08 August 2014


I find mythology fascinating. I love the stories of gods, goddesses, and creatures such as centaurs and cyclopses. Growing up, one of my favorite movies that my family owns on VHS is: Disney's version of Hercules. In addition, in my Latin III class in high school, I had to do a presentation on Hercules, or shall I say: Heracles? Therefore, I know a thing or two about Hercules and I was pretty excited to see Brett Ratner's version. As a fan of Hercules, Ratner's portrayal of the Greek hero did not meet my standards. 

The background did stay congruent to the original myth. Hercules, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, was introduced as the son of the mighty Zeus and a mortal Alcmene. He is known for his strength and his adventures of completing "12 Labors". 

The basis of the film was Hercules trying to protect the kingdom of Thrace by capturing Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann). Hercules initially accepted this task because he was promised to be paid double his weight in gold. Later he realizes that Thrace is corrupted and decides to fight for what is right.

Although the film is 98 minutes, I felt like it was shorter. Nothing really amazed me in the film. It was not a complex plot and it did not bring anything new to the table. The action scenes were standard. The acting was nothing spectacular. 

I did appreciate the script and the characters. Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) was one of my favorites. He is seen as savage, but loyal. He did not have any audible lines, but his actions made up for it. I also enjoyed Amphiarus's (Ian McShane) comical stunts, such as when he is predicting his death but survives each time.

Hercules is a film in which I would rather wait until RedBox. It was not terrible, but not amazing. It is okay. As of now, I find Troy (2004) to be a better film centering around Greek mythology than this film. I always prefer Hercules over Achilles, but not in the case of films.

Writers: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos, and Steve Moore
Director: Brett Ratner
Producers: Beau Flynn, Sarah Aubrey, and Barry Levine.
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, and Rufus Sewell
Running Time: 98 minutes

29 May 2014


When I think about films from India, I automatically think of Bollywood films. Bollywood films are full of singing, dancing, and romance. The standard Bollywood story is about a couple that has something preventing them from being together or two people who will predictably end up together even though they hate each other initially. They usually have a happy ending as well. Kanu Behl’s Titli does not fit what I think of as a typical Bollywood film. I would consider it to be anti-Bollywood. Nobody in Titli busts out singing or dancing. They abuse and assault instead. There is some romance in Titli, but it is not presented in the same way as Bollywood. Titli is a disturbing drama that makes me question the human race. 

Titli (Shashank Arora) is the name of the main character who is the youngest of three brothers. They live in the outskirts of Delhi and make a living by doing car heists. The oldest brother, Vikram (Ranvir Shorey), is hot-headed and is going through a divorce. The middle brother, Pradeep (Amit Sial), is more reasonable and more level-headed than the oldest. The brothers live with their father, Daddy (Lalit Behl), who just lays on his bed and watches television.

Titli wants to get out of the life he has with his family. His friend convinced him that investing in a parking lot would help him leave Delhi and he would not have to do any more car heists. He would have a reliable income from the parking lot. In order to start, he needs $300,000. He manages to get the money needed but loses it because he gets arrested. He then has a hysterical bitch fit at the local jail.

His brothers become concerned and curious about why Titli needs that money. They come up with the idea that it is best if Titli gets married. Their reasons were: someone can keep an eye on Titli and having a girl on their heisting jobs could work to their advantage. Turns out, Titli’s new wife, Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi), is having an affair with a married man and she wants nothing to do with her husband and his family’s “jobs”. Titli and Neelu make an agreement that will help each of them escape to a new life they plan on pursuing.

The second scene of the film introduced Titli’s family. Titli’s brothers and the salesperson who sold them a table were trying to move the purchase into their living quarters. The table would not fit through the entrance so Vikram and the salesperson started to argue. The situation escalated quickly because shortly after, the salesperson is on the floor crying as he is getting beat to a pulp by Vikram and Pradeep. Titli, Daddy, Vikram’s wife and daughter are bystanders watching the poor man get pummeled. This is about seven minutes into the film and this is all it took for me to conclude that the brothers are brutal.

The first car heist took me by surprise. An unfortunate couple just happened to be driving around the wrong place and at the wrong time. They end up getting beaten up and their car stolen. As they were assaulting the couple, the brothers showed no remorse. This scene made me paranoid because that car heist could have happened to anyone.

