Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All the King's Men (Drama 2006)

So I guess this movie was based on a play/book by Robert Penn Warren? It really didn’t seem like a play when it started out, but then after I watched it for a while, I noticed how character development was heavily lacking, then it all started to make sense.

The movie was actually not very good. It did have a diverse cast with such names as Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, and James Gandolfini, and they all had pretty good Louisiana accents, but it still didn’t change the fact that the story blew. It was about Sean Penn's character of Willie Stark, as he went from a no-name public worker to the governor of the state. I read later that it was supposed to show how power makes you corrupt, but I didn’t see any change in that character. He was always an eccentric from the get go.

The film didn’t do a very good job getting into the minds of all of the characters. It told a half-assed story and then abruptly ended. This has to be the first modern play-turned-movie that I’ve seen, and I wasn’t very impressed.
Rating - C

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Savages (Drama 2007)

Not too shabby at all. This film was about two siblings who are shoved into the position of dealing with their aging father when he gets dementia and is not able to care for himself. I guess most of us will get to that point some time in our lives, but hopefully it won’t be for a very long time.

Laura Linney did a fantastic job pissing me off because her character was so damn annoying, but great acting on her part. She played the role of the daughter who felt the most guilt from placing her father in a nursing home. Her caring spirit, may that be caused by either her own insecurities or just the fact that she had to represent a nurturing type, did it in for me because she stood directly polar opposite from my feelings on the issue.

Philip Seymour Hoffman played a fairly convincing college professor who was as disorganized as his appearance. His more logical view of the issue was much more to my liking, but damn was he a pathetic character.

The movie was good. It told a story that seemed very realistic and plausible. It was also pretty funny at times, but more of a situational type of humor, so it was all in good taste. I wonder what happens to all the old people in America who have no money or have no family who are willing to flip the bill for them. All I got to say is that I hope to go quick and early. Not being able to make it to the toilet because of age is not the dehumanizing road that I’d like to travel on.
Rating - A

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thumbsucker (Drama 2005)

Well this movie is definitely one that goes into the crappy indi category.

It had this stupid story about this weird teenage guy who sucks his thumb and is an insecure blob of a person. He then gets on some Ritalin or similar drug and then becomes this arrogant tard. I’m pretty sure if I was on Ritalin I’d also become a very different person; probably smarter too.

Having a cast consisting of bigger name peeps like Keanu Reeves, Vince Vaughn, Benjamin Bratt, and Vincent D'Onofrio really didn’t help this film out any. It was still boring and had crappy music. I hate movies that try too hard to be different. Different is good sometimes, but this type of different is poserish. Mike Mills should go back to film school and learn how to write something interesting.
Rating - D

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Little Children (Drama 2006)

Well this movie was about adultery, so lets just start there. Boo on a while bunch of that. If you’re pretty sure you’re going to cheat or be bored as fuck in a relationship, then why get married? It only causes more problems down the line. The peeps in this film had kids too which makes it all the more worse.

As Kate Winslet said in a short monologue in this film, the adultery was formatted in a way to make it seem like two trapped people trying to find a way to be happy again. I only saw two dumb people who didn’t make good choices in life three times over. First was getting married, second was having kids, and third was cheating. Just tell your spouse that you want a divorce and get it over with. I personally don’t think living a lie would be all that entertaining, even though some people might get off on that sort of thing with all the risk involved and such.

I’m not sure what the movie was really about though. You had characters that all had some issue with themselves or their past and were trying to deal with it. Isn’t that the background premise of all films though? I certainly didn’t think it deserved the three academy award nominations that it received last year. The ending was especially lame though. Let’s not explain anything and just run the credits.
Rating - C

Friday, April 25, 2008

Samsung SGH-X820

So what happens when I have nothing else to purchase is this country, but it's full of unlocked GSM cell phones? Me wasting money. That and the fact that I've discovered the Chinese version of Ebay: Taobao. I guess e-commerce is still a new thing here, but it already has a boatload of users. This first purchase was kinda a spur of the moment thing. I mildly researched stuff, but I should've researched more…

Design
As you can see from the pics, this phone is hella thin, only 6.9mm. I mainly picked this model because of that reason. The rest of the phone is a normal bar phone, but it is wider than your average bar. I found it hard to text on it because my grip was different from my last celly. It’s a very light phone though, maybe even too light, but it sure does meld in with your wallet when it’s in your pocket.

