Flickchart Battle: War of the Worlds (2005) vs. The Fountain (2006)

May 9, 2014

flickchart-war-of-worlds-fountain

In the first corner, we have an alien-invasion science fiction film starring Tom Cruise. In the other corner, we have an epic love story spanning approximately 1,000 years with a heavy fantasy and science fiction influence. Both films stirred a lot of conversation, but neither were universally acclaimed. Which film will win this battle?

First and foremost, War of the Worlds was a huge blockbuster in 2005. With a reported budget of $130 million, the film grossed over $234 million ($591 million worldwide). There have been plenty of disaster movies, but unfortunately no one considers War of the Worlds very good, because it’s not. It’s flashy at times, but there are plenty of scenes when you wonder where all the money went to, because the special effects aren’t that spectacular. Tom Cruise demands a big paycheck, and to his credit he (and director Steve Spielberg) delivered. But with a flimsy family-story and barely enough urgency (especially when aliens are killing everything in its path!), War of the Worlds is a whirlwind of chaos.

At its best, War of the Worlds shows the confusion of such a bizarre, catastrophic event. Where did they come from? What do they want? How are they functioning? How can we defeat them? But with a weak ending and a strange encounter with Tim Robbins, War of the Worlds is hardly memorable. The only thing that has stayed in my mind since watching it in theaters are the images of humans being evaporated by the aliens’ lasers. It’s very powerful when you see hundreds of clothes floating through the air. But then again, the aliens are defeated at the end and somehow the family remained safe. I just don’t buy it.

Meanwhile, The Fountain is a very ambitious film by Darren Aronofsky, who has provided us with films such as Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan. It’s safe to say that The Fountain is a misstep in Aronofsky’s career, but there is still a lot of great things happening. For one, while The Fountain isn’t an easy movie to understand, it’s one that would definitely spark up a conversation. Which story-lines were real? Which story-lines were a part of the book? What’s the meaning of the ending? You can count on Aronofsky to deliver some head-scratching scenes in most of his movies.

But just because The Fountain is thought-provoking, is it good? From his resume of films, it’s definitely on the bottom of his works, but then again it’s not a bad film, it’s just a lot more challenging than his others. The acting is very good in The Fountain, led by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. At the end, you’re left with a number of different feelings from the bizarre conclusion, which stem from the simple story about a man who loves a woman who dies. It’s not treated like a regular Hollywood film that bombards you with tear-jerking scenes until you’re out of tissues. It shows the passion and the distance that Tom Creo takes to try and save his wife, and the limits he breaks to try and keep her with him.

So who wins? It’s a challenging match-up because I don’t love either film, but I also don’t hate either. While War of the Worlds was a more entertaining film from a classic story, The Fountain is incredibly original. And shouldn’t filmmakers who take risks be rewarded? I think they should, and that’s why I’m picking The Fountain as the winner of this Flickchart Battle!

Winner: The Fountain


Game of Thrones – “Two Swords”

April 7, 2014

Season Four, Episode One

GoT-two-swords

Grade: B+

After watching some episodes from the marathon on HBO2, the season four premiere felt very scattered, like a montage of all the characters and where they are now. “Two Swords” takes place not too far after when the season three finale ended. The Lannisters are still in power and enjoying a hiatus in the war, though Jaime warns them that the war never ends. While there isn’t any direct battles that involve the Lannisters, they’re far from feeling safe and happy.

While Jaime was one of the most hated characters in the early-going of the series, he’s worked his way into our hearts especially since he’s been cut down to size without his right hand. Sympathy was something I thought I’d never feel for Jaime, but after his time on the road with Brienne, he’s a character that I don’t completely hate anymore. So when he has his conversation with Cersei, I felt the cold breeze from her words as they stung Jaime right in the heart.

Also at King’s Landing, Tyrion and Sansa are still trying to figure out their marriage, but how could she when all she can think about is the brutal murder of her family from the Red Wedding. Tyrion does his best to try and be sympathetic, but to no avail. Also, Tyrion seems to be losing Shae in more than one way. Let’s see how Cersei takes the news that Tyrion and Shae are in love with each other.

