X-Men: Not As Apocalyptic As I Had Hoped

May 23, 2016 at 9:15 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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(SPOILER WARNING: This movie review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!)

I had so much expectations for the latest installment of the X-Men movie franchise. Ever since I learned in 2014 that Apocalypse would be the main villain in the next X-Men movie, I got really excited. Apocalypse was the one X-Men villain that I really loved to hate. While I didn’t read much of its comics version when I was a kid, I did love the cartoons. And I always loved every episode where Apocalypse was involved. He was a formidable villain that the X-Men could not beat easily.

X-Men_Apocalypse poster

It is rather unfortunate, though, that X-Men: Apocalypse did not live up to my expectations. Sure I liked the movie enough, but it did not leave me in awe when I left the cinema. While the CGI was stunning as expected from a blockbuster superhero movie, the action sequences were a bit muddled. There was too much going on that it was hard to keep up with the story and the characters.

I was expecting more depth from Apocalypse but there was really no solid merit in his arguments to wipe out the world and the entire population. It was a typical trope that I’ve seen so many times in other movies and TV shows. And I was left confused on why Storm, Psylocke and Angel would want to team up with Apocalypse.

Speaking of these three characters, they were underutilized in this movie. All they did most of the time was to stand around Apocalypse. There was no character development. I’ve seen in interviews on TV that Olivia Munn supposedly had an intense martial arts training in preparation for her role as Psylocke. But I did not see much of that in the movie. Her action sequences were very limited, and so were Angel’s.

Magneto, Apocalypse and Psylocke

Quicksilver’s slow-mo scene – while amusing – was a less impressive repeat of his widely-loved slow-mo scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s mainly a fan service, nothing more. His revelation that he was the son of Magneto was an anti-climax and wasn’t explored much in the movie.

I also have a gripe about Jean Grey meeting Wolverine for the first time in 1983. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I remember from the movie franchise, Wolverine did not meet Jean Grey until that very first X-Men film. And am I supposed to believe that their age gap was really that wide?

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey was likable enough. I liked the fact that the movie hinted on her alter ego – the Dark Phoenix, and that her powers were strong enough to defeat Apocalypse. Hopefully the next X-Men movie will focus on Dark Phoenix and do justice to that storyline. I hated X-Men: The Last Stand for the way the writers treated that story on Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix.

Apocalypse and Mystique

Towards the end of X-Men: Apocalypse, audiences were shown Mystique training the young Jean Grey, Storm, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler and preparing them to be the X-Men that they would become. Here’s the thing. I did not buy this at all. It didn’t sit well with me. I mean, Mystique was supposed to be a villain in the first place. If there was someone who’d train the future X-Men, it would be some other older mutant, not Mystique. But I guess the writers wanted to focus on Jennifer Lawrence’s character and make her a potential leader of the X-Men because, hey, she’s an Academy Award winner.

I miss Rebecca Romijn and Famke Janssen. To me, they are still the better versions of Mystique and Jean Grey, respectively. And Rogue is clearly missing in this movie. Maybe she’ll make an appearance in the Gambit movie – if that is still happening.

All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse lacked the substance and cohesiveness of its predecessor X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Ignorance is Bliss

May 15, 2016 at 1:21 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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Here’s a rather morbid thought: Would you want to know how and when you will die or would you rather let it happen unexpectedly? Do you want to be caught by surprise when it happens? At least this is the question that the movie, The Surprise poses to viewers.

The Surprise is a Dutch film by Mike van Diem and stars Jeroen van Koningsbrugge and Georgina Verbaan. It’s currently showing at a local cinema. Although I do wonder why it is just being locally released now since the movie is from last year.

The Surprise

Anyway, I liked the movie simply because it’s a quirky, dark comedy with a heart. It tells the story of Jacob – a multimillionaire aristocrat who is lonely and wants to end his life. After a few failed suicide attempts, he stumbles on a secret company that offers a one-way ticket to the afterlife. The company caters to customers who want to end their life for whatever reason and offers them several options on how they want to die. Jacob chooses the “Surprise” option, which means he cannot know when or how he is going to die. All the company promises him is that it will be soon.

