My Top 10 Movies – 2010

Made the list last year but didn’t finish writing it because I was occupied with other things. A bit overdue but hey! it’s still January so it’s not too late. For me, 2010 was a good year for the over top fun action movie genre that I really have a soft spot for. I had a blast with action movies like The A-Team and Machete. It was also the year of great movie soundtrack with Daft Punk, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nail and Hans Zimmer delivering epic music scores (I want them to do a collaboration!!).

– See previous list: 2009 (Avatar, District 9, Star Trek, etc.) and2008 (The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda, Wall E, etc)

10. The A-Team

From the director of Smoking Aces
Watched it: Once

I wasn’t really expecting much when they announced a remake of The A-Team. I mean, who the hell are gonna replace the original gang (especially Mr.T). Then they started casting what seemed to be actors that looked perfect for the role. AND THEN you see them act as the characters in the movie! Again, I’m a sucker for action movies and have a soft spot for those ridiculously fun ones; this movie certainly delivers in both departments.

Highlight: But what makes The A-Team special is that it’s about these four guys, each of them being bad asses in their own way, working together and bickering amongst themselves but always gets the job done no matter what. Watching these iconic characters gets portrayed both in a faithful and also refreshing way by these wonderful actors is best part of this remake. Hannibal, Face, BA and Murdock have distinguishable archetypal personalities (the brain, the look, the muscle and the ‘wildcard’) that makes it so fun to watch as a team and bein ridiculous situations. The first 30 minutes of the movie was brilliant in how they introduced each character one by one and setting the tone of the movie.

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A Half Remembered Dream

You can read my previous posts on dreams:
I Have A Dream –  Outlined several instances where I visit the same place in my dreams again and again.
A Dream Within A Dream – Exploration on the dreams that I’ve had. I attempt to define several properties of my dreams.
Dreaming The Inception –  My dreams the night after I watched ‘Inception’

***

Never intended to write another post on dreams but after the release of the movie ‘Inception’ and it’s surprising commercial success (and the fact that it is probably the most talked about movie right now), I couldn’t resist not writing one more thing on the subject. I’ve written down what I dreamt about the night after I saw Inception over my Tumblr blog. However, for this post I’ll be talking more in depth about dreams and I’ll also be referring to things from the movie so I advise you to stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Construct of dreams

One of the main criticisms of Inception was that people were screaming “Hey that’s not an exact portrayal of dreams! It’s too formulaic and too restraint! It’s not surreal! It’s not weird! What about the sexual elements?! Where are the boobies?! We entered four guys head and no boobies?!!” I think those criticisms weren’t fair because:

  • These are lucid dreamers. They have a certain level of control in their dreams. They are not dreamers who are passively experiencing crazy surreal images/narratives when they are dreaming. Like I’ve said before, I tend to like the latter way of dreaming.
  • The dream worlds in the movie were constructed by the Architect. They were grounded in realistic way in order to fool the subject that he’s not in a dream. It’s like a mouse trap with the illusion of reality being the cheese.

So it’s not an accurate portrayal of dreams because those dream worlds were constructed for the purpose of the mission.

Levels of Dreaming

I’ve talked quite a bit about my experiences of “dreaming within a dream” Of course, there is a difference between how ‘dream within a dream’ (DWD) worked in the movie and how I’ve experienced it. In the movie, the concept of DWD is related to the technology of dream sharing where a group of people is connected through some wires which enables them to share a dream space. A DWD occurs when the procedure is repeated within a dream therefore entering a deeper level of the subconscious. The dreamers take turns in ‘hosting’ the dream space they enter. For example, in the early sequence of the movie, Leo and Saito were in Joseph Gordon’s Levitt dream WITHIN the first architect guy’s dream!

For the last sequence please refer to this nice diagram from http://dehahs.deviantart.com

So in the end, Juno was in Leo’s dream within Tom Hardy’s dream within Joseph Gordon Levitt’s dream within Yusuf the chemist’s dream! Here are several interesting comparative points between my own experiences and Inception’s rules on DWD:

1) I’m experiencing it myself so I’m not jumping into other people’s dream while I’m in a dream. I don’t have a dream sharing technology (If such thing even exists!)

