Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988) review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: Resolves all hanging plot threads of previous gundam series, high quality animation, professional voice acting, philosophically deeper than most mecha anime

The Bad: requires knowledge of preceeding Gundam series to fully appreciate

Current Availability Status: No available in Singapore. DVD available from online sources.


Mobile Suit Gundam. The legendary anime series of the 80s by famed director Yoshiyuki Tomino astounded millions of fans by offering giant robot combat action with a very realistic portrayal of war. Then, its darker sequel Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam delivered a tragic tale of love, loss and hidden conspiracies as the body count mounted to an all time high, earning Yoshiyiki Tomino the nickname "Kill them all Tomino". Now, the final chapter of an anime legend, the Universal Century Gundam saga, comes to its mind blowing conclusion.

Char's Counterattack is the culmination of years worth of Gundam storylines, in particular, the rivalry between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable that was established in the 1979 Gundam series but was never really followed through in the sequels. Seemingly having defied death once again, the famous Char Aznable has resurfaced to lead the Neo Zeon movement against the tyranical earth Federation. Slowly but surely, the movement is winning the hearts and minds of the space colonists, but Char has an even darker scheme planned. By crashing a colony on to earth, Char intends to force all human beings into space in hopes of ridding the earth dwellers' bigoted prejudice against space colonists. In order to quell this threat, the Earth Federation sends their "Londo Bell" task force led by Bright Noa and the ace pilot Amuro Ray. The battlelines are drawn once again as the world gears up for its greatest conflict ever.

As a stand alone Gundam movie, Char's counterattack does not do much for the newer audience. It expects that the viewer is already familiar with Gundam lore and the established rivalry between Amuro and Char as it immediately throws you into the thick of the story and the heat of the action. A couple of new characters like Quess Paraya and Hathaway Noa are introduced but they come across as uninteresting and seem like throw-away characters whose only purpose is to fill up screen time when we are not focusing on Char or Amuro. There is a very uncomfortable attempt at creating a shaky love triangle story but the execution of that plot thread was not as good as it could have been.

Poor attempt at romance aside, Char's counterattack features a number of other themes that the viewers can easily relate to. There is a coming-of-age theme in how Hathaway Noa desires to step out of his father's shadow and forge his own identity, and there is a good deal of wartime pholisophical rhetoric thrown about by Char. That being said, only once Amuro and Char take center stage does the movie finally find its footing and delivers an engagingly entertaining experience. They are the perfect opposites, each representing widely differing views on war and the idealistic pursuit of peace. How far is one willing to go to end a war? Does an objectively good end justify unethical means? Can the obsessive pursuit of ideals turn men into monsters? Questions like these pop up during the course of the narrative which challenges the viewer to think and question.

Some fans have complained about the lack of character development of many of the cast, but it seems further development of the characters was not the director's intention. It is not a movie to develop the characters further, but a movie to bring about a RESOLUTION to the characters that have been developed over the course of the previous Gundam series. Char's Counterattack should not be viewed as a stand alone movie. As such, it is highly recommended to re-watch at least the original Gundam 0079 TV series or compilation movies before watching this movie. Re-watching "Zeta Gundam" would also add to a better understanding of Char's character and his bitter inner struggle with his own ideals over the years.

Jam packed with epic action sequences thanks to a higher budget and more experienced staff, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack is the exciting concluding chapter in the grand sweeping tale of Amuro Ray and Char Aznable. Here is a high point in the history of Gundam that subsequent shows had never surpassed.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: to witness one of the must watch anime movie classics that inspired a generation of other creators to follow i its footsteps. Or if you are a Gundam fan and would like to see the best Gundam had to offer.
Avoid it: If you really have no pre-knowledge about the original gundam series and would not even bother reading up wikipedia

Entertainment: A
Story: B
Characters: B-
Animation: A-
Art: A-
Voice work (japanese): A
Voice work (english): A-
Replay Value: B+
"Brains": A-

Clash of the titans: Amuro's Nu Gundam and Char's Sazabi go head to head

Amuro and Bright Noa prepare for battle

Char Aznable. Hero of the people or anti-earth terrorist?

Awesome animation reflects the chaos of actual warfare

Noteworthy video releases

Avatar - 3 disc extended edition DVD and Extended collectors edition Blu-ray

Resident Evil Afterlife - DVD

Twilight saga: Eclipse - DVD

Inception - DVD and Blu-ray

Salt - DVD and Extended Edition DVD

Knight and Day - Extended edition DVD

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) remake review

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: better than usual acting for a horror movie, intense chase sequences, lots of blood and gore, atmospheric cinematography

The Bad: too much blood and gore, bland story, few genuinely scary scenes for a horror movie

Current Availability Status: banned in Singapore

Ah! the vast Texas countryside. Rolling plains, long stretches of road, quaint little towns. It is 1973 and what could be more fun than going on a road trip with a bunch of friends to catch the biggest Lynard Skynard concert of the decade? Nothing could go wrong. Well for Erin, Kamper, Morgan, Andy and Pepper, every "wrong" starts to happen when they come across a blood drenched and obviously traumatised young girl. Being good hearted teens, they try to seek help first from the local sherrif. However, the unreasonable sherrif suspects the teens of foul play forcing them to turn to some residents of an old house for help. But those Texas residents have a gruesome little secret hidden in their cellar, and it carries a Chainsaw. Naturally, "massacre" will follow.

Produced by Michael Bay, this remake revolves around a retelling of "actual" events involving a group of teenagers and their tragic run-in with the deranged Texan family of killers and the murderous Leatherface. In true slasher movie fashion, the characters are just there to look pretty until they get offed one by one in the most gruesome ways. The acting is actually praise-worthy, better than the usual horror film, but it suffered from an uninspired script and flat story.

