Posts Tagged: Reviews

Fountain of Youth?

0027_DSC_0092
Long exposure, with pops of flashes popped for good measure to get some twinkles in the water stream.

0015_DSC_0058
Rizqun had the most number of tables I’ve seen this Ramadhan season. This table was one out of hundreds within the vicinity of the hotel lobby.

0016_DSC_0063
Reminded him to keep still, but as you can see, he wouldn’t.

0040_DSC_0195
Fadil, deep in thought.

In all, I really like the variety of food they have at the buffet lines. In fact, they had two buffet lines to cater to the number of patrons. I would say the crowd at iLotus was thicker than this, but if one line’s busy, you can just go to the other line anyway. The Mutton was scrumptulicious, and we have no less than two prawn dishes, and all of the stuff get refilled pretty quickly. And the thing I liked about Rizqun is that they have a Roti Canai/Murtabak station as part of their morning breakfast buffet, and now they have it as a regular station at the Ramadhan buffet. The two drinks area get frequented fairly regularly, but refills comes swiftly whenever it runs out.

One of the better dining destinations out there for your Ramadhan food fix.

Breaking Fast at iLotus

0021_DSC_0080
My first encounter with an unlocked 8GB iPhone. While I’m a self confessed Apple hater, this was like being lured with a forbidden golden foil wrapped candy bar. Here, we see it trying to load up my site, and it looks like it load everything up just fine, including the drop downs and everything.

I kinda shoehorned my way to the breaking fast at iLotus, but for good reason. The last time I went there for breaking of fast, the food was excellent, with a good range of buffet items indoors, and all the extra items such as the fritters, dessert, hot drinks, grill station located in the patio area, it is rather good value for money considering it costs less than what most hotel eateries are charging this season.

0019_DSC_0077
Baiting me with it’s minimalism.

Present were myself, Ranoadidas, AnakBrunei, Jim747, Chee, and Saifullah(?), and we were entertained by the lovely host, Irene, I think it was.

0022_DSC_0089
Here we see Jim747 trying it for a spin.

The thing is, where there is good food, there is a good amount of people flocking there. It’s more true here than anywhere I’ve seen. The whole place was jam packed, spilling out to the patio area where the grilled and other various items are, and they even had to set up tables to the usual driveway at the entrance of the restaurant.

For that reason alone, you might want to catch the 7.30 show, as the break fast time is too hectic, but if you’re up for it, and can wiggle your way to the stations, I guarantee you will have a full plate, a full table, and a full belly. The 7.30 ‘show’ has the same menu, mostly catering to Chinese patrons of the establishment.

0011_DSC_0056
Barbecue chefs preparing the items. Hectic station this was.

I would not hesitate to come here again, though. The food was great, and if you have a belly of steel as mine, you can go long into the night, snacking on other food items on display.

0013_DSC_0063
AnakBrunei enjoying the buffet.

Transformers Movie Review

Michael Bay being attached to this franchise made a couple of my friends nervous, and for good reason. He gave us the Bad Boys series, Miami Vice and The Island, and his contribution showed; slow mo sequences, outrageous fighting scene angles, gravity defying, intense car chase scenes, gun fights, the list goes on and on. And seeing his contribution, people might think that it’d be a whole two and a half hours gun fest in slow motion. You won’t be further from the truth.

An origins storyline of sort, which is all the rage nowadays with comics to movies adaptations, it chronicles the arrival of Optimus Prime and most of his more memorable comrades from the Generation 1 TV Series. While a far departure from the real Generation 1 storyline, eschewing the storyline of the Autobots and Decepticons arriving on earth 4 million years ago, the storyline they’ve used here is well compressed for the average movie goer today.

The Allspark, a device that gives life to Cybertron, and sustain said life, was lost to the depths of space when a civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons erupted. The Allspark somehow lands on Earth, with Megatron following suit. He crash lands in the North Pole, and has been held in cryostasis the entire time until the events in the movie.

While convenient to the masses and they can dive in into the story immediately, fans of the cartoon series and toy line, which I can say almost all of us, are going to be a bit miffed at the liberties taken with the story. While it would have been cool to have the original storyline, the confusing and sometimes contradictory continuity with the different seasons of the TV series would be a hard sell to the average Joe. After all, they’re coming for the action sequences.