The second car heist was with Neelu and she had no clue what she was in for. She thought she was casually test driving a car with Titli. Once Titli drove onto a relatively quiet and small road and stopped, Vikram and Pradeep yanked the salesman out of the car and without hesitation, beat the life and almost all of the blood out of him. They were completely drenched in blood and Neelu was crying and frightened to the point of peeing herself. I do not blame her because I probably would have done the same thing. 

Another thing I found to be exceedingly bothersome throughout the whole film is how the brothers brush their teeth. They brushed ferociously and gargled disgustingly. I would not have been shocked if one of them jabbed their uvula and choked on their backwash. I actually did want that to happen because it would have been hilarious and they are already dramatic people. The teeth brushing emphasized how repulsive these guys are and if Behl was attempting to convey that, he succeeded.

Titli has a fascinating plot that kept my attention but Behl’s raw approach in depicting this story made me highly uncomfortable. I am all for watching bloody, gory films but the violence incorporated was unbearable. I find it unbearable because this could happen in real life. The acting was believable and the cinematography was nothing special. The violence was harsh and sometimes comical, but possible. I would not recommend seeing this film unless you want to see images such as a guy injecting anesthetic into a girl’s arm right before he breaks her hand with a hammer just so she unable to sign papers. There are crazy folks out in the world and some just might car jack you in the middle of India.


The word “pernicious” means “harmful” or “damaging” and that is how I felt about this film. I can never take back the 93 minutes I suffered. The film is classified as a horror and thriller from Thailand. Judging from films I have seen in the past, Thailand has the ability to produce impressive, horror films that can haunt you for days but they are also capable of producing extremely cheesy and low-quality movies that needs to stay in Thailand. Pernicious is the latter. Actually it needs to be burned, drained of blood, and buried in a far away place. 

Pernicious is about three American girls who take up a volunteering gig in Thailand. For their stay, they rent out a sketchy house and notice a gold statue in the shape of a little girl. After a night of partying, they realize their gold jewelry is missing and have a hunch that something is off.

I tried to be open-mind about this film because it had the premise of any typical horror film. I should have left when I had the chance because every aspect of this film was terrible, unbelievable, and I nearly wanted to go up to the person trying to sell this film and yell “NO”.

The actors and actresses in this film have no skill. I guess they were so desperate and needed experience, so they settled for this. The three main actresses are Julia, Rachel, and Alex. Julia is the brunette, who had some sense and is the least bothersome of the three. Rachel is the provocative sister and Alex is the annoying one. Rachel and Alex are suppose to be sisters, but I felt like Julia and Alex looked more like sisters. The casting director needs to step up and do a better job.

At one point of the film, after a rough night of partying and the murdering of some British guys they met at a club, they wake up and complain about how they felt so shitty and hungover. How can you feel that way when you wake up and your smokey eye is on point? It makes no sense to me.

The murder scenes were also a total mess. I am all for horror films with gory and sickening murders like Hostel and the Saw series, but this was an exception. The blood looked like ketchup mixed with barbecue sauce. As the blood squirted onto the faces of the girls, I wanted them to choke because that would give the film some entertainment value. Overall, the torture was not exciting and did not make me cringe a bit. 

The script was elementary. It made me feel some type of way, which is not the way I like to feel. It was so horrible, I actually took the time to write down stupid quotes from this film. For example, one of the girls said “we will be even” and the other replies “Even Stevens”. I get that they are American and they grew up watching the Disney show, but that was unnecessary. 

Another quote that the annoying Alex, the younger sister, said was “I’m not stupid. I’ve seen antique road shows.” I do not know if the director, James Cullen Bressack, was just making fun of Americans and our so-called television knowledge, but this is just embarrassing. I watch a lot of simpleminded shows on television from time to time, but I would not bring up an “antique road show” when I am in a situation where my jewelry is missing, I blacked out with some random British guys, and the creepy, little golden girl statue relocated.

After the girls realize they murdered the Brits, Rachel says “honesty is not the best policy”. That is an unethical message and having it in placed in the film makes me dislike it even more. The writer probably added this quote in because he did not want to hear or read about the responses to this film because he knew deep in his soul, that it would fail.