2) I always start on ‘Level 2’ (although I don’t really prefer it but I’ll just use the terminology from the movie to make things clearer) and then wake up to ‘Level 1’. Never have I dream about going to sleep except for maybe this one time:

I woke up and I looked at the clock on the wall of my room. It’s still early so I went back to sleep. I woke up and it’s 6pm!! I’ve missed or am late for whatever it was that I was planning to do that day! I went out my house and I’m suddenly in a parking lot. It’s night time and raining. I saw a group of actors gathering around the parking lot and shooting a scene. HOLY SHIT! IT’S THE CAST OF ‘LOST’!! They greeted as if they know me and asked why I was late. Turned out I’m supposed to be in that scene they were shooting! The rain stopped and it’s suddenly a beautiful sunny day. I hung out with Henry Ian Cusick and Daniel Dae Kim (actors who played Desmond and Jin respectively). We went to a parked double decker bus that was actually an ice cream restaurant in disguised. I was talking to this cute lady who was behind the counter and taking my order. I woke up…and looked at the clock on my wall of my room. It’s STILL early so I went back to sleep.

It may sound like a normal ‘one level dream’ but I began to doubt that I even wake up in the beginning.  Although I’m really sure that I really did wake up the moment after I ordered my ice cream, I’m still a really hazy with the first moment when ‘I wake up’. Is this an example of me dreaming about going to sleep and dream about something else? A ‘Level 1’ ->‘Level 2’ -> ‘Wake up’ scenario as opposed to my usual ‘Level 2’ -> ‘Level 1’ -> ‘Wake up’ experiences?? I HAVE NO IDEA!!

3) I don’t think this is intentional on Christopher Nolan’s part but I notice that the further down the dream level you are in, the further it gets from the realm of reality. For example, Level 1 was constructed to be close to reality with its urban setting. While Level 3 was a hospital that looked like a fort in the middle of nowhere!! I’ve noticed the same thing with my DWDs:

  • Level 2 – A character dies in one of my favourite TV shows.
    Level 1 –  Woke up and I saw the same character die on TV and I told my brother that I dreamt it!
    Reality – Woke up.
  • Level 2 – A wrestling match between Shane McMahon, Goldberg and Peter Petrelli from Heroes.
    Level 1: woke up to write it down in my dream journal.
    Reality: Woke up to find out that I DIDN’T WRITE IT DOWN BECAUSE IT WAS JUST ANOTHER DREAM!!
  • Level 2 – A road trip on New York with friends.
    Level 1 – Woke up and writing down my dreams while in McDonalds with my friends.
    Reality – Woke up.

You can see how Level 1 reality is more realistic/believable than Level 2 dreams in terms of the settings (eg. Wrestling ring/bedroom, New York/McDonalds) and the people (eg. TV characters/my brother).

4) I’ve never experienced a more than 2 Levels of dreaming. Hell, I don’t think it’s possible!!! Unless you watch too much TV/movies or play too much video games! That is how I always like to explain the cause of DWD…because I watch too much TV and movies.

Cinematic dreams

“You have very….adventurous dreams” “That’s because my life isn’t that adventurous!” That may be true but I tend to think that it’s because I watch too much TV and movies. So certain aspects of movies and TV shows gets deeply ingrained into my subconscious to the point where my dreams tend to follow movie formulas. The following example is one of most memorable dreams I had when I was a young:

My friend’s little brother has been kidnapped by a group of mafia/gangsters. Nobody dared to volunteer for a rescue mission except for me (don’t know why I volunteered…probably because I was a bad ass!). CUT TO – Another friend of mine getting stalked by some perverted guy. She tries to escape from her stalkers so she volunteered to join me on my mission. CUT TO – We arrived at a lavish party hosted by the evil mafia. I stood up and shouted at the head mafia boss. I demanded that he release my friend’s little brother or else he will pay the price! The mafia boss laughed and ordered his men to kill us. Crazy gun fight!! I gave my friend a gun but she said she didn’t know how to shoot. “Then what the hell are you doing here?!” “I was just finding a way to escape from my perverted stalker!!” I gave her a quick lesson on how to shoot. She managed to kill a few bad guys. I continued dodging bullets and killing few men. BULLETS FLYING! GLASS SHATTERING! PEOPLE SCREAMING! I woke up….checked the time, still early in the morning. Got back to sleep but I couldn’t continue my kick ass dream.

That dream had a typical action movie written all over it! A rescue mission? Check! A bad ass hero? Check! Evil gangsters? Check! Crazy gun fights? Check! A female partner? Check! Hero’s love interest? That girl was someone I had a crush on so that’s a Check! The way it was sequenced also felt cinematic with scenes suddenly cutting into another scene.

Another interesting dream I had recently borrowed one particular cinematic technique. There were three ‘scenes’:

1) My mom asked me about whether I went to eat at this restaurant with my friends. I didn’t go but I decided to lie at my mom. With every question she asked, I made up some story to answer it.

