Category Archives: Films & Television

The world isn’t ready for the Watchmen film

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We went to watch the new Watchmen film over the weekend, a week after its premiere in Malaysia. We could have gone earlier, but we’d been meaning to go watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for a while now but one thing or another kept getting in the way, so we finally went for that last week. As I’ve posted before, I’d read the graphic novel the film is based on, so I knew what to expect going in and loved it. Judging, however, from the people who walked out before it was over in the cinema where I watched it and the overheard chatter about the film afterward, not to mention how poorly it’s been doing at the box office, it’s clear that most people either disliked it, or went in expecting a completely different kind of film.

After reading the discussion thread on the film on QT3 (much of which I should mention is very insightful and contributed a great deal to the opinions I’m expressing in this post), I found that perhaps the single best description of it is one posted by game reviewer Desslock: a $150 million art house film. Watchmen is not your traditional big budget summer blockbuster. It’s not even a superhero film in the traditional sense. It’s really an independent, art house quality film made for a very niche audience. It so happens that this one features superheroes as its characters, cost about the same as your typical Hollywood blockbuster, and was marketed to a mass audience who in all likelihood were led to expect something in the vein of Spiderman or Iron Man.

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Heroes continues descent into spiral of death

Since I gushed over the first season of Heroes so much, it’s only fair that I take the time to write about how awful it’s become. My wife and I have just caught up with the first half of Season Three and though it isn’t exactly the debacle that Season Two was, it’s nowhere close to the greatness that was Season One. It appears that the main lesson the producers learned from the previous season was never be boring. Things move along at a breakneck pace and there are plenty of action scenes through with hardly any quiet moments at all.

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Ip Man

My wife and I went to watch this film at the 1 Borneo Mall on Christmas Day, mostly because her father is staying with us at Kota Kinabalu at the moment and he was bored. I’m not going to go into detail about the story, so if you haven’t heard about it yet, check out its page on Wikipedia.

What really struck me about the film was how safe the producers played. Just about every single event in the film is predictable in the worst possible way: courteous and cultured martial arts master who, of course, is also a Chinese patriot, kicking the asses of arrogant and barbaric Japanese invaders, heroic sacrifices, etc. etc. Haven’t we seen all this before? Apart from the boring similarities with Jet Li’s Fearless, released just two years ago, the film isn’t that accurate a portrayal of the master’s life, if his biography on Wikipedia is anything to go by.

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Aliens watch Hollywood film for free

The latest Hollywood blockbuster right now is this year’s remake of the science-fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves. In one of the odder publicity moves, the producers have decided to beam the film into outer space just in case any extraterrestrials want to watch it. The transmission is being directed at the star system closest to our own, Alpha Centauri, which is about 4.37 light years away from our Sun, though the studio notes that it is a wide beam transmission so that any aliens who happen to be travelling within the cone of the transmission or even beyond Alpha Centauri should be able to tune in as well.

More seriously, it’s pretty unlikely that any aliens will be close enough to catch it, and it’s a big question whether or not the signal will remain coherent enough to be watchable at any reasonable quality 4.37 light years away. In any case, since Earth has been leaking radio transmissions into space for decades by now, if any aliens are in Alpha Centauri and wanted to send a reply, we’d have heard from them by now.

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Culture. Who owns it?

I’ve seen meaning to make this post since I got around to finally watching Kung Fu Panda a couple of weeks ago but didn’t find the time. It’s an awesome film as its poster claims, but more importantly, it’s an awesome kung fu film, easily the best one of the year, and it was made entirely in the U.S. This makes it a great example of a point that I’ve been wanting to make. One of my pet peeves is that whenever some Chinese patriot tries to make a case for Chinese nationalism, the issue of Chinese culture and its 5,000 history invariably crops up. This is annoying for two reasons.

One, it seems to imply that Chinese culture and history is somehow better, or more special, than that of any other solely by reason of its longevity. As this old article explains, that’s a poor argument. Chinese culture is indeed worthy of attention and study, but then nearly every corner of the Earth is just as steeped in history. Chinese apologists try to make the argument that Chinese identity is unique in that it alone of all other cultural identities in the world can trace an unbroken lineage up to 5,000 years back, but as the article also explains, that relies on a rather slippery definition of what China, and what being Chinese, means.

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The Golden Age of Comic Book Movies

I realized after watching The Dark Knight last weekend that ever since Iron Man in May, nearly every movie that I paid to watch in a cinema has been a comic book movie. The sole exception was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Indy’s roots lie in pulp comics anyway, so in a way, that still counts. I suppose that this is partly due to the current state of film-making and CGI technology that allows directors to fully recreate the fantastic visuals of the comic book medium on the big screen and partly due to the successes of X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002, which opened the eyes of the studio bosses to the commercial lucrativeness of comic book licenses. Not every comic book movie since then has been a success, Spider-Man 3 in particular was a disappointing dud even with Sam Raimi still at the helm, but there have been enough films that “get it” to make this a great time to be alive for a comic book fan. Here’s a quick recap of the comic book movies that I’ve watched so far this year.

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