambol around the forest with their swords hacking and slashing through the greenery, I was brought me back back to my video gaming days where I played the role of the swashbuckling katana-wielding heroes in various Japanese role-playing games like the popular Final Fantasy series.

These two teenagers, Joe and Patrick, are joined by an Italian weird kid Biaggo who decides to join for reasons unknown, although I suspect within the parameters of filmmaking his role is just simply to provide the main comic relief. His lack of a coherent and compelling backstory gives weight to this supposition.

At first, these teenagers enjoy their idyllic existence, having fun under the sun, free from all and sundry. They swim, swing their swords, and hold impromptu races on the grass fields. A hilarious failed attempt to hunt for their own food reveals that it is mostly rats and snakes which inhabit this urban forest, and so the boys improvise by foraging for their food at the nearby Boston Market. Sadly, such a carefree lifestyle cannot last forever, and when a girl comes into the picture, this predictably strains the friendship between the two best friends.

Here the movie's tone abruptly veers off into different territory. Left with no money for further visits to Boston Market, a hungry Joe kills, skins cooks and attempts to eat a rabbit. Shades of Lord of the Flies shadow this interlude, although there is a supericiality to it. Joe's desperation rings false; deep down he and in turn us, the audience, knows that he has a nice, secure safety blanket back in his father's house. His desperation is not one born of real need, a need that is seen in the movie Winter's Bone, where the protagonist Ree shows her younger siblings how to hunt and skin a squirrel because they have little, or Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games hunting squirrels that she can exchange for bread so that her family will not starve (both characters incidentally played by Jennifer Lawrence) Also around this time, Joe begins to spot the look of a man with his carefully shaved facial, which for some reason reminds me of Casey Afleck's character Robert Ford in the movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. In that movie, Ford hero worships James and wants to emulate him, but it is not long before his adoration turns into disillusionment. Similarly, Joe here is in a rush to be his own man and it is not long before he becomes disillusioned with the harsh reality of trying to live without his family's support, because he is still clearly not ready for it.

Movie comparisons aside, to me The Kings of Summer is a quirky coming-of-age movie infused with many of the hallmarks of an indie comedy. It punctuated with funny unrelated skits that should derail the narrative yet oddly works and helps to gel the movie into an enjoyable and relaxed viewing on a slow summer's day.

Is The Kings of Summer better than The Way, Way Back? For me it was, because it was a less conventional coming-of-age movies than the ones I am used to watching and I laughed way more and much harder in this movie than I did while watching the latter.

My verdict, three and a half out of five stars for me.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cumberbatchweb Birthday Fundraiser for Myeloma UK



Reblogged from Cumberbatchweb

It’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s birthday on 19 July 2013 and in honour of his birthday this year we will be raising funds for Myeloma UK.

Our fundraiser for The Teenage Cancer Trust last year was an extraordinary success raising over £10,000.

Myeloma UK is Benedict’s chosen charity for this year’s fundraiser. Myeloma is a rare type of cancer which arises from plasma cells which are found in bone marrow. Myeloma UK does sterling work raising awareness of the disease and raising funds for ongoing research as well as providing much needed support for those diagnosed with the disease and their friends and families.

You can donate to this year’s fundraiser via our JustGiving page here.

Any money donated via JustGiving goes directly to the charity. No funds go via me – it’s completely transparent. Anyone in the world can use it to donate and you can donate via credit card or paypal. When you go to donate JustGiving suggests some amounts but you can enter any amount you wish in the final box. Every donation is greatly appreciated.

And don’t forget to leave your birthday message for Benedict when you donate!

So if you’re a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch please do dig deep – every single penny counts and it’s a wonderful cause.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

All flash and no substance, but who cares? Entertaining and feel-good movie!



The closer you look, the less you see. A particular catchphrase uttered and repeated by different characters throughout the film. An apt description for this movie would be: The closer you look, the less there is. I am not saying it is a bad thing. I'm just calling it as I see it.

The story goes: Four street magicians are approached by a mysterious hooded figure. A year later, they have banded together and calling themselves The Four Horseman, headline an act in Las Vegas wherein they proceeded to shower the audience with millions of Euros stolen purportedly in real time from a bank in France. This sets the FBI and Interpol on their tails as the group attempts to pull similar stunts in New Orleans and New York.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Daniel Atlas, the leader of the Four Horsemen. Here Einsenberg basically reprises his role as Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network, if Zuckerberg were ever inclined to become a magician. Woody Harrison here plays a scene-stealing mentalist Merritt Osbourne. The lovely Isla Fisher plays sex-vixen escape artist Henley Reeves. Dave Franco (younger brother of James Franco) plays Jack Wilder, whose role is basically a version of Matt Damon's character Linus Caldwell from the Ocean series; a young musician who is overeager for his turn to lead; he even gets his own action hero moment in the third act of the movie with some great fight scenes and even a car chase that, who knows, might just land him a (Matt Damon) Jason Bourne-like role in the near future.