2) Its raining hard and there is a flood. Water started to violently flood the restaurant that was referred in the previous ‘scene’.

3) A Voyager space probe flying past the planets with me narrating my intention of creating an exciting fantastical account of the Voyager space probe into a Sci fi tv show

Those three ‘scenes’ were intercutting between each other in my dream! The relation between the first two ‘scenes’ were obvious: I was lying to my mom and it is evident that I was lying because that restaurant was actually flooded. As for the third ‘scene’….that’s an idea I had when back when I was 3rd grade or something. It also proved that an old idea is never gone but just got lost somewhere deep within your mind waiting for it to resurface.

“You Never Really Remember the Beginning of a Dream”

That was a line from Inception where Cobb made Ariadne realize that she was in a dream. It’s a common thing for dreams to start abruptly and drop you in a middle of things. And usually within a dream, you just assume that you know the situation, the people and the backstories related to the situation in the dream.

One notable dream that I had when I was kid involved me saying farewell to all these wonderful animal characters that I’ve had many adventures with. It was a tearful farewell and I got so emotional about it. The funny thing is that I never remembered any of my adventures with them…I never had any dreams about them before! The dream abruptly started with a farewell to these animals that I was supposedly having many adventures with without actually knowing what those adventures were exactly. It’s like watching an emotional ending of a TV show without watching the whole series.

Here’s another and more recent example of a random non-beginning dream that I had:

I’m in a hotel room with three other people: two guys and a girl. We’ve been staying in the hotel for a while and we’re waiting to go another city. On each city that we’ll visit in our road trip, we get to stay on one of our friend’s house. I told the others that it’s impossible for me because “I have no friends.” One of the guys took pity and said “don’t worry, we’re your friends.”

That last part of the dream is really interesting because they claim to be my friends yet I DON’T REALLY EVEN KNOW WHO THOSE THREE PEOPLE WERE IN REAL LIFE!!! They weren’t friends that I know nor fictional characters from TV or movies. They were just three random people (a guy in red shirt, a girl in green shirt, a guy in black shirt). But I seemed to be fine and have some “unseen backstories” with them in my dreams. Although, I do think they were mash ups of different people I know but that would still make them a bunch of random strangers!

Dream Time vs Real time

According to the movie, Dream time is slower than real time (eg. sleeping for 5 minutes feels like an hour in the dream world, which feels like a week in a dream world within the dream, etc). Is there any difference? Yes. Is there a specific time difference? I don’t think so. Normally, I wake up and check the time to see that it’s still early in the morning so I go back to sleep. I would have some elaborate dream that feels long only to later wake up again, check the time, ONLY 5 MINUTES JUST PASSED!

Here’s a recent example:

– I wake up, check the time, still early, go back to sleep.

– I have a conversation with a friend

– **more dreams but I couldn’t recall it clearly**

– I’m a soldier in a computer game going around shooting opponents. It’s a fast paced FPS Counter Strike/Battlefield/COD type of game. The ‘map’ is Machu Picchu, a famous archaeological site in Peru.

– I have a restaurant by the seaside. It’s late and I’m closing it down. Strangely, I strap a balloon around my waist and I was floating around.

– I wake up, check the time, WTF?! ONLY around 15 minutes?! All those dreams felt longer!!!

***

Well that’s it for now! Inception is definitely the most talked about movie this year and if you haven’t seen the movie yet then WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! GO WATCH IT NOW! And if you have….GO WATCH IT AGAIN!! Honestly, I’ve only seen it once and I’ve been talking about it for a few weeks now!

To close it off, I’ll leave you with this weird ‘dream’ that happened to me just few days ago:

It was a sunny day and I was walking with my friend in the middle of a road. It was crazy with cars, parades and marching bands yet we didn’t have any problem because they always gave us space to walk. We were having a conversation about last night (thus giving this dream some sort of time frame) UNTIL…..

*my phone vibrates*

Woke up and that same friend is calling. She asked if I could join her for lunch. I barely opened my one eye to peek at the clock on my wall. I closed my eyes again and said that I’m not coming but I’ll probably meet them at a later time.

She said, “Ok! Sorry to wake you up”

I said, “What if I’m still asleep?”

She said: “Hahaha!”

I said: “What if I’m in a dream within a dream?”

“HAHAHA YOU NEED A TOTEM!!”

“You could be my totem”

ummm..ok, how?

If you call me and say ‘I love you’ then I know it’s fake and that it’s all a dream

errmm…ok…..

if you call me and say ‘get up, go take a shower, you smell’ then it’s reality

ermm…i think you should go back to sleep…i’ll see you later ok, BYE!

