The Blacklist Season 1 – An interesting crime series

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It has been a long long time since we last watched a series, let alone a crime series.

Crime series has never been our favourite, no thanks to the kind of logic and content of those like NCIS and CSI. They have become less smart and witty, and more routine and repetitive to the point of predictable.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon The Blacklist accidentally, and got hooked by it immediately. The theme was different, the storyline was creative, and there were a lot of wits and twists and turns along the way. No wonder it received one of the highest rating among the current series, and therefore, the approval to go pass the market trial phase to the full fledge production.


In short, the story was about Raymond Reddington, a most wanted criminal surrendering himself to FBI and promising to lead FBI agents to a list of most dangerous criminals in his own collected Blacklist. Each episode unearthed one name in the list, but the overall motive was still unclear, and there were a lot of questions awaiting answers, especially on the reason behind his surrender and the coincidence between that and the life of Elizabeth Keen, a new agent who had just joined the FBI on the same day as Raymond’s surrender.


With each episode, the mystery evolved, and we were trapped in the grand scheme of the story and got more and more intrigued by the need to find out the real reason behind Raymond’s decision, and that was what kept us continue getting glued to the screen, one episode after another.


Too bad the trial phase has passed, which means we will need to wait for a while to watch the second part of season 1. In the mean time, we will be busying ourselves with Christmas preparation and celebration, which makes time pass by quite fast and eventful actually :)


Ghost Rider 2 – A far cry from the first

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Yes, that is official. The movie is much worse than the first installment. We had much hope and hype when we saw the trailer, and could not wait to go to the cinema to catch it, but all that we felt after the movie was disappointment.

Nicolas Page is back again to revive the franchise, after the initial success, but he seems to have lost his golden touch, after several unsuccessful movies recently. Earlier was Season of the Witch, and now this movie. We love him, but if he continues down this path, sooner or later we will need to think twice before seeing his new movies.

Compared with the first movie, the only plus point is the graphics. There were more flames, more explosions, more fights and more skull displays, and the CGI was more real and on a grander scale, probably thanks to a bigger budget. However, that was the end of it. Nothing else to save the movie from becoming a total failure. The story was weak, the details scarce, the acting mediocre, and the chemistry between the characters cannot be looser.

The movie continued with Johnny Blaze, still struggling with the wrath of the power of the Ghost Rider. Unable to let go of it entirely, he sought solace in the confinement of a church in the middle of nowhere, but then got persuaded to use his power again to thwart the plan of the Devil to come back to power and eternity, and save a boy, whose future was destined to be doom because of a stupid mistake made by his mother during her young and wild days. He managed to achieve that, and in the process, found a whole new meaning of his existence, and the power inside him. He was transformed and became the angel of justice. The boy lived, his mother lived, a lot died. Enough said.

It’s so disturbing to see Johnny struggling to control the power of the Ghost Rider. I remember that he was so cool by the end of the first movie. Of course, he struggled at first, during the first transformations, but he got back his control and composure, and seemed at ease with the change in the end, so I don’t know why, after some time, he started struggling again. It was so irritating to see his half skin half skull head. It just was not right. We did not see Wolverine crying in pain every time he pushed out his claws. We did not see Jacob crying in pain or acting insanely every time he transformed into wolf. No, we are not prepared for that. Not with the cool Nic Cage.

There was a new actor for the role of the Devil as well, a more modern version of the Devil. He looked scarier and more distorted than the first, with his red eye and his crumbled face, but the old man looked more menacing. I prefer seeing him in long black cloak, wielding a staff and looking emotionless. That image exudes more fear, as it give no hint of what he has inside his cloak, or what he can do with his staff. The new guy looks weaker, especially with his involuntary magical movements and his shaky hands. Seriously, this is no opponent to the scary looking Ghost Rider. Not even close.

The introduction of the new antagonist, Blackout, was a feeble effort to make the movie more interesting and gave Ghost Rider a run for his money. However, the new guy was nothing compared to Black Heart, the Devil’s Son, to whom Ghost Rider almost lost, and only won by a moment of wit and a stupid mistake made by that guy himself. This guy seemed scary and devastating at first, with his ability to make everything decay. He could even make the air disappear, which might help to quench the fire of the Ghost Rider. We expected that to happen, but it did not. He could not do much harm to Johnny, and he was quickly subdued. And the worst thing is, he still has a soul, albeit a decayed one, that could be burnt to ass. Too bad. There was one scene in which he could not decay the plastic bag. I thought it was a hint to something interesting, but in the end, it did not. What a waste.

