Movie Review: Real Steel

Classic popcorn entertainment.  Anyone headed to see this film shouldn’t expect a complex script with deep meanings.  What they’d get is a cliched plot with good directorial execution and a Hugh Jackman that takes command of the movie screen whenever he appears.

The plot and all the emotional high points in “Real Steel” seem to have taken directly from the “Rocky” stories; everything from the notion of being the underdog and rising up to win, to talking about a man struggling to rediscover himself and his true passion, to the boxing theme, all were inspired by, or copied from, the “Rocky” movies.  There is pretty essentially nothing original about the film, other than that this time around, instead of humans, robots are boxing each other.

Yet, the strengths of the film lie in a straightforward direction that doesn’t try to do too much or be too cute with the editing; we always got a clear sense of what was going on, even during the fast-pounding, metal-clanging action sequences.  We also have Hugh Jackman in his element, playing a vulnerable tough guy. He is the one who carried this film to become a box office smash hit.

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Movie Review: X Men First Class

The latest installment of the “X Men” franchise turns out to be the best.  The ensemble cast was fantastic, with the two lead characters, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, shine in their roles as the eventual Professor X and Magneto.  In particular, Fassbender’s performance was an emotional tour-de-force, showing the pain Erik had gone through that causes him to ultimately have an antagonistic view of the world.

In addition, the film also features two of the best stand-alone sequences in recent memory.  One was partially in the trailer, where Erik uses his power to levitate a submarine from under water.  The other is one of the most memorable kill sequences that I’ve seen in a while.

I hope there will be a sequel to “First Class” and we get to see more of the strong chemistry and screen presences between McAvoy and Fassbender.

Movie Review: The Viral Factor

I was quite surprised when I saw the trailer for this film, a Hong Kong action thriller starring Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou, make its debut on the Apple movie trailers website.  Surprised because Dante Lam’s latest project does not stack up against his previous two films, “The Beast Stalker” and “The Stool Pigeon”, which were more intense and emotionally driving than at any point “The Viral Factor.”

Tse and Chou made the most of their roles in a predictable script.  Their performances carried the film.

The thing that bothered me the most was the over-dramatic and often times melodramatic score throughout the movie.  It seems like the music was chosen to amplify the intensity of certain scenes when the scenes just weren’t that intense to begin with, the result was an awkwardness that left me uneasy and not being able to take the movie seriously.

The film feels scattered at times; perhaps Lam could have done without a subplot involving the villain trying to obtain a new breed of virus that could destroy humanity and rake in billions in profit, instead focusing on the relationship between the two main characters, their moral struggles, and how they deal with adversities.  At certain points, the film achieved the action-drama gravitas reminiscent of Michael Mann’s “Heat”, but it falls flat more often than not.

There are many better action thrillers out there.  So unless you are a fan of Nicholas or Jay, wait for this one to come out on DVD

Movie Review: “The Ides Of March”

An excellent adapted screenplay with brisk, well-paced writing.  A fantastic ensemble cast coupled with stellar performances by all, particularly its stars Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, and Evan Rachel Wood.  The best part of this film is its subtlety; while Clooney the actor plays a cool but passionate politician hot on the campaign trail, Clooney the director masterfully turns the script into an incredibly realistic and intricate world in a way comparable to “The Wire”.  The subtleness of the film was efficient, as well; we don’t hear any unnecessary dialogues, we are not bombarded by tense background score for no reason.

In another review of this film, the writer claimed that the climax was hardly climatic at all because it happened off-screen.  I believe it was precisely Clooney’s point not to show this scene (along with perhaps one or two others) to the audience because they don’t contribute much in walking us through the story with the background theme that politics is a dirty game and it is no place for anyone who hasn’t cast their morals or ideals aside and do whatever they can to get what they want.

I haven’t seen Ryan Gosling in many films, but it was certain a pleasure to to watch him shine on this film, playing a character struggling to fight his own morals and ideals, and find a medium between coolheaded-ness and panic.

Praises aside, I would point out that this is a fairly straightforward political drama-thriller.  There is nothing too ‘deep’ about this film; the plot, while complex and subtle, isn’t anything groundbreaking or indecipherable.  There are no poetic imagery or allusions, although it does perhaps give us many glimpses of Clooney’s personal political views (that, or he makes his character, a Presidential candidate, say things that he’d like Barack Obama, the current President of the United States, to say).

I am always turned off of politics whenever I see films like “The Ides of March” and shows like “The Wire” because they are so realistic in depicting how dirty it is and pretty much kills any aspirations I might have had in having a life in politics, but it certainly provides the platform for great scripts and damn good entertainment.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright

Directed by George Clooney

Adapted screenplay by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon

I’m back!

Greetings, everyone! My last blog entry dates all the way back to May 22nd of last year, and that is a shameful statement, in and of itself.  I didn’t all of a sudden disliked writing, and I didn’t suddenly stop having things to write about, either.  I stopped writing because I took a lethal mixture of being busy and procrastinating.

But no more, I say!  Watching movies, reading the news, and generally experiencing more in life has revived my desire to express myself in the form of words.  So here it goes.

I will be implementing a new series into this blog called “Quick Movie Reviews”, where I will provide some thoughts on movies I’ve seen in as concise terms as I can.  I will try to keep the reviews under 300 words, or even just one short paragraph.

I don’t know what my new stint into writing will do or where it will take me.  What I do know is that writing provides the intellectual stimulation I so desperately need in recent times.

With that in mind, stay tuned for my first post!