*hangs up*

I didn’t even say bye and slept for a few more hours…..

Or was I asleep all that time?! Obviously, I wasn’t fully conscious when I say those things….or maybe I was?! so was that real? Or was that a dream?

***

***

Read my previous writings on my dreams:

Here’s one where I outlined several instances where I visit the same place in my dreams again and again.
https://trylobyte.wordpress.com/2007/11/29/i-have-a-dream/

This one is a much more elaborate exploration on the dreams that I’ve had. I attempt to define several properties of my dreams.
https://trylobyte.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/a-dream-within-a-dream/

My dreams the night after I watched ‘Inception’
http://trylobyte.tumblr.com/post/827995205/dreaming-the-inception

My Top 10 Movies – 2009

Yes this is a bit late but who cares…anyway, let’s start with some random statistic about my list:

– 5 Sci Fi films
– 1 animated film
– Feature length movie debut by 2 directors
– 1 superhero film
– 4 films adapted from an established franchise
– 3 films that are considered to be frontrunners in the Oscars
– No biographical film
– No New Moon

without further ado here’s my top 10 of 2009 list:

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Time Between Dog and Wolf

The Korean dramas that I’ve managed to catch were usually the sad romantic ones that ends tragically (the only happy one I saw was ‘Full House’ starring Korean pop superstar Rain, who was also in Speed Racer). So it was a bit refreshing to watch a Korean drama about cops and gangsters, a genre mostly associated with Hong Kong films. Sure, there is a love triangle plotline as you can guess from the picture above but it’s balanced out with several action sequences, plot twists and episodic cliffhangers.

Time Between Dog and Wolf is about Lee Soo Hyun (the guy on the left) who was adopted by a senior officer in the ‘National Intelligence Service’ (NIS) after his parents were murdered by gangsters. Soo Hyun grew up to become an NIS agent himself together with his foster brother, Kang Min Ki (the guy on the right). Later, Soo Hyun agree to become an undercover agent by faking his death and infiltrate a drug trafficking gang led by Ma Woo, the same man who murdered his parents. Further complicating things is a love triangle between Soo Hyun (now under the name of Kay), Ji Woo (Soo Hyun’s childhood friend and the daughter of the gang leader) and Min Ki (Soo Hyun’s foster brother).

As usual for an undercover cop, Soo Hyun suffered from a crisis of identity just like Tony Leung from Hard Boiled & Infernal Affairs. BUT, here’s where it gets better, Soo Hyun later had a car accident and lost his memories!!! 🙄 So he’s a dude disguised as another dude who lost his memories and thinks he’s really the dude he disguised as!!!Beat that Tony Leung!! :mrgreen:

That’s where the second part of the series began which was also when things get slow as the three main characters gets one dimensional (Soo Hyun acts like an asshole, the girl is like all confused and Min Ki just shouts a lot). Then things get better again in the last few episodes with cliffhangers and twists (aside from stupid acts by the girl). It has a sort of a happy ending LOL Hehe and it also leaves it open for a second season too. 

Overall, the show at least kept me entertained throughout so that’s good I guess 🙂

Holy F*** Batman!! My ‘Dark Knight’ Review!

Saw the movie last night at the Empire Cinema and as promised, I went there wearing my black Superman T-shirt (read here to know the story behind it). Coincidentally, I saw a guy wearing a white shirt (or sweater I think) with the bat logo. Talk about being opposites hehe..which is kinda appropriate because one of the main theme of the movie was duality; not just between Batman and Joker but also between Batman and Dent or Dent and Gordon.

***Warning: Possible Spoilers***

The Dark Knight is not just a Superhero movie, it’s a two and a half hours long epic crime drama that touches on themes like law & order, the price of heroism and what people can do when their comfort zone get disturb. Did I mentioned that this movie is tragic? Things just get worse and worse every minute till the end. Nop Batman doesn’t die at the end but his victory comes with a heavy price. Hell, I think Batman isn’t quite the main character of the movie. The movie is about Gotham City and the efforts of three men (Batman, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent) in saving it from the Joker, the self proclaimed agent of Chaos.

Let’s talk about the Joker first. I knew that they were going for a darker take on the Joker but one important aspect of the Joker is that he’s funny…well at least he thinks he’s funny and the fact that he thinks it’s funny makes me laugh therefore I find him funny (does that make sense). Funny in a twisted and wrong way, that’s what I like about Joker.

