Reviews Outsourced


(Image source: http://fabe-lous.blogspot.com)

I started blogging in 2005 – it seems to be “in” thing back then

I started blogging mainly because I wanted an avenue to put my thoughts in writing and improve on my mastery of English (I am still trying). And along the way, I have picked something on presentation, html and coding. Blogging also became a mean of communication between me and my wife when I had to travel overseas.

Then one day, I took a step back and had a hard look at my blog. Surely it was not a specialized blog – it had too many things in it, often driven by my mood, news of the day or simply, the country I was in. I often bring along my camera wherever I go and over the years, my photo collection has been growing too. I have put up some of the photos in the main blog but often it is presented as the “side story” and in smaller resolutions. I had to have a dedicated site for the photos. So, a year later my photo blog was born. It was going great for sometime – yes it has been sometime since I last update it but at least, my blogging on photos will be focused on dedicated site instead of cluttering in my already multi-themed posts main blog.

And over the years, a few more blogs have born (some remains stagnant now) – mainly because I wanted to write on certain things but I do not want it to be mixed up in my main blog posts.

Since I need to travel often and sometimes I end up going to places where there is no entertainment or cable TV (or beer), I often had to bring my own “entertainment” to keep my sanity up (it is either that or bring along a captivating computer games). And traveling also means I spend most of my free time watching movies – mostly via cable TV or when that is not possible, from cheap DVDs and movie files. It is one of the best ways to kill time – watching a good movie is almost as good as reading a good book, almost. And in the last few months, I have noticed that my collection of music, movies, documentaries and animations have been slowly growing too. And it is easier these days to transport it from a “space hungry” discs into a small file that can be stored away in an external hard disc instead of in a cabinet.

And out of the many, on the contrary I have done a very few reviews in my main blog. Reasons for this is rather simple – 1. There is already less time for me to do write-ups for more critical issues (like this) for the main blog, what more on posts on a lesser critical posts like movie reviews, and 2. While I like the diversity in my blog posts, given the number of the movie I watched during my free time, I do not want the main blog to be dominated by movie reviews alone.

Clearly I was running behind on my reviews especially when there are some unknown movies simply that blow you away. But faced with the same dilemma that I had with my photos, I don’t want to have too many movie reviews to clog up my main blog, it was clear that I need to “outsource” again – this time to a dedicated site for English movie reviews (includes others like documentaries, animations and concerts) and another for Tamil movie reviews.

To kick things up, head over here for review on the movie Buried (2010) and here for review on Tamil movie Vaanam (2011)

I hope to do up more reviews soon, now that there is a better place to do up the reviews as compared to previous time and also to distract the focus from the headache that one had when had to content with the issues facing the country and the future generation. And with an unexpected “break” in my daily routines this month, it gives good opportunity to catch up my previous “should have done, should have watched” reviews. Comments and suggestions on the review sites are always welcomed, of course.

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Movie Review: The Next Three Days


(Poster source: http://dischordmusic.blogspot.com)

If you are looking out for a good movie to watch, remember this name – Paul Haggis

The twice Oscar award winning screenwriter & director has done it again with “The Next Three Days” (TNTD) and if you thought “Crash” was damn good, it gets even better in this movie.

The summarized synopsis is as follows:-

Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) is convicted of murdering her boss after an altercation at work. Following the failure of her appeal, Lara’s husband John Brennan (Russell Crowe), a professor at a community college, becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her out of jail after attempts for appeal looked bleak, while their son Luke ceases to acknowledge her during their prison visits.

John consults Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), a former convict who successfully escaped from prison seven times. Damon advises John to study the prison, saying “every prison has a key”.

John contemplates several ideas that don’t pan out and is defeated more than once, but latches onto a solid plan and the necessary paperwork after some painful efforts. John falsifies and plants blood work results indicating that his wife is in a state of hyperkalemia, and she is transferred to the hospital. He follows the ambulance and helps her to escape although she is doubtful and reluctant, motivated only by the idea of her son being without either parent.