Meanwhile, we get snippets of our other main characters. Daenerys marches on with her army; Jon Snow is back at the Wall and warns his superiors of the danger that is coming its way; Ygritte’s people are joined by the Thenns who roast a human arm; and Arya and the Hound search for food. The final scene involving Arya, the Hound and a handful of the King’s men was full of tension with a happy outcome when Arya seeks revenge and finally gets Needle back. For a moment watching the scene, I wasn’t sure if Arya was going to jump in and help the Hound, or if she was going to cower in the corner. But I’m sure glad she did spring into action!

Like every season, it’ll be fun to track how the chess pieces move around the board before the show hits us with another huge battle or another stunner. We’ll have the big wedding to look forward to, along with the defense of the Wall and the journey of the Hound and Arya. And for those who hate the Lannisters, let’s just hope that this is the beginning to the end of their ruling.


Revolution – “Come Blow Your Horn”

November 18, 2013

Season Two, Episode Eight

revolution-come-blow

Grade: B+

Truman tells the residents of Willoughby (I keep thinking to type Woodbury from The Walking Dead) that Miles is the one responsible for the bomb that went off inside the walls and that he, along with Aaron, Rachel, and Charlie, are terrorists. So what does the gang decide to do? Make them eat their words by cooking up a bomb to eliminate Dr. Horn and anyone else hiding in the headquarters.

This part of the episode was full of the most tension because of the elephant in the room that Rachel and Charlie eventually discuss: what to do with Gene Porter? Charlie knows she can’t forgive her grandfather but she can forget his betrayal, while Rachel has more rage than forgiveness inside of her heart. What ends up happening is what we all expected, while Rachel sneaks to the roof of the building, Gene walks in to visit with Dr. Horn. Does Rachel drop the chemicals? Charlie certainly doesn’t want her to, but Miles calmly mutters that it’s Rachel’s decision. That all changes when a few Patriot officers bring in Aaron and Cynthia. The problem is Rachel doesn’t see this and Miles and Charlie have no way to tell her. Can this be the end of a handful of major characters?!

Of course not, but I must admit that this was one of the more suspenseful moments on Revolution this season. The way Rachel quietly climbs the steps to the roof while a dozen guards litter the yard. Seeing Gene walk into the headquarters just added to the decision of leaving the building in flames, but then when Aaron is seen your heart just drops! But ninja Miles swoops in and prevents Rachel from dropping the chemicals (which has me thinking, why didn’t Miles just climb to the roof instead of Rachel?).

This is when we just have to say, Poor Aaron. Since the beginning he’s been the one who’s arguably the most useless out of the group. He even knows it, but he’s that underdog character that it’s hard to root against. But since he’s been resurrected from the dead and has super-human powers, he’s target number one on Dr. Horn’s list. Why? Because he has a tumor growing in his brain and believes the nanotech that brought Aaron back to life can cure his tumor. Whoa. Oh, and Dr. Horn will do anything for this to happen, which includes torturing Aaron, watching his body heal itself like Wolverine, and eventually has an officer stab Cynthia to draw out an emotional response. That Dr. Horn is an evil man!

Meanwhile, Neville talks with Allenford’s husband, Roger, and makes a deal with him to hand over his traitor wife so the camp can see his loyalty to the Patriots. Roger has a change of heart nearing the site his wife’s being held, but Neville’s no fool. “I thought something like this might happen,” he said with a small smile. You simply don’t mess with Neville. Period. In the end, Roger shoots Secretary Allenford and Neville’s plan to climb the Patriot ranks is still moving flawlessly. It’s uncertain what’s going to be Neville’s next play, but that’s what keeps this part of the story-line so interesting. Unlike Miles and company trying to escape Willoughby (and for a while now), we really don’t know what’s in store for Neville as he continues to travel from camp to camp.

