The Force Unleashed and Star Wars Episode IV – The Rebel Alliance and A Blow to Vader

•July 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Had the potential to be the most awesome Star Wars game of all time, but was sadly plagued with frustrating controls and mechanics. The story was canon and followed up nicely to Episode IV, though.

Just last night I finished the game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on my PC on the highest difficulty [ nothing but bragging rights, but hey, more dramatic fights altogether]. It featured a canon storyline – one about the formation of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire – between Episode III and IV which the six movies did not touch on. So LucasArts took it upon themselves to make the screenplay in the form of a highly entertaining Action Star Wars game that we call The Force Unleashed. In school, we watched Star Wars Episode IV as a part of class – coincidence ? A beautiful one I must say.

Vader, in his seclusion and solitude, decided to take up an apprentice during his invasions ‘for the lulz’ – no, he utilized this in many more ways of course.

At the end of episode III: Revenge of the Sith, we see Anakin Skywalker terminally injured from his defeat at Mustafar. He was then rescued by Sith Emperor Palpatine – It was from then onwards then he donned his infamous, albeit integral to his life systems, Darth Vader armor and the iconic breathing of the bio-suit trembled throughout the galaxy. Even as a decrepit man, his force powers and lightsaber prowess was still exceptional in power and he was not to be taken lightly, ever.

As ‘badass’ and glorious as a Sith Lord as he was, I was pretty shocked to see him being reduced to a Sith Lord with mere fencing-style attacks, with nearly no or very little force power, when his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV came. A very far cry from the power-packed, blinding and furious lightsaber duels we have seen in Episode III. The same goes for Obi-Wan.

The cause of a crippled Vader was none other than Galen Marek.

Dual-wielding of lightsabers with awesome force powers ? He is as promising as he looks.

—-SPOILERS, IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE PLOT—

Source (search ‘Galen Marek’ ) + Video Game(2008): The Force Unleashed ( yes it is canon )

On the very same year (19 BBY) Anakin was anointed as The Sith Lord, Darth Vader, Galen Marek , a human inhabitant of the planet  Kashyyyk was born. He would grow to become one of the most powerful force users in the universe – an ally of the Force or its destructive nature.  Growing up orphaned, as his parents were killed in the skirmish of Kashyyk personally led by Vader,  The Sith Lord took it upon himself to have him as a secret apprentice, very much unknown to the emperor.

 He demonstrated immense potential as a Force-sensitive (category for higher-level Jedi) user, far greater than anyone could have imagined. By the age of 17, he was sent to destroy the secret enemies of the Empire, namely the remaining Jedi leaders who have survived Order 66.

He could literally ‘pull a starship destroyer out of the sky and rip it apart’ just by using his Force powers.

After successfully eradicating the targeted Jedi, he returns only to be betrayed by Vader, who in defense, impaled Galen and threw him into the void of space as it was a violation of the tradition of the Sith to have another apprentice when you are the apprentice yourself [ in this case, Vader, is in violation ]. He is then rescued by Vader’s medical droids and rebuilt anew in his science chamber. Vader explains that it was necessary for the Emperor to be clear of any suspicions on himself in order to overthrow the Empire. However, we clearly do not see this happening until Episode VI.

Galen then went around the galaxy alongside with his assigned Pilot, Juno Eclipse, drafting allies who would eventually become known as The Rebels [ against the empire]. It turned out to be just another ploy for Vader to gather the Empire’s secret enemies on one spot and crush them in a single blow. Fortunately, Vader’s ambush, in the pretext of a ‘alliance signing ceremony’, did not go as planned and they flee safely, reorganizing themselves. In the final attempt to overthrow the Emperor, Galen and his new-found allies raid the incomplete Death Star and confront the Emperor.

The boss battle wasn’t as hard as expected, in my opinion.

