‘King Maker’ (造王者), a wonderful and thrilling series.

I like to watch series involving scheming battles in palace during ancient China. I find series with such theme is very interesting and attention-grabbing in terms of its multi-layered and twisting plot. Previously, I admired series by Hong Kong’s TVB of this theme like ‘War and Beauty’ and ‘Beyond the Realm of Conscience’. The latest to be included in my favourite list would be the recently-concluded ‘King Maker’ drama released this year which is a historical-fiction series set in Southern Song dynasty. It’s like a spin-off to the ‘Greatness of a Hero’, a drama released few years earlier with two same main actors (Wayne and Kent) but with Wayne Lai being the main villain instead.

(Image above from http://i48.tinypic.com/nfc4i.jpg

‘King Maker’ starred Wayne Lai and Kent Cheng as two respective chancellors with their intriguing struggles to have their favoured prince win control of the throne of Southern Song. Wayne Lai supported the eldest prince, Kwai-Sing (Pierro Ngo) while Kent Cheng is by the side of second prince, Kwai-Wo (Chris Lai). Of course, things aren’t that simple as there are numerous intertwining sub-plots that further adds depth and strengthen the power of the storyline as it goes through the 28-episodes long series. Those are like the threats from neighbouring dynasty, revelation of certain truths and involvement of other great villains to make things worse and more complicated. In the end, it’s Kent Cheng that turns out to be the main villain of the drama. The good thing is that some twists in the story are really unpredictable (hence giving surprise) and came out very well and not illogical as seen in many other TVB series earlier. There are also many other notable supporting characters to carve a path to such a solid story.

(Image above from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OKzNJDAUeTg/UCTFGSJNtXI/AAAAAAAAV64/G0yBjlB0PvU/s1600/000002239463_1344334535.jpg)

All that sum up to a very thrilling atmosphere in the palace, still centered on the two chancellors portrayed by the very experienced actors, Wayne Lai and Kent Cheng. At first, I didn’t expect that Kent Cheng would be the main villain in this series, and in the end, I can say that it’s quite a breakthrough and a good performance from him. However, I find that Kent forced himself to indulge into the evil character he portrayed until to the point that it seems so weird looking from his facial expression and gesture. Perhaps, he shouldn’t try to do anymore evil characters that doesn’t seems to suit him. It’s not his fault and he already did his very best, and anyway I like his character too. Without this main villain, the story wouldn’t be that interesting after all especially at the end part when he do so many bad things all together to make sure he is successful on his plans. The final confrontation between Wayne and Kent in the finale through words and tricks is impressive and intense but not epic enough.

(Image above from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fk1M8W6eXgw/UCTFHeJ1ydI/AAAAAAAAV7A/90Bl7DBPLHM/s1600/000002239465_1344334537.jpg)

Wayne Lai is still at his usual performance of a very strict-looking man while still very capable of delivering in emotion-led scenes. And I find his younger sister in the series whom later became the concubine of first prince, Natalie Tong is a bit noisy and slightly annoying especially when she is first introduced in the series. Yeung Chi-San (Joseph Lee) and Consort Wai (Florence Kwok), two senior casts did very impressive job in their villain characters as well. One more thing, Vivien Yeo portraying as the first concubine of eldest prince is still quite poor on her acting, and her Cantonese accent didn’t really improve much. But that is quite a minor character who did a bit of silly tricks in the end and then gets punished and vanished from the series as expected. Hmm..the series also tests on value of friendship, family bond and love in a very balanced proportion (without dragging on either aspects much).

(Image above from http://m1.img.libdd.com/farm5/2012/0907/23/FEF7A2F17AEFBFC620030C70E3F331D1F982FB8D7D8E_500_281.jpg)

So, there are not only battles between the two chancellors which only heightened in the final portion of the whole drama. There are also scheming between concubines (a little), cooperation between politician with eunuch, and even tricks between father and son or daughter.  I finished watching its two heart-stopping two final episodes just now, and I’m glad that the whole series didn’t disappoint. It’s indeed an exciting drama with good script and acting overall. The storyline is intense enough with very much of climax-reaching scenes. The drama is also filled with some touching moments especially when someone important had passed away mainly due to evil plots by the main villain portrayed by Kent Cheng. The ending for the characters as shown in the finale is quite satisfying. Overall, it’s a very solid drama with thrilling plots. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘King Maker’ a total of 7.5. Conclusion of the story in one simple phrase; ‘it’s hard to be the king maker’.