And action sequence they will have. Gone are the lasers, and in come the bullets and missiles. Gatling guns materialize out of a bot’s hand, while some body parts firing off missiles, all while going through acrobatic routines that would even shame the most agile of spider monkeys. They duck and roll, run and jump, and causing general destruction to the fictional city, blasting bullets back and forth and firing off heat seeking missiles. By the one hour mark, I bet you’ll have action sequence overload not seen anywhere else before.

It’s this overload that takes away your amazement the fifth or sixth time you see an Autobot or a Deception transform back and forth between their two modes. The first few times you see Scorponok chasing the human characters, Bumblebee transform into a robot, or Optimus Prime transforming from a totally awesome truck to a totally awesome 20 feet tall robot, a sense of giddy excitement comes over you. It’s euphoric, even teetering on arousal. Towards the end of the movie, the action picks up so much that you can’t savor the robots animation anymore. It’s just two hulking mass duking it out in the middle of downtown.

I’m not saying that the whole theater didn’t appreciate the animation sequences, which, giving credit where credit is due, ILM did a spectacular job by the way. 38 hours to generate a single frame is mind boggling to say the least. It earned the standing ovation at the end of the showing; and I wholeheartedly agree. I yelped in glee at the first sight of Optimus Prime, that’s how excited I was, and I will not retract that yelp for anything in the world.

The selection of Autobots and Decepticons portrayed in the movie are purely for the purpose of making it easier to digest, and even satisfy fan’s demand for their favourite ‘bot to appear. While Soundwave won’t be making an appearance for instance, due to the fact that they want to explain the mass shifting in future sequels (!), Starscream is a perfect choice as he has the biggest fanbase for a Decepticon, next to Soundwave. Even updating the vehicles they all transform to seemed like a blasphemous move at first, but you can forgive them for making the vehicles much more easier on the eyes.

Shia LeBeouf is a perfect actor to fill the role of Sam Witwicky, becoming the comic relief of the movie, while Megan Fox supplies the eye candy department. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are the military jarheads and John Voight deserves a mention as well as the US Secretary of Defense.

The best thing about the whole movie was that they’ve made an effort to sticking to the original material as best as they can, even to the point of getting the original voices for the original cartoon TV series to reprise their roles for the movie. They even went so far as to include Optimus’ famous energy Ax in once crucial scene. It was fun picking out and pointing out what you remember from your childhood in this movie.

I’m giving this movie 8 Energon Cubes out of 10.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I’ve never been a fan of the Fantastic Four series, comic, cartoon or movie wise, as they’re lower ranked in the top tier of comic book superheroes. Having seen the first movie, I can see why the movie adaptations aren’t the top of most comic book fans wishlist to see this summer season. But for me, it has a rater acceptable level of believability, as you can imagine them living their now newfound celebrity lives in New York.

The main antagonist for this movie is of course, the titular character, the Silver Surfer. Played by Doug Jones, but voiced by Laurence Fishburne, a tall well built silvery being goes around the universe on his silver surf board. Once known as Norrin Radd, he’s forced to serve Galactus as a Herald in order to save his own home planet from destruction. While doing Galactus’ bidding all over the earth, he finally meets the wise cracking team of Fantastic Four and does the noble-change-of-heart things villains would do.

While being a badass in the earlier part of the movie, he exhibits the traits of the Silver Surfer as people know him. A confident, no nonsense, powerful being that can take on the entire Fantastic Four team all by himself, but ultimately foiled in one of those “A-ha! That’s the answer!” pseudo scientific moments. But man, him surfing through the streets, tearing everything apart around him gave me goosebumps all over. It’s the one time where the now obligatory flying-through-crowded-streets-scene l0oks almost realistic. Almost.

But then that’s the only highlight of the movie. If you can conjure up the running time of the movie, it stands at a disappointing 1 hour 30 minutes, which to me is too damn brief to tell any meaningful story that all the older comic book readers would appreciate. I just hate the fact that they have stooped down to the lowest common denominator of the movie going crowd, satiating the segment of people that want movies to end right at the 1 hour 30 minutes mark. The kinds that complain and whine about a 2 to 3 hour long movie. I want my money’s worth, and at that running time, I’m getting gipped on an extra half hour or more storyline, and the fact that they crammed a wonderful trilogy into a compressed Cliff’s Notes on the events in the trilogy.