In the end, a lot of characters are facing imminent danger: Aaron spreads flames in the dungeon, Gene stares down the gun pointed at his head from Truman, Cynthia’s stab wound to the stomach, and Miles and company still wanted as terrorists. Last week I pointed out how the urgency level should be raised… well we finally got it. Now I’m concerned whether or not Revolution will keep their foot on the gas pedal, or will they slow down the action and draw out all the situations?

Last but not least:

  • Monroe leaves Aaron because if he’s captured, he’s dead. Smart, and also shows how Monroe wouldn’t sacrifice himself for others.
  • Miles has a nasty infection spreading down his arm. Still, with one arm he’s still a kick-ass killing machine.
  • Charlie was border-line annoying, preaching to her mom about keeping Gene alive.
  • We see a lot of Dr. Horn flashbacks and learn he’s not a religious man, but he’s still a creepy old hellraiser!

Revolution – “The Patriot Act”

November 10, 2013

Season Two, Episode Seven

revolution-patriot-act

Grade: B

With the death that never was, it just happens that no one was surprised either. Let’s just take that into consideration for a moment. Miles seemed to be upset that his former buddy was about be lethally injected. I mean, he was staring into space, alone at a bar. That’s a dead giveaway of how he feels! Plus Charlie and Aaron seemed pretty sad as well, but everyone was present when Monroe’s eyes opened. Surprise! Or not. Which makes me wonder, if everyone (or at least someone) knew about this, how did Gene not hear about the plan (since he’s a spy Patriot). I’m not entirely buying this, but whatever it’s in the past.

Monroe is beyond the walls of Willoughby but the main concern this episode is for Aaron, who has been linked to Rachel for knowing about the nanotech. Dr. Calvin Horn (Zeljko Ivanek) is up to no good and he doesn’t even bother to hide it. Whether he’s talking or just staring at you, you cringe at the possibility of what he’s thinking. He’s offended that Rachel doesn’t remember him (strike one!) from back in the day when he was involved with the technology Rachel was discovering. But now Dr. Horn is the adviser to the President and he wants answers from Rachel.

Even though Rachel and Aaron are in the direct line of fire here, this is Gene Porter’s episode. We see flashbacks of how he became involved with the Patriots and through time he develops a guilty conscience. So he over-hears the group devising a plan to get Aaron pass the guards of Willougby and wants to help. But Porter becomes another victim of Dr. Horn’s maniacal stare and gives the plan up. Good thing Miles is one step ahead of him! So they go through with Plan B, which involves Aaron and Cynthia to climb through the sewers. And just when you think they’re caught, Monroe to the rescue! Well, Monroe and Aaron’s supernatural powers to set people on fire. What’s interesting about this is how Cynthia and Monroe witnesses this. Monroe wants to learn how Aaron did it while Cynthia is scared out of her mind.

All of this is really hard on Rachel and she’s unable to accept the fact that her dad is a Patriot who sold her out. But the mission is accomplished. Aaron and Cynthia are free with Monroe, though this does mean that Dr. Horn will definitely be after Rachel. While all of this is going on, Neville sprung quite a surprise on us this episode. Allenford sees the effects wearing off on Jason and laments how she should’ve given her own son a better chance. And then Neville drugs her and later on admits she’s been duped! She was the target this entire time and now they’re on their way to her super high Patriot husband to tear them down! How’s that for a Revolution twist!

Even though Revolution is only in its second season, there’s a big difference in the way they’re establishing setting. We’ve been practically stuck in Willoughby this season while in season one we were brought on the adventure of the characters constantly moving (either to rescue Danny or to kill Monroe). Yes, we still have Neville on the road but it sort of seems like a prison break where the rest of the main characters are captive in Willoughby, trying to find a way out. Sure, they want to tear down the Patriot empire first, but how is that even going to be possible without some outside reinforcements? Right now, it seems like the plot has stalled quite a bit, waiting for something big to happen to give Miles a chance to bring a fight to them. Whether that’s going to be Neville or not has yet to be seen, but I hope they don’t wait too long.