Movie review: Total Recall (2012)

It’s time for me to step into the cinema again after The Dark Knight Rises last month. It’s very necessary to go to cinema at least once this Hari Raya break, and so we did so today on my last day of break at TGV in Suria KLCC. Hmm…I don’t like TGV cinema. The price of snacks on sale is so expensive, the hall is too cold and that the seating and space in between are too narrow. The film I watched today is ‘Total Recall’.

This science-fiction action film revolves on a factory worker, Douglas Quaid whom begins to realize that he is a spy after visiting Rekall – a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led – goes wrong and he finds himself on the run. The story isn’t only about all that as it also touches on political and psychological themes. You would understand what I’m saying after watching it. I didn’t watch the 1990’s film of this title on which this 2012’s film is the remake of it, and so I judge this film without comparing it to the former.

For me, the story is quite engaging and most of all, interesting. The flow of the story able to get the audiences going with the development from the beginning till the end of the film. There isn’t any draggy or slow things going on in this film. Every scenes are essential to the plot, on which mostly are filled with action-packed sequences. It’s so exciting to watch ample of chasing and attacking scenes from this film. I can assure you that this would never get your bored even for a single second. Everything turns so intense as soon as the main character, Douglas started to question on who exactly he is, and finally finding out the answer and even helped to save the Colony in the end.

Besides than the story, another aspect that I wish to highlight is the visual effect. I believe most of the scenes involved extensive computer rendering for the background as the setting of the film is at the end of 21st century taking place on a whole new advanced urban city above our present built environment. There are huge robotic-like structures appeared to be floating, a number of connecting flyovers and lifts, etc. The visuals delivered are absolutely fantastic and realistic-looking. A lot of hard work must have been put to create such a great outcome.

The performance by the casts, is no doubt brilliant and amazingly done. Colin Farrell did a very impressive job as Douglas Quaid, the main character of the story. The two other leads are his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale) whom go against him and his love interest, Melina (Jessica Biel) who partnered with him on his mission later on. Without both of them, I couldn’t think the movie would perform this well. With the three of them, you could already witness a number of intense chasing and attacking sequences since the rest (those robotic armies) are actually quite meaningless.


So, expect a thrilling, enjoyable, entertaining and exciting moment when you watch this film. Definitely worth a go and you would be amazed with its story, its casts and its visual effects like I did. Things are also generally very advanced from the setting of the story. It appears like with only using a glass, many high-tech things can be done. Those kind of ‘over-modern’ stuff would get your attention as well while watching the film besides than just concentrating on the development of the story. Overall, out of 10 points, I would rate this film a total of 7.5.

(All images from this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Starting to get back to TVB series, just finished the whole series of ‘Three Kingdoms RPG’

After several months of not watching any Hong Kong TVB’s series, I started to feel unusual on every night after work when I have no drama to catch. Then, TVB released quite an anticipating series last month, entitled ‘Three Kingdoms RPG’ starring Kenneth Ma, Raymond Lam, Tavia Yeung, Ruco Chan, Pierre Ngo, Sharon Chan and many other supporting casts. The story as clearly suggested from the title revolves on the three kingdoms back over thousand years ago, but begins with Kenneth Ma, an addicted online game player accidentally travelled back to three kingdoms era and met all those historical figures.

That is quite an interesting synopsis. TVB had not been using the idea of time travel on its series for many years already, after it had been adapted before in ‘A Step Into The Past’ and ‘The King Of Yesterday And Tomorrow’. It’s good to have the time travel idea back into its drama. ‘Three Kingdoms RPG’ also enabled me to learn a bit on the history of Three Kingdoms in ancient China, particularly introducing me to those historical figures like Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Cheung Fei, Suen Kuen, Zhou Xou and many others.

