Liebster Award

liebsterFirst and foremost, I would like to thank Dave from for introducing me to the Liebster Award, a blogger award “given by bloggers to fellow bloggers.” This is so awesome because  what better way to feel appreciation than a thumbs from your fellow writers from the blogging community, right? Thanks again Dave, for nominating me for this award. :D

So the rules are as follows. I’m copying this off Dave’s site because I’m kinda new at this awards thing :D

  1. The bloggers who have been nominated must link back to the person who nominated them.
  2. Nominees must answer the eleven questions given to them by the person who nominated them.
  3. Those nominated must choose eleven of their favorite bloggers who have less than 200 followers to answer their own set of questions When you are nominated, you cannot nominate the person who nominated you

Pretty simple, right? So, with that being said, these are my answers to Dave’s 11 questions:

1. What was the first movie you ever remember seeing? (This means, not the movie your mom told you that you saw when you were 2 years old, or god forbid, while in her tummy):
The first movie I remember seeing was E.T. I don’t remember all of it but I loved it so much that I used to go to the balcony all the time to secretly press my two index fingers together like ET did with Elliot.

2. In your opinion, what is the best movie ever made based on a video game?
A lot of the people will kill me for this but I really loved the first three movies in the Resident Evil franchise. I liked the movies mainly because I don’t have much of an idea about the video games. Mortal Kombat comes close second.

3. What is a generally hated movie that you openly love?
All about Steve was nominated for a couple of Razzies the year it was released and Sandy ultimately won Worst Actress for her role as crossword puzzle maker Mary Horowitz, but I loved the movie. I loved the character of Mary who was genuine, sweet and determined, to the point of insanity. I thought Steve, on the other hand, was a grade A jerk. Sue me.

4. What is a generally loved movie that you openly hate?
Spiderman franchise with Tobey Maguire. I just never really got behind Maguire as a superhero. I was rooting for Harry Osbourne the entire time.

5. What is the worst movie you’ve ever seen?
Hands down, the horror movie Hit and Run. There are many who come close but it hasn’t been dethroned yet in its place of honor (read:horror) in my mind.

6. What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen…and why?
Gravity. The sense of helplessness I felt while seeing Sandra Bullock was alone in space was terrifying. At least in horror movies, there are ways to survive, no matter how slight, but there, in space, alone? Man, its giving me goosebumps right now.

7. Are there any TV shows you watch that you’d like to be seen made into a movie?
Not particularly. They’re awesome enough in TV land.

8. What was the craziest experience you’ve ever had in a theater?
Because there were too many people in the theater, the cinema oversold tickets placing us in the second row, only a few feet away from the screen which made us kind of dizzy, so my brother demanded they do something about it. they pulled out a couch for us and placed in a more manageable distance for us to enjoy the movie. :D

9. What has been the best performance by a male playing a female or vice versa?
Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry

10. How excited are you to watch Planes 2?
Slightly more excited than the original. It looks more promising but it could just be the cool soundtrack they used on the trailer. We’ll see. :D

11. If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and what would be the origin story. Because “and why?” is too mainstream.
Teleportation most definitely. My origin story would be — a nosy child discovers a hidden talent that she can go anywhere wants in an instant if she sets her mind to it and thus begins her journey to adulthood as a mysterious journalist who travels to different locations and gets stories from the underground that are impossible to get. But an evil villain discovers her secret just as she discovers that her days are numbered as each transport puts a strain on her DNA and so she must fend off the enemy while breaking the most important story mankind has ever told. Its too mainstream because my origin story is a complete ripoff of superman, jumper and in time. Its was kind of fun putting it together though.

Now, its time for me to ask the questions. :D
1. What is your favorite horror movie of all time and why?
2. Why do you think Leonardo DiCaprio deserves/does not deserve an Oscar?
3. Who do you think is the most underrated actor/actress of this generation and why?
4. Indie vs mainstream? Which do you think works better?
5. Are you a fan of reboots? Why?
6. Who do you think played the best villain ever across all genres?
7. Name a great popcorn movie or movies which starred an acclaimed Hollywood A-lister. How did you feel when you saw said actor in the flick?
8. What is the best twist you have ever witnessed in a movie?
9. Are you a fan of big screen adaptations of books? Why or why not?
10. What is the worst movie you have ever seen?
11. If you had the opportunity to turn your life into a movie, which genre would it be and which actor should play you?