Keypad
From looking at pictures on the net I thought that because the phone had elevated buttons, it might be more comfortable and provide a lot of feedback, but again I was wrong. The keypad did not feel like it was secure because it was much too bouncy, much like crappy laptop makers who cheap out on their keyboards. As it later turned out (3 days after getting it), my phone was defective when one morning I discovered that the keypad had separated from the body and I was left staring at a very shoddy glue job. This is where I get inquisitive. Was this celly a counterfeit one, just like so many other things are in this country? Or was this just a fluke on the part of the manufacturer? There's a good chance of it being counterfeit you know…but my E900 was purchased here and it's fine, so who knows whose fault it really is. Anyway, I've sent the phone back to the original seller, so supposedly he'll be sending a replacement. Hopefully this next one will be better.

Connections/Buttons
The back is a camera, the left side has the volume buttons, and the right side is the charger/output jack (of course covered up with a lame plastic piece) along with a dedicated camera button. I never really understood why manufacturers started putting cameras on their phones. I, for one, never use it because it’s nothing compared to my Canon. Maybe after technology miniaturizes it enough to be worth its beans, then maybe it’ll be a good idea. But for now, it's just an extra feature that is never used and only jacks up the price of the phone.

Battery
This is where I hella dropped the ball. All of the reviews on this phone mention that its battery life sucks: it does. When sending an average of 3 text messages a day and keeping it on 24/7, it only takes around one day for the battery icon to drop down a bar after a full charge; 210hrs standby my ass. I'll be interested to see how long it will last when I actually use it to talk to people back in the States.

Software
Ironically enough, the software on this phone is a castrated version of the OS currently on my E900. In computer lingo, if the E900 was an average, fast computer with XP Pro, this X820 would be a computer running XP Home on a Celeron. Yeah whenever I click anything, the OS has this annoying delay and every other feature just seems to be lacking the spunk that my old celly has.

Overall
As you may have guessed, I'm less than thrilled about my purchase. The fact that the keypad fell off further adds to my buyer's remorse. I'll be able to sell it off when I get back home, so no worries there, but it sucks that I could‘ve put that money towards something I really wanted: Wifi. Yeah I never really thought about it thoroughly before now, but I’ve always wanted wifi on a phone. Since the iPhone is still at an unreasonable price in terms of my intended use, and I don't want to pay an extra $25-30 a month to get unlimited 3G service, having wifi on a phone would be good middle ground. Of course I have no idea how good the browsers are, but it would be a good test to see, right?

Another thought is that I'm not overly satisfied with the design of Samsung's cell phones. The recharger connector is always covered up with a useless plastic cover, it's proprietary, it sticks out pretty far when a headset is inserted, and it doesn't charge via USB. Motorola and Nokia are always on the bleeding edge of new designs, but Samsung seems to be lagging a lot in their cellular division. I think I'll just stick with Nokia from now on or unless something insanely tempting gets released. I’ve never had any issues with any of my other Nokia cells.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Bank Job (Crime Drama 2008)

This movie was a nice piece of work. It’s supposedly based on a true story, so after you know that, it changes the bar in terms of expectations.

From the title of the film, you should be able to deduce that the story is about a bank robbery. It’s a good plot that follows around a group of amateur criminals who break into a bank and get in over their heads after they empty out many different peoples’ safe deposit boxes. Since it turns out that criminals like to place incriminating evidence in those boxes, the robbers hit shitsville when a ton of peeps from different sides of the law all converge on them.

I do have to make a comment that the clothes were very 60s-70s oriented, so everything from clothes to shoes to hair was ugly as sin. Fashion is an interesting phenomenon, but mostly when people wear such hideous stuff. Like in the U.S. right now, those huge, bug-eyed aviator sunglasses are in right now, while in China every rejected design from all over the world are assembled in the most visually harmful manner and shaped into shoes, shirts, pants, and jackets.

The acting, music, and all the trimmings were all pretty average, but the story did make this one stand out.
Rating - B

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Children of Huang Shi (Foreign Chinese Drama 2008)

I watched this one in a Chinese theater this past weekend. It was actually really good. I haven’t seen them do too many dramas that were solid, but this one was definitely an exception.

The film was about this English war reporter who went to China during the Japanese invasion of 1937. He initially went there to report on the war, but when he got injured, he was forced to camp out in a remote area of China and take care of a bunch of orphans. He turned out to be a very caring humanitarian and eventually moved the kids 700 or so miles on foot to the middle of nowhere to prevent the kids from being conscripted into the army.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers who played the main character of George Hogg was pretty good. I’m surprised I’ve not seen him in any other films. I didn’t like his character though. He was too much of a goody goody. In a time of war I would have no problem killing people who were trying to kill me. Sometimes morality can be put on the back burner so that survival and logic can take over.