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reunite here from their Dark Knight Trilogy Days, the former playing swarmy millionaire Arthur Tressler who sponsors the Four Horsemen and the latter as former magician turned magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley who reveals the secrets behind a magician's tricks. These two are superb as always, even in a scene where they confront each other with a silly interplay involving a voodoo doll.

Mark Ruffalo as FBI agent Dylan Rhode and Melanie Laurent as Interpol agent round up the rest of the principle cast as the lead investigators in charge of the case to apprehend the Four Horsemen and bring them to justice. Ruffalo does curmudgeon and baffled really well while the talented Laurent (from Inglorious Basterds) here is unfortunately made to spout several silly lines throughout the film such as asking Ruffalo to "take a leap of faith", all the while spotting a perfectly straight face. The contrived romance between these two characters unfortunately remains one of the weak points of the movie as it never feels truly believable and merely tacked to fulfill the "romance" part of the film.

The plot has superficial overtones of the Occupy Wall Street movement; in one act, the magicians empty the bank account of a crooked multimillionaire and then proceed to distribute the wealth amongst the magicians' audience, who receive their unexpected largess with utter delight. The real movie audience similarly takes great delight in rooting for these Robin Hood-like- characters as they successfully outwit the law every step of the way.

For me, the best parts of the movie were seeing the outlandish magician acts being performed and then later on finding out how they were accomplished via Bradley's reveal. I also vastly enjoyed the brilliant performances turned in by all four of the Horsemen cast, even if their back stories are never sufficiently or fully revealed to the audience's satisfaction.

Although expository clues interspersed throughout the movie heavily hints that the motives behind the heists, masterminded by the mysterious hooded figure and carried out by the Four Horsemen, are less than magnanimous, the final reveal and plot twist at the end of the movie does leave you reeling a bit and going "Huh" since you would never have actually saw that coming. Still, the revelation, no matter how preposterous, does tie up the whole movie into one somewhat neat pretty package. So what if the neat pretty package is nice to look at but has nothing more than fluffy animal balloons stuffed in it? My friend and I came out of the movie thoroughly entertained by this feel-good movie. I mean, how often do you, as one of the 99%, get to see a movie where the 1-percenters receive their comeuppance, especially by a conservative Hollywood industry that even very obviously denigrates the Occupy Movement in the 2012 The Dark Knight Rises?

I have to say that even coming with what little substance that the movie has, I enjoyed this film far more than I did summer blockbuster tentpoles Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness, with even consummate actors like Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness unable to lift these movies from their ridiculous plot-hole-ridden storylines. It is not to say that Now You See Me does not have plot holes of its own; it does, but unlike Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness, this movie moves so breezily along that you don't really notice them, which is more than I can say for the glaring plot holes practically shouting at me while I was watching the former two films.

So go see Now You See Me if you want to have a rollicking good time at the movies this summer.

3 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hardly Epic, But Well Worth Watching Nonetheless



OK, I'll admit I came into the movie with more than my fair share of trepidation. 61%, says the Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes, with the main complaint being that "its narrative themes are all too familiar." Watching Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 had, courtesy of their horrible plots, left a sour taste in my mouth. I wasn't too keen on watching a movie with yet another vapid storyline. But then I watched a couple of the Epic trailers and couldn't help thinking: "Oh but it looks so pretty!", sounding for all the world like a crow being drawn inexorably to sparkly things or a moth being drawn to a flame. Alright then, I have been forewarned. The narrative is going to be unoriginal, I am just going to watch the movie just for its visual eye candy, or retinal crack, as I like to call it.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I was more than pleasantly surprised. The visuals are simply stunning to look at. And the storyline, while unoriginal, was better than expected. It seems as though the movie's five scriptwriters simply decided to blend together elements from movies like Ferngully, Avatar, The Borrowers, Alice in Wonderland and The Secret World of Arrietty and hoped for the best. The result is, astonishingly, a not-bad confection. The plot chugs merrily along for most of the movie and although it does begin to get a bit drawn out by the third act, it is easy to forgive the slight falter because you are just simply mesmerized by the gorgeous world-building.

One thing though that quite irked me was a phrase that at one point, seemed to be bandied around by everyone, even the villain. "Many leaves, one tree" utters another character yet again and I couldn't help rolling my eyes at such a contrived philosophical blather. I guess an animated movie geared towards children needs to have some sort of positive message for its young audience, even if it's a clumsy catchphrase espousing the ethos and importance of teamwork.