And here are my nominees:

Divergent: Movie Review

divergent-poster-1-21Even before the release of the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s young adult dystopian novel, the film already had a lot to live up to. Not only was it being compared to The Hunger Games, which released its second movie Catching Fire to almost absolutely positive reviews in late 2013 (a well deserved praise), but outspoken lead star Shailene Woodley was reportedly talking smack about film franchises like Twilight even before the tills opened for her first major movie. Luckily for her, the books did have some solid following, resulting in great numbers in the opening weekend, which continued on for the next couple of weeks leading to the greenlighting of the second movie in the franchise. Heck, its been showing in Philippine cinemas for a month now and yet, the theaters were still turning up decent numbers when I watched it yesterday.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is part of a society where its members are segregated into factions according to virtue — Amity (peaceful), Erudite (intelligent), Abnegation (selfless), Candor (honest) and Dauntless (brave). On their 16th birthday, each member of society undergoes as assessment exam which determines their outstanding characteristic but they are still given the choice of which faction they would like to spend their life with. With the motto: Faction over blood, the choosing ceremony is truly a big deal because once the choice has been made, there is no going back. When Beatrice’s (later shortened to Tris) aptitude test proves that she is a Divergent, meaning she possesses not only one specific quality and thus, is a danger to society because of free thinking and refusal to conform — her tester (Maggie Q) tries to protect her by hiding the fact. On the day of the choosing ceremony, Tris chooses to be part of Dauntless, where she meets Four (Theo James), who begins to admire Tris for her stubbornness and determination. As they unravel a plot to overthrow the government, they become allies against the Erudites, whose ambitions to lead society have pushed them to do the unthinkable.

There have been a lot of bad reviews about Divergent, pinpointing a general lack of substance in the film, but I kind of liked it. I think the dissatisfaction is actually rooted from Divergent’s comparison to The Hunger Games, which is one of the best YA trilogies ever. Hunger Games has the advantage, because  it has a really solid material to explore for the movie adaptation. I haven’t read Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy but after seeing the movie, I must say it piqued my curiosity enough to pick up the book to see what happens next.

I think the reason why some of the critics became disappointed was because Divergent became more of a chick flick  than a SciFi action film they were expecting. This was actually a good thing about the movie because the chemistry between Shailene and Theo is just magnetic. The tension between the two lead stars is just so effective that even one lingering glance or the simple act of holding hands conveys their connection to the audience. Its the type of “you and me against the world” vibe that kind of makes the film center on the two of them as a team rather than just one heroine against all odds. Shailene Woodley is an amazing actress, and her natural sassiness off camera is evident in her performance, making her projection of a strong minded female character so effective. She is just so full of personality that it makes sense for the film to revolve around her. She is also very beautiful. She is more telegenic than photogenic and she is just a joy to watch, even when she is being beaten up by guys. And Theo James? Perfect casting. This dude is smoking. I’ma chick so forgive me for my lapses.

Another thing about the movie. The film shows no mercy. Gender plays no favorites in this society because girls are treated just as roughly a boys and initiates need to work equally hard to deserve a spot in Society’s army. Aussie actor Jai Courtney is truly moving up the Hollywood ladder in bagging parts in high profile movie franchises. He now plays the ruthless and jealous Dauntless mentor Eric and he is just perfect for the role of throwing around initiates and making their lives miserable. I liked the action scenes and the stunts and appreciated the fact that the actors really shaped up to step up their fight scenes.

While it is understandable that the film would revolve around Tris’s training as a Dauntless soldier, being the first installment in the franchise, what is lacking in this movie is a really sinister villain that audiences could hate. Hunger Games had Donald Sutherland and the District system to rally against. For Divergent, despite the politics and the enforced order, there is really no powerful figure that commands fear. Being an Erudite, Kate Winslet seemed less dangerous, relying merely on her intellect to implement the most ruthless underhanded coup. I know Kate Winslet is an amazing actress but as a villainess, she was sadly ineffective. All she did was walk around and talk to Tris, and imply that she was cooking up something big. And that is not enough to hate her. Its such a shame because every good movie needs to have an evil villain. I think the lack of such actually took away from the full impact of the movie. It could have been great if it went that extra mile.

