Movie Review: Passengers

Yes, I am on a roll today. I feel like I’ve neglected this space for so long, and I really want to get back into writing, even if all that I write (willingly) is for leisure and self-consumption. If only this could generate some sort of revenue that can constitute a side income, that would be great and ideal. But then again we do not live in an ideal world and so that is something that I can dream and hope for; if it doesn’t happen that way, so be it. If God has meant for it to happen, it will. If not, then I shall be content and happy just writing as a form of leisure or stress-relieve.

Back to the topic – movie. After the hiatus from movie-watching, in a span of a few days, I caught a couple of movies. The second show that I caught, on Boxing Day, was Passengers. Interestingly, Assassin’s Creed that I watched on Christmas Eve was based on mythology, while Passengers is a sci-fi movie. They are similar in that the subject matter dealt with is hypothetical. To be fair, most movies have an aspect that is hypothetical to a certain extent, I guess that is the reason why movies exist – to cater to the dreams and fantasies conjured up in the minds of humans that is currently not possible.

Passengers went down better with me in terms of how the plot played out; it flowed better for me and was way easier to grasp and understand in comparison. I am not a fan of science fiction, in fact I would have thought that mythology would appeal to me more, but I enjoyed the pace of this movie and its story. The emotional part felt more real to me, and resonated with me more, and the fact that space travel and hibernation seem more realistic than unravelling secrets through a fusion of technology, time travel and genealogy, especially with the apple of Eden thrown in the mix that supposedly held the secret to human will.

I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who is contemplating watching the movie while reading this, so I’m not talking about the plot but it shouldn’t be hard to guess. It is predictable in that way, and there are not many (if at all) twists – that wasn’t meant to be the case and clocking in at slightly less than 2 hours there also wasn’t that much room to play around if plot twists were planned.

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Movie review: “Assassin’s Creed”

Aside from a recent (maybe not exactly ‘recent’ depending on how you would want to define it) movie I caught with a friend as part of the showing for the Israel Film Festival in September this year, it has been a very long time since I last caught a movie at the cinema. I cannot even remember what was the last movie that I had watched at the cinema, even though technically I visit the cinema halls fairly frequently.

On Christmas eve, my friends and I decided to spend part of the day watching a show in between our lunch and dinner. What better way to spend the eve of Christmas away from most of the crowds just feasting and enjoying right? Also, since we were at just one location for food and movie, it also meant we stayed out of the downpour that happened in the afternoon, that we were blissfully unaware of until we emerged post-movie.

Anyway, the movie we caught was ‘Assassin’s Creed’. I didn’t really know what the movie was going to be, except for a quick read of the synopsis hour before the movie when my friends asked if I was okay with catching it.

I shouldn’t think that the lack of background on a movie would have affected the viewing, but in this case, it somehow did. Apparently, Assassin’s Creed is based on a video game franchise of the same name, although the plot is original that expands on the game’s mythology. Being clueless about the the video game and the Spanish Inquisition, coupled with very little knowledge about the Templar Order, etc. got me lost in the movie. Whatever connotation I had of ‘Templar’ vaguely linked to what was being depicted in Dan Brown’s stories such as the Da Vinci Code.

Despite that, it’s quite clear and easy to grasp that the Apple of Eden was the object of desire by an organisation in current times, which they tried to obtain via scientific means that somehow to me, seemed very far-fetched and unbelievable. Maybe I am being unimaginative or too pragmatic to appreciate mythology and the vast possibilities that the reel world offers. However, the need to tell the story within a 2-hour time frame could have limited the scriptwriters’ scope in putting in a better flow of the story to render it more digestible.

I could blame myself for not watching it with a more open frame of mind, or it could boil down to the lack of patience to sit through a whole movie these days. It could still be an enjoyable show for those who revel in mythology and oh, based on how it ended (which for me was a little too abrupt), there could be high chances for a sequel.

Leonardo Dicaprio

Finally I watched the Great Gatsby. It was quite a good movie in spite of its length, which I didn’t seem to feel as the story developed and the mystery behind Jay Gatsby unraveled and the predicament that he eventually got into. For someone who went to such great lengths to build up a mask so believable for just one purpose, I wonder if it is pure devotion or just obsession. And how even with the greatest pretenses and best lies, the truth will always be brought to light.

I thought I was going to miss the movie for good, especially when I am not someone who would really bother with getting DVDs to watch at home. Not even if it is a movie that I had wanted to watch badly. I don’t have the patience for that, and it is different from sitting in front of the TV vegging out over senseless TV dramas or whatever else is being screened on the goggle box.

Somehow actors or thespians as they are called, seem to get typecast after a while. Although I still stand by my opinion that Leo Dicaprio is a great actor who unfortunately has not yet gotten any Oscar nod, each movie that he appears in is not something entirely ground-breaking. Same goes for Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt, two other actors whom I also admire, more the former than the latter though.