Vader, as much as his own plans are concerned, fought his very own apprentice in an intense Lightsaber duel. The power difference was very noticeable, as the man who was once Anakin Skywalker was beaten up into shambles with relative ease by Galen. Being emotionally unstable, he was not able to proceed to kill Vader, and was interrupted by the Emperor instead. Looks can be deceiving, and that applied very well to the Emperor (Darth Sidious). Galen had a tough time levelling the Emperor’s Force powers  – even as a seemingly frail old man, he could easily fend off Galen’s attacks. Eventually, Galen beat the almighty Sith Lord and was stuck between the decision of killing him or not. The latter would only have him give in to his anger and make him the killer he once was.

The Emperor quickly mustered up his remaining strength and electrocuted one of Galen’s allies- he quickly interrupted the energy channelling and was locked into a force duel with the Emperor. In a final blow, he gathered his remaining force power in a devastating blow that devastated the area; allowing the Rebels to flee. Vader and the Emperor glance over the young man’s dead body and lamented their loss.

In memory of their fallen leader, Galen, the Rebellion was formed officially, with Leia Organa as one its members.

It all makes sense now when you watch the rest of the Episodes.

And that, Ladies and gentlemen, is the power of video games in covering the lesser, and more action-packed parts of the universe !

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Alien-busting and Enforcement : Men in Black 3

•July 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

When I last heard of Men in Black during my childhood, all that I remembered were two guys in black suits with shiny guns, shooting laser beams that disintegrated all the ‘bad guys’ which were giant cockroaches (MIB ) and some evil-looking alien lady that made life harder for these two guys (MIB 2). Well, the fact that I actually remembered it to this day without watching it again just proves how entertaining this series have been.

And so, on a fine Saturday evening, I was asked out by my aunt for a movie with the rest of the family, and despite being self-proclaimed movie critic I am, I  agreed without any sort of hesitation.

SPOILER ALERT

“don’t worry, you won’t remember anything about this post after we’re done”

Featuring the same duo from the previous movie, MIB 3 focuses on K’s beginnings and major milestones in the MIB-verse , albeit the way the part of K’s story was integrated into the movie was a bit abrupt and uncalled for ( but hey, that what makes the plot of a movie unique, right ?). The movie begins with a typical jail break sequence, where a pretty generic, but mighty villain named Boris who escapes from the LunarMax prison complex on the moon to seek out revenge on K. For the most parts of the movie, the old K ( present ) spends his time lamenting over certain things that J ( Will Smith ) could not comprehend, at least, until the real plot actually unfolded. This enabled Boris to spoil every confrontation by the two of them and wreak havoc.  The plot then takes a sudden twist due to K’s emotional state, leaving the whole world at stake and J’s the only man left to get things right.

The plot of the whole movie was random at best. Upon closer inspection ( you probably wouldn’t fully get it after watching it only once), one would still say that this movie makes little sense plot-wise, considering the whole premise of the movie – and actually, the previous two movies – was based on sheer happenstance that the movie has featured. But hey, chalk it up to the odds, right ?

As much as the feasibility of time-travel is doubted, this movie features time-travel as if it was a totally possible and reliable thing to do ( like a lot of movies do ) – you just have to look at the right places to find out how to do so. Though, certain time-travel concepts such as paradoxes; when one sees the future version of another one – continuity paradox – has been observed nicely . A plus on the logical side. How does one simply use a device obtained from an odd man in america to travel across different vectors of dimension at hyperspeed into another time period and ensuring one’s own safety ? Never really covered – well, that is movies for us anyway.

Plot issues aside, Tommy Lee Jones ( Present K ) and his younger self ( Josh Brolin ) had a stellar performance in the film, and really portrayed the resolute character of K consistently. Good job on his part. Will Smith, on the other hand, really seemed to be out of character as J, and did not really feel like he was really into playing the character, but that is just my personal opinion. Boris, without needing much elaboration, seems just like another intelligent, but generic villain you find in comic books or other superhero movies.

Considering it ran on a $215 Million budget, it had pretty decent effects, but not nearly as impressive as the contenders of the season; namely Prometheus or The Avengers. The ‘time jump’ effect in particular was somehow a possible and visually appealing take on device-assisted time travelling, but again, till this date, travelling through time is still a unfalsifiable hypothesis ( go figure).

Entertaining all-round, this third installment in the series is definitely an improvement over the predecessors – I shall be looking forward to more Men in Black busting a cap in them evil alien’s asses’.