All in all, I would say that Divergent was a pretty solid start to the franchise. Despite its dystopian origins, it stayed young and cool, not depressing at all, despite the odds stacked against the main hero and heroine of the tale. It had great musical scoring and good pacing. Its strong cast and direction from Neil Burger made the movie an entertaining watch. Despite its familiar premise, it still managed to make itself unique enough to be memorable. And in the age where dystopian and post apocalyptic material is king, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.

By the way, Ansel Elgort plays Caleb in this movie, Tris’s older brother. The same actor will be playing opposite Shailene Woodley in John Green’s bestseller The Fault in Our Stars. It will be interesting to see these two in a more romantic dynamic.

Gossip: Movie Review

gossipI originally saw Gossip in late 2000, when I was in college and working part time for a video store. I often got it confused with another Joshua Jackson movie Skulls because come on, it was in the era of Dawson’s Creek and I was all about Joshua Jackson, although admittedly, he took more of a supporting role in this one. I caught Gossip again on HBO and I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover that the random supporting cast actually consisted of present day television’s most badass actors — Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones) and Daryl (Norman Reedus, The Walking Dead).
There is a reason why teen movies in the 90s to the early 2000s were the best. In the 80s, it was all about teenage angst and coming of age, but in the 90s, RomComs, slashers and teen dramas seemed to have arrived. It spoke to Generation Y, and what was sweet and rebellious evolved into something cool and badass. Gossip is part of this evolved landscape.
Communication students Derrick Webb (James Marsden), Jones (Lena Headey) and Travis (Norman Reedus) are living typical college life when they come up with a plot to spread nasty gossip about popular girl Naomi Preston (Kate Hudson), who is believed to be saving herself for marriage. At first, it was out of curiosity about how far the gossip would go but pretty soon, the rumors spin out of control and her boyfriend Beau (Joshua Jackson) is being accused of rape. When police begin to investigate, new motives surface and more details are revealed about Derrick and Naomi’s past.
What’s great about Gossip is the number of twists and turns the story takes. It starts out really simple and begins to become complicated as more layers are revealed to the story, and more dimensions are unveiled about the characters. I liked Derrick’s character, in particular despite the fact that he was obviously a jerk because for a person who was gunning for character assassination, he was very concerned about his own reputation. There were times that I was actually feeling sorry for him despite his flawed logic because James Marsden was able to communicate effectively the fragility of his character’s self esteem. Lena Headey and Norman Reedus were just starting out when this film came out and despite their meaty roles, the natural grit that they now command in their performances were missing from their portrayals for the movie. This is not to say that they did a pretty good job, still.
The thing that makes Gossip stand out, even 14 years after it originally came out was the fact that there were so many questions raised in the story. Questions like who was the real victim? What was the real motive? Did he or didn’t he? — that it gets the audiences so confused yet on board to know the answers to these questions. Most movies nowadays start laying out the foundations to ambitious complexities yet fail to see their stories through, leaving a lot of plotlines unanswered. Gossip started small and stretched the story like a rubber band, but brought it back before the band snapped so that all of the questions that they set out to conclude were done.
And for the characters who were caught in a whirlwind of lies, their humanity shines through in the tough situations they encountered and the fact that they responded in different ways made the movie more interesting.
Gossip is a movie that makes people doubt their theories and makes people suspect even the most innocent character. Its a movie that keeps its audiences on their toes. The fact that director Davis Guggenheim (Training Day, Alias, The Inconvenient Truth) was able to accomplish all this and present the movie as a cool teen flick, with smart dialogue and an amazing soundtrack is a mark of pure awesomeness.

