Logan – Well Exceeded My Expectation

I am a fan of all things Marvel. For some strange reasons, I have not watched the previous installments of the Wolverine standalone movie series. But when I saw the poster, with Wolverine carrying a young girl against a sunset backdrop – how poetic by the way – I have got to watch this. My wife asked, “Who’s that girl?”. “She could be Laura,” I answered and then added, “X-23?”

Logan

Those who have read the Marvel’s X-Men series must have heard of X-23. She is Wolverine’s clone, with some subtle differences. An awesome character on her own. She is also the All-New-Wolverine. So yes. Being able to see her early years on screen is a big deal.

Unlike other Marvel movies I have watched, Logan doesn’t have those big budget explosion and city-wide / worldwide / galaxy-wide destruction. It isn’t drowned with special effects (sure, those claws ain’t real but you get what I mean). In fact, Logan doesn’t even wear his costume. I don’t recall anyone does. I get to see the characters’ expression all the time.

There is plenty of raw emotion. One could even shed a tear or two towards the end. It is good to be reminded that while special effects don’t usually leave a lasting impression, emotion and good acting often does. I am glad that my wife and I got a chance to watch this in a theater.

Rush – What An Experience Back To 1976 Formula One

Rush, a F1 movie

As a Formula One enthusiast, this movie Rush is a real treat. Unlike Senna (2010) – also another great film on F1 but in a documentary style – Rush is a movie based on a true story between the two rivalry drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  All the elements of the sport are there.  Classic tracks, ear-bleeding engine noise, the flamboyancy of a F1 driver, how the technical knowledge a driver can bring an advantage to the team, the politics within the sport, the need to fight for a seat, the danger involved, and the sacrifices that the drivers and their families have made for that podium, and to be crowned the world champion.  Most of us would only see the sport as fast cars going round and round in circle.  Rush is a rare glimpse into what this sport is truly about.  While Formula One of today is a lot safer than in the earlier days, much of what is seen in this movie is still relevant.

The drama of the 1976 season is intense and part of it can be so gruesome that my wife has to turn away from the screen in the midst of the show.  The determination of winning a season above all sacrifices and this constant satisfaction of cheating death – something it is hard to relate but to a F1 driver of that era, that was all that mattered.  This movie is moving for me seeing how the two drivers fought against each other against all odds.  In the end, one may wonder what all of this are for.  To go down in history as one of the legendary drivers I suppose.  Some do live and die for the sport.

Both actors – Chris Hemsworth (of Thor!) and Daniel Brühl – act equally well.  Even to those who are not familiar with the sport (like my wife and my buddy), Rush is entertaining to watch.  If you wish to read more about Niki Lauda (ranked 9th as F1’s greatest driver by BBC), check out the link here.

Fast & Furious 6 – Inconceivable, Cheesy-ish, But Cool

Yet another FF title!

There were moments during the show when I gasped deep and mouthed, “This can’t be possible!”  It was almost like the clip when Edward of Twilight saved Bella from a would-be car accident at school.  That superhuman power.  That moment, I did not see Vin Diesel as Vin Diesel.  I saw him as a demigod.  That powerful leap into midair, with razor sharp trajectory precision.  Something that parachutists might be able to do at terminal velocity.  Or maybe not.  I couldn’t help but wonder if someone was to jump out from a fast moving vehicle on a highway, grab a 60kg object that is thrown onto him, and then land on his back through the shattered glass, would he have survived?  Not a bone broken?

Vin Diesel is not the only invincible one here.  Those leaps between a plane that was about to take off and the cars below struggling to gain traction, wow!  One could take a multistory fall and land right onto a car seat OK.  That is incredible.  More incredible so is: How long was the runway exactly?  That airplane scene went on and on as though the runway was as long as two parallel lines stretching into infinity.

Actually, these things don’t bother me too much.  I knew what I was in for.  What really bothers me is that why would one of my favorite characters die when everyone else is given such superhuman treatment?  Puzzling.  Perhaps that character did not die.  Perhaps the answer lies in the future installments.  I can only hope.

I can imagine why Fast & Furious 6 is popular.  I like cars.  While taking the action to fist fighting, tank smashing, and plane crashing may seem too far off from the franchise, I still like the car scenes a lot.  Of course, I wish that the convoy on the final missions was the same make, same color.  Like some of the memorable scenes in the earlier installments.  That visual coherence would have radiated a stronger sense of teamwork.  I am a Formula One fan.  Those F1 like cars in Furious 6 are quite something.  They seem like working prototypes.  If the filmmakers manage to build those, in real life, I doubt any road car would be able to get close at all.