Oldboy (2003) – Watch where your mouth runs off

•June 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

What’s this ? This thrilling feeling of satisfaction after watching a movie ? I really thought I lost that a very long time ago.

Perhaps that whole sentence summarized my whole experience watching this masterpiece of a movie. And I would have cursed myself had I walked out on the lesson when this showed, despite the teacher allowing the students to walk right out of class.

Iconic representation of the ‘oldboy’.

There was this Korean by the name of Dae-su. Typical punk who grew up into a bad-mannered adult, but still managed to get a family started. Got drunk on the night of his daughter’s birthday and brawled with some people. After getting bailed out, he uses a public phone to call his daughter when he suddenly gets kidnapped. He was then imprisoned for 15 years for no apparent reason, to his knowledge, of course.  Living off nothing but being fed dumplings and a TV set, he underwent drastic physical and psychological change, filled with contemplation and attempts at escape. On the day of his release, he woke up only to find himself on the roof equipped with provisions to get started, as he begins his quest for revenge. ( hy would you not want to kill the person who imprisoned you for a good 15 years for no reason ?)

The plot of the movie was anything but mediocre. It actually gives one a rewarding, exhilarating and satisfying sense of time well-spent. The movie had me thinking deeply hours after I finished watching it. And I recall very few movies doing that to me. The rate at which everything comes into piece – how Dae Su’s torture is eventually justified and explained, is masterfully put together in a down-to-earth , albeit sadistic way. Everything about the plot is neatly concealed with Dae-su’s seemingly justifiable actions, while much larger and more complicated and ingeniously weaved schemes that underlay it. We go deep into the recesses of a human’s dark side and the actions that it could think of to inflict pain on another human being; disregarding the fact whether or not it is justified. Thus, character development is what this movie did right, and that should be a huge criteria in any movie critic’s score sheet. The movie also uncannily explores the morality of human decisions; our actions are never truly good or bad, they are always double-edged no matter what.

Perhaps it is also worth mentioning that this movie is undoubtedly one of the goriest things of the decade, and memorably gory at that one. Movies like Scream, Final Destination and Nightmare on Elm Street are sure scary, but the already-unrealistic settings and shallow plot of the movie make the scenes very forgettable and lacked the impact it intended. The vivid plot – revenge – rather than random spurts of blood and violence, made it very clear why Dae Su inflicts pain on those who have crossed him. Though, I found myself laughing when Dae Su severs his own tongue oh-so crudely at the final part of the movie ( spoilers, perhaps I should cut my fingers?), suggesting that a whole lot of this movie appeals to my inner sadist. The version of the movie I watched was also uncensored, so all the erotic scenes in this movie are at FULL POWER – to my delight (awkward chuckle ).

Aside from terrific acting, excellent music also complements the whole package nicely.  The soulfully composed background music subconsciously adds to the intensity of the fight scenes and the dialogues, making every scene all the more memorable. Despite the movie nearly being a decade old, the camera work is top notch as well.  This goes to show that technology was never, and will never be a limitation towards telling great stories.

Want a worthwhile watch ? Oldboy is a thought-provoking, grotesque yet masterfully composed moral epiphany in a theatrical nutshell.

And I heard there will be westernized remake of this masterpiece ? Will they be able to adapt it just as masterfully as its original or not? Well, I know what Hollywood is perfectly capable of – in good and bad ways – and I would just cross my fingers till that day dawns itself.

The Motion of Messing Around

•May 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Spirited Away – 11 years since epiphany by animation

•May 24, 2012 • 2 Comments

I hesitate to call myself a ‘hardcore anime fan’ ever since seeing spirited away [in class] for the first time just two days ago. How the heck did I miss such an epic title when much what I have been watching as of late has been anime ?

With great movies, come great artwork. [ lame correlation, I know ] image taken from http://classiccartoon.org

Hayao Miyazaki brought his sheer brilliance into life in the form of the animated movie Spirited Away. It has eleven years since the movie’s release and it is universally agreed that this movie is a keystone in Japanese animation- in terms of achievement and reception.