There were a few moments of silly fun, such as the scene where the Ghost Rider peed in ghost form, but overall the movie was just bland. Nothing memorable.

In terms of acting, there was not much to say. Other than the soulful Cage, who could deliver with very little material, the rest of the casts need extra tuition for their acting. The boy was emotionless, stiff and dry, and his mother failed big time to deliver her lines and to express the right emotions for those lines. Maybe the reason was partly because she was Italian, and English was not her strength. When it came to showing fear and anxiety, the camera zoomed into her eyes, but there was no fear inside there. That was really irritating. I really prefer Eva Mendes, not because her acting was better, but at least because she had better assets, which was quite useful in this kind of movies with lots of men, flames, skull, explosions and fighting. The damsel in distress. You got me, right?

As usual, some more photos. I don’t expect them to speak a thousand words. A few words are good enough.

Johnny’s friend and companion

Do you have a soul to burn?

The fiery skull

Spitting out bullets and fire

On his familiar bike

The Devil is not very powerful after all

The soulful Nic. Cannot hate him still.

Angel or demon?

Another look at the Devil

This is how the Ghost Rider pees

The execution that almost happened

The Girl with the dragon tattoo – A movie that makes you want to go back to the book

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It has been quite a while since we last saw a movie so good that we dropped by the book store after that to check out the book from which it was adapted. This movie is one of them. In fact, we even hunted for another version of it, to watch, compare and appreciate. And after watching both, we agreed that this version was better than the original adaption. It was edgier, darker and more emotional. Love it.

The movie traced the story of an investigation into a suspected murder case 40 years ago that was never confirmed or resolved. A renown investigation journalist teamed up with a freelance inspector to solve the case, staking his whole career on it, as the result of the case would either save him from his impending jail term, or make him sink further and shatter his whole career totally. The mysterious girl, on the other hand, joined the team for money and out of curiosity, about the mystery and about her teammate. The case was challenging as the traces had been cold after 40 years, and even more because the more they unearthed, the more dark secrets started surfacing, and it became much much bigger than a missing girl and a family conflict only. Moreover, the deeper they dug, the more dangers ensued and the higher the odds were staking against them.

The movie was thrilling and chilling till the end, as the story unfolded gradually, and the plot was nowhere near unpredictable. Of course, credits must be given to the writer, but the editors also did a good job adapting and making it a seamless flow. There have been too many bad adaptions of marvelous book so far (Eat, Pray, Love perhaps)

It was no surprise for me that Josie got nominated for an Oscar. She was much better than the girl in the Swedish version. She was stronger, more mysterious,more cruel, darker but also more real. She successfully portrayed the type of wicked girl who was determined, into the job, but still lived so wildly and natively I sometimes had a feeling she was more an animal with a smart brain who always followed her instincts and gut feeling, in life and in work, than a contemporary girl of the 21st century. She stood out of the crowd, yet fitted in perfectly. She was a computer genius. She was so rebellious, yet so loyal once you can win their trust. She could be a menace, but also a wonderful friend who would do everything for you if you need help. She might not be a good wife, but she surely is a great lover who loves and lives wildly, and if you are the lucky guy, be prepared, mentally and physically, for continuous sex, of course.

Starring opposite Josie is Daniel Craig. A smart choice. He did not talk much, but he was calm and composed, and he had the perfect look and composure of an inspector. He was not too old and haggard, like the Swedish guy, and his facial expressions were not too stiff. Of course, he was not the star of this movie, but he also contributed his part to making it a good film. Indeed.

The movie might not be a bigger Oscar winner, but it’s good enough to watch more than once. There’s quite a fair share of sex, but they are not the main focus of the movie, just an ingredient to make it more interesting.

Looking forward to the full DVD version or director’s cut to come out, so that we can watch it and enjoy it again.