It’s not a bad story per se, as the comic performance between the Fantastics can be funny at times, but man, another dancing scene in another superhero movies? Does Stan Lee have anything to do with that I wonder? And they had to have another naked Jessica Alba scene just to induce some laughs and some erections.

A good light hearted action romp, and doesn’t take itself too seriously with moral quandaries and philosophical heroes spouting one line too much, you’d hate it that you paid full admission to see a brief, unsatisfying movie, and wished it was half price so you could like it more. It’s like… An Episode of Heroes mixed in with Armageddon and Blue Crush (with the surfings and everything), and you’re halfway there.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Review

pirates-caribbean-worlds-end

One of the first must watch movies this blockbuster season!

Mighty lofty proclamation, even for me. But hear me out. There’s good reason to catch another chapter of Jack Sparrow’s antics with his, dare I say, beautiful crew, Elizabeth Bennet and to an extent, Will Turner.

If you’ve watched the two previous movies, you get an idea of the whole charm of the Pirates series, sailing the open seas, friends or foes one upping each other in their treachery and deceit, morally grey areas, that sense of rooting for the underdog, and of course being surprised by the twist and turns throughout the whole movie.

And don’t forget that wit and guile that only Jack Sparrow can manage, and you got a recipe for opening weekend success.

It’s status being a trilogy will of course see itself compete with Spiderman 3 in the box office, but seeing how Spidey 3 was quite a flop in the eyes of it’s rabid fans, there’s much more reason to expect that PotC will rake in as much, if not more, than Spidey’s opening weekend earnings.

The action is much more intense, with your eyes being treated to a veritable feast of briney proportions. The death scene of the main baddie in this movie is quite a masterpiece in it’s own right, slow mo effects while everything around him is being disintegrated. Just, wow.

I’m quite anal about noticing the special effects bit to be… “special effects”. If I want to suspend my disbelief, I want it to be suspended without being jerked back into my cynical brain and mutter, “Ooh, polygonal fakery”. Thankfully, the effects in this movie is a labor of love. The scene where the pirate ships amassing for the final battle? It looks like a fleet of rickety old ships. Opting not to focus heavily on the special effects, rather, to focus on the interaction of the characters has always been a staple of the Pirates series.

You will believe that they are a rag tag bunch of misfits, you’ll love every bit of comedic interaction, which is not forced like Tobey Maguire’s tabletop dancing shenanigans. You’ll love the subtle in jokes, you’ll love the not-so-subtle jokes, you’ll love the emotions the characters are portraying to each other. You’ll love this movie. Period.

p/s: Many thanks to the two lovely ladies who accompanied me to the movie.

Spiderman 3 Review

To tell you honestly, I wasn’t even feeling excited about this movie. Not that I wasn’t looking forward to it, but knowing that I have piled on heaps of expectation and excitement towards a movie doesn’t pan out very well for me (Star Wars Prequel Trilogy comes to mind). 300, Superman Returns, Batman Begins, even Casino Royale were met with an open and relatively receptive me, so any failure to even meet my expectation was not there.

You’d be forgiven thinking that with Spiderman 2’s relatively action packed nature, you would think Spiderman 3 will be one whole, 2 and a half hour of action sequences. But the thing is, once you’ve seen the whole trailer, you’ve seen all that you needed to see, visual effect’s wise. You are not getting that sense of awe seeing a huge sand person tearing down Manhattan, you are not getting that sense of anxiety when Venom finally appears, you are not getting your eyes treated to all the visual effects that you want to see. Why?

Because you’ve seen it in the trailers, and more importantly, the action sequences are few and far between. Sam Raimi in his infinite wisdom managed to fit three differing stories from all the different point of views, and wholly screwing it all up in the process by not giving equal importance to all the characters. Way too ambitious, but way to ham handed in execution, that you keep egging the movie to move onto the action sequences.

By trying to fit all those story in, you have moments where the movie moves really slowly, with characters lining out all the stuff that needed to be known so Joe Public would get it, so as to not let him become Clueless Halfwit Joe. In all fairness, I could live with that, but what really sets me off is the predictability of all the characters, and the predictability of the story.