With the police getting some lucky breaks, they are hot on John and Lara’s trail through a series of chases. At the end of the film, the family is safe in Venezuela. It is also revealed that Lara is indeed innocent.

(Source)

The movie itself is a remake of a 2008 French film titled “Pour Elle”. In essence, the movie is about a husband getting his innocent wife out from jail and keeping the family close – a welcome depart from the usual story of “former special forces” convicts making the break from some high security lock down.

Paul Haggis however narrates it in a rather interesting manner – it starts with the fact that Lara Brennan is having problems with her boss. Lara finds blood on her jacket and the next thing the family knows, the police barges in and arrests her for the charge of murder. At first, the family tries to go by the legal way by filing appeals to overturn the conviction but nothing worked to an extent, Lara tries to commit suicide. It is then, John Brennan (excellently played by Russell Crowe) knows that there is only one thing to do – he needs to break his wife from jail. And this is where the story really starts.

How John Brennan plans and finally executes his plan to get his wife from jail is brilliantly shown in this movie. Paul Haggis was careful, not to rush on things and tells the story on a rather proper pace – from John Brennan doing up his research and trying rather clumsily, failed in his earlier attempts to finally turning out to be professional and precision in his execution, down to the very last second of the plan.

Small things in story telling certainly make big impact and you need to keep an eye for these small things such as:-

1. John Brennan almost getting caught trying to open a door using tips he picked up from the internet but maintains his cool when the authorities question him and immediately as he comes out of the building, go to the side and start vomiting.

2. The prison chief questioning John Brennan and he knows that John Brennan is lying and he tells John Brennan that having both parents in prison is not going to help their son and waits for John Brennan’s reaction. The prison chief finally lets him go.

3. Within minutes to spare to get their son from the zoo, John Brennan decides to take the other route to avoid road blocks, whilst promising his wife that he will try to get their son somehow, not realizing that his wife had opened the door and decided to jump out from the moving car, causing near misses. After managing to stop by the road side, both John Brennan and his wife sit down to catch up on their breath before heading back to the zoo to get their son.

4. The way John Brennan throws the police off guard on whether they might to heading is brilliant – you have to see it to believe. At first, we too lead to think that the plan on the way is John Brennan’s main plan but in the end, that plan tells two different story.

5. John Brennan’s aged father discovering airplane tickets for 3 the night before John Brennan plans to break out his wife from the prison. He knows that he is going to see his son and his grandson for the last time but keeps the secret to himself, not letting his wife know about it. The next morning, John Brennan and his father look at each other – you can see it in their eyes that they know this is the end

6. John Brennan unable to raise enough money in time decides to rob a couple of drug dealers, almost getting killed in the process. The house get burned down and John Brennan managed pull out one of the younger drug dealer who been shot by his own friend and as he drives out with this dying man, all you hear is the cries of pain and then it becomes silent.

Deeply entrenched in this “husband breaks wife from prison and escapes” is a story of a husband still believing in his wife despite the odds and his wife’s lost of faith that things will get better. There is also a story of a father who wants to keep his family intact and as one. There is also a story of a mother losing her communication with her young son who had become distanced after she was arrested.

Similar in the movie “Crash”, Paul Haggis managed to inter-twine the sub-stories into one seamless movie. Russell Crowe who won best actor award in the Oscars for the movie Gladiator is at the very best here. He is just a simple school teacher who drives a hybrid car to work (which also caused some confusion when the police start investigation and wonders jokingly which hard-core criminal is environment conscious). He is not good with fights, often on edge of desperation and simply one of us.

A worthy movie for year 2010…

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Tron: Legacy


This is one movie that looks very tempting to watch over the weekends…

(The blueprint on paper – good enough for a large wallpaper for the living room – all images source: Fast Company. Copyright Disney)

(This must be one of the slickest bikes ever – especially with cool blue lights and shiny, all around surface – all images source: Fast Company. Copyright Disney)

From Fast Company:-

When Tron Legacy comes out in theaters, it’ll be one of the most expensive movies ever made. But it isn’t being directed by James Cameron or Michael Bay or Peter Jackson. It’ll actually be a first-time feature for Joseph Kosinski–who didn’t train as a film-maker. Instead, he went to grad-school for architecture at Columbia; after that, he founded a Web-design firm, of all things.