Brain Games: Show Review

Jason Silva headshot - BrainGames_FSG from NGC (2)
So get this, I was happily channel surfing last night when I stumbled upon this show on National Geographic called Brain Games. The show is actually premised on engaging viewers into a series of activities that will boost their brain power, of course, while explaining how the brain works in the first place.

I actually liked the show mainly because it was not only informative, but very fun. The idea itself of challenging one’s brain into performing better by activating mental shortcuts and understanding how one’s brain processes information is pretty interesting. When the show puts it to the test, one can’t help but give the challenges a try. And when the show tries to play tricks on the viewers’ brains and it works, its also awesome and causes a HOW DID THAT HAPPEN type of reaction. When I looked into the show this morning, I was surprised that the first episode aired in 2011, so it wasn’t a new show at all. Hmmm, where have I been all this time?

Brain Games is great for kids but even adults would be amazed by the stuff they would learn from this show. Jason Silva is a great host because he has a very casual way of explaining complicated concepts to the viewers thus making learning a more interactive experience. But basically, the show itself is great. It’s like Dora for adults because after a question, the show gives viewers time to try out the challenges for themselves, making them part of the program.

Its crazy how easily the show hits the mark on how people respond to situations by breaking down their response using science.

All in all, I’ve instantly become a fan of this show. I don’t know if the show has been using my brain to manipulate my reaction to it, but I don’t really care. Its a fun and educational watch. A great way to spend 30 minutes. :D If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out these awesome sample games.

happythankyoumoreplease: Movie Review

happythankyoumoreplease81wcj-r96pl--aa1500-jpg-187d42dd0fef498aI’ve had the indie film happythankyoumoreplease, on my TBW pile since last year because I didn’t have much time to catch up, but yesterday while browsing through my files, I had a hankering to see How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) in his directorial debut in a movie that he also wrote and starred in, and so I spent my lazy Sunday afternoon getting enthralled in this film, which incidentally won the audience award for favorite US drama in the Sundance Film Festival in 2010.

New Yorker Sam Wexley (Radnor), is a budding novelist who is trying to get published. He writes great short stories but he is informed by the publisher that they can’t use his novel because his hero lacks the qualities to make audiences root for him. Just like Sam, his hero is living his life on the fence. Sam thinks that its because of his lack of pain and suffering while growing up that’s the problem but then, he gets stuck with a little boy named Rasheen (Michael Algieri), whom he meets in the subway one day after the boy gets separated from his foster parent. As the child refuses to leave Sam’s side, he learns more about Rasheen’s hardships and develops an affinity for the boy. Meanwhile, Sam’s best friend Annie (Malin Akerman), an alopecia patient and “cousin” Mary Katherine (Zoe Kazan) deal with their own personal issues and learn to accept their own imperfections and their worthiness to be loved.

Straight off the bat, a story about a man looking for something missing in his life and a boy who has had his fair share of suffering despite his young age is nothing new. A kid idolizing his new friend, just as Rasheen does with Sam is similar to the premise of About a Boy and Big Daddy but the message and its interpretation through happythankyoumoreplease is really sweet and beautiful. Radnor deserves praise not only for directing this piece but also for writing it. The manner in which he crafted the dialogue for the characters, who are all dealing with their flaws is so realistic that they become so identifiable to the audience. Unlike his big screen counterpart Sam, Radnor was able to create characters in different stages of giving and accepting love, nearing the point of realization that all they really need to do is go out and grab the opportunity that life is presenting to them. Its the when and how that makes the film truly interesting because Radnor obviously invested a lot of thought in the process.

Radnor also had great chemistry with his young co star Michael Aligieri and the kid is just so adorable that viewers will immediately fall in love with him even before he even says a word. He just has a sort of vulnerability in his look that makes him relateable from the first moment he appears on the screen.

All in all, happythankyoumoreplease used a very indie approach to the movie (because it is, after all, an independent film) but unlike some indies, it did not set out to be profound and overarching to prove a point. It just set out to deliver a simple message — be happy, thank the universe and ask for more of the positive things. Its a simple formula, much like Eat, Pray, Love, but it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? And that is the reason viewers will finish this film with a smile on their faces and a nice feeling in their hearts.