The drama isn’t all only about telling the history. I like the part when Kenneth Ma whom is brought back to the historical era had to adapt to the environment and on the same time influencing the people in the past with modern stuff particularly in modern talks. It’s quite hilarious and entertaining to watch those parts. It has never been that funnier or interesting without the presence of his character. However, I find Kenneth’s character on this series to be a little bit annoying. The issue is not on Kenneth’s performance. He did very well on his acting. It is the poor handling to his character that makes him unlikeable. And I find that he looks much better on appearance in modern world rather than giving him historical character to portray. The ending showing him in the age of sixties waiting to return to Three Kingdoms era is quite interesting. But his singing of the song ‘You Are Always On My Mind’ which linked him to Tavia in the series is quite awful.

On the other hand, I’m disappointed with Raymond Lam’s performance. Luckily, this drama concentrated more on Kenneth Ma and his character’s development. Raymond Lam had been very ‘woody’ on his recent performance and I really get bored by his emotionless and ‘chok’ appearance which isn’t much suitable for the ancient time setting of the series. Zhuge Liang is a great war strategist but Raymond ruined that powerful character. Poor casting is a major issue for this series. Sharon Chan appears with not much of purpose on this series, available only in few short scenes. Selecting Pierro Ngo to act as Suen Kuen is a right decision. He gave a very impressive and solid performance as one of the influential and talented leaders in the Three Kingdoms era. Too bad, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on his character which can actually be developed further rather than having to share most of his on-screen time with Ruco Chan’s character that turned evil due to jealousy of Zhuge Liang’s knowledge.

I like the chemistry between Kenneth and Tavia after their on-screen couple presence in ‘The Hippocratic Crush’, a TVB medical-based drama released early this year. I find there isn’t anything much interesting going on between their relationship on this series and out of sudden, Szema Shun (Kenneth) had his unconditional love to Song Yau (Tavia) in the end after not having any feeling to her in most of the series. It’s disappointing that Szema Shun had not able to express his love to Song Yau after successfully travelled back to modern time while Song Yau couldn’t do so. The ending is quite touching and emotional eventhough the ending failed in a lot of other aspects, like not mentioning what’s going on to Three Kingdoms after the war. Many things are like unanswered in the end. What’s for letting Song Yau to arrive in modern world after Szema Shun had passed away? I am now guessing there must be some sort of strong response and reaction from those people in the Three Kingdoms era after Szema Shun suddenly went missing. There can be a very potential development to that point, but TVB couldn’t think of that direction to give a much better conclusion to the drama. Out of 10 points, I rate this drama 6.7. Ahh…and the visual effect is so awfully bad. Budget issue…

(The images from this post are obtained from variety of sources in world wide web)

Movie review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christopher Nolan, a very acclaimed film director reboot the ‘Batman’ successfully with a much darker and realistic tone with the film of ‘Batman Begins’ in 2005. Then, he continued to produce marvelous sequel for it, leading to ‘The Dark Knight’ in 2008 that receives major positive reviews and gain over 1 billion grossing. That is not the end yet. On this year, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ which puts the epic franchise into trilogy is reported to be the conclusion. Hence, this film which is seen as one of the summer blockbuster is expected to gain more than its predecessors, but not in term of my review.

First of all, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is an extremely long movie, taking almost three hours with much of the time wasted on the slow pace of story development particularly in the first hour. The part that shows how Bruce Wayne (the Batman portrayed by Christian Bale) hide himself from the city of Gotham that feels that he is wrong and responsible for the death of Harvey Dent (in previous case back in The Dark Knight) is excessively long. I didn’t say its unnecessary, but that aspect is being delivered in a boring and draggy mode which is frustrating. Well, luckily there is a good interception in between, on which Selina Kyle is introduced as the Catwoman, portrayed by the gorgeous Anne Hathaway. Heavy emphasis is also given to a new character; Detective Blake portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and that is a good addition too.

