The Bucket List (2007)

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Super 8 (2011)

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This film was thoroughly advertised last summer with captive commercials that gave no inkling as to what the movie was about at all.  I decided it was high time that I finally watch it even though I had heard many mixed things about it.

A word that many critics have already used with it is “nostalgic,” and it’s definitely true.  Not only is it nostalgic because of the setting of the film, but also the entire theme.  My friend was quite correct when she said at the end that it seemed like a grown-up version of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.  I guess it isn’t that surprising since Spielberg was also a producer of Super 8.

For me, many parts of the movie felt like the previously J.J. Abrams produced film, Cloverfield.  It was probably the whole thing with not seeing “the creature” except for brief glimpses.  But at least in this movie, we had some music to listen to; a lot of interesting music…

I still don’t really understand why so many people were so excited about this movie, and why it was considered one of “the best movies this summer.”  It was good, but not a film I would go crazy over, or even rank in the top ten for 2011.  No matter what genre I consider it from–action, science-fiction, drama, nostalgic–there were better competitors on the big screen this year.

Drive (2011)

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One of those movies that seemed to fly under the radar last fall, it was highly rated by many a critic, but faltered in viewer ratings, at least on Rotten Tomatoes.  I was also interested to see the 2nd sexiest man alive in a role that didn’t center around his “photoshoped body.”

I must say, he did very well in this role, but that may have been because he didn’t have to do or say too much.  He only needed to express two emotions:  awkward guy smile, and silent angry guy on a mission.  But he showed those two emotions well.  The entire movie moves at a very slow pace, but always makes you feel like something exciting is about to happen.  I think its a result of the perfectly-matched electronica music that’s playing.  The music is so ambient but with chords of uneasiness mixed in.

Finally, things do get exciting, but it can’t be compared to other vengeance seeking movies like Man on Fire or Taken.  It is a strange amalgamation of calm, cool, and collected with anger, action, and anxiety.  Unlike the aforementioned, it is not a pure action movie.

Overall, enjoyable, but you have to be in the mood to sit through a patient movie.  Somehow it manages to keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense and without ever having too much happen.

Bon Chon Chicken

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My partner in crime had come here a number of times this past week and recommended it to me as a delicious and unique chicken option.  Fortunately there was one located nearby Bodies The Exhibition down around the South Sea Port so I decided to scout it out.  I was in the mood for some wings anyways.  I was of course slightly hesitant because this was another sampling of Asian Fusion cuisine so I wasn’t sure how it’d go.  I had trouble finding the place just because I didn’t expect it to look so “modern.”

Upon finally finding and entering the place, I found the layout to be quite sleek in terms of design.  However, the bar setup and service seemed slightly dysfunctional.  They had a bar with a register where you couldn’t pay, and their selection of drinks was very limited.  Perhaps this was a relatively new store so I let it slide.  Unfortunately my timing wasn’t great either, and I was told that my batch of Soy Garlic Sauce and Spicy Soy Garlic Sauce wings would take about 20 minutes.  This compounded with the incomplete bar did not please me, but I think it was more a result of bad luck than a bad restaurant.

I started off with onion rings which surprisingly took 15 minutes to prepare.  However, I was quite taken with them.  The shells were nice and crispy and fused with the onion inside.  Unlike the average ring, it didn’t feel like I was eating a ring of uncooked onion and a separate ring of batter.  I also could bite through the onion unlike at some places where I spend half my time fighting the onion with my canines.  Their proficiency with onion rings gave me hope for the coming wings.

I was excited about the wings which came with a free side of dull-tasting pickled radishes.  The wings were cooked close to perfection and nice and crispy without loads of unnecessary breading or batter of any kind.  The sauce was very unique, combining hints of sweet and garlic flavors, which sadly isn’t a flavor I relish.  If they offered more flavors than the two I ordered, then this might be the perfect wing place.  Perhaps it is my bias against Asian Fusion again, but I just didn’t like the sauce despite the wings having been cooked so well.

I would come back here, but I’d really have to be in the mood for the unique flavor that is served at this restaurant.  Perhaps I will go to the one in Koreatown next time since I’ve heard that it is slightly better.  Bon Chon Chicken was certainly enough to satisfy my craving for some quality wings.