However, he meets a female customer at the company who also takes the “Surprise” option. Jacob soon falls in love with her and now wants to delay his passing. Unfortunately, the contract he signed with the company prevents him from doing so. What happens next is a hilarious tale of dodging bullets, following family obligations, and greedy lawyers.

The Surprise is a lighthearted movie that shows how one chooses to live his life no matter the tragedies that might have fallen on him.

I miss these kinds of movies because it’s so different from the usual romantic comedies that Hollywood keep on making.

Things Are Not What They Seem

April 5, 2016 at 9:30 AM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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“Power belongs to the people that take it.”

This could very well sum up what Elliot Alderson is trying to do. He wants to save the world from debt, corporate greed and consumerism by taking power from the “top 1% of the top 1%.” He wants to close the gap between rich and poor. He wants equal wealth distribution. He wants to protect the people he cares about from the social and economic ills of the world. And he does this one hack at a time.

And so this is the story of Elliot – the main character in the US hit TV show Mr. Robot. I’ve heard many good reviews about this show which debuted last year. I’m glad I finally watched the entire first season last week. Mr. Robot is now my instant favorite. I was hooked right from the start.

Mr. Robot poster

The writing in this show is exceptional and brilliant, and Elliot is such an interesting character. He works as a tech engineer in Allsafe Cybersecurity – a company that protects corporations from data breach and viruses. At least that’s what he does during the day. At night, he’s a hacker who hacks just about everybody – his friends, coworkers, clients, girlfriend, and even his psychiatrist.

To him, hacking these people is a way to find any dirt and wrongdoings they did and use that against them. In the case of his friends, he hacks them so he can protect them from the bad people. Elliot especially hates corporations who monopolize the market for their own greedy and selfish needs. His personal advocacy of ridding the world of greed and corruption leads him to team up with a mysterious man known only as “Mr. Robot.” This mysterious man is the leader of a secret hacker group called F Society – a group very much like the real-life Anonymous.

Mr-Robot_F-ckSociety

Although there were times when I couldn’t follow the dialogue because it’s all in techspeak, which only computer programmers and systems engineers could understand, I still enjoyed every episode immensely. What makes Mr. Robot interesting is that the story has many twists and turns, and the main characters are intriguing – from Elliot himself, to “Mr. Robot,” Tyrell and his wife Joanna, and of course the very mysterious White Rose who is the leader of another hacker group in China. Elliot is perfectly portrayed by Rami Malek. He delivers a fantastic performance in every episode. Christian Slater as “Mr. Robot” is just as good. I haven’t seen him in movies or TV for years and to see him again on screen is refreshing.

Elliot and Mr. Robot

Photo credit: fastcocreate.com

After watching the first season, I’m left with more questions than answers. I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not anymore. Things are not what they seem. That’s how good this show is. It makes you think. Just when you think you figured it out, it comes up with another surprise. To those looking for a new and different show to watch, Mr. Robot is a must-see.

BvS Packs a Lot of Punch

March 28, 2016 at 10:00 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Geek, Movies | Leave a comment
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batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice_IMAXposter

Photo Credit: ign.com

When I first heard the news years ago that there was going to be a movie about Batman versus Superman, I was sceptical. My initial reaction was, “Why would they want to make a movie about Batman and Superman fighting each other? That’s not a good idea.” Even though it happened in the comics (which I didn’t know and never read), I still thought it’s not a good idea. I love Superman and Batman but I didn’t want to see them battling against each other. Then the news that Ben Affleck was going to play Batman came. I was indignant. I thought he wasn’t the perfect actor to replace Christian Bale as Batman. I couldn’t imagine him as the Caped Crusader. For quite some time I was adamant about my initial perception of the movie being made and the fact that Ben Affleck was playing Batman. But then I saw the first trailer and got curious and excited. It was always my plan to watch the movie despite my misgivings about it because I’m a big fan of Superman. And I enjoyed Man of Steel a lot. Even though I wasn’t that partial to Henry Cavill playing Superman at first, he eventually grew on me after watching Man of Steel for the second time. That in itself was reason enough for me.