Hmm…I predicted the character of the Catwoman to be a little bad in the beginning but turns out to assist Batman on saving Gotham city later on. Well, there is no surprise there for the reason of introduction of this character. The main villain this time is Bane (portrayed by Tom Hardy), a physically strong pure-evil mask-wearing man who planned for destruction of the city in the underworld beneath all the underground sewage systems running throughout the city. I like the part on how his character and his evilness is introduced in the beginning of the film at the scene involving the plane. But then, I find his physical strength isn’t enough to make him really ‘evil’ on this film. I prefer ‘The Joker’ in the previous film over Bane. ‘The Joker’ managed to sort out wonderful plans to do the tricks and damages in simple ways that gets the attention of the audiences. All Bane shows over here is only his power in combat with the Batman on which he prevails but in the end killed by a simple shot firing by Catwoman using Batpod. So, it’s actually unnecessary to show ample of not-so-thrilling combat scenes between Bane and Batman. In the end, you could just kill Bane with a shot. And that huge group of police force shown in the film is a bit useless over there in such a situation.

Sorry for a bit of spoiler over there. It’s like inevitable not to show any spoiler over here when I’m writing down my thoughts over this film. There had been out-of-proportion character’s development to Bruce Wayne, whom is the Batman himself. That is what makes kids get bored of this film. Furthermore, the script is very good but is too hard for us to digest or absorb. I hardly understand some of the dialogues spoken which is supposed to be very meaningful but it’s hard even for me to get it. It’s just too complicated. Luckily, there is still a kind of surprise at the climax part (aah, I won’t reveal it here) which is an interesting twist to the elaborative plot. This time, there is not much intense content going on throughout the film compared to the many seen in 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight’. The performance by the casts who are mostly experienced are generally good.

What’s good about this film is the soundtracks produced by Hans Zimmer. Those soundtracks are so awesome to be heard during the movie and they fit into it perfectly. It provides extra dimension and intensity to the film, and helps to cover many parts which are not that interesting but is being turned into heart-stopping moments in the end. And one more thing, Batman is now equipped with much advanced tools and vehicles (now Batman has an auto-driven flying weapon machine called simply The Bat). Cool addition. Hmm…I like the ending as well. The ending is pretty intensifying, emotional, meaningful and puts the film to a very great end indeed despite going through disappointing path in the middle. It is a perfect ending to the franchise. Somehow, Christopher Nolan had successfully captured our ‘souls’ from his spectacular direction in the Batman trilogy he directed.

So overall, the movie starts off quite well but just for a while, then makes you bored for around one to two hours before getting you to a not-so-thrilling but surprising climax, and finally to an epic end. So, it’s imbalance and lengthy ride all the way. And that took me three hours which is too long for me. To be honest, it’s not that interesting or exciting for me, but I find there is a kind of substance on this work of masterpiece that would still adds up to a generally favourable review for it. Some parts should be cut off, then it should be a bit better. Anyway, it’s still a great outcome by Christopher Nolan. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ a total of 7.6. It turns out to be a a little letdown from my expectation and fails to mesmerise me, but I believe this film shall not be missed for any movie-goers.

(Images on this post are obtained from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Movie review: Ice Age 4 – Continental Drift (2012)

The first ‘Ice Age’ film is released way back a decade ago. Then comes its first sequel entitled ‘The Meltdown’ on 2006, following with second sequel; ‘Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ in 2009. On this year’s July, there came the fourth instalment, latest of the famous animated franchise entitled ‘Continental Drift’. I watched the first teaser trailer of this film long long ago, and after watching the film, the teaser trailer actually shows the actual beginning of the film as well, which marked the way for the whole story of the film, continuing from previous stories set in the first three films.