Pernicious is poorly-made and planned. Maybe if the acting was better, the script possessed more depth, and the editing and effects were seamless, it might be bearable. At this point, the film needs to be hidden and shown only to pester people you hate. Watching the film itself is more torturous then its murder scenes.

22 May 2014

The Great Hypnotist

Leste Chen’s The Great Hypnotist just may be the Chinese equivalent to a mix between Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Like Shutter Island, The Great Hypnotist has a shocking twist and like The Sixth Sense, a main character claims to see “dead people”. The human mind is an interesting subject and the creation of a psychological, mysterious thriller demands lots of planning to make it successful. The Great Hypnotist is brilliant in how it is shot, how it is told, and how it surprised me.

Xu Ruining (Xu Zheng) is a hypnotherapist who had many successes with his patients. His former professor refers Ren Xiaoyan (Karen Mok) to him because she believes that Ruining has the expertise and is the best fit to help Xiaoyan. 

Xiaoyan is unlike any of Ruining’s past patients. She claims to see dead people and asks not “how she is seeing them”, but “why she is seeing them”. Ruining immediately doubts this statement to be true and attempts to uncover her puzzling past, which she keeps closing off and vague. 

As he conducts hypnotherapy, strange mishaps happen. His methods are backfiring and instead of  only Xiaoyan experiencing psychological treatment, he is also dealing with his own psychological problems. 

When pieces of Xiaoyan’s past is revealed, Ruining is persistently doubtful. He does not see a match or logical explanation to some of what he believes to be true and what Xiaoyan tells him. Xiaoyan describes how she relocated to Northern China when she was young and during that month of March, there were petals of a certain red flower that blew in the wind. Ruining finds the flaw in that anecdote because he identifies the flower and finds out that they do not grow in that area nor at that time of year.

With a constant battle of knowing what is true or false, Ruining eventually believes Xiaoyan when she discloses a personal memory of Ruining’s. After the plot twist of Ruining being the intended patient and Xiaoyan the psychiatrist, Chen executes the explanation thoroughly and descriptively.

The Great Hypnotist’s acting was solid from all the cast members. The emotion Zheng expressed when he is facing the guilt of his past showed his acting skills. We see that Zheng feels intense guilt for the death of his love and his friend. 

Mok’s undercover role as a ghost-seeing patient and as a psychiatrist were both equally well played. She did a great job as a patient with a traumatizing past and conveniently transitioned to an understanding psychiatrist. 

The scene that is part of Xiaoyan’s past, when she is surrounded by petals of a red flower blowing in the wind gave that particular scene a dreamy, mesmerizing atmosphere. The scene where Ruining starts to experience Xiaoyan’s treatment, it is in a dark bathroom with overflowing water from the sink because Ruining’s traumatic event involved water. Scenes like these enhanced the artistic value and emotional intensity of the film.

As stated before, a mysterious thriller like this requires a load of pre-planning. All the complex details that were included in the first portion of the film had a purpose. They were all a part of the final breakdown.

When Xiaoyan first arrives to receive treatment, she looks at the clock and says it is too slow. She proceeds to change the time to look as if she is correcting the clock; but in reality, she altered the time by a few hours. Ruining’s assistant also had a role and as she was giving him his usual coffee. She poured some medicine to make him drowsy. The confusion of time and the lack of focus made Ruining disoriented and not in his sharpest state of mind, which enabled Xiaoyan to easily influence and conduct wake hypnosis. Wake hypnosis is the method in which she has expertise in, whereas hypnotherapy is the method in which Ruining has expertise in.   

Like any other mystery, a problem or question is raised and the solution and explanation unravels afterwards. The Great Hypnotist was very detailed, but its complexity did not hinder with the quality of the film. It made the film what it is: clever, mind-boggling, and captivating.

When watching this film, I suggest that viewers give full attention to all minor details to receive the full effect the film has to offer. One blank gaze or divided attention can cause confusion in understanding.