As I initially mentioned, this was a solid film. It told a thorough story and realistically depicted the conditions that these people had to live in. It wasn’t exaggerated though, and that’s what makes this film stand out. A lot of times and especially here in the motherland, Chinese historical films take too much time trying to demonize one side and glorify the other when it’s not historically correct, but this movie didn’t do that.
Rating - A

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Four Brothers (Drama 2005)

This was a pretty good movie. It wasn’t all just action, so the plot actually melded in well with all the guns and violence.

The plot for this one was a little different. The mother of four adopted brothers gets murdered so they all come back home to put the smackdown on the baddies. It was a fun action movie because you could totally put yourself into the shoes of these guys and say, “what would I do”? Usually the first thing that pops into your head is the same as what the brothers actually do, but most ethical people are law-abiding citizens so we usually stop at the “just thinking” phase, but not these guys.

The story had a good number of twists and turns, which all added to the overall quality of the film. The ending was great though, so it was a very satisfying watch. I'd have to say that this was one of John Singleton's better movies.
Rating - B

Friday, April 18, 2008

Meet the Spartans (Comedy 2008)

Well this film was a piece of shit. I expected as much of course. Scary Movie was probably one of the only humorous spoof flicks out there. It’s sad to see how everything after that was crap.

As everyone can guess, this film made fun of 300. A few scenes were worth a chuckle, but most of it was just stupid, slapstick humor. Some of the cultural references in this movie went right over my head, which is just another sign of me getting old. Sad sad. One of these days I’ll be totally lost on the stuff that this newfangled generation is exposed to.
Rating - F

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Warhammer 40K Dawn of War: Soulstorm (RTS PC Game 2008)

I remember playing a demo for the first game in this series and finding it less that stellar. Did the 3rd iteration of the same game with the same engine make any difference? No it didn’t.

Story
There wasn’t a real story. The cinematics quickly went through a rundown of the many different playable factions and said that they were all at war with each other. How original. Perhaps the other 2 games in the series had stories to them and this was just filler.

Cinematics
The cinematics at the beginning of the campaign mode seemed to be put together in one evening. It only had in-game graphics, so not much effort was put into it.

Gameplay
Unfortunately the gameplay was lame. Having a buttload of different factions didn’t really change anything. Each had their own special bonuses that could be utilized against the enemy AI, but for the most part, they were all very similar. Sending your peeps into war was brainless. All you had to do was make sure you had enough people to take over a base, and then you had to keep on monitoring each squad to make sure they were reinforced when they started taking some losses. There was nothing remotely innovative. It was like it wasn’t even on their “to-do” list.

Overall
Obviously the game was less than impressive. I got bored of playing it after only a few days, so I wouldn’t expect it to maintain the attention of many gamers.
Rating - Low

Becoming Jane (Drama 2007)

The first 75% of the film shoulda been renamed to becoming sleepy, because it was oh so boring. The main reason for this was that the dialogue was not modernized in the slightest, meaning that everything was overly wordy and in many cases, very confusing. While watching this without subtitles, I barely followed the plot. Only after I started watching it with the subtitles, did I actually begin to understand what was going on. Weird how one’s reading skills can be sometimes better than one's listening skills. I guess I’ve been reading subtitles for too long.

So the movie was about Jane Austen’s life prior to her becoming a famous author. Since I don’t care for any of her 18th century books, the film meant nothing to me. You can call me uncultured, but I care not, because this period of writing is very bland and too proper. I do have to admit though, that Pride & Prejudice and Emma were decent films.

The latter fourth of the movie was kinda decent, so it surprisingly won some points with its strong ending. Anne Hathaway's acting was good. Her British accent was very convincing, but I think she has played a lot of roles in the past that had this as a requirement.

This wasn’t my type of movie, so my score is very biased. I’m sure other peeps who are fans of this type of literature will be more generous with their point distributions.
Rating - C

Monday, April 14, 2008

Slither (Horror Comedy 2006)

I’ve just discovered a new film genre called “Horror Comedy”. This isn’t the first movie of this type that I’ve seen, but it’s the first time I felt compelled to look it up because I found myself laughing throughout most of it.

Much like Black Sheep, the premise of this movie was pretty dumb: an alien asteroid containing a slug-like, parasitic organism lands on Earth. It can take on a human host and then transform it into a monster. After a person is infected, they can also produce their own slugs and infect other people.