But what make the new movie more interesting would be the revised CGI (after Avatar, we have entered a whole new dimension in CG & FX) and the new design of the iconic Light Cycle.

I saw the original Tron movie a couple of times and the central point of the movie would be duel in the Light Cycle arena.

In fact the whole Tron movie was ahead of it’s time – it was made in the late 1970s and one of the few that toyed with virtual world way before internet was something that most of us cannot live without. It is also one that talked about hackers and how computer defenses acts to stop the intrusion to the system.

Tron: Legacy opens tomorrow….

Anti Piracy Pirates


One of the best jokes around…

As you all know Rajini’s latest movie – Enthiran has been released (read the seedy review here).

It has been said that this is one of the most expensive movie to be produced by the Indians. And due to this and to the main actor’s die hard fans, there seems to be a dedicated effort to stamp out piracy. After all, in the age of Internet, broadband, torrents, file sharing sites and plenty of cheap external hard space, watching the latest movie in crystal clear copy is not something hard to get.

Remember several years ago when the pirates (in good old Malaysia) even “release” Steven Spielberg’s movie in night markets even before the movie was completed? So, with this expensive movie, the producers must be biting their nails to get back their huge investments with a loadful profit too and free downloads (whilst may not stop genuine movie goers from watching it in the cinemas) may create small dent on their profit margin.

So, the fans (and probably the producers) came up with a brilliant idea – to report those links that is providing illegal downloads and to block and stop the download. And they have been successful to some extent – the more established file sharing sites like Rapidshare and Megaupload have taken note and have taken the files out from their servers. But the pirates have enough sites from where they can host the files and open up for download.

But here is best joke of all – the links from where the pirates are hosting the illegal files are being identified and kind of “promoted” by…..the very fans who wanted to report them and stop the illegal downloads (although some sites have managed to cover this loophole after the initial blunder). Talk about irony of things!

P.s. as for me, I am waiting for at least a month before watching the movie in cinema (to get best seats without the crowd) unless my son get the better of me and get me to get the tickets early….

Read Also

DVD Ripping

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Tamil Movie Review: Pasanga


(The main characters in the movie – Image source: http://nowrunning.com)

I used to hate Tamil movies…

Ya, they had great music and if you throw in Sivaji Ganesan and Kamalahasan, great acting too but one thing I hated the most was the storyline. There is no logic explanation on how one hero can take on 20 or so armed gangsters and still come out alive or how a very beautiful girl from a very rich family loves a hardcore gangster from the slum on the very first day.

But in recent times, Tamil movie makers seems to have rediscovered something that been missing for a long time now in the industry – a sensible and logic storyline – a point that was well made when I saw Pandiraj directed, Sasikumar produced, award winning Pasanga. That movie simply blew me away with its simplicity and one of the best storyline involving children.

The Plot

The story starts with a group of men going to the police station to complain about 3 young boys who been creating havoc in their village. One of them, Jeeva is also the son of a strict teacher in the local school, Nithyanandam. Life becomes a nightmare for Jeeva when Anbu’s father (Anbu is the hero in this movie) decided to move out from their old village and moves to the house opposite of Nithyanandam’s house.

On the very first day, Anbu gets into a fight with Jeeva who earlier had intended to bully Anbu. Anbu finds himself in the same class with Jeeva and where the teacher is none other Nithyanandam. Anbu who is kind hearted, strive to befriend Jeeva but Jeeva, angry with Anbu’s success just wanted to get even with Anbu (how he does it is funny too). Without realizing the impact of the fight with Anbu, Jeeva slowly changes – he started to dress well and improves on his studies (with intent to outsmart Anbu in studies), to much delight of his father / teacher, Nithyanandam. However, the fight between Anbu and Jeeva eventually spills over to a fight between the two families with Jeeva’s father intend in chasing away Anbu’s family from the rented house facing his house.

