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Movies You Watched Recently And Felt Strongly About

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GI Joe – movie review

GI Joe is the pop icon of pre-pubertal male Americans. The manifestation of allowed violence and mayhem allowed in the male equivalent of the Barbie doll where young kids can live out their violent tendencies in a way allowed by their parents, where the good guy wins and the lines between good and evil are clearly drawn. It is a surprise that Hollywood took so long to come up with a live-action movie for this. So is 2 hours of mayhem directed by the same person who did Mummy any good?

GI Joe or Government Issue Joe… began in 1964 and made the word action figure what it is now. So with Stephen Sommers at the helm and 2 members of his Mummy team here – Brandon Fraser in a cameo and Vasloo as a bad guy again, he attempts to pepper the show with a Micheal Bay formula:

More non-action than any recent movie, loads of CGI and throw in a few hot bodies and mix it up with a skin thin plot and hope the first three ingredients will carry the movie.

Strangely, even with the non-stop action, it was a bit of a disappointment for me. Sure they had gunfights and even swordplay heaped upon us, but the fancy acceleration suits did not do as much, the mayhem was ok but none of the stuff broke new ground. Even the bad guy was a weenie, and having a techie or a business sort as a bad guy does not quite match up. See Jonathan Pryce, who is the President of USA here, but was the villain in a Bond movie and he was such a weak villain that he only appeared weak and nothing as diabolical as the best of the nasties.

There was technology but the CGI used a rather soft focus touch that you knew they used CGI, especially when the hoverplanes and other aspects were used. This was clearly inferior to Transformers and even the underwater fight scenes seemed to be borrowed from the Sky Captain ones. The director tried to add a human dimension with the interaction between the hero and the villainess, plus a family re-union, but the camaderie again was not in the same class as Spock versus Kirk.

We did have some comic relief in the side kick in the form of Rip-Cord and some sentimental moments throw in for good measure, plus a Korean star in the buff to please Asian fans. Yet with comparisons to recent hits, this one seems to have played itself out in the trailers where it seems that all the best parts were shown and there wasn’t really much more meat to the story.

Plot 3/5

As for the action, although it seems that this could be bass demo material, there was no real deep bass unlike Transformers again or Star Trek and there was not as much use of the surround channels for such an action driven modern movie.

Action: 3/5

Babe factor: this was not too shabby and this eye candy kicks butt too 3.5/5

So should you rush down to watch this, rent it and buy it too? Well for those fans of the GI Joe franchise there can be no doubt this is a seminal movie. Yet for the more neutral and perhaps a little jaded summer hit fan, this one does not hit the spot in the same way that Star Trek recently stirred the audience with a rousing reboot, good action and a decent plot plus excellent bass scenes.

Here everything seems a little less, or relatively not as good. It still deserves a go at the cinema or a rental, but I may pass on owning this.

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Ponyo

SPOILER ALERT

You could call this a Nemo meets Little Mermaid in Japanese and it would be fine. You could also call it a very simple love story that transcends age as the protagonists are 5 year olds (or at least one and a little goldfish). But the director Miyazaki who did works like “Spirited Away” has done well again to create a relatively simple and straight forward story that audiences from all age groups can enjoy, and then go back and watch it again for more nuances and detail, despite the simple story, which consists of a goldfish child of the sea wizard and the sea goddess who falls in love with a little boy and the story of how they get separated and re-united.

The animation is traditional 2 D here, no fancy Pixar CGI, yet, without the usual eye-popping colors and dimensions, you still get a good sense of movement and the imagination in the director’s mind.

Plot 4.5/5

Action : despite being an anime, with the DTS-ES equipped HK DVD, the surrounds are well used for ambience and when the tsunami comes, you get plenty of bass too. Not a bad effort, but the dialogue is the main thrust and it is clear and easy to follow. Note the Chinese version will be in SS 2.0. 3/5

Chick factor : being an anime, there is little of this, apart from the cuteness Ponyo and the feisty mum

Should you buy or rent or avoid this? – well, I recommend buying, and watching it alone, then with your kids or your partner. It has the depth and watching the lovely Ponyo in her exuberance as she rides the waves with the single objective of meeting her beloved young boy is a joy that transcends age and language barriers. Then watching the destruction trail behind her and the subsequent calmness and the strange fish in the water makes you feel like a child in a glass bottom boat again.