In a way, the franchise has grown up quite a bit.  It is not about street racing anymore.  It is like a mini-Expendables whereby the ex-criminals’ skills are required in saving the world.  Or saving a briefcase.  Some of the dialogues can be kind of cheesy.  But because most the characters – especially so for Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and The Rock – are so cool, I really don’t mind.  The exchange between Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson – also a musician – is hilarious.  Some parts of the movie struck my emotional core too.  Overall, an entertaining movie.

Looks like Jason Statham from The Transporter will be starring in Fast & Furious 7.  At least it looks so from the post-credit scene.  It is hard to visualize him as a villain though.  We shall see.

Gangster Squad – Pretty Gruesome, But Funny Too

I watched this for Emma Stone

Cynthia and I at times can be pretty business-like with each other, when it comes to movie outing.  After crawling through the usual Orchard Saturday traffic – which TK and us always forget and regret not watching a movie on a Sunday instead – at the basement car park lift lobby, I turned to Cynthia and asked, “Give me run through of what we are going to watch, would you?”

Her immediate response was, “No idea.  You like the girl and I like the guy.  That’s about it.”

True.  She picked Gangster Squad because of Ryan Gosling.  And I Emma Stone.  TK too insisted that he wouldn’t want to give this a miss because of Emma Stone.

I did not know what to expect.  This film is inspired by a true story set in the ’40s and ’50s.  LA was run by gangsters, many police officers were bribed, and the residents seemed cool with it.  It was a way of life until Sergeant John O’Mara (played by Josh Brolin) came into the picture.  As a WWII veteran and a war hero, he has no plan to yield to the gangster boss Mickey Cohen played by Sean Penn.  Unable to strike the gang as a police officer, John – secretly supported by the Chief – recruited a squad to deal with the gang.  The approach was controversial and the results could at times be hilarious.  Mickey Cohen was ruthless.  You have got to have a strong stomach for the crime he did against others.

Gangster Squad feels authentic, as though I was transported back in time.  Those hairstyles, and costumes.  Cynthia and I cracked every time when John took out a gigantic wireless phone radio (edit: Thanks to TK for the correction).  Sean Penn has acted exceptionally well in this movie.  There were moments when he appeared as spaced out, and uninterested; there were moments when he was as sharp as a fighter, so full of energy – verbally and physically.  Josh Brolin is perfect for the role, as an honest and no-nonsense officer.  Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are charming, despite having a rather small role in Gangster Squad.

For some strange reasons, this film reminds me of Al Pacino’s 1983 film Scarface.  Sean Penn and Emma Stone would be a good fit for Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer’s roles.  One particular line struck me as quite quote worthy:

To lose everything and win the war, that is a hero.  To lose everything but lose the war, that’s a fool.

Taken 2: Entertaining Albeit Less Intense Than Previous Installment

A group of us at Google+ – though not everyone has met everyone in real life – have at least two things in common.  We love the movie Taken and we live in Singapore.  So, when one of us suggested a Taken 2 movie outing, we have decided to make it yet another Google+ real life hangout.  It was fun.  We have a great time and followed through with an Indonesian dinner buffet.

I have almost forgotten how I felt about Taken until I read my post written three years ago.  Our movie buddy TK with his superhuman memory at the end of the show commented that Taken 2 has a slightly slower pace.  Now that I have read what was written, I agree.  But that doesn’t make Take 2 any less entertaining.

Initially, I was skeptical on this sequel.  In Taken, the daughter was taken.  Liam Neeson’s character has killed everyone in the story and saved her daughter.  In Taken 2, the parents are taken.  Relatives of the deceased are now seeking revenge.  What can an untrained daughter do?

Turns out that the daughter does have a role to play in saving her parents.  Clever script the film has.  Is that realistic?  I would say for someone who was been taken before, the survival instinct must have kicked in.  The backdrop of this installment is Istanbul.  To those who have yet to see the country, this backdrop looks exotic.

The challenge Taken 2 has is that there is little surprise when you have already watched the previous installment.  The only cliffhanger to me is that knowing Luc Besson, he may let the hero dies (like in Léon: The Professional).  The intensity then comes not from the would be surprises but the clever execution of the rescue mission.  To me, Taken 2 is a worthy follow up to the original movie.  It looks as though there will be Taken 3.  Now, it would be great if this Google+ real time hangout group continues to keep in touch and have a Taken reunion for the next installment.