Stand and Deliver (1988)

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Continuing with education movies theme, I chose to watch this classic.  I vaguely recalled seeing parts of it before, but was unsure.  I proved myself correct.  All I could remember clearly was the the scene where Escalante comes face-to-face with the ETS investigators and argued why his students should not need to retake the exam when there is no definitive evidence of cheating.

As with the other “based on a true story” teaching movies, it is very motivational and inspirational, but from the perspective of a viewer who wants to be entertained, it could have been significantly better.  The movie was good solely because the actual story was so inspirational.  However, this was another case where so many scenes and segments seemed disjointed.  Without a clear direction of how to tell the success story, many sub-plots and undertones were severely under-developed.  The movie may have tried too hard to focus on every student’s story; the result is that it became hard to empathize with any single student’s trials and tribulations.  I thought the director would’ve made it easier on himself by focusing on the story from the teacher’s perspective, but he did not, or at least did not do a good job of that either.

One pleasant change from the majority of teaching films was that this movie focused on a mathematics teacher rather than an English or music teacher.  Furthermore, unlike other stories where students were only shown to pass according to the teacher’s standards, this movie was able to give perspective on their actual level of achievement because the students had to take the AP examination which is well-known and recognized.  Comparatively, in films like Freedom Writers, I can accept that the students are learning and appreciating class, but I have no tangible sense of their English ability in comparison to a typical high school freshman or sophomore.

Indeed an inspirational story, but shame on the film-makers for not making it into a truly unforgettable movie.  In another ten years, I will probably have forgotten everything except the scene of Mr. Escalante arguing with the ETS investigators again.  A story like this had so much more potential, and it was, by no means, fully achieved.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

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I saw pretty good reviews for this movie so I really made it a point to get around to seeing it in theaters eventually.  It indeed satisfied my expectations, and though it was fairly slow in its entirety, I think the film makers did an exceptional job of making Caesar very human-like.  The build-up from beginning to end fully lays a foundation for why one can empathize with all that Caesar experiences throughout the film.

Watching movies like this always makes me unsure of whether or not I could take the right side in such a fight.  Would I side with the humans?  Or would I be in support of the apes who were retaliating for their own mistreatment and abuse?  Many of the scenes from mid-movie made me contemplate about the problems of animal cruelty and animal captivity.  I must admit that I stare in awe at the awesomeness of nature whenever I set foot in a zoo as well, but I can’t help but think of how wrong the idea is.  Would it be acceptable if more intelligent lifeforms captured groups of homo sapiens and kept us on display and used us as test subjects without our consent?  Though apes and other animals may not have the same higher cognitive functions as humans, they are not without feelings and emotions.

In the end, I would say that most of the humans who suffered in the ape escape deserved it.  Caesar proved that he had a much better grasp of ethics, understanding the thin line separating right from wrong, refraining to kill the humans who did not demonstrate animosity towards the apes.  The ending of course left more to be desired, and I guess that’s why the movie was so slow.  It suffers from the unfortunate plague of merely building up to a sequel rather than being a complete movie on its own; a them common with box office hits these days.  My best guess is that it will end up a trilogy like almost all big Hollywood investments.

The ending made me reminisce about Twelve Monkeys.  Is this really the way humanity will fall?  Perhaps so, because then the food chain would be complete, for humans to be trumped by the lifeforms that do not even meet traditional biologists’ qualifications for “life.”

Source Code (2011)

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So after everyone said such good things about this movie, including a 91% from Rotten Tomatoes, I thought I had to give this movie a shot.  When I originally saw previews for this movie, this instantly made me think that the movie was merely just an action-packed Groundhog Day.  After watching it, I don’t really that this prior assessment was too far from the truth.

It was a fun and exciting movie to watch, but in my opinion it presented too many glaring loopholes with problems within the whole scope of timelines, alternate realities, etc.  I am usually not one to nitpick at these details (I enjoyed Inception and The Matrix very much) but when the problems of coherence are too obvious, I begin to have objections.  This movie had some big problems at times.  There are numerous loopholes and flaws that I felt were too obvious.  Many are typical timeline/reality issues that need not be elaborated again, suffice it to say that these parts made me gasp to myself “Really?” a number of times.  In the end, I was glad I didn’t spend money to see this movie in the theaters, but I’m also glad that I did watch it.  It’s an interesting concept they present, and I imagine seeing a much better movie with the same “core” principles as this movie in the future.