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The Apartment (1960)

I've been a bit of a Billy Wilder fan for awhile so watching this movie for the first time was an absolute pleasure. The Apartment is quintessential Wilder, the beautifully constructed sets, the sharp dialogue between the leads and the black humor are all present in great big dollops. The story structure will be familar to everyone who has watched a romantic comedy or two in the last decade. What sets this movie apart is subtly handling of the sometimes quite dark subject matter, adultery and suicide for example. It’s lifted considerably by the performances: Jack Lemmon as the hyperactive yes man and Shirley MacLaine brings alot of depth and likability to her character despite all the bad choices she makes throughout the film.

4/5 A sweet romance with near-perfect character development rounded out with a damn fine conclusion that doesn't feel the need to end with a happily-ever-after kiss.

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Up –uplifting the eyes, ears and heart - Movie review

Apart from some forgettable short films in the past, today is the first time I tried a 3-D movie and what better way to get introduced to this than a movie which has so many dimensions and stimulates your eyes, is a real sonic treat for the ears and stirs your heart all in an hour and a half. Throw in a great short film called Partly Cloudy to start it, and you will leave the cinema with a smile, guaranteed…

SPOILER ALERT

This movie is not your usual kiddie animation offering from Pixar, and whilst it retains the high quality productions bursting with rich colors, what makes it stand out, literally too, is the storyline. The 3 D is sharp, and the goggles offered were clean and effective in bringing out the effects. You could almost reach out and touch the characters on the screen. I was seated dead centre too, and I guess that helped.

But the heart and soul of this story of love, adventure and the relationship between a grumpy old man and the boy is a journey of discovery, where each person discovers happiness. It is a little darker than usual, with death and some violence with a more menacing moment at the tail end of the movie, which may disturb younger viewers, so I would not advocate leaving your kid in the cinema alone with this show.

It begins quite sadly and in a bittersweet start, the protagonist, Mr Fredrickson, meets the love of his life, grows old with her and loses her, all within the first 10 minutes of the show. They are seen to have never fulfilled their aim of visiting Paradise, in South America. This is despite his vow and 'crossing his heart'. We then see a panning shot which zooms out to show his old home surrounded by masses of re-development, which serves to juxtapose how old and left behind, and also alone he must feel.

Then cue the eager beaver boy scout boy Russell, which in a politically correct ploy, is either Korean or Asian, complete with cherubic red cheeks and overloaded to the hilt with modern technology but in a single-minded desire to gain that last badge which will allow him to get Senior Wilderness Scout status in the hope that his estranged father will come forth and pin that badge on him. The hints to separation and divorce and a splintered family are subtle and yet portray the settings of this movie in a modern and perhaps realistic setting where not everyone exists in a happy "Waltons" or "House on the Prairie" sort of world.

The unlikely duo journey to South America with the aid of a violent storm on a house floating with the help of balloons and meet the strange bird Kevin, the talking Dog Doug and the old man's idol who vowed never to return to civilization until he captures the bird. This twist on the Wizard of Oz theme with elements of self-discovery is new and yet turns to the old theme of finding oneself amidst adversity without seeming contrived and appeals to the viewer at many levels.

It isn't all serious, as the comic moments and the old guy, young kid contrast routine is nicely worked in with plenty of hilarious moments, interspersed between the more tender and serious ones.

The love story between the old man Carl and Ellie is also very tender and heart –warming, and even though they did not fulfil the aims of reaching South America together, the lives they lived together is filled with love, kindness and love. With references to an old song "Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey", sums up the feeling conveyed in the short lead up to the loss of the wife. They also make do with what they have, making their own "South America" in the jobs they do at the zoo. It is a testimony that it isn't important where the journey leads you, if you can go through the journey of life with someone you love.

Highly recommended, firstly as a show at the cinemas, as a keeper for the sound effects and most importantly, a storyline you will not tire of watching again, especially with a loved one.

Edited by petetherock

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The Long Kiss Goodnight

Renny Harlin made Die Hard and he tried his hand at making a female actioner, with much of the elements of that show into this, with a female protagonist instead. Despite its relatively poorer success at the box office, this has always been a nice movie to re-watch on a quiet evening, with its snappy lines and cool action scenes. There are few women who can look good while blowing away the villians and Geena Davis is one of them. A statuesque 6-footer, she exudes grace whilst being to look convincing as the spy/assasin Sam who develops amnesia but accidentally re-discovers her true identity and has to defend herself against former associates who wish to silence her to prevent their diabolical plans from being exposed.

The action is pretty relentless, and sometimes the plot does not make a lot of sense, nevertheless, this was never meant to be Oscar material and it fulfils the basic needs of an action movie with well choreographed action scenes and good chemistry betwen Geena and Samuel Jackson, who goes onto to Die Hard 3 later on, exuding the same taciturn and wry humor.