So I braved the large crowd and long lines at the cinema and watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even the largely negative reviews by the critics didn’t stop me from watching it. When I emerged from the cinema I was stunned. The movie blew me away. I loved it. I didn’t even notice that the movie was more than two hours long. It was action-packed right from the start.

Batman v Superman picked up where Man of Steel came off. Actually, the movie mainly starts during the later part of the scene in Man of Steel where Superman was in the middle of an epic battle with General Zod in the heart of the Metropolis. Amidst the destruction caused by that battle, Bruce Wayne watched helplessly as the skyscraper bearing his company name got destroyed. The building and its occupants were just one of the many casualties of the battle. It was for this reason and the overall destruction of the Metropolis that Bruce Wayne’s anger and suspicion towards Superman started. It set the tone for the rest of the movie leading up to the inevitable fight between Batman and Superman.

Fear and hate towards the unknown and what we don’t understand was one of the running themes of the movie. Bruce Wayne and the people of Metropolis and Gotham city became wary of Superman because of what he could do with his powers. They certainly saw the impact of that power when innocent people got killed or injured during Superman’s fight with General Zod. While some people saw Superman as a hero, others saw him as dangerous. They couldn’t fully fathom Superman’s agenda or where he actually stands in the justice system. Was he a friend of the people or a foe? Superman, on the other hand, felt guilty about the destruction he unintentionally caused.

The movie also poses several questions. It tells us that when there’s war, sacrifices are to be made. We are forced to make a choice. Do we sacrifice a few people for the good of the many? Do we really need to let some people die so we can win the battle? Must we take the law into our own hands and become vigilantes? These arguments were reflected in Superman’s emotional struggle and actions. He sought the advice of his mother. He confronted Bruce Wayne. He came to the hearing. In the end, he sacrificed himself.

Batman, Superman & Wonder Woman

Photo Credit: bgr.com

Henry Cavill delivered a powerful performance (no pun intended) as Superman, a.k.a Clark Kent. I actually got a bit teary-eyed when Superman begged Batman to save his mother even though Batman got him on a chokehold. Ben Affleck wasn’t bad as Batman after all. I mean, he wasn’t as worse as George Clooney was. Although there were a few scenes where his performance, especially his facial expressions were lacking in depth. But even so, I’d still prefer a different actor to play Batman for the Justice League movie. I think Sam Worthington would play a better Batman.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was awesome. It’s a shame that she only had a few scenes in the movie. But then again, since this movie was all about Batman and Superman, I get why Wonder Woman had limited screen time. I particularly enjoyed her scenes when she was fighting Doomsday alongside Superman while Batman just stood and watched. That was a bit funny. That scene was really a fight between Kryptonians and meta-humans not with rich billionaires with expensive gadgets (But I still love you Batman!).

Wonder Woman

Photo Credit: independent.co.uk

Jesse Eisenberg was miscast in the movie. He looked too young to play Lex Luthor. I still couldn’t wrap my head around that. Whenever I see him on the screen I kept thinking he’s better off playing Jimmy Olsen than Lex Luthor (Interestingly, Zack Snyder initially wanted him to play Jimmy Olsen.). I think Eisenberg channeled a lot of Heath Ledger’s The Joker because I certainly got that Joker vibe in his performance.

While I generally loved the movie, there are still things in it I didn’t like and that bugged me. First of all, why did they make Lois Lane looked like a damsel in distress? I know she’s not supposed to be a weak character but the movie kept showing her as being always in need of Superman’s rescue. I was annoyed that Superman had to momentarily stop his fight against Doomsday so he could rescue Lois from drowning. Lois should’ve been smart enough not to retrieve the Kryptonite spear without some solid plan. Secondly, how could Lex Luthor have known about Superman and Batman’s real identities? How did he find out?

