Category Archives: Films & Television

District 9: sci-fi action at its best


I pretty much had to drag my wife to the cinema for this one after reading rave reviews of it on QT3. Peter Jackson’s involvement in the film, after what he gave us in the King Kong remake, was not a glowing endorsement to us. Luckily for me, both of us enjoyed it thoroughly and I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys action films that don’t try to treat their audience as if they were 5 year-olds. The rest of this post will be chockful of spoilers so if you haven’t watched it yet, please go away and come back later.

District 9 opens using a mockumentary format that combined with its South African setting, draws us into a realistic depiction of a world in which a gigantic alien ship has mysteriously appeared overnight. However, the aliens the ship disgorges turn out to be neither enlightened beings here to lead humanity to a brighter future nor nefarious conquerors bent on world domination. Instead they are nothing more than starving and desperate refugees. Not since Alien Nation has a major film treated the issue of first contact with extraterrestrials in as mature and serious a manner.

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Favourite Films (Updated)

It’s been nearly two years since I last wrote this post listing out five of my favourite films, so I thought it would be a good idea to update that list. Some caveats to preface this list with: first, think of this list as extending the previous one, not replacing it. By and large, I still like the films in the original list more than the ones here but I hate the idea of qualitatively ranking stuff in some numerical order, so I’m going to maintain the position that they’re always arranged in no particular order.

Second, the original dictum that these are films that are my personal favourites remains. There’s a reason why this list is called “Favourite Films” and not “Best Films” after all. I can completely understand if someone wants to counter one of my choices with something with greater artistic merit. I can even acknowledge something else as being qualitatively better while recognizing that I personally liked it less for a variety of reasons.

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Transformers is not a good film


No, I haven’t watched the second one and I have no plans to give Michael Bay any of my money. However, I can’t ignore the huge media phenenomenon it’s become so my wife and I decided to rewatch the first film over the weekend. Another reason was that she had fallen asleep while trying to watch it when it first came out. As it turned out, she fell asleep this time too, so we started watching it on Saturday night and finished it on Sunday morning.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t like it the second time around either. In fact, seeing it again just put me in a position to run a constant commentary on how stupid the things in it are. Did Michael Bay really think it would be funny to have giant robots trying to hide in a backyard? How is it supposed to be a good action movie if we can’t tell who’s fighting who most of the time? Why would that generic U.S. soldier who misses home and family help out Sam when they don’t know each other? Does it make sense that the U.S. military’s best plan to hide the cube is in the middle of a metropolis with its millions of civilians?  And, as That Movie Blogger Fella put it, why are they trying to have Sam escape on a helicopter when Megatron transforms into a plane?

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Star Trek is dead. Long live the new Star Trek


Inevitably, I went to see the newest Star Trek film with my wife on Sunday. Now, I’ve always thought of myself as a Star Trek fan, even though I’m too young for The Original Series and it’s The Next Generation that is the most memorable for me. I never did get around to watching Deep Space Nine, only watched bits and pieces of Voyager and made a deliberate effort to avoid watching Enterprise.

Still, I’m reasonably up to snuff on the best parts of TOS and combined with the best parts of TNG, I have a very firm idea of what it is that makes Star Trek great: as a mainstream platform on which to tell high-brow science-fiction. After all, it’s not a coincidence that many of the very best episodes were written by the most notable writers of print-based science-fiction, for example, City on the Edge of Forever (TOS) by Harlan Ellison, The Measure of a Man (TNG) by Melinda Snodgrass, The Doomsday Machine (TOS) by Norman Spinrad etc. Plus, there’s the fact that Star Trek always had a single very clear vision: creator Gene Roddenberry’s dream of a unified and noble humanity venturing out to do good amongst the stars.

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The world isn’t ready for the Watchmen film


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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