For those looking to make full use of their surround channels and sub, this show does not disappoint and despite its age, does well as a HT demo piece. With the countless explosions, you get plenty of sbwoofer workout and enough in the surround channels although not up to best current demo videos offer.

Action : 4/5

Plot: 3.5/5

Chick Factor: Geena Davis has been a looker ever since she stepped onto the silver screen, and she is a versatile actress, playing gutsy female baseball pitchers (League of their own), to thespian roles (Hero) and her action roles (Cutthroat Island and this) were well executed if not that well recieved. 3/5

Should you buy/rent/avoid this?

I reckon its a keeper and should be a real treat when it finally gets a Blu Ray release.

Edited by petetherock

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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The HP franchise is a behemoth which seems unable to do wrong. Despite being almost a decade in age, it comes to the 6th iteration of this series in strength, and it intends to keep old fans as well as recruit new ones with the main stars getting older and more risqué.

The setting is still the mystical castle and all the regular protagonists are still there, and you also start in the main hall, giving old fans some sense of familiarity. Kudos to the director that you do not need to have read the book to understand the plot. And for the fans who are waiting for more racy romance, well you have half and half… there are scenes of “snogging” but this is still a children’s turned teens movie at heart and you don’t get more risqué than that.

Yet the show has gone from a fluffy feel good movie to a much darker tone, with danger and death surrounding and there is the accompanying ambience. Fans of action and sound effects will not be too disappointed, and you are keep guessing who is the Half Blood Prince.

Readers should know that it is a first of a two part series, so the show ends quite abruptly.

So should you spring for this? Well, I reckon it is worth a viewing at least, but it did not stir me, but hey, I have not been a really big fan of this show. Worth a rent at least. 3/5

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The Ugly Truth

Rom-coms succeed on the basis of the chemistry of the 2 actors and also a decent plot. The actual twist and turns generate laughs if the 2 actors genuinely look like they are involved in a relationship or fall flat if the pair appear to be sleep walking through the movie.

The Ugly Truth is an in between movie. We have many attractive people in this, with Katherine Heigl looking to succeed Meg Ryans in the blond chick role and she jumps into her role with great aplomb, and gushes real enthusiasm in her role as a clueless but beautiful woman looking for love. She meet the rash, brash and crude Gerard Butler, who wants us to believe that beneath his grizzly stubble he has a heart of gold and is more than a faint copy of the old amorous Russell Crowe looking for another new conquest. There is the orthopedic surgeon who seems to be a 2 dimensional copy of what you see in American series like General Hospital – he is good looking to a painful point, sensitive and smiles with such a radiance, that you actually think all doctors look like that…

Gerard is better in action movies with a limited amount of dialogue, and he flounders here despite some attempts at looking charming. He does try to milk whatever roguish charm he can muster, but he is no James Bond nor is he Ryan Reynolds. So despite vibrating panties, hidden mikes and jello-filled baths with skimpy bikinis, I reckon this movie is just about worth a rental, not a purchase, unless you wish to see Katherine Heigls many times. 3/5

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Gokusen: The Movie

Nakama Yukie plays a high school teacher who has high aspirations to reform and make the best of the worst students. This may not sound like a lot, but the saccharine sweet nature, plus the idealism and energy of Nakama actually works and in this ideal world where words and deeds and a sincere heart move youngsters to reform, you actually get drawn in.

Forget the poorly coordinated fight scenes, despite her background as a scion of a Yakuza family, if action is what you are after, then keep looking or turn to those HK kungfu movies as Jap fight scenes are worse than Taiwanese ones from the 70s. this show relies heavily on dialogue and is sustained by the sheer exuberance of the protagonist. This is a movie version of the TV series and it follows on with the last season of the show, emulating other successful TV series in Japan who have made the transition from the small to the big screen.

There are rogue students, ex rogue students and plain rogues. Nakama is a real hottie and when you add some dashing young men (think F4) then you have the recipe for a show which will entice both men and women. This should be good for a rental and for those keen on all things Jap, you can’t really go wrong with this. Not in the same class as Hero (Kimura) or some of the best serials, but nevertheless, decent entertainment for a quiet afternoon, and will leave you with a certain feel good factor.

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Overheard (窃听风云)

This was a quiet suspense thriller that did not come out of the Johnny To production mill. Yet it had a good cast which combined well together. It was amusing to see Louis Koo trying to look aged with some silver in his hair, but the one who really looked older was Lau Ching Wan.

I had seen this on an aeroplane and seeing it again on DTS-MA 7.1 was a real treat. If nothing else, the folks in HKG working in the sound engineering department are fully exploiting the new lossless formats to their advantage in producing well-designed sound fields which envelop the audience in the movie adding to the suspense.