The movie was hilarious and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it was too silly to be taken seriously or perhaps it had one too many exaggerated bloody death scenes, but I seriously found myself cracking up throughout 80% of it. If you like films of this genre then this one will certainly not disappoint.
Rating - B

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Veronica Guerin (Drama 2003)

This was a movie that I wasn’t expecting to be that good, but it’s nice to be occasionally surprised. This film was based on the real life story of Veronica Guerin, a journalist working in Ireland during the mid 90s. She essentially wrote a lot of articles pertaining to crime, which ultimately led her to start investigating the source of a growing drug epidemic happening in her country. The closer she got to the person responsible, the more her life was put into jeopardy by the criminals.

I’m still not sure who the thumbs up should go to: the director or the writer. Joel Schumacher did The Phantom of the Opera, which I thought was great, but he was also responsible for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, two movies that don't deserve words being written about them. The writer, Carol Doyle, doesn’t seem to work a lot, so maybe she deserves the kudos.

I think Cate Blanchett did an excellent job portraying this character. I’ve seen her in many other films and this one definitely shows her becoming a different character. Skills I tell ya, terrific skills.

Overall it was a pretty quick, yet thorough film that went into the life of this woman’s work and family. It’s crazy to think that there are people in this world who are so dedicated to their work that they would be willing to trade their life to bring down a criminal. I’m surprised I never heard anything about this film before I watched it. Very good.
Rating - A

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Secuestro Express (Foreign Venezuelan Action 2005)

This movie was another random one. The story takes place in Venezuela where a group of thugs takes a wealthy guy and his chica hostage. They all drive around town, getting into more trouble as the baddies wait around for ransom money from the girl's father.

From a caption at both the beginning and end of this film, I’m guessing that the movie's plot was somehow supposed to be some sort of political statement concerning the extreme differences between the rich and poor in that country. Again, this is just a guess because the majority of what I saw had nothing deep to it. It was a normal, semi-violent kidnapping story with a few humorous plot twists.

I didn’t find anything special about this one or the way that it was filmed. I'll place this in the quickly forgotten box.
Rating - C

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jumper (Action 2008)

My God. You have an awesome premise, a shit ton of money for special effects, and then you combine that with the crappiest story ever. This has to be the fuckup of the year, it really does. Some parts of this movie were so good, but then you had foolish Hayden Christensen and his shittacular acting skills assist in screwing up an already weak story.

Yeah the main idea was pretty neat. Some people are able to jump to different locations of their choosing at the drop of a hat, while other peeps try to hunt them down. Insert a forced love story with a pretty unintelligent character and what do you have? Another crappy movie.

I could go on and on about how much better this film could’ve been, but what’s the point. Everyone involved with this project screwed up royally, and that’s a ton of lost revenue. Good job Jim Uhls and David S. Goyer, you both suck at writing.
Rating - D

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Action Adventure 2007)

Good ol’ National Treasure. It’s a fast-flowing, action-packed series that uses a lot of historical facts and twists them into a conspiracy-filled fiesta. Does it measure up to its predecessor? Not this time around.

Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger are back at it again, but this time they’re trying to find the Lost City of Gold. It’s a pretty neat premise considering that it was an interesting part of pre-American history. So what went wrong with this movie? Ed Harris. His character was skewed from the get go. He played the main antagonist who supposedly ran a mercenary business that he used to track Cage’s character. One must keep in mind that his connection with a merc group does not make him a government agent with diplomatic immunity.

During the middle of the movie, a huge chase scene, filled with fast cars and gunshots was presented. After it was over, both main characters seemed to go their separate ways without any interjection from the law. For some reason I just didn’t buy this. I know it’s an action movie and a lot of rational consequences are supposed to be ignored, but with these characters it doesn’t add up. If this was a Bond film or some Mission: Impossible movie then sure, secret spies or military peeps have their ways of disappearing, but not two normal guys with more-less normal backgrounds.

Because of this single scene, I couldn’t really enjoy the rest of the movie. I kept on pondering “how” each character was able to get back to the U.S. without being stopped in a British airport considering both broke so many laws in that country. But if I pushed all that aside, the movie had the same fast-paced, adventure-like quality of the first film.

The ending of the movie left room for at least one more in the series, so maybe later we’ll be seeing Cage’s character at it again.
Rating - C

Monday, April 07, 2008

10,000 B.C. (Action Adventure 2008)

Color me pink, but am I the only one who thinks that in 10,000 B.C., early humans might not have even had spoken language? That single question pretty much sums up this whole movie. So many things in it just didn’t make much sense in terms of anthropology and archeology. Of course early civilizations are not my field of expertise, so don’t quote me on any of my assumptions, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that the whole film was built on a muddy foundation.