Well, all the main characters remain, and of course with addition of several new interesting characters, in approach similar with that of the previous films of the franchise. This time around, the saber-toothed squirrel does not only appears to be in parallel with the main story with no purpose. His obsession to nuts lead to the beginning of the whole story started from the continental break that separates the main protagonists; the mammoth, sloth and the tiger from the mammoth’s wife and daughter whom is now grown up but was disappointingly under strict control from her father in the beginning. The continental break that makes the world map of what it is today makes no sense, but I like that. That is awesome…haha

That brings the main protagonists to the middle of the ocean, away from the land, and from there, they began an adventure to reach back to the land after going through the rough sea, unhelpful current, tornado and particularly a group of animal pirates headed by an evil captain which is an ape. That sounds exciting. But after watching the film, I find that the story is not delivered to its best eventhough there is a strong potential on it. Comparing it with the first three films, I find ‘Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ is better in terms of the intensity of the story in reaching out to the audiences. I hardly feel anything exciting from the story of this fourth film. Anyway, it’s still a good story, but is being treated too similarly with the previous films in some aspects. It’s not that bad actually. It’s quite interesting after all.

The characters are lovely and funny. They are there for some sort of adventure in each films. Now, each main protagonists are not alone. The mammoth has his own family now, while his daughter had a group of friends of the same species. The sloth is dumped again by his family but then he had a new family member, his granny with him along the journey whom helps to save the day in the end. The tiger met a new companion, a white female tiger which at first belongs to the group of pirates, but turns over to help them as very much expected. You see…this is something not good. Many parts of the film are very much predictable after seeing similar patterns from the first three films. A bit of twist is good enough to bring a thrill to the story.

It’s still a very entertaining film. Since this is already the fourth instalment to the franchise, we couldn’t expect anymore further or fresh from it. It’s actually a good sequel that provides a bit of fun to the audiences with some laugh-provoking moments. What are the producers going to think of if they are planning to make another sequel on this franchise? Even if they had new idea, at last, the story’s development would be very much similar and predictable. That is what happened to Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. It had a good and potential start, but goes on not very well, not very thrilling until the very predictable end. Out of 10 points, I rate this film a total of 6.8.

(Images from this post are not mine and are obtained from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Movie review: The Amazing Spider-man (2012)

‘The Amazing Spider-man’ is one of the highly-anticipated blockbusters of the year. This film directed by Marc Webb is a total reboot to Sam Raimi’s ‘Spiderman’ trilogy back many years ago, and it is a stand-alone superhero film by Marvel this year, separating it from the large ensemble of superheroes in ‘The Avengers’ film.

First of all, I am a bit disappointed that a reboot is planned rather than following the continuity from the previous films directed by Sam Raimi which are good enough to provide a successful path to ‘Spiderman’ character in box office. It’s like after you have watched a three films of it, then you have to turn back to watch the beginning part of ‘Spiderman’ once again, from this latest film but with a different villain and girlfriend this time around. Well, no doubt that people would still compare ‘The Amazing Spider-man’ to Sam Raimi’s ‘Spiderman’ trilogy, and if I do, I find any one of the trilogy by Sam Raimi is a bit better.

Regardless of all those very favourable feedbacks over this film, for me, I find ‘The Amazing Spider-man’ isn’t that amazing after all. The first half of the film is quite boring to me. Besides than having some good and funny moments from Peter Parker (Spiderman) realizing his new powers and abilities, I don’t find anything else interesting on the first half of the film, before the villain, ‘Lizard’ surfaces. Even when the ‘Lizard’ appears, there is no sense of intensity felt which is bad. The audiences should have felt excited over how Spiderman is going to battle all out with the evil ‘Lizard’, a transformation by Dr. Curt Connors. But I’m not. The giant ‘Lizard’ just came out, made some little destroy, had a plan but definitely failed in the end, and out of sudden, turned over a new leaf and saved Spiderman instead. (Sorry for a little spoiler). Not enough ‘power’ shown from the ‘Lizard’.

Another worst thing about this film is that it highlighted a lot over the romantic relationship between Peter Parker (by Andrew Garfield), the Spiderman with Gwen Stacy (by Emma Stone). That is unnecessary too much in the film, leading to limited time for exciting battle scenes between Spiderman and Lizard. Very disappointing. Who wants to know so much over their relationship? Even the kids in the cinema with us felt very bored over their numerous scenes together. Their scenes are making things slow in the film, eventually dragging the whole story to nowhere. Well, we are expecting intense fighting scenes and that are only shown in a very small proportion.