Interwined with the main story of Anbu & Jeeva, is 2 other stories – Anbu’s uncle relationship with Jeeva’s elder sister and the fight between Anbu’s parents. The turning point comes when Anbu’s parents fight gets worse and Anbu’s mother asks for a divorce. The fight is overheard by Jeeva who spreads it at school; with intend to embarrass Anbu to the maximum. Both Jeeva’s and Anbu’s fathers decided to talk things over and things starts to improve for both family (Anbu’s uncle even gets engaged with Jeeva’s elder sister) but the fight between Anbu and Jeeva did not let down until Anbu meets with a tragic accident.

Storyline

The story is pretty simple – it is nothing that we are not unfamiliar with in real life (and movies) but at the end of the day, what we need to ask is whether there is a lesson to be learned after watching the movie. Yes, movies are nothing but a mode of entertainment but if it is packed with the right message, movies can be a very powerful medium for betterment of life.

Acting

On the onset, the premise has been set that the main characters in this movie would be the children. The adults in the movie play the supporting role. And despite having a heavy role to play, the children excelled in their acting, so much so you would think that there is a real fight between Anbu and Jeeva.

One of the interesting things that were portrayed in this movie is the children’s imagination. Anbu imagine himself as a self-defence expert, someone driving a car or as someone who is riding a brand new motorcycle. I still recall myself imagining driving a bus (Toong Fong bus in particular) when I was still small and was staying in my grandma’s house.

Music

My pick – Anbaale Azhagagum Veedu (sang by veteran singer, Dr. Balamuralikrishna) is simply brilliant – both in lyrics and in picturisation. It comes in after Anbu’s parents reconciled and things started to get better for both Anbu and Jeeva (other than their fight, of course).

One of the heartening moments in the song is where Anbu’s father would be outside a shop and sees his son running to the school, imagining that he is riding a motorbike. Anbu’s father decides to buy a bicycle for Anbu, making his wish to come true and making him in par with Jeeva who already had bicycle and been teasing Anbu on this.

The background music especially the violin is well deployed at the right time – like when Anbu is being teased in the classroom by Jeeva on the fight between Anbu’s father and mother – we share the pain faced by Anbu.

Final say

The plus points: Storyline, acting and music (especially the main song)

The negative points: The love scenes between Anbu’s uncle and Jeeva’s elder sister should have been kept to the minimum

(Click here for other movie reviews)

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WW2 Movies


iwo_jima

(The last major war around the world at the same time – World War 2. Image source: http://www.buchanan.org)

World War 2 was the last major conflict that we have faced and we all dread the start of World War 3 (which could mean end of mankind or worse, the planet earth).

I like history and I have collection of books and magazines on the subject at home but nothing portrays the event better than seeing them on movies. Over the years, we have been “bombarded” with many types of war movies and mini-series ranging from ancient wars (like “300” and “Braveheart”), World Wars (both 1 & 2), Vietnam Wars (still remember “Platoon”, “Full Metal Jacket” or “Apocalypse Now”?) and all the way to galactic war in a galaxy, far, far away (my favorite – “Star Wars”)

If you are looking for World War 2 movies for your collection, I strongly recommend these (in no particular order):-

1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

It is a must have in anyone’s collection for a simple reason – the first 10 minutes of slaughter on the Omaha Beach. Steven Spielberg managed to capture the reality of the slaughter of the Allied forces by the German defenses on the beach head with pin point accuracy.

(The start of the slaughter – even before the Marines steps on the beach – highly riveting and a pure adrenaline rush)

And if you watched the “The Making of Saving Private Ryan”, you will appreciate the movie makers’ painstaking effort to make a movie that is more documentary-alike than a normal colorful movie. The boots that the actors wore in the movie is made by the same company that made the boots for the US soldiers during World War 2.

This movie also spurred the 2 excellent HBO mini-series – “Band of Brothers” (the war against the Germans) and “The Pacific” (the war against the Japanese) – another must have in your collection.

Must watch scene: The landing on the Omaha Beach and if you have the right “hardware”, listen to the best sound recording ever made (bullets literally flies from right to the left). The movie won 2 Oscars for sound alone.

2. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

If you feel that you have not enough of the slaughter of the Americans on the Omaha Beach in “Saving Private Ryan”, then this is the movie for you. Clint Eastwood directed this movie of the Americans landing on Japanese controlled Iwo Jima and the slaughter here is more dramatic than of “Saving Private Ryan”.

(The landscape coupled with the intense fighting & slaughter of the Americans makes this movie one notch up against Saving Private Ryan’s Omaha Beach battle scene )

The Americans are more exposed here and despite massive firepower from the supporting naval ships (impressively shown), the Japanese defenders had the upper hand.

Besides the story of the Americans fighting to take over Iwo Jima, there is another story in this movie – about the second flag planted on Iwo Jima (and went on to be more famous than the first flag) and the American soldiers who went on a freak roadshow once they reached America. They felt betrayed and humiliated.

Must watch scene: The movie has 2 parts in it – the soldier’s battle against the Japanese on Iwo Jima and another “battle” against the “many who did not understand” in America. The part on the actual battle on Iwo Jima is a must watch – it is so real and perfect.

Watch out for part early in the movie when the men on the ships start cheering for the passing fighter planes and one of them falls down into the water. The men on ship are then told that no ship will stop to pick that man up.

3. The Pianist (2002)

If you are Jew, earmarked for extermination by the German in Warsaw, Poland, you need to watch this Oscar winning, based on true story movie on how the famous Polish Jewish pianist, Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody won an Oscar for this role) who went from a famous musician to an on-the-run Jew and made it alive till the end of the war.

(One of the best scenes in the movie, a cold and hungry Władysław Szpilman facing a German officer in an abandoned building)

The movie, directed by Roman Polanski (who won an Oscar for Best Director) revolves on Jews in Poland, how they were forced to move to German controlled Jewish settlement away from the rest of the citizens and then systematically executed.

There is one scene where Szpilman together with fellow Jewish workers get ready to go to work when they are stopped by a German officer. The officer picks several men randomly, asks them to lie down on the road and proceed to shoot them on the head. He runs of bullet when he reached the last man – he stops, takes his time to reload and shoots the last man on the head.

Must watch scene: Władysław Szpilman cold and hungry, decides to take his chances and go out to look for food and find a can of food in an abandoned building. And when he was about pry it open, the can falls down, rolls down the floor and stops at the feet of a German officer who surprisingly instead of shooting Szpilman on the spot, asked Szpilman to play the piano. After listening to Szpilman playing, the officer leaves and Szpilman immediately breaks down and cry.

4. Schindler’s List (1993)

The movie that was not shown in the cinemas in Malaysia after our local censorship board decided that there were too much nudity and wanted to cut down the scenes – something Steven Spielberg did not agree. How sad – the movie is a master piece – it went on to win 7 Oscars including Best Picture.

(The children in the Jewish camp being taken away by the truckloads with their parents crying by the side helplessly)

This movie looked at the darker side of the World War 2 where Nazi Germany executed the Jews without a care for the fellow human being and how a German businessman who first desired by money and greed, changes his mind and decides to help to save thousands of them into safety.

The movie was shot entirely in black and white and that creates a unique “aura” watching this movie.

Must watch scene: The Jews in the concentration camp is stripped naked and is rounded up for the final extermination as trucks carried away the children in the camp – the agony of the parents who being held on the other end of the camp is unspeakable.

Watch out for the ending when the real survivors of Oskar Schindler are shown side by side with the actors who portrayed them in the movie (with John Williams’ background music).

5. Patton (1970)

The opening scene of the movie when General George S Patton (acted superbly by George C Scott) gives one of the best motivating speech is a must watch.

(This image is now iconic and the monologue delivered is one of the classics)

The movie portrays the famed Third Army US General who went head to head with British’s Field Marshall Montgomery on who made the most advance in the war torn Europe. Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote the screenplay for this movie.

The movie is about the man, not the war so it does gives an interesting perceptive on one of the finest tank commander in the US Army during World War 2. He was the soldier’s soldier and who gave no heed on politicians and soft diplomacy. That is where he got into trouble and often taken out from the limelight of war by his commanders.