By the way, Josie is actually a very pretty girl, so kudos to the makeup team for transforming her and making her look so ugly. Hahaha.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Punggol Field,,Singapore

We bought a zoo, a light but heart warming movie

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Recently, there has been quite an influx of movies about father love for his child, and trust me, they hardly go wrong. Earlier this year, we had a beautiful movie called Real Steel, and now comes We Bought A Zoo. Nice family movie, I must say, and perfect for a weekend evening for the whole family to chill together.

The story is based on a true story, and is quite simple, actually. It mainly revolved around the life of Benjamin Mee, a widowed father of two, and his struggle to let go of the past to pursue a better future, albeit a strange one: Owning, rebuilding and running a zoo, while taking care of his two little children. There were ups and downs along the way but everything turned out well in the end, and the zoo is still successful nowadays.

The plot is quite predictable, so the main attraction of the movie comes from the high profile of Matt Damon as Benjamin and Scarlett Johansson as the pretty young zookeeper. In this competition, I have to admit that Matt had the upper hand. He was soulful, emotional, and interpreted the script really well. We could really feel his pains when he saw his wife pass away in front of him, his frustration when there was no other way but to give up on the zoo, his great love for his children, his sadness when his son misunderstood him, and his utmost happiness and joy when things fell into place and the zoo was ready to open. He is a talented actor, and I don’t know why he is still not a superstar yet.

Starring opposite Matt, Scarlet became inferior. Her face did not express much emotion, and neither did her voice. She was pretty, sexy and attractive. Nobody can deny that fact. But she will need to beef up her acting skills a lot if she wants to become a great actress and win some awards. Otherwise, she will be limited to those brawny action movies only, or worse, soon forgotten.

However, what I love most about this movie is not its star power, but the kids. They are small, but they are really awesome. They can act really well. The little girl is very cute and lovely, and her lines were perfectly delivered to fit her own age. It was like she did not act, she lived the role herself. I don’t know whether she will be able to progress from child star to adult star, but her natural acting skill is really a gift that she should utilize in her future movies.

The actor who played the boy was also relatively new. I could not recall seeing him earlier. Yet he was quite good also. He managed to portray the image of the boy who felt left out, and lived in the shadow of the past and the guilt and pain of losing his mother truthfully and naturally. I could really connect with him, his feeling and the sufferings that he had to go through. That boy reminded me of the boy in Sixth Sense. Hopefully we will see more of him in the future as well.

Overall, this was a nice movie, not too overly done, but subtle and delicate. It will not win big, but it will not lose big either. And one last thing, the animals are really cute, so it may impulse you to visit the local zoo again later 😃

Some more photos after the jump:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Punggol Field,,Singapore

New Year’s Eve – A nice movie for the new year

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To tell the truth, I am not really a big fan of ensemble movies, as I find them less focused and most of the time quite messy. Moreover, each character does not have enough time to develop, and becomes forgettable. Fortunately, New Year’s Eve was an exception. It was a good movie that was specially made for the festive season, and may be shown again and again, just like Love Actually, another feel good ensemble movie.

The movie centers around a few stories, which intertwined with each other in a natural way. Each character had around ten minutes of screen time only, but with an intelligently constructed plot, that was just enough for them to make their marks. They all had their own bright spots and shining moments. Besides, the stories all converged at the sacred moment of new year, giving the movie a strong structure that prevented it from falling apart.

The first story is about a pathetic woman who has had enough of bad things to bear in the whole year, and finally decided to free herself in hope of a better year ahead. She was brilliantly portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, and gosh, she did not disappoint. We could really feel, and share with her, her anger with the unfair treatment of her horrible boss, and her frustration about her failed year, as well as her pathetic attempt to make up for the lost time during the last day of the year. We also felt her happiness when her resolutions were fulfilled one by one, thanks to the help of the cunning delivery boy.