Well, it is no doubt that the visual effects are great for this high-budget film. Many scenes showing the beauty of New York City at night with Spiderman flying all around are brilliantly produced. But that wouldn’t save the movie much from all those weaknesses I had pointed out just now. Andrew Garfield portrayed a much comedic and ‘younger’ feel of the superhero and that is a good thing, which makes it different with Tobey Maguire’s portrayal as a much matured Spiderman in Sam Raimi’s trilogy. The plot for ‘The Amazing Spider-man’ is much more complicated and with certain twist involving the background for the missing of Peter’s parents and their relationship with Dr. Curt Connors, which opens up for sequel possibility that is further hinted from a scene shown after the ending credit that reveals a mysterious man in the shadow that is expected to be the villain on its planned sequel. Don’t know why but I find that things can be made simpler and much easier to understand from this kind of superhero films as it can gets more attention from the kids as well, right?

So, overall, it’s still a good worth-watching film, but fails beyond my expectation and anticipation. Not that entertaining, interesting or exciting either. It doesn’t really perform very well according to my perspective. I’m sure it is going to gain a lot from box office intake, but I am quite disagree to most of the positive reviews given to this film. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘The Amazing Spider-man’ a total of 6.8.

(The images from this post are not mine and are obtained throughout various sources from the internet)

Movie review: Madagascar 3 – Europe’s Most Wanted (2012)

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is the latest and third instalment to the Madagascar franchise. The story continues from the events of the second film set in Africa. Now, on third film, the same group of animals (Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria) planned to return to their home, the zoo in New York City. Along the journey through Europe, they met new friends and had the opportunity to perform in circus while being chased over by a group of animal control force led by a female captain. The circus theme is great, and this movie delivers, outshining its previous two films.

The story sounds interesting. It definitely is. Well, the highlight of the story this time around is now on circus, which is quite interesting and more ‘colourful’ than the previous setting usually in jungles as seen in the first two films. The circus becomes a frame to a whole new layer of development to the story as well as to the characters. Furthermore, few more supporting characters (particularly from the circus team) is added for extra depth to the plot as well as to create some sort of ‘spark’ with the already-known characters. The part when they finally performed together in a circus is extremely well done, further elevated by the playing of Katy Perry’s Fireworks song. That matches very well magically and delivers a very spectacular moment to the viewers.

For a story like this, there must be a villain that stands on their way. This film is not an exception. A heartless woman who is the captain of an animal control force is eyeing for a lion’s head to be mounted on her wall of collection. Alex is her main target after his first encounter with her in the beginning of the film. Things started to get pretty exciting and intense especially on the scenes involving the chase by the cruel captain to capture the group of animals. Eventhough the villain’s character over here appears to be too hard to be defeated and seems illogical, but that all is only intended to provide a bigger challenge and much more interesting climax in the end. Without them, things wouldn’t gets interesting enough in the story.

Things won’t get slow along the flow of the story. At the same time, the character’s development particularly on the new characters introduced on this third instalment is sufficient. Some action scenes are great, and it is always the little penguins again that saves the day with their high-tech stuff, but sometime with some kind of mistakes from them that provokes laughter. Ahh…and there is some comedy going on around from this film too, eventhough I can see some are pretty forced and intended only for the kids to laugh, and not us, the adults. So, for kids, this can be a very funny film, but for the adults, just so-so only.

Happy ending is expected. The group returned to the zoo but then realizing that their life shouldn’t be restricted to the surrounding walls in the zoo. Instead, they find that performing in the circus is what that they are truly happy for. The evil captain returned and expect some final fights before everything settled to a fun and explosive conclusion. Sorry for a bit of spoiler over here. Generally, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is an interesting and exciting animated adventure film to watch, and I have to agree over the majority’s opinion that this is even better than the first two films. Out of 10 points, I rate this film a total of 7.o. It’s a film that stays to the origin but with a whole new level of depth and environment for the group to explore. It’s a nice movie.