Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2014)

One word: Epic. Recounting the Battle of Myeongnyang, the film effortlessly portrays the intensity of  fear, desperation, and loyalty of the soldiers under Admiral Yi Sun-sin. While I do not know if it was a very accurate account of the battle or the character of Yi Sun-sin, the film is nonetheless inspirational. The fact that the situation and the result of the battle is true didn't hurt either.

It was very interesting how the Admiral character was developed throughout the film. The film started off rather slow and the Admiral is shown as a stubborn, silent, old man. When faced with mutiny, he did not have inspirational speeches or a silver tongue to calm people down. There was only one such speech the entire movie and it didn't really do much other than signal a turning point in the storyline. Inspiration was instead built up during the battle through the Admiral's admirable actions (ehehe). This just goes to say that the events which occur during the battle/match are much more important and influential than all the words spoken before it.

The hearts of the soldiers, turning from fear and doubt to wonder and fierce loyalty, was effectively conveyed. You are placed within the soldiers' hearts from the very beginning. I can seen many other films where there is always a safety line tied to the hero/heroine. No matter how grim things seem, the hero/heroine had a determined face with hope practically shining through the screen. Of course, things may go wrong, but the characters still seemed also superhuman. With the Admiral, I only saw a silent, almost crazed, dying old man who didn't seem to care about his soldiers. He had been tortured by the emperor he was fighting for and yet he still had incredible, but not naive, loyalty towards him. There were 300 Japanese ships against 12 Korean ships and very limited supplies. The film neatly addresses each of these issues but like the Admiral, doesn't give clear answers until the the end result is revealed.

The best scenes were those of close combat fighting. The confusion of who's friend and foe, the fear of death and the resulting desperation created a chaos that I had never imagined. I have read many books and heard a few tales about war and what goes on in a soldier's head during a battle, but I think that this may be the best filming done to truly convey the sincere desperation. While in kung-fu movies, fighting is an art form, here it was just hack and slash at whoever seemed dangerous. All the while trying to listen to orders and keep an eye out for your friends over the cries of people getting hurt all around you. The joy of surviving.

Weirdly enough, I felt the acting was terrible when the soldiers were acting all happy at the end compared to the amazing work done during the battle. In all cases, the filming and directing felt spectacular. I truly love this film.

The moral of the story: The art of beheading someone is a great skill to a leader.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (2014)

Shot in grey-scale with pops of colour, this film tells a story where a young, innocent young man comes to Shanghai looking for work, and becomes, well, a murderer. Yes, he saves China from an invasion of the Japanese and kills gang bosses, but the jade bracelet meant to symbolize his promise to never use his fist to fight breaks in the end. Note that this isn't like Breaking Bad, where it's uncomfortable to watch as the main character falls in social standing.

It's not a great movie, and many, many people die, but it does have some good fight scenes. Plus, Long Qi is super cool, albeit with a rather ugly laugh. Watching his character relax around Ma Youngzhen was endearing.

The moral of the story: Jade bracelets can break if you hit something hard enough.

Kung Fu Killer (2015)

Yay kung-fu movies! As long as there's great fighting scenes, which must be rather hard to choreograph without relying on cliches, you can't go too wrong. I'm happy to say that Kung Fu Killer had some impressive fight scenes and only one or two instances where it looks like a wire was attached to their bodies. The story is about a man who hunts down and duels to the death with martial arts masters, and the police recruit a martial art master to help them catch the perpetrator. Lots of people die, and while the movie isn't gory, it's realistic enough to have you wincing at every hit.

The policewoman let me down though. At first, she seems hardcore and strict, but then she does a 180. She smiles kindly too much and screams too desperately. The police were also silly. When they received the names of potential victims, I bet police in real life would have questioned them and at least warned them of the impending danger. Instead, these police just followed the murderer around and relied on a single source of intel, like no one else was a part of the martial arts circle.

The moral of the story: When ambushing someone, don't muzzle the dogs!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Big Game (2014)

This was a shallow movie. I enjoyed myself immensely, putting my feet up and allowing the stream to gently guide me away from the more serious and soul-searching messages the movie could have focused on. To be honest, I really liked the acting and the way it was filmed. The scenery was beautifully shot and the cockiness of the preteen Oskari was hilarious. Whether or not the story allowed the characters to actually develop and whether or not the events in the story are actually plausible is another question. Given the way the story was written, I'm glad it stayed comfortably in the shallows instead of drowning in the deep end. Also, Oskari is one lucky name.

The moral of the story: To fire a gun, you need to cock it. Special agents definitely need to remember this fact.

Spoiler alert!
The best scene was when Oskari goes to the 'secret spot' his father told him about, only to find that his father had killed a deer for him. The bittersweet feeling of reading the 'Happy Birthday!' note from his father - knowing that his father loves Oskari so much, but also knowing that it was so wrong - made the entire movie watchable.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Spectre (2015)

The last James Bond movie?!