The Great Hypnotist is a thriller that makes viewers feel like they are also the patient. Leste Chen inarguably inserted the “great” in this film.
Writer: Ren Peng
Director: Leste Chen
Producers: Tina Shi and James Li
Main Cast: Xu Zheng, Karen Mok, Lv Zhong, David Wang
Running Time: 100 minutes

KaLaChaKra: The Enlightenment

Natalie Fuchs travels to Dharamsala to learn more about the sacred ritual: Kalachakra. This documentary features a spiritual, religious couple who is hesitant on what the next step of their relationship should be, a curious, young monk, and the director herself and her journey to discovering inner peace. Along with these three stories and wise words from the Dalai Lama, KaLaChaKra: The Enlightment educates viewers the basis of Tibetan Buddhism and the 11-day long ritual. The documentary exhibits beautiful cinematography throughout the whole film. During the ceremony, long and slow shots show all the faces of those seeking happiness and understanding. We also see concentrated, skillful monks create the intricate, colorful sand mandala. Although the film is scholastic and visually pleasing, the stories of the couple, the young monk, and hers were not necessary. Each story was related to Tibetan Buddhism, but she is better off with one lead that she can go in depth with opposed to three.

19 May 2014

Electric Slide

Tristan Patterson’s Electric Slide is based off the real-life story of Eddie Dodson, a man who executed over sixty bank robberies in the Los Angeles area in the 1980s. The film premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York and screened at the 67th Festival De Cannes in South France. 

Eddie Dodson (Jim Sturgess) is a fashionable, flirtatious, furniture salesman who is unable to stay out of debt. He takes out a loan from the bank, borrows money from the notorious Roy (Christopher Lambert), and then proceeds to extend his credit line to pay back Roy. 

He forms a relationship with the chic Pauline (Isabel Lucas), who always waits in his car for him after a robbery. With Eddie’s appeal to expensive suits and Pauline’s appeal to designer shoes, Eddie’s lack of business from his furniture shop and never-ending debts do not suffice. After one successful and clean robbery, robbing banks just comes naturally and easily for Eddie.

Eddie has a distinct way of robbing banks. He heads towards a female bank teller in his neatly-pressed suit, matching fedora, dazzling carnation near the pocket, and statement sunglasses. First, he compliments the teller or points out a minor detail to make the teller feel noticed. Then he hands over a note that states he is robbing the bank. But at the end of each note, he always includes an “XO”. Once the teller reads the note and looks at Eddie, a gun is pointed directly at her. After the teller hands over the cash and before Eddie leaves the bank, he repeats his initial compliment to the teller.

After multiple successful robberies, Eddie and Pauline begin to get too comfortable and careless, which leads to their mistake. Eddie is unable to make it to the getaway car with Pauline in time, which leads to him ditching the standard plan and Pauline as well. Ultimately, Eddie’s actions get him to a situation where he cannot flirt his way out to safety.

Since the story is set in the 1980s in Los Angeles, the sets exhibited are captivating and retro. Patterson uses the 80s backdrop to its full potential, with not only the scenes, but the costume and make-up too. The always present carnation on Eddie’s statement outfit is noticeably bright especially since it contrasts his suit.

Expanding on the topic of fashion, fashion is a motif in Electric Slide. It is undoubted that Eddie is a well-dressed man especially during this era. He uses his fashion senses to ease his way in some of the tellers’ hearts. In one instance, he tells the bank teller that he “loves how the bananas hang off her ears”, in reference to her cute accessory. Women love to to be noticed and even if it is just something minor as their earrings, a compliment from a stranger, better yet a fashionable man, can make her day and her heart flutter.

Eddie is not the only character with a trendy style. A notable character who dresses fabulously is Pauline. One of the two cops who are after the “gentleman bank robber” find a shoe that belongs to Pauline and infer that the man they are after has a female companion with him, who has expensive taste since the shoe was designer. That shoe reveals Pauline’s materialistic characteristic trait and relates to Eddie’s motivation to keep robbing banks, which is to buy Pauline nice things.

What makes Electric Slide more than just a story of a man robbing banks in the 1980s is Jim Sturgess’s alluring acting. Sturgess puts on a superb portrayal of a criminal who enjoys the finer things in life and uses his attractiveness effectively.