From Romeo+Juliet to The Beach to Catch Me If You Can, even the older movies like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Marvin’s Room, to more recent outings like Blood Diamond and Inception, I don’t think the way Leo Dicaprio acts is any more different than the last. Perhaps more polished, and I think despite that many still think of him as a pretty boy, I think he has grown as an actor and is trying really hard to shake off that mould of Jack in Titanic.

I enjoy his movies, even if as I watched the Great Gatsby, I seem to get glimpses of Catch Me If You Can or even the Aviator. And I will still continue to watch his movies in the years to come, as long as he doesn’t quit acting. From the fan girl in me. 😀

movies… a waning interest?

To be very honest, I cannot for the life of me, recall when the last time I stepped into a cinema was. I do watch movies on and off, but usually only when I am travelling. This year, with the reduction in overseas trips whether for business or leisure, I have also watched significantly fewer movies. I even missed Leonardo Dicaprio’s The Great Gatsby, something I had really wanted to watch. Oh well, I guess sometimes I am that lazy, that I even put off heading to the cinema despite that there is a movie I want to catch. Sundays are usually the only days I will consider catching a film because Sunday mornings are when most people will either be snoozing at home or just heading out for their Sunday brunches. It is one of the most convenient times to head to the cinema and grab a ticket for a show at the last minute, without having to battle the usual movie crowds and also without having people cast you weird looks for going to the cinema alone.

I still care about how people perceive me, which perhaps also explains the lesser cinema visits. But probably I have also began to lose interest in movies; I used to watch a lot of movies in the past, managing a few movies within the same week, sometimes even two on the same day.

I bought myself a ticket to Thor: The Dark World on Sunday, since I thought it would be something that wouldn’t require too much brain power as it was meant to be a blockbuster, i.e. action-packed shows that contain lots of special effects and are friendly to the brain. The movie was slated to be about two hours, which wasn’t too off-putting. Somehow, when I know that a movie will take maybe 150 minutes, I am more reluctant to want to watch it.

So I sat and watched, well-prepared for the cold of the cinema hall with a comfortable sweater and a smuggled cup of Toffee Nut Latte. The show actually bored me and as I recalled all the praises and raves that my friends had for the movie, I felt restless and would occasionally check the time on my phone to find out how much longer I had to sit until the end of it.

Well, it did get better into the last half hour of the movie, when I started to get more into the story and its development. But it was a pity that it only happened in the last quarter of the show. Oddly, the best part of the show for me was how beautiful they made Asgard look, with all that twinkling lights adorning the city and the Bifrost that boasted a psychedelic array of light streams. And as the movie went along, I realised too that I enjoyed those parts with Loki in them, like he was the life of the show that provided the much-needed contrast and colour to his otherwise predictable super-hero brother, Thor.

late night coffee

Last weekend, I finally stepped into a cinema again, after what felt like lightyears. These days, social life seem to have taken a hiatus but then again, it isn’t like I’m living the life of a recluse or hermit. But it is always nice to meet up with friends whom I haven’t met in a while, to catch up on each other’s lives and reconnect once more.

Caught the movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness, because ever since I caught the first one in 2009 starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, I had thought that I would want to continue watching it when they come out with new episodes. I was never really into Star Trek, rather knowing and being exposed a little more to Star Wars instead since young. And I would admit as much, Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock are a major reason for me catching on this. Haha, well it always helps to have some eye-candy in a movie doesn’t it? I liked Into Darkness more, or should I say, I actually don’t really remember much about the 2009 instalment that I watched that is all of 4 years ago! But Into Darkness had more action throughout the duration of the movie, and is certainly more action-filled.

When the movie ended, we decided to pop in to Robert Timms for a drink, and since I was there how could I resist the coffee? Despite that I have resolved to consume less coffee on a daily basis and have been fairly successful, that day I think I effectively overshot my usual dosage. But they serve nice coffee, and the thick frothy milk that comes along with the latte is also much welcomed. Perhaps the next time I should send in a request for a more special latte art? Would they actually accommodate such a request?     

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Before the show started, I wanted to have a bite since it was dinner-time but as I had something during tea-time, the obsessed me decided to go for a supposedly healthier option of a salad. Ok, maybe this doesn’t come across as looking very healthy because the meat seemed to be glistening with a sheen of oil, but well it is a salad after all, and hopefully the greens compensate otherwise.20130606-084205.jpg

This was ordered from the Cinecafe at Shaw Lido, which I thought was a good place to grab some dinner before a show because the last I recalled, it wasn’t too crowded. That day, we managed to get a seat and had a choice of several tables to pick from, but maybe about 5-10 minutes afterward, the place became full and in the first place there aren’t that many tables to go around. Food here is pretty decent, and perhaps offers a wider variety than Canele that is just next to it, price-wise it is reasonable, not really that economical or cheap since this portion of salad I had costs S$10 but for convenience I suppose it is still considered ok. This was a salad of chicken, greens, walnuts, apples and raisins, which is some sort of a modified waldorf salad maybe. I really enjoyed it and the vegetables and chicken chunks helped to make it a satiating meal, except that at the end, some of the purple leafy vegetables were a tad too bitter to eat.