So I was afraid that in this movie, he’s just going to be crazy and evil but not ‘funny’. Well, let’s just say he “put a smile” on my face after his ‘pencil magic trick’. We all went ‘Ooooo!!’ followed immediately with laughs.  Other funny moments includes him sliding down the pile of money, Joker cleaning his hands at the hospital and his amusement of getting beaten up by Batman. It was suppose to be an intense scene where Batman sort of crossed the line with his temper and two lives were in danger but I laughed when Joker seemed to enjoy the beat down.

There’s all this posthumous Oscar buzz for Heath Ledger and I think he deserves it. You don’t go “oh it’s Heath Ledger from Brokeback Mountain wearing a makeup“. His movement, his voice and everything changed.

Another highlight character is Harvey Dent played by Aaron Eckhart. Dent is an idealistic and a badass District Attorney who’s determined to clean up the streets of Gotham. Courage and confidence are his greatest strength which even impressed Batman who considered retirement because he saw Dent as Gotham’s new hero or hope. We get to root for Dent which makes his inevitable transformation to Two Face more tragic. I also like the way that Two Face isn’t exactly a villain in this movie which is fine because I never get why he suddenly turned into a mob boss like in the cartoon. I mean I kinda cheered for Two Face when he starts hunting down corrupted cops and mobs (led by Eric Roberts!! 😎 ). But he went overboard at the end.

Joker saw Harvey’s descent into madness as his achievement and this reminds me of the Batman comic called the Killing Joke. Remember reading it in the High School library, it’s about the Joker trying test his theory that it only takes one bad day to make someone crazy like him. In that comic, he tried it with Gordon by tying him up and force him to look at pictures of his daughter’s paralyzed and bloodied naked body after being shot by the Joker. Joker failed of course when Batman came to rescue Gordon.

***Highlight to see spoiler***

Harvey Two Face dies at the end. This shocked me because I was so sure that Two Face will be the main villain for the third movie. But I’m fine with his death because, like I said earlier, I’m not a fan of the “ex District Attorney turned Mob Boss” storyline. As for the Joker, it was a good decision to not kill him so that we get more Joker vs Batman storyline but Heath Ledger’s death complicated things. Recasting?? No way. 

Btw, this movie is dark and might not be suitable for children. Examples: a villain pointing a gun on a kid in front of his dad or the part where the Joker put a knife into someones mouth while telling a story of how he supposedly got the mouth scar is scary. 

The movie also touches on heavy themes like post 9-11 fear culture and how it drives people to break moral codes (Just wait till you see Joker’s big Social experiment involving ferries and bombs). Gordon, Dent and even Batman are bound by moral codes and laws. Joker comes in and tries to push them over their breaking point and exploiting their flaws. Gordon knows that he’s leading a police force that’s mostly corrupted but he needs all available men to fight crime. Batman is a vigilante and not bound by the law but refuses to kill because that would make him just as bad as the criminals. Dent has a  bigger problem because he’s a very public figure therefore has to keep up with his image as a promising, charismatic and strong District Attorney. He’s Gotham’s best hope in saving the city, the white knight. But beneath that image is a normal human being with emotions that sometimes overcome logic (his temper and his love for Rachel).

Image or symbol is another theme that plays a big part of the story especially the ending. The most important thing that can save Gotham is a symbol of hope which should be uphold at any cost. By the end of the movie, the characters die, lie and willing to be hated by many in order to keep that symbol/idea of hope alive. At least that’s how I saw it, I don’t know, I’ve only seen it once and I have to watch it again to dig up more.

So yeah, go watch Dark Knight! :mrgreen:

Oh, you might also be interested in hearing the Joker theme from the movie. Really freaky and random

Is Dark Knight really that good?!!!

It’s July and that means my most anticipated summer movie will be released in few weeks. The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins and starring the late Heath Ledger in his final complete movie, will arrive in theatres on July 18.

Is this movie going to be good?! Are people only exaggerating the awesomeness of Heath Ledger’s performance just because he died? CAN THIS MOVIE LIVE UP TO ITS HYPE?!! Here’s the rundown so far of early reviews from movie reviewers I frequently check/trust:

Moriarty from AICN (easily my favourite and the more talented reviewer from that site)

…Chris Nolan accomplishes something that both WAR OF THE WORLDS and CLOVERFIELD tried to do, and with more grace and insight. Those films both used 9/11 imagery to resonate with viewers, and in both cases, the imagery is certainly arresting and upsetting, but to what end? Just to remind us? Just to tap into the fear we felt that day? Here, Nolan invokes 9/11, but he pushes past it to also deal with the fear that has stayed with us as a culture since that moment, and also the way it forced the world around us to change. This is the first mainstream movie to fully digest the events of September 11th and to deal with them in a way that starts to sort out who we are now as a result. Heady stuff for a movie about a dude wearing a bat suit who beats the shit out of criminals, but then… isn’t that the point?