Revolution – “Dead Man Walking”

November 3, 2013

Season Two, Episode Six

revolution-dead-man-walking

Grade: B-

Since the beginning of the second season, we’re shown a different side to most of our main characters. Monroe’s trying to help out, Charlie isn’t as annoying, Miles has a heart and is showing it, Aaron can burn people to death just by getting mad, and Rachel has become the annoying brat of the group. This has all been welcoming since the second season is much better than the first, but in “Dead Man Walking” we hit a slight speed bump.

The mystery is how the Patriots were able to figure out that, A. Monroe is nearby and, B. where exactly to find him. Much of the episode is dedicated to Monroe, his flashbacks and his inevitable future. But this is Revolution and trust me, no one was surprised at the sight of Rachel digging up his body that was just buried. No one. It’s not a hanging or a shooting, it’s death by lethal injection that coincidentally is prepared by Rachel. So what’s her play? She obviously wants Monroe dead, but did Miles’ pep talk change her mind?

Either way, I’m glad that Revolution didn’t kill off Monroe (yet) because he’s become arguably the strongest character in the second season. The episode did a good job reminding us that Monroe is still a bad person, but maybe he’s trying to atone for his mistakes (or maybe he’s just fooling us all!). But now Miles and the gang have an even bigger task to overtake the Patriots with the Texas Rangers as their allies.

The strongest scene of the episode was between Miles and Monroe as they reminisce for a bit before Monroe tells Miles to find his son and look after him. But BAM! Miles drops the bomb that he’s known about his son all along and has been hiding him from Monroe. What a slap to the face! Is this true? And when Monroe comes back from being buried, how’s he going to react to Miles? Either way, I can’t wait to see more M&M intensity.

In the other story-lines, Neville tracked down his son with Secretary Allenford, but Jason’s been re-programed to hate Neville. While this isn’t the better plot of the second season, it’s still engaging enough to keep watching. Neville’s lost everything and will do anything to save his son, but is it too late? Is this going to cost him in the near future? And then there’s Aaron who had a conversation with a reporter in the bar. Yup, a reporter because there are plenty in Texas. Aaron has to find his place on this show soon, and I wouldn’t mind if that means he starts setting more fires.

Last but not least:

  • Seriously, all of the events leading up to (and after) Monroe’s death just made you realize he’s not going to be dead for long.
  • So Dr. Porter is the leak to the Patriots. He’s a good, conflicted character the show should concentrate on more (though I feel he won’t make it to the end of this season). Being between Rachel and Charlie, as the leak to the Patriots, and not liking Miles but understanding Rachel needs him, hell he should have his own story arc!

Revolution – “One Riot, One Ranger”

October 28, 2013

Season Two, Episode Five

revolution-one-riot

Grade: B+

Miles still wants to start a war with the Patriots, but not until a handful of Texas Rangers gallop into Willoughby did Miles really believe he had a chance at winning. Led by the engaging John Franklin Fry (Jim Beaver), they fit the bill because they, too, are suspicious about these Patriots. But what Miles finds out by talking to Fry is that his commander in chief wants to sign a peace treaty with the Patriots to avoid conflict, unless there is hard proof that these Patriots aren’t who they say they are.

Meanwhile, Aaron’s freaking out about his ability to set people on fire. I loved the interaction between Aaron and Miles, but I didn’t get why Miles was so cold and off-putting when Aaron admits his unique skill. It’s like Miles wants to just imagine it happened randomly or he was just really lucky to have two guys pointing guns at him burst into flames. This is all too much for Aaron to take and we learn through a number of useless flashbacks that this phenomenon happened before. Put that power to good use Aaron! Set the Patriots on fire!

Last week we saw Charlie and Monroe traveling to Willoughby. Well they finally made it. Sometime in-between Charlie finally jumped on board that Monroe can be very useful in stirring things up against the Patriots, but things don’t go smoothly when Miles, and then later on Rachel, see Monroe again. While Rachel still isn’t in agreement with the plan, Miles buys into it (for the time being). It was actually really fun watching Miles and Monroe reminisce a bit and take on several armed Patriots on their own. Poor Charlie doesn’t get their inside intelligence, “You’re just naming cities!”