Lau, Koo and the relative newbie Daniel Wu are cops in a surviellance unit who decide to use something they overhear to profit. It leads to a serious of dire consequences and the movie is about how this plays out.

Chick factor: this is quite low unless you like lots of sounds and some rather tense women , but Zhang Jingchu does provide some nice eye candy.

So it is 3.5/5 for plot and sound, 3/5 for the chick factor and you might consider owning this if the suspense movie is your genre but it is definitely worth a rent at least.

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9 is a Perfect 10

Tim Burton does not make many ordinary movies. Even when he makes a movie about an apocalyptic event, he is able to put his personal touches to it and add mystery, terror and adventure all in the same plot.

Using cartoon animation instead of his previous work of stop action type animation, he is able to render rich colors and construct a world dominated by machines terrorizing the last few survivors created by a Professor. However this is not merely some recreation of Terminator Salvation and does not make you want to compare the product with James Cameron’s previous works. However the science and the surround effect is brilliant and this Blu Ray disc is a reference material disc. Sound quality and picture quality are all top notch and the DTS-MA 5.1 surrounds you with a world filled with details and the bass adds not only thump during explosions, but more importantly ambience and suspense.

There is plenty of action, but little by way of the chick factor.

It will take you more than one viewing to get the nuances of this movie, so I would say, this is a keeper.

Plot 4/5

Action 4/5

Surround 4.5/5

An early review:

http://www.highdefdiscnews.com/?p=32097

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Accident (意外)– a modern Greek tragedy

Johnny To has been doing well directed movies that have a strong storyline for more than a decade. He tends to stick with a similar crew and using this familiar team he has crafted numerous award winning productions.

This time the production centres around a team of assassins that relies on a series of events which appear to be mere coincidences on initial observation but are an elaborate plot to murder someone by channeling him into a certain area for the final “accident”, which takes away that person’s life, whilst taking extra effort to make it look like an accident.

The well oiled mechanism seems to be doing well until the latest job when things go awry and that’s how the story unfolds. Johnny To should be credited for using a less traditional assassin story arc and put a new spin on the series of coincidence / conspiracy / suspense genre. Kudos for that.

Yet the team of actors lets him down here, as their chemistry is certainly a notch below the usual bunch which did PTU and many others with him. Only Lam Suet is left of that bunch and he seems to be sleep-walking through this story.

Ultimately the originality of the story and the screenplay carry the movie, but with a change of the acting team, it could have been even better.

Plot: 3/5

Chick Factor: Michelle Ye is decent eye candy, but quite forgettable. 3/5

Action : this movie belongs more to the suspense thriller genre, so there is little by way of action and the surround effects don’t really stand out. Even the picture quality on Blu Ray is a notch down from the usual top drawer ones and you see grain, and dull colors with less attention to angles and surround construct.

I reckon this movie is worth a rental but it may not muster enough interest for a keeper.

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Sherlock Holmes is anything but elementary

2009 was a year of franchise reboots which allowed movies which have gone stale to get off to a new start. What better way to start 2010 than with a successful reboot of one of the oldest.

History affords us wisdom and 20/20 insight into what makes for a successful plot and a great movie. You have a good buddy partnership to kick things off, a good old cop theme, with a suspense thriller thrown in, spice things up with a sexy yet spunk maiden, add lots of gadget or intriguing science and finally bring it into the 21st century with a bang, or rather, lots of them.

This same mix has worked well for movies as diverse as can be, from Lethal Weapon, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Austin Powers to even McGuyver.

Guy Ritchie is Brit and has done some snappy movies, and he carries his signature style of fast flashbacks, tight editing peppered with good action sequences in between. Traditionalists may baulk at having Downey JR as Holmes, and the portrayal has him as more of an eccentric with flashes of brilliance, yet apart from updating him into more of an action man, Guy actually retains much of the old characteristics of sharp observer skills honed into good old fashioned detective skills, and he is aided by an also updated Watson, who is erstwhile a doctor and has a limp, but is a more lean (pun intended) version who can trade punches alongside Holmes instead of merely bumbling along. I did not like the ills of gambling, but along with the untidiness of Holmes, all this is some means in which Guy tries to humanize these two characters which have long acquired legendary status.