Peter Travers from Rolling Stone

Go ahead, bitch about the movie being too long, at two and a half hours, for short attention spans (it is), too somber for the Hulk crowd (it is), too smart for its own good (it isn’t). The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination. It’s full of surprises you don’t see coming. And just try to get it out of your dreams.

From TIME Magazine

…Nolan has a more subversive agenda. He wants viewers to stick their hands down the rat hole of evil and see if they get bitten. With little humor to break the tension, The Dark Knight is beyond dark. It’s as black — and teeming and toxic — as the mind of the Joker.

And ComingSoon.net

While one might hesitate to throw around overused words like “masterpiece,” it’s refreshing that “The Dark Knight” is not a movie that can be viewed and easily discarded like so much other summer fare.

And 5 solid stars from IGN

…there really is no better way to describe The Dark Knightthan to call it a great work of art because it transcends both the boundaries of comic book moviemaking and even the parameters of good filmmaking. What Nolan and Co. have created doesn’t just function as a thrill ride or even a terrific movie, but rather as a substantive and philosophical examination of why we need heroes, and then when we need them, what they mean.

And then another perfect score from JoBlo..

Christopher Nolan’s latest is a near masterpiece that is smothered in atmosphere, and delivers all the thrills you’d expect and more

And finally comes LatinoReview:

There were too many characters and a good fifteen, twenty minutes could have been cut. Either trim down the love triangle mess or some of the unnecessary mob scenes to quicken the pace. Despite those negatives, The Dark Knight is an exciting movie to watch, especially on a giant IMAX screen. Just cover your kid’s eyes whenever Maggie Gyllenhall is on screen. It’s not the Joker’s face that will be giving them nightmares! Just kidding Maggie. I’d bang you in a minute. With a bag over my head.

ROFLMFAO!!! :mrgreen: But he still gave it an A- (almost perfect) so that’s still very good.

“When the chips are down, these civilized people will eat each other. You’ll see, I’ll show it to yah”

Lost – No Place Like Home

The fourth season of LOST ended few days ago and the 8 month wait for the next season begins!! Nooooo!!

This is the best Lost finale yet (yes, even surpassing last year’s “OMG it’s a flash forward” episode).It has action, drama, romance and several moments of suspense. Oh and answers too….and new questions hahaha. I’m not gonna do a recap but just pointing out few things.

**Warning! This post contains spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet** 

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Forbidden Kingdom

Just saw Forbidden Kingdom starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li. What’s good? The fight scenes and hot Asian babes. What’s bad?  Chinese English. Speak Chinese with english subtitles dammit!! Just speak English only when you talk to the American Kid. Oh another warning, there’s also too much of those ‘old wise Chinese proverb type of talking’. Something along the line of ‘the bridge between Heaven and Earth of the river with flower to the Sun within the Gate of No Gate’ . OK, it’s not exactly like that but you get my point. 🙂

In short, I see the movie as nothing but a tribute to the martial arts genre. Therefore, you get to see stuff like badass monks, a young loser who later turn into a great fighter after training under a martial arts master, sword fights, people defying the laws of gravity, extensive fight sequence (the main highlight is the Jackie vs Jet Li fight), a woman with white hair (like the ‘Bride With White Hair’ referenced in the movie), stuff about heaven and earth realms and lastly Jackie Chan fighting drunk just like the Drunken Master.

Speaking of Drunken Master, I went to Youtube to rewatch those Jackie Chan fight scenes from his past movies that I remember watching when I was a kid.

Here’s Jackie Chan kicking ass from Drunken Master II. No CGI, No Wires, No Chris Tucker LOL Enjoy!

A Look at Shawshank Redemption & The Mist

Shawshank Redemption The Mist

Planning to watch these two polar opposite movies back to back in the near future. One is about the triumph & perserverance of the human spirit through the power of hope and the other just shows how easily we can get f***ed up badly by fear and desperation. Both of these movies were directed by the same man and adapted from books by the same author: Frank Darabont and Stephen King.
(Click the posters for trailers)

**this post contains spoiler from both movies. So if you haven’t seen either of the two movie then it’s recommended that you should not continue. Just go watch the two movies, it’s really good 🙂 **

Shawshank Redemption (1994) is about Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a hotshot banker sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. He is actually innocent but this isn’t an action movie where Andy escape and tries to clear his name while being pursued by the police. Instead, he stays there and develop a friendship with fellow inmates especially Red (Morgan Freeman), a man who has lost faith in the outside world and doesn’t believe in hope. Andy’s arrival changed the face of prison and led Red on the road of redemption. The movie was nominated for 7 Oscars but didn’t win any, a decision that many saw as the biggest Oscar snub.