Les Miserables, the movie

I’m not writing to review the movie but rather to rave about it, well some parts of it anyway.

Finally I got the chance to watch this after having missed it in the cinemas. These days I think I can count off the number of movies I catch at the cinemas in a few months on one hand.

I’d watched the musical twice, once when they came to Singapore about 19-20 years ago (wow it has been that long!) and it was performed at the Kallang Theatre, and the second time in London also several years back. I’m not someone who grasps musicals well because I have a problem at times making out the lyrics and therefore meanings are missed. So from both times where I caught the musical there were some parts that were lost to me. Somehow the movie afforded me a better and deeper appreciation of the plot and its development and after this, I think I wouldn’t mind watching the musical again, because it is just awesome listening to the live singing alongside the theatrical performance of the stage actors.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the movie and I think Anne Hathaway did an amazing job as Fantine, and her singing was great, not compromised by the need to act and emote at the same time. The singing by the rest of the cast was also not too bad, but I do agree fully with what everyone else commented about Russell Crowe’s Javier; a total letdown. His acting is fine, but the singing was just flat. Though this inspector character is some sort of a villain, both times when I watched the musical, Javier’s part was very well played out coupled with strong vocals. I guess for stage, singing prowess is very important, whereas movies are a different playing field altogether. That was how the movie version of Phantom apparently flopped. I caught the movie when it screened but have yet to watch the musical!

Detachment

Oh, before anyone gets upset, if you are, about what I mentioned in an earlier post about me not feeling sorry for people who lament about missing meals and stuff, there is a specific example in my mind as I typed that. It isn’t meant to mean anyone who happens to let off a rant about having to skip breakfast and suffering because of it, so just in case there, I should put a small disclaimer. I am generally quite a nice person who empathises, or so I would like to think.

Anyway, on my flight back from Taipei, since there were some hours on the plane and I didn’t want to sleep or rather, I cannot really get proper sleep anyway, I thought I’d catch a movie. As I browsed the rather long list of movies, I was quite clueless as to what to watch because nothing really caught my eye. I settled eventually on this show starring Adrien Brody. It’s called Detachment. The synopsis provided on the Krisworld magazine didn’t appeal to me at all but as I was running out of choices, and after all I had enjoyed watching Adrien Brody so much in the Pianist back then, I decided to hit the play button anyhow.

The movie is all of 97 minutes, seemingly short in comparison with most of the other Hollywood movies of the drama genre; however, the 97 minutes seemed much longer even if it did not feel exactly that long. The subject matter of the film was heavy, and the use of dialogue and monologue interspersed with silence frames lent a very sombre mood to it. Adrien Brody was perfect in his role as the substitute teacher, with his vacant expression, the one who is detached from his surroundings by virtue of his job of moving from school to school, class to class, and to quote his character Henry Barthes, “to maintain order, make sure nobody kills anybody in your classroom, and then they get to their next period.” In one scene where he entered a classroom for the first time and a student menacingly threatened to beat the living daylights out of him and even picked up his bag to throw it against the door, he didn’t even blink an eye. Instead, he replied nonchalantly “That bag is empty. It has no feelings. You can’t hurt it. I’m just like that bag.”

As I was googling for the quotes above, I came across some rather negative reviews of the film for the bleak portrayal of the American education system and life in general, as seen through the eyes of this very substitute teacher. I don’t know if it indeed represents the entirety of what the system is like and if that is what life is about, I suppose it is just an avenue for the film-maker to explore a facet of life and how some sees it. Maybe in a different time, I would have had different thoughts about it and watching this film may jolly well be the final nail on the coffin for me to succumb to depression. But I know that a film is a film, it is something in a two-dimensional world that I view on screen, in a cinema, on TV or in the plane. Sometimes, we connect and identify with subjects protagonised in films and other times we feel that it is just a waste of time and money. It is something real I believe, something that does happen in our world today, how there are empty lives screaming for help, faceless people dragging their shackled feet through an endless journey of corridors and walkways, and for some of these unfortunate beings who don’t receive the help they need, they find solace in hurting themselves, sometimes even choosing to end their existence to terminate the pain.

Back to the movie, Henry Barthes was the perfect representation of detachment, or so he appears to be. As the film went on, we saw that he wasn’t as detached as his expressionless face showed. His interactions with his grandfather, one of his students, a fellow teacher, and a street walker, betrayed his emotions and propensity for attachment, and at the end we saw that none of them are capable of removing themselves from feeling for someone else. We can choose to be detached and appear to be so, but honestly at the end of the day, can we really do it?