Personally, I do not like Zac Enfron, but I have to admit that he was doing quite well in this movie. He played a cunning and smart delivery man, who warmed the heart of an unfortunate woman and made her believe in the future again. He was quite charming, and lovable, and his smart way of overcoming the odds, and cheating to complete her resolutions managed to make us laugh, and cry. Another thing he proved is that, with creativity and a sense of humor, sometimes it does not require a lot of money to create a romantic and great experience ;)

Another story revolved around an overprotective mother and a rebellious daughter. While the mother is lonely, scared of the world outside and its potential harm, and just wants to hide in the safety of her house, the teenage daughter is full of romance, in love with a boy, and wants to spend the sacred moment with her love interest, to make it special and unforgettable. Of course, there were conflicts, and tense moments, but then it all turned out nice, and it was proof once again that there was not bigger love than a mother’s for her child. It was heart warming and nicely fitted the festive season spirit.

The only let down is that the grown up Abigail is much as cute than the child Abigail that we used to adore.

Another story is about the budding love between a stranded backup singer and a failed artist who hated New Year as he found nothing to rejoice about. It was not central to the story, but added some romance to it, and showed that love could blossom in the least fertile land, such as a stuck lift, and if you open your heart, great things will come that you never expected.

I don’t know whether this was one of the reason why Ashton and Demi divorced, but I hoped not. But I will not be surprised if Ashton and Lea become a real couple. They had the chemistry, and matching look. As for Lea, not bad for a debut, and who knows, her rendition of Aud. Lang Shine will become a favorite song for the new year.

The most touching story is the one about an old man who is reaching the end of his journey. He had a long one, full of successes, but also with regrets, and at his final hours, just wished to see the ball drop in Times Square again. He did, and he even had something he dare not think about. This is a truly emotional story, and it took the incredible talent of the legendary Robert De Niro to shine with those few dialogues and short screen time, but he did it, moved our hearts and got our tears.

Halle Berry played a small role of a nurse whose husband was fighting in Iraq, and I really don’t think it required a star of such calibre to fill that role. Besides, she looked quite old, haggard and thin compared to her last role that I could remember.

Another main story is about the love between a chef and a rocker. It was love found, and lost, and found again, and the moral behind is that, for a relationship, love is a must, but not everything. It takes more than love to maintain a relationship. It needs efforts from both side, sacrifices and forgiveness, and lots of time and attention. Finally, it takes courage, to start it and to continue walking down their chosen path. Without that, the romance will fade, and the relationship will wither away.

There are a few more side stories, which all contributed to delivering the message that new year is perfect time to start something new, and with a little more love for others, the world will become a better place for all of us.

After watching this movie, I really wish one day I can see the ball drop in Times Square in person. This type of movie is great for the occasion as it gives us hope of better things to come our way.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Edgefield Plains,,Singapore

MI4 – A thrilling ride

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So, finally Ethan Hunt is back, with a bang. In fact, I even think that this movie is better than the third one, also it falls short a bit when compared with the first two movies, which really catapulted Tom Cruise to top Hollywood stardom.

Unlike normal spy movies, where the main guy is loaded with countless items and weapons, in MI4, the legendary agent was put into a difficult situation with very little help from outside after his organization was framed in the bombing of Kremlin. However, it was right there that he shone, without armor, all by himself. The support was scarce, and the mission was really impossible, as he and his team of a female agent, a techie and a former agent turned analyst had to run away from the pursue of Russian agents, stop the bad guy and save world peace at the same time, with the luxury of time not on their side at all.

With the resource shortage, Ethan had to be really hand on, including climbing up and down a skyscraper Spider Man style, with lousy gadgets that almost killed him in the process. Moral of the story: Never rely too much on gadgets in life and death situations, especially those flimsy looking ones. Seriously. No joke.

The movie was a feast for the eyes, with thrilling action scenes that were beautifully arranged and looked really dangerous. And, OMG, Tom Cruise looked very good in them. Yeah, he was older, but he was still in good shape, and his smile was still as charming and deadly as usual. Enough said. In fact, I much prefer this to the previous movie. It’s more thrilling. It’s more exciting, and it’s much less predictable.

This is Brad Bird’s debut live action movie, after the success of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, and it’s a beginning that many directors are willing to die for. Although movies of this scale are hard to fail, when they really fail, they often fail big time. Thank God, this one did not. Brad managed to take us through a thrilling two hour drive that was peppered with some tasteful jokes and humorous moments, which takes skills, experience and taste to make it happen and not get too carried away. So, well done.