I must say that the show has accomplished making Monroe a character that audiences want to see every episode. In the first season he was just a lunatic with power, and his story-line with Miles wasn’t as compelling as it should’ve been. Now, we have the whole gang finally back together and they’re fighting together for a larger cause. It’s making some real kick-ass television and I know I’m not the only one thoroughly enjoying Revolution on a weekly basis.

Anyway, at the end Miles’ plan falls through and he’s unable to gather any hard evidence for Fry, which results in Monroe shooting Fry in the back and killing him. Though Miles freaks out at first, Monroe is right here, implying that if they pin Fry’s death on the Patriots, you know a war will occur. Miles isn’t happy (neither is Rachel), but what they want is coming to life.

Oh, and there was the B-story involving Neville traveling with Secretary Allenford who gets ambushed. Neville and Allenford survive the attack, but Neville’s about to abandon her to die until she sheds some light to where Jason is. Looks like we have another odd couple on the road for the next episode or two.

Last but not least:

  • The story of how Aaron and Cynthia meet is cute, but there were too many flashbacks to convey something they could’ve done in much less time.
  • We’ve been waiting for when Miles and Monroe would meet, and that scene did not disappoint. But really, is there an alternative motive for Monroe?
  • Too bad for Fry, because he could’ve made a great cowboy bad-ass in Revolution. There’s nothing wrong adding some Western flair.
  • While Aaron ended up making a good teacher, he sure needs to work on his interview skills.

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

October 22, 2013

Pacific Rim (2013)
131 minutes
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi

pacific-rim-poster

Grade: B

As a kid I was a big fan of the very popular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series. To my delight, Pacific Rim turned back the clock as I soaked up the tale that involved enormous monsters fighting gigantic robots controlled by humans. Now that’s what I’m talking about! At the helm is Guillermo del Toro, who is no stranger to the comic-book, sci-fi, and fantasy genre. With a blockbuster budget, del Toro has crafted a mainstream CGI-heavy film with a decent enough story to give it more depth than say, Transformers.

Which is the good and the bad about Pacific Rim. Certainly, the box office results weren’t as successful as the Transformers franchise. Sure, it’s unfair to compare the two since Pacific Rim is an original, high-budget action involving giant robots that isn’t already established like Transformers, but you get what I’m saying. There was something that just missed with the American audience (which only counted for 25% of the film’s worldwide gross), and that was the attempt to do more than needed.

But in my opinion, this makes a hell of a better film than any of the Transformers movies. In the not too distant future, huge sea-monsters called Kaijus are destroying major cities around the world. Governments combine their resources and fight back with giant war machines called Jaegers, that function when two humans’ brains are linked. Del Toro and Travis Beacham explore some mythology to give Pacific Rim the back-story and twists necessary, but the true triumph here is the digital effects that are second to none.

There are some story-lines involving the main characters that keep you engaged when the beasts aren’t destroying everything in its path. Specifically protagonist Raleigh Becket is one to sympathize with for losing his brother while working a Jaeger. But the big picture events outweigh any potential power between characters, even the romance between Becket and Mako Mori, his eventual Jaeger partner. The one who does make an impact and steals plenty of scenes is Charlie Day as Newton Geiszler, a scientist who studies the Kaijus and has crucial information on how to eliminate them for good. Day is able to play the underdog of the film, whether it’s being the person no one believes or the one we naturally expect to be the first killed. Using these obstacles to his advantage, Day is able to display vulnerability during a time of crisis very well here.

Pacific Rim feels like a video game, which is to its benefit for all the fanboys who love del Toro. And while everything wraps up too neatly at the end, it’s still great popcorn fun for those who love big and loud action-packed movies. But this leads to the question whether or not del Toro will continue down the path to over-sized, big-budget flicks, or if he’ll scale things back for his next sci-fi/fantasy adventure. I hope it’s the latter.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 294 other followers

%d bloggers like this: