This Robert Downey Jr movie remains one of my favourites - because who doesn’t love a good redemption tale?Read More
How time has flown! This year has been year of such massive change for me. I finally packed up my former identity as a journalist and stepped into the corporate world as a content strategist for an insurance firm. Then New Malaysia happened, and I think, like the rest of Malaysia, I've been devouring the news. I think Malaysians are still in shock over this new found freedom and transparency we have.
Change is hard. So hard.
But change is also good.Read More
March has been ... full of changes. Well, that's putting it really mildly. I started a new job. And it was a big step because I was retiring my journalist's tags and putting on a digital marketer's hat. After 15 years in the business, I decided to walk away from the world of page layouts and newspaper print and enter one with social media, websites and digital analytics.Read More
So, Justice League. I can't say that I was surprised by the way it turned out. After the terrible reviews of Batman v Superman, something's gotta give. I'm sure the WB suits were in panic mode when the movie received such a huge battering from critics. "Marvel-ise it! Now!" I could almost hear them screech.Read More
I don't usually rush over to blog about a show I just watched. I'm just too lazy. But a show that gave me sleepless nights, made me cry tears of joy and anguish, and listened to the OST day and night? Oh yeah, you betcha.
Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is that kinda show. And to imagine that I was initially supremely reluctant to watch the 58-episode Chinese drama. For one, there's the 58-episode thing (I barely focus long enough to complete a 16-episode Korean drama). I'm also wary of modern China dramas of late because they seem to feature pretty boys and girls with nil acting skills. And then there was the awful, awful use of CGI in most of the wuxia dramas. Lordie.
What changed my mind? Well, I stumbled on a fan-made video telling the story, complete with the show's moving OST, and cried. I hardly ever cry when watching a show. Ever.
Anything that could move me that way must be worth checking out. I watched, was hooked, and lost days of sleep!
What is it about?
It's going to be a challenge to summarise the show's story, but here we go. Once upon a time, in the heavenly realms, lived a Fox spirit named Bai Qian. When she ended up as a mortal, she meets the Crown Prince of the Heavens, Ye Hua, and their love story begins. Things happen, but their love is fated by the gods, and they will go through many, many tests before finding each other again.
I make it blander than it seems, but it's a romance that literally stretches thousands of years, so our poor couple goes through a lot. Thanks to the acting ability of Mark Chao who plays Ye Hua, their suffering is mesmerising. As I joked to a friend, this show has everything: evil concubines, traitorous ex-boyfriends, amnesia, reincarnation, secret identities and plots you name it, they have it.
Flash episode reviews
Eps 1-10 are the draggiest episodes of the series. Frankly, if I hadn't known in advance what Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is about (or experienced the deliciousness of Ye Hua in fan-made vids), I'd have given up on the show. Yet, these episodes do provide important grounding for the story and introduces most of the players. Be patient with this bit - the good stuff will come soon.
Eps 11-28. These are the angstiest episodes, and my favourite segment! (What can I say? Ye Hua suffers so well.) We get to see our stoic, aloof, dutiful Crown Prince of the Heavens fall deeply, passionately in love. We also see the depths of our couple's suffering. It's a hugely tragic arc; Mark Chao acted his socks off in this segment and you'd be moved by his amazing performance.
Eps 29-58. From great despair to hope, to despair to hope to ... you get what I mean. Our couple goes through the wringer in this arc, but mixed with the sadness are some of the sexiest, most passionate, smouldering love scenes I've seen in a Chinese drama.
What I loved
1. Ye Hua the character, Mark Chao the actor
There's absolutely no doubt that Mark's amazing acting was No.1 reason why Ye Hua is so amazing. Mark has the ability to convey a myriad of emotions with his eyes, and there's one scene in episode 48 (all fans will know what I'm talking about) where he expressed a series of emotions - lust, frustration, anxiety, fear, love and gratitude - without saying a single word! (It's also impressive that he also plays another character, Mo Yuan, and does it so well that I sometimes forget he's played by Mark.)
Some may describe Ye Hua as the indescribably perfect man, but Mark portrays Ye Hua as a man with serious flaws; he may be perfect on the outside - good looks, supremely capable warrior and leader, but because he loves so passionately and loyally he makes serious mistakes.
Why do I love Ye Hua? Besides the fact that he has gorgeous hair that is, lol.
He's a man that seems like a stiff-necked, arrogant bore in the beginning. After all, duty and loyalty has been drilled into him before he could even sit upright. And his cold upbringing and the fierce expectations of his grandfather, the emperor, has caused him to be stoic and guarded at all times. But his love for our leading lady reveals that beneath that icy exterior is a burning core of passion. Ye Hua is a man who loves very, very deeply. It's both his weakness and his strength. Whenever the quiet and taciturn Ye Hua smiles, the world melts, because those smiles are so gosh darn rare.
This love, may I mention, is not just reserved for his lady love. He is [WARNING, SPOILER] a devoted and dutiful dad. I mean, he could've thrown his son to a troop of nannies and forget about him being a crown prince and all, but Ye Hua is both "father and mother" to A-Li. He's very hands-on; he actually tucks his son in bed, plays with him and gives him the warm childhood that he never had. (Ovaries melt.) [END SPOILER]
2. The gorgeous soundtrack
Bai Qian is no wilting flower. She's mischievous, yet capable. Strong, yet feminine. She's sassy, smart and yet possess a selfish and stubborn streak that makes her very, well, human. One of the best written female characters I've seen, and the actress, Yang Mi portrays her various incarnations deftly - the mischievous disciple, the naive and helpless human, and the strong and capable goddess.
4. They allow the characters to be passionate and lusty
Oy. When did China's dramas become so open and real? I love this development! Ye Hua doesn't hold back when he loves, and you can feel the heat from the TV screen. The kisses are passionate, loving and lusty (no open-eyed frozen kisses, y'all), yet not over-the-top (sorry, no HBO stuff, but I prefer it that way). It enhances the romance rather than distract from it.
What I didn't love
1. The CGI ... is not awesome to say the least. I disliked the CGI backgrounds, the CGI monsters, the CGI flowers - you get the point. But the other production values and the great acting more than make up for it.
2. Side characters whose stories go nowhere. Bai Feng Jiu and Dong Hua, I'm looking at you. The couple is all kinds of pretty, but Feng Jiu's whiny pining grates on my nerves. I fast forwarded through most of their scenes. Still, I'm curious to check out their apparently happily-ever-after romance in the book, The Pillow Book.
Thoughts about the ending [SPOILERY]
Frankly, it was very convenient and takes away from the tragedy of episode 56, but you know what, I don't effing care because our couple has their happily ever after. I would've loved to see their lavish wedding as detailed in The Pillow Book, but apparently the copyright of that book has been bought by another company. For now, I'll savour their kiss beneath the peach blossoms. (And leave the rest for fanfic, haha!)
Final verdict: 4.5/5 stars! (Minus 0.5 for the not-so-great CGI). Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is a very rare drama where almost everything was done right. The romance between our OTP is incredibly intense and very satisfying.
So, should you listen to the reviewers?
NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT.
I remember walking out of the cinema, dazzled by what I have seen, moved to the point of muteness, and eager to see what others are saying about it ... only to read vitrolic reviews. I was frankly gobsmacked.
Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice has got to be the most unfairly reviewed movie I've ever seen. I mean, the disparity between the "professional" critics and the fans are pretty crazy.
Batman vs Superman is not as bad as the Green Lantern (26%), and there is no way Fantastic Four (36%) is better than it!
But fine, let's address the reviewers' criticisms one by one:
Superman is too broody
Superman is a tough character to transition into a 21st-century where suicide bombers blow up people at shopping malls and ISIS is butchering folks and airing their executions live on social media. The original Superman existed during a more cheerful, optimistic, black and white time. Zack Snyder's version is a Superman for 2016. He is buffeted by the darkness of our time and conflicted by the tough choices he have to make: Should he use his immense powers to kill so that more would live? Should he be the hero to fickle humanity, who would worship him one second, and then blame him for everything that goes wrong when it's convenient? How can Clarke Kent, raised as a good man (boy scout, some say) exist in such a grey time? This Superman's reactions are very realistic for our time.
It's too dark
Now, this criticism is a head-scratcher. A movie with Batman ain't going to be a Disney romp. This is a man who has been tortured physically and emotionally by villains like Bane and the Joker. Batman is equally brutal in the comics to bad guys. He is not going to be, nor was he ever, a happy, jokey guy. Also,this is not a Marvel movie. I get the impression that many of the critics were disappointed they weren't getting an Avengers part trois. Again. This is not a Marvel movie. I appreciate the fact that DC is trying to position itself as the anti-Marvel of sorts. Superman vs Batman is mature, dark and sober - the thinking man's comic book movie.
There's way too many things going on!
I 100% agree with the critics about this. This is what the movie attempts to do: a) Give Batman a backstory b) Build the tension between Superman and Batman c) Set up the Justice League movie d) Build on Superman's angst about his role from Man of Steel e) Foreshadow future conflicts f) Introduce Wonder Woman
The movie would've been much better if they removed (e) and (c), and lightly touched on (d). F, thank god was one of the best parts.
It takes a lot to pay attention to all of these plot threads. If you don't know the characters' backgrounds and history, it'll be more challenging. I can't fault casual moviegoers, especially those who have not read the comics, for getting bored or frustrated. Batman v Superman should've been two movies. Blame it on the impatience of movie execs.