BatmanvSuperman_insideDailyPlanet

Photo Credit: nydailynews.com

Also, I really didn’t like the fight scenes between Batman and Superman. It’s not because they’re not well-executed. It’s because that part was just a ploy to get the fanboys all excited. It’s all testosterone-driven. Had Superman insisted and told Batman sooner about Lex’s plan of wanting them to fight each other, they could have avoided that confrontation and saved a lot of time to help Martha. Honestly I would rather see an extended fight scene with them and Wonder Woman against Doomsday.

Admittedly, Batman v Superman isn’t perfect. I know some of the story’s loopholes can be attributed to the fact that the writers are saving them for the Justice League movie and the rest of the DC cinematic universe. While it has its flaws, for me it didn’t fail to entertain. I used to read Batman and Superman comics when I was a child but I didn’t follow the stories when I grew up. I stopped reading comics in high school and moved on to books. So I really don’t care if the movie wasn’t truthful to the comics or whatever it is that die-hard fanboys are complaining about. In the end, it’s my movie experience that matters anyway.

The Truth is Still Out There

February 28, 2016 at 9:36 PM | Posted in Fandom, Geek, TV | Leave a comment
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So X-philes from most parts of the world just witnessed the final episode of season 10 of The X-Files. While some fans felt The X-Files revival was unsatisfying, most are actually satisfied with the way it turned out. Ratings wise, The X-Files revival was a hit. It still garnered around 20 million viewers in the US from the season premiere.  And the final episode drew in about 7.6 million viewers in US alone.

I previously wrote reviews of the first three episodes of season 10. This time I’ve written reviews of the last three episodes. Here they are:

Episode 4: Home Again

X-Files_HomeAgain

This was a Scully-centric episode that dealt with the death of Scully’s mother and how she coped with it. I saw two sides of Scully in this episode – the vulnerable and emotional Scully who desperately wanted to keep her mother alive, and the strong, rational one who wanted to catch a criminal. That emotional side of Scully was intensified with her strong feeling of guilt about William, the son she had with Mulder who they gave up for adoption. Underlying this episode was a story about a mysterious figure killing people who treated the homeless like they’re disposable things, easily discarded and forgotten.

Mulder & Scully with flashlights_HomeAgain

I admit I didn’t know what to make of this story the first time I saw it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. While Gillian Anderson’s emotional performance was commendable, I didn’t feel any connection with how she was feeling when her mother died while I was watching it. Maybe because it was so long ago when I last saw Scully’s mother and couldn’t remember the final episode where she was in. For me, it wasn’t as compelling and emotionally raw as the “Memento Mori” episode from season 4.  I just think it was kind of off that Mulder and Scully could still tease each other during an investigation given the circumstances about her mother. Yeah sure, the flashlight scenes were cute and awesome but the story about an artwork coming alive to kill people just didn’t do well for me. It sort of reminded me of that “Arcadia” episode.  It’s not really new.  It didn’t creep me out like the “Founder’s Mutation” episode did.

Episode 5: Babylon

Terrorism and racism are such serious matters and this episode’s attempt to fuel a discussion about these two social issues was a complete failure. “Babylon” was a story about an FBI investigation of a recent bombing of an art gallery by two young Muslim men. Two new FBI agents who resembled the younger versions of Mulder and Scully were called in to investigate the case. Agent Miller – like Mulder, was a believer of the supernatural and the paranormal while Agent Einstein – a medical doctor just like Scully, was a sceptic. The two young agents sought the help of Mulder and Scully during the investigation. One of the men who bombed the art gallery survived and was in a coma. Mulder and Miller believed that they could still communicate with the comatose terrorist by supernatural means to find out details of another bomb plot by Muslim extremists.