As a stand alone horror movie, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake is actually more horrific than horror. Where the original show banked on the tension and scared by teasing one's inherant primal fears, the remake does not scare by actually scaring but by making the audience cringe in terror thanks to gratuitous amounts of gore and prolonged scenes of suffering before the eventual death Many times, the film leaves the genre of horror and falls into more a "torture porn"-like genre.

If there was anything scary about the film, it was not the Leather-face killer. Rather, it was the overall sense of helplessness felt by the main characters. As the movie goes along, the characters try to turn to other townsfolk for help. But they soon realize that the townsfolk, and even the sheriff, are not only unwilling to help, but have a much darker agenda planned.

Flipping through Marcus Nispel's short resume of films(he directed the Friday the 13th remake and Pathfinder) and Platinum dune's list of horror remakes would pretty much tell you what to expect; a tendency to focus mostly on gory killings. Nispel himself seems more capable of directing a frenzied chase scene or a bloody body carving as opposed to anything remotely scary. At least the film looks great with a stylishly worn yellowish tinge to every scene that complements the "1970s" setting.

Despite its shortcomings, the film was rather popular at the box office. Perhaps action is indeed more successful at netting a wider audience than actual horror. And like many action movies, Texas Chainsaw Massacre exists solely for that unauthodox sense of escapism. Showing it to your more chicken-hearted friends and watching them gross out is also a good way to use this movie. It is a cringe worthy thrill ride of a splatter-fest with better than usual acting. Not the best of horror movie remakes, but not the worst either.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you desire a more faster moving, more savage version of the 1978 classic
Avoid it: if you were happy with the tension and fear of the original classic

Entertainment: A-
Story: B-
Acting: B
Characters: C+
Replay value: B+
"Brains": D

Saturday, December 11, 2010

King of Fighters (2010)

Overall verdict: 1.5/10

The Good: guaranteed to make you laugh at how terrible it is

The Bad: It is really that terrible

Current Availability Status: on DVD in all singaporean DVD stores

Two words describe this movie. The last word is "up" and the first word starts with an "F". And no, it is not "Fighter". The two words make up an insult much like how Hong Kong Director Gordan Chan's "The King of Fighters" is an insult not just to the fans of the King of Fighters (affectionately abbreviated to "KOF") video game series, or video games in general, but it even manages to be an insult to bad video game movies.

Cue the sensless plot that completely rips-off "The Matrix" while sounding more confusing than the entire trilogy combined. The premise of this movie involves a secret tournament that is held in some alternate dimension in which fighters from around the world "log in" to via special earpieces. Think jacking into a big matrix-like video game world, complete with "I-know-kung-fu" wire fighting and bad computer composited special powers. Its all fun and games until Rugal (Ray Park doing his best Darth Maul meets The Joker impression) steals some sacred artifacts with a plot to free something called "The Orochi". Why free the orochi? Because Rugal wants to hack the alternate dimensional video game, give himself god-like powers and ultimately be the champion of the game. (Seriously) Out to stop him are undercover agents Mai, who is working for Terry Bogard in the CIA, and Iori Yagami, a man with a past connection to Rugal. Together they must seek out a third artifact called the "Kusanagi sword" which has been passed to Kyo Kusanagi, a white boy with Japanese name.

Alternate gaming dimensions, ancient snake ball demons and mythical artefacts. Oh My. To quote Maggie Q's character of Mai by saying "Its not Logical", would be a major understatement. An illogical, confusing and plodding plot is the least of this movie's problems. In trying to mix mysticism with hardcore science fiction would have worked in the hands of a skilled creative team. Here it turned out like oil and water, making the entire movie very difficult to follow and bordering on absurd.

The most basic criteria for a just "passable" video game movie is that either the story has small resemblance to the game (Silent Hill, Max Payne, Hit-man) or the character has some similar appearance to their game counterparts (Mortal Kombat, Tekken). King of Failures has NONE of these mere basic elements! The least Gordan Chan, the director, could do was to give some good ol fashioned hong kong kung fu but even that is missing making King of Failures an absolute chore to sit through.

The pacing is thrown off by having too much talk and not enough fight. The needless exposition and banal dialogue is not even interesting nor does it develop that silly excuse for a plot. Kyo's so called "hero's journey" has been done in umpteen other shows and every character's lack of charisma is made even more painful by stilted acting and laughable dialogue.

When some action does come once in a while, it is an utter let down and a complete joke especially when one knows what kind of stunts Hong Kong is capable of. The fight choreography is generally uninspired, almost dull; Many B movies have had better fights than this. Ray Park and Will Yun Lee were the only two actors who had some convincing fighting moves thanks to their martial arts training background. But the biggest sin here is Gordan Chan's wonky camera-work which uses way too many slanted angles, headache inducing tilted shots and an irritating purple lighting in the alternate dimension scenes that seems reminiscent of "Battlefield Earth".

For all the times people have lambasted hollywood for video gam movie flops like "Legend of Chun Li" and "Super Mario", Hong Kong has now topped all that. Some might argue that this is worse than the stuff from the infamous video game movie director Uwe Boll (House of the Dead, FarCry). But on a lighter note, this movie would make great subject matter to be laughed at on a boring movie night. It might even scare off video game companies who are thinking of selling the rights to make a movie.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: To see how horrible a video game movie adaptation can get
Avoid it: if you refuse to believe that this is a hong kong movie. Or better yet, just avoid. Nuff said.

Entertainment: C-
Story: D
Acting: C-
Characters: D+
Replay value: D
"Brains": F