I’d be the first one to admit, the action sequences are way cool, acknowledging the fact that animating individual characters of sand and even the way they rendered the symbiotes are no less masterful. And again, they’ve kept the effects in a realistic comic kinda way, with a believable Spidey swinging around looking like a real person. That’s the reason I like the Spiderman movie franchise.

Interspersing these action sequences and inserting stupid dialog, stupid character interactions, a half assed intertwining story, and lame ‘comedic’ sequences getting the Joe and Jane Public laughing is a cop out in my opinion. The only part that got me to utter “Ooh! Cool!” was the part where Stan Lee appeared, when Bruce Campbell made a cameo, and when I thought I saw Denise Richards somewhere.

By all means watch this movie for the sake of not missing this movie, but don’t bring high expectations into it.

Matadoe

Went to Matadoe at Mata-Mata, Gadong last night as a favor for this special person. Been meaning to treat her to dinner for a long time but hadn’t had the chance until last night. Nice ambience, secluded place, nice food, it’s a wonder I hadn’t found this place sooner, as I always frequent another establishment in the general area.

Upon the recommendation by AnakBrunei, I chose the Spicy Fried Rice and Spicy Chicken Wings. And she chose Chocolate Fondue. How spicy was my food? I’ve always had a suspicion that the roots of my hair has scoville detectors, because as soon as spicy food gets onto my tongue, my hair roots will go on fire. And it was ‘ablaze’ last night, as there was nowhere my tongue can run away, as the Spicy Fried Rice and Spicy Chicken Wings did their one-two punch.

In all, I like the place, gives another alternative to the Gadong, Kiulap traffic jam conundrum. And as we will move our operations across the street from that area, I think it will become my favourite hang out place soon.

Now onto the pictures!

DSC_0002

DSC_0016 DSC_0014 DSC_0027

DSC_0044

DSC_0061

And Now, For Something Completely Different

DSC_0081

300

Beautiful to behold, but ugly in nature. Epic in proportions, of struggle of a few. Brutal in its depiction, yet delicate in its presentation. Ancient in setting, but current a subject matter.

Before viewing this film, I have put myself on an embargo on all information regarding this movie, preferring to know as little of the movie as possible. I spied on trailers but quickly look away, not wanting to know every little morsel of goodness that might come out of this movie. It involves a small contingent of Spartans, 300 of them, against an army far outnumbering them in the hundreds of thousands, that far I know.

From the get go, the audience is introduced to the Spartans, a proud race of warriors in ancient Greek. The boys of Sparta are trained to fight from their early childhood, creating, in effect, a military state in ancient Greek.

Scottish born Gerard Butler played King Leonidas, the King of Sparta, a character portrayed as a gruff, battle hardened warrior king. A proud Spartan, that some might consider… well… a bit mad. Mad because he provoked Xerxes, played by Rodrigo Santoro, by throwing Xerxes’ envoys into a bottomless pit. Envoys bearing the severed heads of other rulers of the Greek’s states and demanded Leonidas to ‘submit’ his people under Xerxes’ rule.

Thus began Leonidas’ march towards the coast, meeting the force assembled from all four corners of Xerxes’ rule, with 300 of his finely, finely sculpted men, whose sole occupation was war. Along the way, they see what the Persians can do to the Greek civilians, that the Spartans become more determined to defeat their foe. Joined by their one time enemy, the Thebans, now both groups march together to defeat a common foe.

The combat disciplined Spartans are no match for the first few waves of the attacking Persians, as there were much slash and gore played out in slow motion, the Persians clearly outclassed. They were no match for even the Thebans, as they could only watch as the Spartans make mince meat of the marauders.

The more the Persians throw at them, the more the Spartans relish the challenge, which consider dying a beautiful death in battle as the most satisfying death. Even after Xerxes unleash his hideous monsters plucked from all over his empire, the Spartans stood ground to defend their position, still disciplined and determined as before.

But, ultimately, what led to Leonidas’ men’s demise is betrayal. Betrayal by the council back at Sparta, and betrayal by one of his citizens which he considered unfit to join the elite 300.

A beautiful movie, which some say a true rendition of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, even much more so than Sin City ever was. The film noir, the grain, the stylings of the action, the emotion, all of it contributed to the graphic novel look. Even if you’re not thinking of watching this movie, I suggest that you do. The first movie event of 2007. 9 out of 10.