The voicework is quite decent though not outstanding. Beyonce voices Tara the queen, and here she sounds playful and like she is about to burst into song at any moment, which thankfully she doesn't. Colin Farrell as Leafman leader Ronin, Amanda Seyfried as M.K. our human female heroine and Josh Hutcherson as her love interest Nod round out the rest of the main cast, with the wonderful Christoph Waltz voicing the role of the evil leader of the Boggins, the Leafman's perennial nemesis. Humor here is provided by a slug and a snail (voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd respectively) and it is gratifying to see that they are not just token black voices (Ansari is Indian and O'Dowd is white). Sassy one-liners abound throughout the film, but these are uttered with more sincerity and less snark, which make them sound far less grating than the annoying zingers abounding summer blockbusters Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3.

Overall I found the movie visually and even plot-superior to Skydance studio's previous outing, Rio, which scored a slightly higher rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 72%. Rio 2 will be out in 2014, which I will probably watch but have no particular anticipation for. I hope Epic will do well enough in box office receipts to warrant a sequel; I would do so love to clap eyes on its lovely and colorful visual palette again once more.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars for me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review of Iron Man 3: The Suit's On, But Nobody's Home



Having read two Star Trek Into Darkness reviews that dissed the movie in favor of Iron Man 3, I was really excited to go see the latter. I had enjoyed watching Star Trek Into Darkness, even with its gossamer-thin plot, and so was looking forward to having a good time at the cinema with Iron Man 3 since I trusted the words of the two reviewers who insisted that Iron Man 3 was far superior to Star Trek Into Darkness. Boy was I in for a bitter disappointment. If anything, the plot of Iron Man 3 was even more haphazard and had plot holes even bigger than Star Trek Into Darkness, which is saying a lot.

At least the villains in Star Trek Into Darkness had credible motives for committing heinous acts. In Iron Man 3, the villains cartoonishly don't. They commit acts of terror simply because it is currently fashionable for summer blockbuster villains to do so. And that left a really sour taste in my mouth. Look, I am not asking for deep political insights from a popcorn movie, but if the scriptwriters want to insert an element of terrorism in the story, they should have seen it through and not just tag it on because it is at the moment the "in" thing to do.

The rest of Iron Man 3, like its titular character, is similarly in shambles. Iron Man 3 takes place after the events in The Avengers, in which Tony Stark almost died trying to save the city of New York. Stark now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He is unable to sleep and spends most nights tinkering on new versions of his Iron Man suit. Just hearing the words "New York" sends him into panicked anxiety attacks. While I do like to see my superheroes show some human vulnerability, the fact is that in the case of Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man, his sheer cockiness is what I fell in love with, not this nervous train wreck. (I'm not trying to discount the fact that PTSD can happen to anyone or the seriousness of PTSD, but I really didn't pay for a movie ticket just to see my favorite superhero reduced to a quivering heap each time he hears the name of a city)

Speaking of wrecks, the new Iron Man suits are also a mess. I do not expect total continuity in between movies, but I guess between The Avengers and Iron Man 3, it seems that Stark has decided to outsource the manufacturing of his suits to a shoddy workshop in China, because they seem to have a tendency to totally disintegrate at the slightest impact. Not that it seems to matter much, because Stark hardly spends anytime donning a suit anyway. Instead he is mostly controlling them remotely or running around for most of the movie simply winging it without them. What is the point of having a movie called Iron Man if our hero is hardly going to be donning an Iron Man suit in the first place? Several times throughout the movie I was sorely tempted to mutter that the studio should simply have changed the title of the movie to Tony Stark.

Robert Downey Jr. does the best with what he is given, but at times the inept storyline succeeds in swallowing him whole. Ben Kingsley does a hammy performance as the Mandarin, and Guy Pearce excels as a sinister though very one-dimensional Aldrich Killian. Don Cheadle returns as decent sidekick Colonel Rhodes, while Jon Favreau, director of the first two Iron Man movies, reprises his role as Happy, whose function this time is not so much comic fodder but simply to prod the plot along. The lovely Rebecca Hall joins the cast as Dr. Maya Hansen, a former lover of Stark (if you can, check out her BAFTA-nominated turn as the mercurial Sylvia Tjetjens opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC2's 2012 TV series Parade's End) but it is Gwyneth Paltrow who really shines this time as a Pepper Potts who by movie's end, finally gets to shed her damsel in distress role to kick some real ass.

Not all the movie is bad though. Some of the action scenes are really well thought-out; the scene where Iron Man attempts to saves 14 passengers in mid-air despite his suit's capability to carry only 4 people is particulary inspired. Also, the third act at one point almost lifts the movie out from the doldrums before unfortunately loses steam midway and sinks back into its hackneyed plot. Similarly, the witty one-liners, which work well for the most part, gets a bit too much near the end; in scenes which are supposed to be emotional, these one-liners are jarringly and gratingly out of place, turning what are supposed to be dramatic moments into moments of utter banality.

My verdict? If you are able to catch just one summer blockbuster that is out in cinemas right now, I'd suggest you go with Star Trek Into Darkness instead. If you are still planning to go see Iron Man 3 though, be sure to stay for the after-credits scene. 2 out of 5 stars for me.