It's been finalized that Daniel Craig won't be doing anymore Bond films. Who knows if the James Bond franchise will die down after more than 60 years since the first Bond book! I've actually read, or rather, listened to the audiobook recordings of, all the Bond books, plus one not written by Ian Fleming; after Fleming's death, Kingsley Amis wrote "Colonel Sun". It was interesting to try and find the differences in writing style and characters.

I have become a big fan of Bond, but it does seem that the writers are running out of ideas. In Spectre, they changed Blofeld's background and made it all revolve around James - a questionable development. Why would one man dedicate his life to destroy another but after years after the affront was taken? It was almost an insult to Blofeld's supposed genius. Of course, as I always prefer the originals to spinoffs, I am a bit biased.

One development that I cannot stomach is the ending. *Spoiler alert!* James' motto is "to live and let die", not to look into a man's eyes and judge whether he deserves to die! It was a very unsatisfying ending. In James Bond's world, evil people need to die. I just know that if there was another James Bond movie, it would begin with Blofeld breaking out of prison and planning world domination from a scam ski resort in the Alpines or something. If they wanted to make the moral of the movie that only people can truly judge other people, the plot should have been something like: Blofeld framing someone for his crimes, but James would discover the truth and ruin Blofeld's plans after looking into the framed man's eyes.

In any case, it was an average movie. It was a great action movie, but for a Bond movie, it lacked that special fantastic *zing*. Positives: Q was brilliant and many scenes were hilarious. References to the old movies were well done. It had many love scenes for those who are into that, though my friends would say that was a negative point. I rather like the more serious nature of the Bond films that Craig has acted in, as they kinda fit the original books more. Negatives: it may have been because we came into the theatre late and had to sit near the screen, but it felt like there were too many close shots and so too many unfocused scenes. Having the focus switch back and forth as two people talked was annoying. The musical intro was different in that it seemed more lucid and showed a lot more faces. That isn't really a negative point, but I was getting bored near its end. The story felt like it could have been developed more as well, and overall, it felt incomplete as a Bond movie.

For the moral of the story, it was inspired by the first fight scene.

The moral of the story: If you hijack a helicopter, learn how to fly loop-the-loops.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The 4 A's of Awesome (2015)

Last night my friends and I attended a talk held by Neil Pasricha, the proud Queen's University alumni that wrote "The Book of Awesome" in 2010. It was a heartfelt, inspirational and interactive talk that captures your full attention. He shows you proof of how staying positive even in the worst of times can turn things around and teaches you tricks to be awesome. Here's a Ted talk that he did in 2010: http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_pasricha_the_3_a_s_of_awesome#t-686767

It's quite similar, but the talk I went to last night had more content. He suggested activities that would calm the mind and boost happiness, and had 4 A's of Awesome: Attitude, Awareness, Airspace, and Authenticity! He also introduced trackyourhappiness.org, a site that send you happiness surveys for 3 months, after which it provides you a free report on what makes you happy.

Neil Pasricha is a great speaker. Though he must have done that talk numerous times in the past 5 years, I felt as though he was talking from the heart, and not a memorized speech. His talk was real and engaging. Even during audience questions or the interactive period where we shouted out what was awesome about the university, he was witty with his responses and related to every audience member.

The moral of his story is clearly stated, explored, and proved in his talk. I would encourage you to watch the video or, even better, go to his new talk. He gave away free books and had an interactive session that makes it worth the time!

Moral of the Story: Having your life fall apart helps you appreciate the little things in life.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Everest (2015)

It's quite remorseful to think that this is a true story. As life always is, the movie is full of different characters all doing what they think is right, goes in unpredictable directions, and contains huge miracles and disappointments. I think I can safely say I will never attempt to climb Mount Everest after watching this movie. I admire the people that do, but the risk is too great for me.

This was a great movie that did its best to reveal the challenges in climbing Mount Everest and why people wanted to climb it. I understand the book delved a lot more into the individual personalities (I really need to start reading more books). The movie must have been hard-pressed to fit all the significant content in as I sometimes felt that the movie jumped from scene to scene too quickly. The fact that it was hard to distinguish the actors in their snow suits didn't help (for a long time I thought it was the journalist who was blinded and frozen in the snow).

I had a hard time deciding the moral of this story. I was tempted to say 'Don't climb Mount Everest' but that would be too harsh and it is a great achievement to have. There was also 'Don't be so stubborn' as one large factor contributing to the issues that came up was people being headstrong and foolishly uncooperative. However, feelings run wild on Mount Everest, and it is understandable, though maybe not forgivable. In the end, I decided on:

Moral of the Story: A lack of oxygen can kill you.