The plot basically follows a rather stuck-up 10 year old girl ( a’shojo’, meaning young girl in japanese) named Chihiro – and later renamed ‘Sen’ – on a house-moving trip with her parents when halfway in the journey, her parents notice what seemed to be an abandoned theme park. As usual, there is always this slight moment of folly or moral decadence that spirals our heroes into an inevitable cluster of problems. From there onwards, they unknowingly entered a realm beyond human recognition and one that defied the rules of physics. One can probably imagine the randomness of things going on in this ‘spiritual world’, but envisioned like no other by Miyazaki-sensei.

Personally, the plot did not seem as brilliant as what it displayed itself to be in the beginning, but I have realized that the plot really shines in the ‘ulterior’ department. This movie begs for itself to be interpreted subliminally and thoroughly, through the dialogues of the seemingly out-of-place characters and creatures. Sure, viewers unfamiliar to Asian-style of animation and stories will surely feel awkward when seeing it for the first time. Nevertheless, It is a journey of whipping Chiriro’s sullen attitude into what an ideal human should behave and think like, through the turn of events and interactions in the movie. For the keen-eyed, multitudes of references to the modern society, traditions and ways of life were also made in the movie. It was a thrilling tale-cum-civics-class nicely packaged into an anime movie.

On the technical side of things, Studio Ghibli ensured that Miyazaki’s motion picture was as smooth and audible as possible. The animation was thorough, hardly lazy, with unique art style to boot – and this was when favourites like Pokemon and Digimon were airing its first few seasons.  The voice acting was crisp [ at least, for the Japanese one] and the localization of various versions crumbled the language barrier in view of this great piece of art.

Miyazaki combined the elements that defined a successful animated movie and the highest-grossing Japanese film in history was what he got. Even international audiences hailed to this movie, shoving away all prejudices, should there be any in judgement.

Now, excuse me while I watch the rest of his masterpieces and from there onwards can I truly call myself a ‘hardcore anime fan’. Not overrating him or anything, but just needed to say all that out of respect for the great man.

Keerakun

 

 

On the line between 2D and 3D

•May 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Growing up with Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon – was not much of a Disney boy- , I had a conviction that cartoons ( 2D) could blend into the lives of human seamlessly (3D) and that It would not look weird or inappropriate in the slightest. Those were the times of cartoon gems such as Spongebob, Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog and many more. These cartoons bravely, albeit often in a strange way, featured at least an episode with three-dimensional humans inside. Remember the special episodes of Spongebob where the pirate guy from the opening scene hosts a party ? Kids had no problem believing that Spongebob Squarepants was real.

Too many cartoons with human interaction to list out. One movie especially worthy of note is Who Framed Roger the Rabbit

The movie was an Emmy-standard noir film with excellent technical qualities and an engaging plot. The movie smoothly integrated cartoons into the daily life of humans,as if the toons were a part of the ‘ecosystem’ of the world already. The vivid and powerful acting of the cast made it even for feasible that toons were to be of something significant in this world (in the movie). Looney Toon characters were its main stars (though personally Rogger the Rabbit was not a very memorable character), as well as featuring Disney characters crossing over to its universe such as Mickey Mouse. The movie was shown for a class on the History of Film and Motion Arts and thought it was a very notable example of a landmark in animation history.

Good times. image taken from http://www.chilloutpoint.com

Where is the line between 2D and 3D? It is generally regarded that an immersive experience ( albeit complementary to the all-important story) is the key to making a successful pseudo-animated movie. If people were to lash out and defames the movie because its ‘fake’, the producers have messed up big time on their title.

It just got better from there onwards, but many did not make it to the hit list for the most part. Stuart little, Scooby Doo, and Looney Tunes back in Action also fall into this category for executing this rather ‘hit-or-miss’ genre very well. The feel that the little white, talking mouse, Stuart, being an important and palpable part of the whole tale was achieved. Thus we say that the line between 2D (cartoons) and 3D (reality) has been shifted by the sands. People could actually accept superficial characters as a part of their lives at that point of time. There would be no need for us to wake up – differentiate reality from 2D if 2D were so real -, euphemistically speaking.

