Wednesday, December 28, 2011

“THE DARKEST HOUR” Movie Review. Forget Global Warming. Banish Tsunamis. You Can’t Beat an Alien Invasion.


Aha, this is an alien flick.

Welcome aboard a journey of thrills, spills and run-for-your-life shoot-outs that will take you all the way to MOSCOW in order to experience this absurd apocalyptic adventure.

It’s a sci-fi to begin with, action-packed and crafted to bowl you over with its delivery of scares,

if not, then the sombre facade of the wicked Russian capital should do the trick.

Let’s pause for the preamble:

Young professionals Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are two arrogant American software developers.

They fly to Moscow to pitch their new social networking computer program to a potential Russian investor, only to discover that their intellectual property rights have been deviously usurped by an unscrupulous Swedish collaborative counterpart Skyler (Joel Kinnaman).

The hapless duo head for the nearest pub to drown their sorrows, but as fate would have it, the power around the city suddenly goes out, and they espy a heavenly “on-off”  shower of glittering strange lights dancing in the sky.

The lights turn out to be the arrival of aliens that are invisible to the human naked eye and operate via electricity.

Sean and Ben seek refuge in the basement of a nightclub for several days along with a pair of pretty young tourists – American Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and her Aussie pal Anne (Rachael Taylor).

The frightened group emerges from hiding to witness Moscow in tethers and ruins, with its inhabitants turned to dust.

Now they must band together to uncover other survivors and figure a way to combat the  gruesome alien invasion.

Once out in the open, they discover that mankind is almost eradicated, and the aliens are roaming freely throughout the badly battered city.

But these creatives are invisible, and the only clue to their presence is that all vehicles and lights automatically ignite whenever an alien passes by.

At the end of the film, they learn that there may be a safety catchment – a submarine is waiting in the Moscow River to transport all survivors back to their home countries.

This Reviewer sees the regular 35 mm presentation for the press members, so he is unable to comment on the 3D version.

Indeed “THE DARKEST HOUR” should reap better returns in the East where there can be a more appreciative audience.

It may not be as pulse-pounding as it should have been,

nor is it a heart-stopping horror Alien flick about creatures that loom and kill in the dark.

In addressing this film, we should share two schools of thought:

For those seeking light entertainment, this one’s value for money.

For the armchair skeptics who are looking for dissections as in a surgery room, there are enough flaws to gripe about.

The thrills and frights may not be that rampant – but there are still the sweet young things to gawk at as we watch them deliciously, battling for dear life, then screamingly succumbing to their unfortunate demise, one by one. When killed, victims are reduced to a pulp of swirling ashes and floating embers.

Now, that’s some kind of enjoyment.

What can we say about the film director CHRIS GORAK?


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“FLYING SWORDS of DRAGON INN” 《龍門飛甲》3D Movie Review. Beware the Deadly Storms that Converge at the Inn of Imperial Intrigue.


Renowned film director TSUI HARK is beaming all the way to the moon during his 19th December 2011 press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

And rightfully so.

His is a deserving picture of how hard work, meticulous planning, perseverance and a clear vision can pay off.

His newest Martial Arts offering with this intriguing title “FLYING SWORDS of DRAGON INN” has the honor of being the first Chinese film to be released in IMAX 3D in CHINA barely a couple of days ago – in 59 IMAX theaters across CHINA.

The film surpasses expectations by reaping a cool 2.5 million USD over one weekend alone.

Strong marketing, he nods, and of course – himself and an impressive all star cast help to pave the way.

Shooting a Martial Arts feature flick on 3D is a colossal task.  Unlike the standard 35mm film, you need to pay intricate details to each actor’s positioning, the 3D camera’s operation, the integrated lens (“left” and “right” eye function) set-up, the depth-of-field as well as the complicated and painstaking post-production editing.

He did his research well, aside from being a special effects guru coupled with the collaboration of a pool of foreign expertise to form a formidable 3D team.

The results show.

And this is just the beginning of a promotional journey across the worldwide market frontiers.

There’s nothing new with the story line.

It is the film director’s visionary treatment that is noteworthy, akin to dressing  his babe in fine style.

Here’s the synopsis:

There are the baddies who are the devious eunuchs of the Imperial Court with their own hidden agendas.

They are armed with deadly weapons and are relentless in their quest for power and richness. Nothing stands in their way.

Then there are the goodies led by a resigned general who has been stripped of his rank by the eunuchs. He has his righteous principles and sets out to protect the innocents, to restore normalcy amid the political Imperial Court.

Finally the uglies are a bunch of stubborn bandits who are seeking the hidden treasure.

The three parties’ conflicts converge at Dragon Inn, a desolate outpost in the barren desert.

The Dragon Gate is a portal to a wealthy world under the sands.

THE FINAL BATTLE TO THE DEATH is fought here, amid the perilous traps of a lost city.

“FLYING  SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE” shines with style and brilliance and is one of the best, if not the greatest martial arts film of all time.

It is gushing with stoic brilliance and TSUI HARK  once again takes Hong Kong Cinema back to a classic era of martial arts nostalgia.

He pays homage to the 3D technology and has  mastered it well,  and we shall continue to see him experiment with this discipline.

This is a hi-tech action film that will transport the Martial Arts World to a brand new level.

“FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON INN”  is a definitive entertaining piece where solid action is king.

Actor JET LI returns in top form, but not alone.

This time he shares the limelight with a glittering team of able veterans such as CHEN KUN, ZHOU YUN, KWAI LUN-MEI and LI YU CHUN who will give  him a run for his money, threatening to topple his presence.

TSUI HARK is at the top of his game, and this film is his magnum opus.

The color grading is stupendous and the 3D treatment takes you through the realm of your aesthetic mind and is pure enjoyment to boot.

You only have to see to believe.