X-Files_Babylon

Written by Chris Carter, this episode was riddled with problems right from the first scene. I remember feeling dreadful when I watch the first few scenes. The minute they showed a young Muslim man praying shortly before bombing the art gallery, I knew this episode was in trouble. It’s another attempt to stereotype Muslims. I know Carter deliberately wrote this to show us the ugly side of terrorism and racism and maybe spark a debate but it just fell flat for me. I could understand why some Muslims felt offended by the episode. And for me, the episode hit closer to home. The scene where a nurse said to Agent Einstein how immigrants were stealing American jobs and healthcare almost mirrored the words that my aunt heard when she first immigrated to the US. She experienced racism in the US firsthand. It was terrible. And the way that nurse in the episode said it, it was so hateful that I was offended.

These serious issues presented in the episode would have worked if it weren’t for the fact that Carter added humor to it by piecing together a sub-story about Mulder getting high on “magic mushrooms” (which turned out to be a placebo) to try to communicate with the comatose patient in another realm. I actually winced when they showed Mulder going to a Texas bar and dancing to Achy, Breaky Heart. And that 50 Shades joke was awful. Not even the appearance of The Lone Gunmen could make this episode better. The only scenes I liked in this episode were the ones with Mulder and Scully walking along outside Mulder’s house at the end. That was a shippy moment.

Mulder & Scully in Babylon ep_s10

But what was that about witnesses hearing trumpets from the sky? That wasn’t included in the investigation anymore. It was all but forgotten by the agents.

“Babylon” had the potential to be great if it was split into two stories – one episode dealing about terrorism and racism, and a separate funny episode where Mulder can go high and dance all he wants from the magic mushrooms.

Episode 6: My Struggle II

This episode was slightly better that its first part, although there were still loopholes in it. For the most part, “My Struggle II” focused on Scully and Agent Einstein figuring out how to stop the Spartan virus that was quickly spreading all over various cities. Mulder, on the other hand, spent his time tracking down the Cigarette Smoking Man – the one responsible for the spread of the virus – and trying to convince him to stop the outbreak. The twist of this episode was that there was no alien invasion that happened in 2012, only the discreet and massive dissemination of the Spartan virus through anthrax injection years ago. Scully’s alien DNA turned out to be the one solution they needed to kill the virus. Replicate her alien DNA and administer that to the sick patients and they would save so many lives.

Mulder & CSM_MyStruggle2_X-Files

While I was admittedly at the edge of my seat while watching the episode, I couldn’t help but still feel frustrated by it. Mulder and Scully spent most of the episode apart when they could have solved the outbreak together. And I was disappointed that Agent Monica Reyes appeared in the episode only to reveal that she was conniving with the Cigarette Smoking Man. She could have refused CSM’s offer and sought the assistance of Assistant Director Skinner. But no, she went ahead and made a deal with CSM to save herself.

And I still couldn’t believe that everyone seemed to believe Tad O’Malley’s every word. He’s a well-known conspiracy theorist that some people might not even consider legit. Are we supposed to believe that people accept his words as truth instead of other authorities or prominent newscasters? Where was the FBI in all of this? Skinner should be in most of the scenes there along with people from the CDC.

x-files_my struggle II

The ending was so abrupt and deliberate that you could tell that Chris Carter intended it that way so people would want another season to find out what happened in the story. I was also confused with that ending. Was that really an alien ship that hovered over Scully and Agent Miller or was that a man-made aircraft built in alien technology? We would never know for sure until the showrunners tell us there is a continuation of the story in season 11.

While there are fans who want Chris Carter out of season 11, I wouldn’t mind him being there for season 11 as a director or executive producer. I mean, he created the show in the first place. He created Mulder and Scully and I am forever grateful for that. He just has to come up with better storylines about the mythology. Season 10 is far from perfect. But overall I enjoyed it. And as fans, we should be thankful that Carter, Fox and the cast and crew gave us season 10 in the first place. I, for one, would still love to have season 11.

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