Fast forward to 2007 and we had another breakthrough. It was in the form of a metallic (pun intended),thrilling alien-busting action complimented with a hot woman who somehow ends up with a high school boy in his adventures. Be it for either Megan Fox or the Transformers, i bet you would love to be in Shia Lebouf’s shoes. The barrier between the 2D and 3D world was blown away by the film – the Autobots became a part of Witwicky family’s lives ( later in the movie ) and the Decepticons actually felt like a real threat to the safety of the world. It had people cheering for Optimus Prime when he fights Megatron, when it is actually just the fine works a studio rendering an earth-bound fight between the two master robots from a Saturday morning cartoon. Cheesy script and plot aside, I would still go for a life like Witwicky’s.

It did not stop there. Avatar is a recent gem in this category as well. Though, I can talk about almost every movie in this category but that would dedicate the whole blog’s bandwidth, so I would rather not.

It ultimately boils down to a viewer’s judgement on film, as there are no conventions in the ‘art of entertaining people’. “Heck, it is something we are not used to, nor have we seen it, but it’s good so we’re paying for it !” is the response of a delighted crowd that every producer should aim for.

There would be a day where there would be no more lines between 2D and 3D.. and let us just say that I am looking forward to it.

Avenging Contentment: The Avengers

•May 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Marvel: The Avengers Review 

And so, the most [over] hyped, marketed and grandiose movie of this decade has finally hit the big screen. With more than three franchises leading up to the fruition of this movie, it would only be right that it is a blast. Having watched it during its premiere its premiere in Singapore theatres, I had the opportunity to experience the grand scale of the movie on the big screen.

 

Watching it in digital did not do the movie enough justice – I may have to go see it again, but in 3D.  I am not much of a moviegoer, and neither do I get thrilled easily when I do go to the movies. In this case, however, I went into the cinema with expectations that had been met. That euphoric experience when one is so engrossed by a visual masterpiece? That movie had me going like that. Do not get me wrong though, as much as I was exhilarated, I felt that some parts of the movie really fell short of a blockbuster.

 

Marvel: The Avengers is one of those movies that require only little knowledge of its prequels in order for its viewers to enjoy it to the fullest, despite it being the culmination of a few franchises. Of course, being a Marvel geek would not hurt at all. And this is coming from a casual who has only watched the motion picture series of Iron Man, Hulk and Thor.

 

Allow me to give you a lowdown on the story [with no spoilers]? The world is under extraterrestrial and divine threat when a source of infinite energy – known as the Tesserect – is discovered on earth. Then the story takes a leisurely pace in building up to the ensemble of heroes that we come to know as The Avengers. With that said, we only see The Avengers fully fledged about ninety minutes into the movie. That is the first problem with the movie; it was rather poorly paced, albeit laid out in a non-cheesy and realistic way.

 

The technical side of things: visual effects and sound were nothing short of spectacular. It was dazzling and consistent throughout. The mixing of the sounds was anything but mediocre either. The great attention the cast paid to the little details of every scene was remarkable. Want to see the Hulk sucker punch a flying leviathan out of the sky? Only seen in The Avengers.  It is obvious that visual effects grandeur was the forte of this movie.

 

I am also glad to applaud this movie for its non-cheesy and witty script. Too often we find the dialogue in superhero movies to be incessantly cheesy and making the movie seem dumb and deluded altogether. Though, attempting to get a ‘cheap laugh’ from the audience every five to ten minutes gets irritating after a while. There is a time for everything, really.  Nevertheless, the portrayal of the characters in the movie was as accurate as it can be and that is another plus in my book.

 

Unfortunately the phrase ‘saving the best for last’ didn’t apply to this movie. The last stretch of the movie felt too compartmentalized. “it will all end in an explosion, and that’s the best way to stir things up.” And so, the ending of the movie belongs in the ‘let’s-end-it-all-in-an-explosion’ category [ that’s as far as spoilers go ].                      

Ultimately, I had the feeling of satisfaction- a feeling that my $7.50 weekday movie ticket was a really big bang for my buck. Marvel fan or not, this will keep you at the edge of your seats for quite a while.