The cops were able to arrest Eddie due to parking violations. The bank teller, which happens to be the woman with the banana earrings as well as the teller who was robbed by Eddie twice, had the chance to identify who the “gentleman robber” is at the police lineup. She kindly requested that Eddie, who was number four, say the line “give it to me” like how he did when he robbed her. She clearly knew that number four was Eddie but she directly said “I am sure it is not him” to the cops to protect a man who held her at gunpoint, twice, and who made her eyes gleam with awe, twice.

Electric Slide shows that infatuation can make people do wild things. When Eddie is surrounded and asked why he is doing such things, his reply is simply: “I just wanted to get my girl a nice present”. Granted that Eddie is head over heels for Pauline, he also aims to charm everyone else, including the audience and myself in which he succeeds.
Writer: Tristan Patterson
Director: Tristan Patterson
Producer: Kirk D’Amico, Christine Vachon, Hans Ritter, Eric Eisner
Main Cast: Jim Sturgess, Isabel Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Lambert 
Running Time: 95 minutes

17 May 2014

Midnight Sun

Luke (Dakota Goyo) is a young boy who lives in Alaska. He befriends a polar bear cub named Pizoo, who is separated from his mother. Luke makes it his priority to reunite them despite the dangerous situations that nature has in store. Luke starts off this journey with Muktuk (Goran Visnjic), the man who is blamed for the death of Luke’s father but also known for his intuitive skills in regards to the icy terrains. Muktuk is with Luke and Pizoo until a storm blows him away and the ice diverges, leaving Luke and Pizoo stranded. As Muktuk, Luke’s family, and a rescue team look for Luke, Luke is still making efforts to travel north to complete his mission. Midnight Sun offers an adventurous atmosphere throughout the film and a coming of age theme. Luke is growing up and wants to take responsibility, as Muktuk mentions to Luke’s mom. Roger Spottiswoode excels in warming audience members’ hearts with Luke and Pizoo’s sweet relationship. But we have seen this similar relationship in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (2012). The world is accustomed to seeing humans having an endearing bond with another species and Midnight Sun is no exception and lacks innovative ideas.

15 May 2014

Goodbye World

Denis Hennelly’s Goodbye World (2014) starring Adrian Grenier, Gaby Hoffman, Ben McKenzie, and Kerry Bishé is about a group of old college peers reuniting under frantic circumstances. Americans everywhere have been receiving strange messages with the words: “Goodbye World”, which initiates the collapse of civilization. The ideas of what should people do when the world is “ending” is not unfamiliar due to the numerous amount of apocalyptic films such as 2012 (2009), I am Legend (2007), and World War Z (2013). Goodbye World brings nothing new nor exciting to the table with it’s predictability.

James (Adrian Grenier) and Lily (Kerry Bishé) live on peaceful, rural area with their daughter, Hannah. Their house is distant from urbanization which explains their use of antenna-dependent television. On the weekend that they were expecting their old peer and friend, Nick (Ben McKenzie) and his wife Becky (Caroline Dhavernas), a mass text message was sent to all the American cellphones.

Once it was clear that the country is undergoing a possible apocalypse, other college friends, such as Lev (Scott Mescudi), Laura (Gaby Hoffmann), and Benji (Mark Webber) show up to James and Lily’s house. The group tends to look on the brighter side of things and distract themselves from what is going on with the rest of the world as they are reuniting. Wine is constantly consumed and weed is often smoked. Besides the problem of neighbors and soldiers trying to steal and utilize what James has saved in his shed of supplies for the safety of his family, his own family is also falling apart.

Throughout the film, bits and pieces of the past are revealed as well as current secrets. The relationships among everyone in the house are insecure and questionable. Could they work out their problems and could they get through what could be, the end of the world?

The characters all have distinct personalities. James is uptight, organized, fatherly, and unapologetic. His wife, Lily, is carefree, childish, and adventurous. Nick is similar to Lily but selfish and sneaky. Nick’s wife, Becky, is conservative, feels out of place throughout the whole movie, and worries often. Laura is assertive, intelligent, and courageous. Lev is mysterious as well as emotionally unstable. Benji has an inferior past but seems to be more knowledgable and open minded due to his experiences.

I felt like the character relationships in this film did not work well. It is obvious that James and Lily’s marriage was not satisfactory, but the sudden emotion unleashed near the end of the film made it seem unnatural. In addition, Lily’s character was the bottom of the barrel compared to the others. She stayed pretty perky and optimistic until she kissed Nick and later on had a meltdown and wanted a divorce. But then again, Lily was usually intoxicated or high during her happy moods.