The movie won 7 Oscars which included Best Actor award for George C Scott (which he refused – first actor to do so).

Must watch scene: Other than the opening scene, memorable scenes includes the part where General Patton visits a medical camp and confronts a soldier who been admitted because he was scared. Patton (who earlier overwhelmed by seriously injured soldier) gets so furious with this “yellow bastard” that he pulls his revolver to shoot him but was stopped by the doctors in time.

Other memorable mention includes “The Great Escape”, “The Bridge on River Kwai”, “The Longest Day”, “Das Boots” and “Life is Beautiful”.

Any other suggestions?

Toy Story 3


We’ve done our duty. Andy’s grown up (Andy’s soldier toys before parachuting out from the Andy’s room window)

toy story

(Can you identify the new toys in this latest sequel? There are evil ones in the bunch. Poster source: http://www.comingsoon.net)

When Toy Story 3 was first mentioned on TV, one of the very first people to take note of it was my son. He asked me to mark the release date down and since then he has been shopping for Toy Story related colouring books, stickers and “Where is Wally?” kind of books.

He reminds me to buy tickets for the movie on almost daily basis. And I knew that whenever a much anticipated movie is released in Malaysia, one can rest assure that the tickets would be fully booked at least for the first week. But with my son checking on the calendar on the release date, I was not that keen to “postpone” the viewing to a later date (when there will be less people and we can get good seats). We did not want to disappoint the big boss. I asked my wife whether she can take him to watch on weekdays when most of the parents are at work. She was free but something came up and we had to cancel the plan to take the “big boss” to watch Toy Story 3 on weekdays.

We decided to watch it on Sunday (don’t ask how we got to Sunday) where we definitely need to tussle with other parents for the available tickets.

We reached the cinema quite early (about 11 in the morning) and were shocked to see a long queue. “What the….” statement ran in our minds when we saw the queue. At this juncture, you might wanted to ask me about online reservation but you see, I don’t trust GSC’s level of security for their online ticket reservation – for why, read here and here

We then noticed that most of the people queuing up were Indians and then we realised that Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan was also being released on the same week. Things were looking more promising – perhaps there was enough distraction to keep those people away from Toy Story 3 tickets but we were wrong. We queued up but when we reached the counter, we realised that the 11.45 am and 2.45 pm show was almost sold out. We did not want to sit too near to the screen so I decided to buy tickets for the 5.00 pm show. Although we could not get seats at the back for the 5.00 pm show (most of it was on reserve), we managed to get good seats at the front (not too near to the screen).

The show was at 5.00 pm but for now, it was still morning – so we decided to head back to the house. My son was not happy about it – he was worried that the movie may start any time and he was worried that we may not be around for it. He gave his usual sad, cute face but we did not fall in to his demands. There was no way we were going to loiter around the cinema lobby for 5 hours! Besides, the boss need to take a haircut before the start of school and we suddenly had plenty of time for it.

After haircut and a good lunch, we came back at about 4.30 pm and at 5.00 pm, were allowed to enter. The show started late (at almost 5.15 pm) and those fuckers who reserved large number of seats at the back, in the end, did not turn up. We decided not to move up to those empty seats to watch the show as our current seats was enough to provide comfortable viewing.

So, you may ask – how was Toy Story 3?

Basically it was a well made sequel – another “escape from somewhere back to Andy” storyline but with a better CGIs and funnier punch lines (special effects just getting better and better). There are new toys as well in the movie – new toys mean new villains (just like Stinky Pete in Toy Story 2). In the end, as Andy has grown up and it is unlikely he will be playing with the kiddie’s toys any more, Andy’s toys ends up as Bonnie’s toys (probably opening whole new variation for future sequels).

Oh, p.s. – there is an opening animation titled “Day & Night” before the main story starts – it was good.

Final say

The plus points: Brilliantly made sequel

The negative points: Nothing major (boring re-use the same “toys need to go back to Andy” plot, maybe)

(Click here for other movie reviews)