The director responsible for this movie also did Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, so you can already guess the direction that this film goes in. What does this mean to non-movie goers? It means that a lot of money was spent on a few flashy scenes, while the plot and acting suffered due to the lack of funds.

The story sucked. It was a weaker, inverse version of Apocalypto, as the main character chases after his captured honey and finds a civilization much more advanced than his own. I guess the prehistoric Egyptians knew how to smelt ore to make metal swords, knew how to domesticate woolly mammoths, possessed the engineering skills needed to build huge boats, and had the architectural/physics skills needed to build huge buildings and pyramids. I guess I was absent during those days in History class aye?

Yeah this movie had a lot of holes in it, just like a colander. When someone says 10,000 B.C., I think of cavemen and grunting, not what I saw in this film. The flashy scenes that were supposed to instill awe seemed very fake and very CG. The blue-eyed chick was hot, so kudos to her face, but there was nothing else there that deserves our attention.
Rating - D

Sunday, April 06, 2008

27 Dresses (Romantic Comedy 2008)

This was a highly predictable movie about a girl who was always a bridesmaid, but never the bride. Am I the only one who thinks that number is just too unrealistic? Who honestly has 27 close friends?

This film starred Katherine Heigl, the main chick from Knocked Up and James Marsden, the dude who was in the movie Enchanted that I just watched. Both actors were pretty good, but the story was just a little too corny for my taste. I've already said it, but I'll say it again: this movie was 100% predictable. You already know the beginning, middle, and ending just from watching the preview. The story was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, the same person who wrote The Devil Wears Prada, so I knew the plot would not be a complete cheese-fest, but it was still very cheese-laden.

Me already knowing the story was kinda a downer. Most romantic comedies are like that, but this one seemed like an extreme example. It was still O.K. and even different, in some respects, but it was, at heart, still a chick flick.
Rating - C

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (Foreign Chinese War Drama 2008)

I just saw this last night in the fancy Chinese theater that I occasionally go to. It was actually a pretty good war flick about a Chinese general fighting for one of the three kingdoms during a civil war era in ancient China.

The action, including numerous, individual fight scenes, were all well done and not exaggerated too much. The armor was very well designed even though I didn’t care much for the helmets that the armies wore. Some pieces looked very similar to Japanese armor, so that’s always a plus in terms of style. The story was solid even though I know almost nothing about this period of time in terms of history. I guess The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a classic Chinese novel that this movie is based on. The film is only a snippet of the whole novel because supposedly the story is hella long. I remember playing an NES game with the same name and getting my ass handed to me because my peasants never had enough rice to eat and rioted.

Good stuff even though it was close to 3 hours.
Rating - B

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Beaufort (Foreign Israeli War Drama 2007)

This film is a drama about a group of Israeli soldiers, responsible for guarding an outpost in Lebanon prior to a full withdraw from the area. It didn’t have a lot of war in terms of battles and such, but it did have many scenes showing the emotional scars of war, isolation, and boredom.

I liked this movie. It was slow, but it went at an even pace without being too artsy. I saw it as a realistic portrayal of how guarding an outpost would be like. The main actor, Oshri Cohen, wasn’t too shabby at all. He played the part of the officer in charge of the outpost. Watching him deal with his men dying and him feeling responsible for every single on of ‘em was very convincing. A lot of empathy was felt for the characters in this one, as opposed to other movies where you don’t care who lives or dies. The latter part of the film was very tense even though there was no music or action to speak of. That's when you know you're a good director, when you don't need anything extra to get an emotional jolt from the audience.

I think it's meant to be an anti-war film, although it didn't say anything outright. The prevailing theme is the pointlessness of some aspects of war and how real lives are the consequence of the actions and policies of government and upper brass. I thought it was one of the better foreign language films I've seen in a while. If it hasn’t been nominated for any awards yet, it probably should.
Rating - A

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (Family Adventure 2007)

This movie sucked. I do understand that it was meant to be a children’s film, but you can still make those good if you put in a little effort.

The dinosaur was a cute work of CG magic, but I bet a large chunk of the budget was spent on that. There were 5 majorish characters in the film, and all of them lacked any type of real personality. Many foreshadowing scenes were completely pointless because they were left hanging and were never developed at a later time. I’m sure children might not have noticed, but I did. The story actually didn’t make any sense towards the end of the movie if you pay close attention, but I’m sure the writers were depending on the fact that the exciting music would serve as interference for an unobservant audience.

I should really stop watching all movies because I can’t seem to dumb myself down to the level of a 9 year old anymore. In my opinion, Walden Media really needs to hire some new writers. They also did the first Narnia, so that definitely says something about their talent pool.
Rating - D