Plot-wise, the film was predictable. The reunion of friends in a house that had issues in the past was surely going to bring up problems. The outside world is eventually going to corner James and gain access to his supplies. This film was going to end up with everyone dying or everyone putting their differences aside so they can coexist. 

Since I said it was a predictable movie, I would say Goodbye World would not or should not even receive a “Hello” from the world.

13 April 2014

The Raid 2: Berandal

The Raid: Redemption (2011) set an impressive standard for not only Indonesian martial art films, but for action films in general. Director and writer Gareth Evans as well as actor Iko Uwais continues the Jakarta-based story with the second installation of the intended trilogy, The Raid 2: Berandal. Just like its prequel, the film shows an astounding amount of intensity and swift, skilled choreography. But The Raid 2: Berandal has no limits in regards to charismatic cinematography, spectacular production sets, and cunning sound effects making it a captivating, well-thought out action, crime film.

After discovering that corruption is present within the police force of Jakarta, the once rookie Rama (Iko Uwais) is pulled into a mission to go undercover to further expose the issue. Rama engages in a close relationship with the reckless Uco (Arifin Putra), who is the son of the respected and feared mob boss, Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo).  

Uco eagerly waits for the day that Bangun will hand over more responsibility and authority of the family “business” to him. Bejo (Alex Abbad), an independent crime mobster, also craves for more power and eventually proposes a deal with the avid Uco. As the 150 minute film progresses, the number of mobsters and those involved increase due to multiple characters’ desire to control the “lands”. 

Although Rama’s mission is to expose the corrupted police force, his intentions are to protect his family and to avenge his brother’s death. Rama struggles with focusing on the mission’s objective because he is constantly dealing with the vigilant violence and merciless murders initiated by the mobs. The longer he is undercover, the more involved he is with Jakarta’s mob scene and drifts further away from the chance of returning to his what used to be normal life with his wife and son.

Being an action film, viewers expect fast-paced scenes that gets their heart beating and eyes fixated on the screen. Evans succeeds in this aspect, but goes above and beyond. The numerous fight scenes are defined by its nifty shots, disoriented camera angles, and shaky camerawork to give off a fierce feeling but then shifts to scenes with more stability to create a balance that will not overwhelm viewers with impulsive, endless violence. The quickness of the film is very intricate and brisk and viewers need to give full attention to experience the film thoroughly. 

The production sets in The Raid 2: Berandal are also truly splendid and diverse, opposed to The Raid: Redemption, which was restricted to an apartment complex. But since this is the sequel, Evans was able to gain funding to expand the shooting locations. Almost every scene had a long shot or an establishing shot that showcased the beauty and uniqueness of each scene. The first fight scene was set in a mostly gray and neutral colored prison bathroom, whereas the last fight scene was set in a bold red and isolated restaurant. In between those scenes, there were sets such as a muddy prison courtyard, a vibrant nightclub, and a busy highway.

The sound effects employed were highly effective. The shots fired, bones broken, punches thrown, cries heard, and blood squirted would not be as animated if it were not for the sound effects. Sound did not only emphasized the violence, but it dramatized key points such as when a character had a self-realization moment. When a character became aware, the outside sound muted. For example, in the premiere fight scene at the prison bathroom, before the fight commenced, the volume of the film evidently lowered to demonstrate Rama’s concentration.

Even though the film consists of riveting characters, the film is more plot-driven. The plot outweighs the character development because the characters are more static than dynamic. Rama’s character arc is almost non-existent because he starts off as aggressive and concerned for the safety of his family and remains that way throughout the film. Even if Rama did undergo more character development, it would not affect the film much because the story advances due to the interactions of all the characters and is not centered solely on Rama.

As mentioned previously, The Raid 2: Berandal has no limits. Evans has no restraint with portraying the countless brutal brawls.The intensity is high, the blood is endless, and the hearts of viewers will race. The Raid 2: Berandal is visually appealing due to its cutting-edged cinematography but is also visually appalling to those with a weak stomach or hematophobia, the fear of blood.