The Mist(2007) is about a town being covered by a mysterious mist that hides many deadly creatures. A group of survivors takes refuge in the local supermarket where they have to fight against any of the deadly creatures (eg. giant bats, poisonous giant flies, large tentacles, etc) that attempts to break in. With each passing moment, hopes of survival diminishes while fear takes over. This led most of the survivors to turn to the religious fanaticism of Mrs Carmody. Some of the survivors found that their greatest threat does not come from monsters but from among themselves as the worst of mankind is brought to light when desperation and fear reached critical level.

The Mist Supermarket

One thing I notice is the contrasting relation between the setting and the theme in each movie. Redemption is set in prison yet the characters find hope and redemption within in it. In contrast to the Mist, where the supermarket (a place where you can find everything you need) became a place of chaos.

I see that these contrasting relations between setting & theme reinforce the idea of the strange nature of humanity and civilization.  The relation between us and civilization is a tricky one because I see it to be paradoxical. We are a social species and the only way to ensure our survival is create a society/civilization governed by rules. Simple as that, it’s Sociology 101. But here’s the catch, civilization is also the seed of our destruction. What I mean by destruction is not that we’re going to explode and die; it’s more like how we start losing the real strength that’s within us as humans get too dependent on the construct of civilization. What if we took out those things that we are heavily dependent on? People get scared and when they do…well…just watch how things get ugly. Here’s some quote from the The Mist:

Amanda Dunfrey: You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?
Dan Miller: None, whatsoever.
Amanda Dunfrey: I can’t accept that. People are basically good; decent. My god, David, we’re a civilized society.
David Drayton: Sure, as long as the machines are working and you can dial 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, you scare the shit out of them – no more rules. 

And this…

Ollie: As a species, we’re fundamentally insane. Put two of us in a room, we pick sides, and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another.

Yes, this sounds like JJ Rousseau’s views on Humanity and society. He believed that society corrupts mankind but not along the line of ‘wild man = good, civilized man = bad’. It’s more to do with the difference between a man that strives to survive with the power of reason and a man who are bogged down by ‘artificial’ construct of society. In a situation like the one that happened in the Mist, the later wouldn’t fare well. Unfortunately, most people are in the later group. When the rules change and don’t apply anymore, they seek some other means to make them believe that the normal rule still applies. Hence, they turned to fanatical religion of Mrs. Carmody. She seemed to know better at what’s going on and what to do.

Andy Dufresne and Red

In Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne isn’t bowing down to rules. He did not start a prison riot or anything but discovered something more powerful. He realize that there is something incorruptible within all of us and it’s the endurance of human spirit or hope. Take this quote from the movie:

Andy Dufresne: That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you… Haven’t you ever felt that way about music?
Red: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn’t make much sense in here.
Andy Dufresne: Here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget.
Red: Forget?
Andy Dufresne: Forget that… there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.
Red: What’re you talking about?
Andy Dufresne: Hope.

Red refuses to believe in hope and he has also accepted his predicament as governed by the society he lives. He calls it being ‘institutionalized’; admitting defeat to the labels that you are given by a society. Here’s Red’s explanation:

Red: Would you knock it off? Brooks ain’t no bug. He’s just… just institutionalized.
Heywood: Institutionalized, my ass.
Red: The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands. Probably couldn’t get a library card if he tried…these walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on ’em. That’s ‘institutionalized’…They send you here for life and that’s exactly what they take, the part that counts anyway.

Later, Red finally redeemed himself when he gave a piece of his mind to the Parole guys.

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Ellis Boyd Redding, your files say you’ve served 40 years of a life sentence. Do you feel you’ve been rehabilitated?
Red: Rehabilitated? Well, Now let me see. You know, I don’t have any idea what that means.
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, it means that you’re ready to rejoin society…
Red: I know what *you* think it means, sonny. To me it’s just a made up word. A politician’s word, so young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, are you?
Red: There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.

Powerful stuff!!

Lastly, I want to talk about the ending. Shawshank’s ending is still one of my favourite movie ending, it gets me everytime I watch it. As for the Mist, it’s great!! Giving a happy ending to a grim movie isn’t the right way. You need a big ‘F You!’ type of ending and it delivered.