Ethan is the hero, but he is not the lone hero. He received lots of helpful assistance from his team mates. While the female agent, Jane Carter, fought fearlessly alongside with him, Dunn the technical genius made sure that all the locks were open and all the access secured in time for the hero to carry out his tasks. In this IT era, such guys are really indispensable, and their often nerdy behaviors are a pretty good source of laughter as well. Of course, it will be a mistake to forget about Brandt, the reluctant agent who had to forget his past so that he could look forward to the future. His unwilling assistance in time of need was precious in helping the whole team make the impossible become possible again.

overall, the movie was a joy ride that was worth our time and money. We still loving watching Tom flash his smiles on screen, and the supporting cast is no joke either. And I was pretty excited about seeing the seamless integration of nowadays gadgets, such as GPS tracking devices, MacBooks, iPads and iPhones into the movie, making them recognizable but not too evident to the point of lame advertising. Well, who does not want to see Ethan flash the same phone as his, use the same earpiece as his, type on the same laptop as his, and use the same devices as his to make impossible things happen? Well, I bet a lot of people will rush to Apple Store to buy Apple products as last minute Christmas gifts after watching this movie just because they are too cool and powerful.

There was no love scene in this movie, probably because the mission was so urgent that none of the agent could find enough time and energy to play around. But that is really unnecessary in this movie. And although the female lead is quite sexy, I bet we will remember her more for her acting than her look or sexiness. In fact, I even feel that she looks a bit old. Maybe they should cast Anne Hathaway for the next one? But image Anne getting intimate with Tom, oh no, it sucks. Big time. Forget it.

More photos for your viewing pleasure, as usual :) ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Edgefield Plains,,Singapore

Johnny English Reborn, finally, luckily

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It’s a really long wait, and it’s quite worth it.
Johnny English has finally come back after a very long exile, figuratively and literally. He was still fun to watch, silly but funny, and gave us a great entertaining night out.

The story continued five years after the first movie, with Johnny going on exile after a major scandal that resulted in the assassination of the newly elected president of Mozambique, the guy he had been tasked to protect. He was accused of being negligent, stripped off all honor and positions, and supposedly forced to retire young. However, five years later, an opportunity came for him to redeem himself and get back whatever he had lost, and he’d better make full use of it before the time ran out on him.

However, that was not his only issue. Time has changed and MI7 has changed a lot since the time he left. He was faced with suspicion, a new and hostile boss, and concern about his ability. He had to clear all those suspicions and prove that he was still a top field agent.

Johnny was still the same man, silly and clumsy. Thank God he was, cause every time he did something clumsy, we had unquenchable laughter. In fact, by the end of the movie, we almost burst into tears laughing about his clumsiness. I myself prefer her performance here to Mr. Bean. Maybe I am still not yet immune to Mr. Bean’s twisted sense of cleanliness.

The task was big and complex, and Johnny more than once was very close to messing it up, but fortunately it ended well. Besides, he was lucky to receive some really timely help. He was not a lone ranger, and his colleague cum side kick cum apprentice, who had been tasked to accompany him to make sure he did not make another blunder, more than once became the hero of the day, helping him redeem himself, fighting the bad guys and preventing the real disaster from happening. That young actor deserves a pat on his back. He is funny too, and quite interesting to watch. I cannot recall seeing him before, but I believe we will see him more often soon :)

Besides, Johnny also received help from a scientist working for MI7. She was his fan, and his colleague, and her scientific study really helped him not only solve the puzzle at hand but also helped him lift the burden and guilt of Mozambique off his back so that he could live happily again without being haunted by his past. It’s was some kind of CSI, which was contemporary, in fashion and cool, and that made the movie more exciting to watch. And of course, she was a fan, and an attractive young woman, so there was a lot of rooms for romance. Although that makes the movie a bit similar to James Bond, I must agree that spy and romance go quite well together, making the movie softer and giving nice breaks to unending series of actions which might sometimes tire us all.

Overall, it was a good movie to watch. It was awkwardly fun and entertaining , and it gave us plenty of chances to laugh our hearts out. Plus, it had a happy ending, so what else can we ask for. I say it’s good return for our ticket money :)

As usual, more photos below:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Edgefield Plains,,Singapore

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