And justifiably so.


“Strong marketing,” says legendary film director TSUI HARK, “and of course – an impressive all star cast help to pave the way."

Shooting a Martial Arts feature flick on 3D is a colossal task.  Unlike the standard 35mm film, you need to pay intricate details to each actor’s positioning, the 3D camera’s operation, the integrated lens (“left” and “right” eye function) set-up, the depth-of-field as well as the complicated and painstaking post-production editing.

Sunday, December 18, 2011



“WE BOUGHT A ZOO” is a Yuletide cinematic offering with a sleepy title.

Make no bones about that.

Yet upon unwrapping, you will be pleasantly surprised that the content isn’t any duper sleeper.

More than that, you’ll be treated to a family parable of a love lost, another love regained and hey-presto! … with love in this life there’s always hope

and everything can be insanely possible, if we only dare try.

After all, it’s approaching Yuletide, ’tis a season to be jolly.

“WE BOUGHT A ZOO” is based largely on a true story about a man and his zoo.

Now, not everybody can or will buy a dilapidated zoo and give it a new lease of life.

The film focuses on Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), a recently widowed father who’s in denial with the unexpected demise of his beautiful wife.

He is grieving and he has to contend with taking care of a rebellious teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford) and a younger daughter named Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones).

Taking the cue from his older brother (Thomas Haden Church) about starting life all over again, Benjamin looks for a new house in a different locality, but when he stumbles upon the dream abode, he discovers that it’s actually a defunct zoo wanting of attention.

Seeing how much his daughter is fascinated with the place, Benjamin decides to invest in refurbishing the menagerie and works with the head zookeeper, Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) together with her enthusiastic team to restore the park to its former glory.

 ”WE BOUGHT A ZOO” is uplifted by terrific performances from the entire cast and a mesmerizing soundtrack to boot.

 Now there’s a charming chemistry between the leads Damon and Johansson.

 Matt Damon is awesome as Mee, a die-hard who has to plow his way through several self-defeating experiences whilst learning at the same time.

He does so with an indefatigable spirit of courage and positivism.

But behold the future generation of young talents – Colin Ford who plays Dylan Mee,

Elle Fanning as Lily Miska and sweet cutie Elizabeth Jones as little Rosie Mee.

They steal the thunder from the veterans.

This heartwarming film is emotively driven, heart, soul and all.

You’ll laugh at the exploits of the loyal employees as they work zealously to ensure the zoo becomes a reality factor, watched by the troupe of gawky wildlife that is oblivious of the unwarranted fuss and attention.

“WE BOUGHT A ZOO” is directed by Cameron Crowe, based on the memoir by Benjamin Mee.

The film director conjures a finely crafted family entertainment for those who are seeking for a few hours of escapism.

It does not preach the heavenly goodness,  but we surely know there’s light at the end of the tunnel for every good man.

Here’s this three-in-one package of warmth, friendship and camaraderie that will have us tingled all over – as long as we allow ourselves to be immersed with the feel-good emotion.

It’s obvious that the cast and crew had put in a lot of thought and hard work into the film, so it is deserving of a watch in the true spirit of Christmas.

Go for it!

Friday, December 16, 2011

“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Ghost Protocol” MOVIE REVIEW. Blazing the DEADLY TRAIL with a formidable revamped NEW TEAM.


No apologies folks, it’s TOM CRUISE returning as Agent ETHAN HUNT for the fourth time running.

If you are an avid fan of slick guys and drooling cool action, then this is one breathtaking actioner you should never miss.

Never mind the absurd plot because TOM CRUISE is at it again, this time blazing the trail – fast, deadly and furious, hamming it all the way in this impressionable “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL” installment.

Pulsating, heart stomping and adrenaline charging, spilling from one sweaty peril to another, this

feature is thrillingly action-packed – designed to keep you on edge, especially if you are viewing it in the splendor of the latest IMAX phenomenon.

As with the other three previous MISSION IMPOSSIBLE chronicles where exotic locales are a geographical treat in each segment, this time we are peremptorily transported to the scenic wonders of MOSCOW, BUDAPEST, DUBAI and MUMBAI.

It’s a potpourri of thrills, spills, dark humor, dry wit with the action most foul.

Directed by the reputable Animation Director BRAD BIRD (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), it has something for everyone and is a pure wholesome “getaway” entertainment.

Let’s delve further …..

Of course, the magnificent ETHAN HUNT has to be in trouble to roll the story.

It starts with a jail break from a Moscow prison.  He has been falsely accused of being a terrorist by his hapless superiors, of a bombing at the Kremlin. His entire operations are shut down because of this.

His next new mission is aptly called “Ghost Protocol” which is to seize nuclear codes and devices from an opportunistic war merchant KURT HENDRICKS (MICHAEL NYQVIST) who intends to mastermind a devious plan involving a global nuclear holocaust.

A new team has been handpicked by ETHAN’s bosses and they are:

BENJI DUNN (SIMON PEGG), Agent JANE CARTER (PAULA PATTON) and BRANDT (JEREMY RENNER) but trust has to be earned along this globe trotting adventure.

“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Ghost Protocol” is loud, explosive and shows you that the pace seldom slows and that action is king.

There’s enough worthy dialogue to set the ball rolling, spiced with unexpected humor.

Naturally, ETHAN HUNT has to prove his mettle this time by displaying the impossible and making it possible – scaling and hanging precariously on Dubai’s tallest building, the BURJ KHALIFA.

The stunt choreography has its splendid moments, specially the scenes showcasing a car that plummets headlong from several storeys to the ground below and of Agent BRANDT taking a controlled fall down a shaft, suspending mid air within a vacuum.

The film’s headline screams “NO PLAN. NO BACK-UP. NO CHOICE.”

That being the case, it's NO SWEAT then. Right?