Quotes from movies courtesy of IMDB

Sentiasa Bersama Biskita

Few weeks ago was our national day and on that same day, I felt an urge to do something that I haven’t done since started this blog; write something related to my country. I thought it would be easy, just sit down in front of the PC (yes, I don’t have a laptop so I cannot blog anywhere) and expect some ideas for a topic relating to my country would just pop into my head. I was mistaken and this can be seen with this post where it went off topic pretty quickly.

Now, I have an idea. I’m going to write about Radio Television Brunei (RTB), our very own national TV channel. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s one of those things that has a special place in your life as a Bruneian.

Radio Television Brunei

So how  did I get this idea? One night, it was raining hard and I couldn’t watch ASTRO cable channels. To make matters worse, the living room TV was controlled by my mom and her indonesian dangdut satellite TV channel. So bored, I watched RTB in my brother’s bedroom. WOW! Quite cool Hehe.

I watched the local news for the first time in years and I see all these new young faces reading the news (except for the lady who recently won the best female newsreader award). But I know they’re not new, it’s just that I haven’t watch RTB news in ages thus I didn’t recognize any of the news readers. Gone are the familiar older newsreader I grew up with (the guy with the moustache and glasses, the guy who sort of looks like my friend’s dad, the lady with contact lenses eyes doing the ‘Consumer’ section and THE sports guy…Hj Malik, I think that’s his name..he’s THE MAN when it comes to SEA games or football coverage).

I’ve noticed that the local channel have changed in it’s nature over the years. When I was young, RTB aired sitcoms like Friends and weekly movies ranging from made for TV quality to blockbusters (eg. Sunday matinee, Wayang pilihan). Then there was X-files. That show was the highlight of our local channel in the old days. It made all of us glued to the channel every week. We always talk about it in morning at school after each episode Haha.

Then RTB seems to change its focus towards more of an educational direction. You start having more documentaries (of which most of them are fascinating) and religious shows. I think they try to balance it out between entertainment and educational programmes but found it difficult hence the expansion recently: RTB1 and RTB2

RTB 2

I heard about this RTB2 long time ago but never bothered with it. So I checked that channel recently and I see all these commercials for shows that they’re airing:

The Office?! That’s a really funny show and it’s in our local channel. NCIS?! i’ve seen some episodes of this show and enjoyed it. Bones?! That’s the David Boreanaz show. Everybody Hates Chris?! Wow another good comedy Psych?! Lost?! you mean THE LOST?! my favourite show with that Crazy island, that one?! Every Friday 9pm?! LOL

But let’s not forget about local drama. In the old days, local dramas were kind a fake. You know, the characters talked with Malaysian accent instead of a Bruneian accent. The dialog seems forced. But things have improved. Sure, it’s not top quality but it’s improving and it’s more Brunei-ish. I saw this local drama about the Anti-Corruption bureau and I enjoyed it. The cases looks like something that would probably happened in Brunei. They talk in Bruneian dialect and even the dialog sounds like how a Bruneian would talk. For example, this old boss talks about having a surgery in Singapore. THAT’s so Bruneian. I love little touches like that. I found out later that this show is actually old and it was a repeat telecast. Ketinggalan zaman banar aku ani . The show is called KOD 468 and if only they release it on DVD 🙂

Speaking of local shows on DVD, I was a big fan of Catatan Misteri. That show was a big hit few years ago and I want to see that on DVD. Whoever I talked to and the subject of locally produced drama comes up, they always talk about this show. The episodes ranges from frightening (the 1st episode with the Balau ghost and another episode with exorcism), dark humour (the one with young guys playing darts and saw hantu pocong), unintentionally funny (the unemotional reaction of the father who lost his daughter), brilliant (the roti panas episode) and downright stupid (the kung fu scene between two ‘makhluk halus’). Now I want to see that on DVD.

And then there are the commercials. People always laugh about the quality of the local commercial but that’s what makes it memorable. Who could forget catch phrases like “Anu lain mana durang suka tu!” or “Murah kali ah!” from a Sabli sauce and a Pizza hut commercial respectively. Speaking of the Pizza Hut commercial, there was a line where the guy was complaining that he couldn’t a afford the normal price meal because of ‘Bulan tua‘ LOL ‘Bulan Tua’ refers to a period of time between paydays for many workers here. In other words, it’s a time when most people don’t have money. Like I said earlier, I like the little local touches.

So yeah, I’m not saying that I’ll abandon my cable channels forever but it was nice to watch RTB again. Kinda like meeting an old friend you haven’t met for a long time. Like the slogan says, Sentiasa Bersama Biskita/ Always be with you.