In a perfect world, Superman v Batman would've been a four-hour miniseries, but Snyder had to squeeze four to five hours of material into 2.5 hours. Yikes!
Jesse Eisenberg is an awful Lex Luthor
I thought that if Lex existed in our time, he would've been a dot.com mogul. I'm largely neutral about Eisenberg's role, but I was very sure that his manic too-many-cups-of-coffee performance would not gel well with some, who is more used to the confident, supremely controlled, Machievellian version we have gotten used to over the years. Still, I thought he brought the right kind of energy to the movie. I mean, with Superman and Batman being such dark, broody, intense figures, the last thing we needed was a dark, intense, broody villain. Believe it or not, he was light relief.
Batman didn't have a good reason to go after Superman
With so many plot threads going on, something's gotta give, and it's a pity that it's one of the most important threads that wobbled.
So, should you watch Batman v Superman?
It all depends on how forgiving you are with the movie's flaws and how accepting you are of the changes Snyder has made.
If the cohesiveness of the plot matters to you most, you will probably hate it. If you have a certain unshakeable vision of how the characters should be and am not open to reinterpretations, you'd probably dislike Snyder's liberties.
Oh, and you'd most certainly dislike it if you're not into angst.
But I loved it because of the fresh vision. I loved how Snyder brought Superman into the 21st century - it's a tough job and I don't envy him for it. I enjoyed Ben Affleck's Batman and never imagined that he would best Christian Bale in a million years, but he did, and I love that.
Batman v Superman is not a perfect movie, but it certainly doesn't deserve a 29% rating. 2007's Fantastic Four (36%) is in no way better than this movie.
My rating: 75%.
Mark Ruffalo. He was the primary reason why I watched this movie. His characters often hold a cauldron of pain inside their seemingly strong/irreverent facade and the man has a way of making you want to hug him from the other side of the screen. (And to me, his version of The Hulk is the best.) What can I say? I love angsty men.
Dan is a classic Ruffalo character. At the beginning of the movie, we see how he's at the wrong end of the corporate ladder; he's about to be fired from the recording label he started and had suffered through seven years of mental instability, alcoholism and the worst case of marriage blahs ever. And yeah, his daughter thinks he is a loser.Read More
It brought back great memories - visiting lovely Taiwan, meeting Ang Lee and being in a huge water tank (the world's largest water tank set or something like that) to watch the great genius at work. Life of Pi holds a special place in my heart because it was the last movie I covered before resigning from The Star and moving to Australia.Read More
The Cistercian monks of Tibehirine in Algeria live a simple life. They worship God in their modest chapel with singing and silent meditation, hold services for the town's few Christians, listen to the problems of their Muslim neighbours, offer them medical aid and listen to their problems. They live in harmony with their Muslim neighbours, showing them love instead of judgement. They don't sell Christianity with cheap slogans or threats like some brassy American preachers. Here, the monks evangelise with love.
When an Islamic fundamentalist group massacres a group of foreign aid workers, their Muslim friends beg them to leave but they refuse, believing that they need to make a stand.
Sigh, this French movie really makes me think about Malaysia. How fundamentalism threatens to ruin what little harmony we have. The scene in the movie that stood out for me is when a couple of Muslims were talking to Christian, one of the monks, about a Muslim girl being killed for not wearing the hijab.
"God says in the Quran you kill your brother you got to hell. They say they're religious, they have not read the quran!" said one man.
"The world's gone mad, Christian." said an elderly Muslim. "Where are we going? I don't know who these people are. Only god knows," he lamented.
Seriously, he's echoing our thoughts.
Ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters. So, why the hell are we fighting so hard to make people believe what we believe, live the way we live?
Of God's and Men is a slow-moving movie; it's not filled with gun battles or vampy women. Which is why it's so jarring when the quiet and serene lives of the monks and their Muslim neighbours are brutally interrupted by senseless violence. In this way the director demonstrates what a sharp contrast there is between true spirituality and religious fanatism.
But lest you think the monks are superhuman, they are fearful and doubt too. As one monk says, "Dying for my faith shouldn't keep me up nights. Dying here and now does it serve a purpose? .. I don't get it. Why be martyrs? For God? To be heroes?"
And Christian answers. "We're martyrs out of love; out of fidelity."
This movie is based on a true story, by the way. And that makes it all the more sadder - that it really happened.
A touching and moving movie. If we can all live like the monks of Tibehirine, the world would be a much better place.
It took me forever to watch Night Watch. The not so official copy of it sat in my cabinet for years before I finally watched it. The first few scenes of the movie - it seemed so irreverent. Not how I like my fantasy. But something possessed me to pop it into the DVD and watch it on my parents' widescreen LCD TV (the only way to watch this movie, IMHO) on Christmas Day while we were opening our presents.
My siblings and I ended up so riveted on the movie that we forgot the presents.Read More