Although having an American as Holmes, especially one with an unconvincing British accent, Downey handles the part adroitly and he has genuine chemistry with Jude Law which bodes well for a sequel, which I am quite sure there will be one as the ending leaves no doubt of that. But no movie is complete without a strong villain and a good plot, and what better person than the sinister and menacing Mark Strong, in a story that has dark magic, take over the world plots, a resurrection to bring back to life an old franchise. Add a lead lady who is not unlike Michelle Yeoh in James Bond, and you have a sexy lady who can handle the kicks and punches gamely whilst still able to look bootelicious.

The surround mix was also very good and with action sequences helping the already good plot along, you have action, chick factor, and good effects, which all combine to help make this a real keeper. At least 4/5 on all front. Highly recommended.

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Sherlock Holmes is anything but elementary

2009 was a year of franchise reboots which allowed movies which have gone stale to get off to a new start. What better way to start 2010 than with a successful reboot of one of the oldest.....

The surround mix was also very good and with action sequences helping the already good plot along, you have action, chick factor, and good effects, which all combine to help make this a real keeper. At least 4/5 on all front. Highly recommended.

Saw this just after Christmas and enjoyed it. - No need to reiterate what Pete said.

If you like Guy Richie - you'll like this (although he needs to keep the formula fresh otherwise it'll date quickly).

4 stars.

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Avatar review

Right, lets get this over with, and get to the ratings. I gave this 8/10 for the CGI, the sound effects and the whole 3D presentation. Truly James Cameron is the master of big blockbuster hits which have spanned stuff like Titanic, Abyss, True Lies, Terminator I & II, but I also gave the movie 4/10 for the story. So now for the details…

3D is 2010’s new fangled way of seducing movie goers back to the big screen, just as franchise re-boots were the order of the day in 2009. as DVDs and Blu Ray become more pervasive, it can be almost as good to watch your favorite movie in the comforts of your home, especially if you possess a kick-ass surround system. However current technology will not come anywhere close to the kind of eye-popping effects that a jaunt to the cinema with 3D will provide.

So for the good stuff first. Cameron has spared no expense to create a whole new world, the screen is filled with vibrant colors, and there are ambient surround effects emanating from all parts of the cinema, adding a real sonic experience to the movie. The bass was actually weaker than I expected, and did not meet the levels experienced during Star Trek or Transformers II, which were at the top of their game, but even UP had a better bass sound track.

Even so, the CGI employ almost makes the holes in the plot bearable and for those who just want to experience 3D, without caring much for the plot, then they can do a lot worse than this show.

And indeed you really have to suspend your disbelief. You really need to switch off any brain cells to go with the flow.

Its '1492' meets 'Dances with Wolves' meets 'Eragon' meets 'Pocahontas' meets 'New World' meets.... well you get the idea that Mr Cameron is a master of CGI and using Weta was a stroke of genuis but he should really hire someone way better to get a better story. The story is meant to be simply I assume, to showcase his 3D wizardry, but as in many of these action movies, it borrows or to be more accurate, cuts and pastes the storyline out of other plots, almost as though Cameron had a digital storyboard in his lap and was googling for ideas online then adding elements from other movies to conjure up this movie. The whole catch your own Banshee thing and mating with just one was lifted right out of Eragon, and the white man meets natives bit, complete with CGI faces of the Navi (which also sounds American Indian) and the Indian accents, all come from previous movies of which ‘1492’, ‘Dances’, and 'Pocahontas' are just a few famous examples.

However fans of 3D and Avatar will be quick to forgive such shortcoming and indeed there is plenty of action, some humor and the spectacle of 3D to keep them happy. Things really pop out from the screen although for people like me with small noses and spectacles it became a struggle over the length of the movie to keep the 3D glasses in place.

Producers of the next 3D movie will have it harder, as the novelty wears off and we examine the plot more closely. Take “UP”, that is my current gold standard. It combines humor, action and the 3D is a bonus rather than the main thrust of the movie. Directors will do well to take a page out of that show.

4/10 for plot. Overall, 5.5/10.

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Avatar review

4/10 for plot. Overall, 5.5/10.

Way harsh IMHO (gave it an overall 8.5/10), but am here to comment on another new release: DAYBREAKERS

Went to see Daybreakers with a group of friends last week. Found the premise interesting. Futuristiic - vampire ridden - survival instinct/greed/conform or get out type flavour!

Spent many moments with my head buried in the seat averting the onscreen gore fest. After half-way, decided to enjoy the corny sections of the film, and once I did that, had a lot of trouble not seeing it as a comedy/spoof type film. Would have liked to see it done in a lot more minimalist fashion - without the copious amounts of on-screen blood, guts and violence. Would have played out much better with "less" rather than "more".

Like I mentioned earlier, great premise, but executed in a raw and amateur style.

Overall: 5/10

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