First of all, I would like to give a shoutout to for nominating me for the Quintet of Radiance Award. Its my first time to be nominated and I’m really psyched to be part of it. So, I’m copying off the rules from (a big thank you by the way), and the rules are as follows.

blogger1. Thank the person who gave you the award.

2. Include a link to their blog

3. Select 15 bloggers you follow and want to pass the award onto.

4. Nominate the 15 bloggers and inform them of it.

5. Finally, list seven interesting facts about yourself.

So, that being said, here are the seven interesting facts about myself :

1. I am an animal lover and I would have wanted to be a vet but I’m afraid of real blood. (For horror movies, my motto has always been the gorier the better).

2. In relation to Item #1, I absolutely love tigers and if given an opportunity, would want to raise one as an exotic pet.

3. I love to go on adventures and am willing to try everything at least once, but I am also a believer of the concept of a calculated risk. Thus, I try as much as I can to ensure my safety before doing anything extreme.

4. I would like to study abroad (preferably on a scholarship because I can’t go on my own)

5. I love my mom above all others

6. I would love to get a job in development communication

7. My dream is to backpack Europe

So, now for the Quintet of Radiance. It is a total of four awards. They’re pretty self explanatory :D


In order to accept these awards, I need to describe myself using every letter in the alphabet. This is super tough so brace yourself.

A- Adventurous : I am always game to try out a new thing and see new places

B- Big hearted : I  have a soft heart when it comes to those in need.

C- Clumsy: Anything that requires balance or coordination? Count me out

D- Devoted: I am very loyal to my friends and family

E- Emphatic: I feel for others and understand pain and suffering

F- Fun: I always look at the positive side of things

G- Gregarious: I love to spend time with my friends and family.

H- Hilarious: I crack up my friends all the time. I must be funny.

I- Intuitive: I have a good grasp on stuff involving people.

J- Jolly: I like to smile a lot and be positive about things, even though things don’t always go as planned.

K- Kind: I try to show compassion where I can and try to be a good person most of the time.

L- Loving: When I give my heart, I give it completely.

M- Mischievous: I’ve been known to prank people once or twice. *wink wink

N- Nurturing: I like to share my experiences with others so that they may learn from it, whether its good or bad. I likewise like learning from other people’s journeys.

O-Ordinary: I’m a simple girl with simple tastes. I have big dreams though :D

P-Professional: I take a lot of pride in my work and my work ethics.

Q-Quirky: If you saw my list of quirks, you would agree.

R- Resourceful: I always try to make the best of any situation.

S- Strong: I would like to think that I am strong willed.

T- Temperamental: I have a mean temper, something I would like to curb and manage better in the future.

U-Underrated: I think that there is a lot to me that people don’t know yet, but they would be surprised, and pleased to discover.

V-Versatile: Life has taught me to go with the flow, and I have become quite flexible to different situations because of it.

W-Wide reader: I love to read. Nuff said.

X-Xenochial: I had to consult a dictionary to find a word that describes me using the letter X so I came out with this, which means hospitable

Y- Young at heart: No matter how old I get, I want to maintain a child-like enthusiasm for all things

Z-Zealous: I am a passionate person at heart for a number of causes.

Whew! As for my nominees, here they are:

So I hope you guys accept this nomination because you all totally deserve it. Ciao!

Teddy Bear Museum: A walk through history with the cute and the cuddly

Originally posted on cineramaetcetera:

TEDDIES IN HANBOKS. The Teddy Bear Museum depicts Korean history through cute and cuddly bears. (photo by Tyrone Chui)

When I originally booked my family’s trip to South Korea, I wanted to visit as many settings to Korean dramas as I could and one of them was the Teddy Bear Museum featured in one of my favorite Kdramas, Princess Hours. However, I knew that the Teddy Bear Museum was situated in Jeju and we only had time to look around Seoul so I was a bit defeated.

ELECTRONIC MAGNIFIER? Check out short presentations of specific areas in the map through this LCD. (Angie Chui)

Luckily, I didn’t give up and researched a bit more, only to find out that there is a branch right in the middle of the city at the N Seoul Tower. And the great part is, the area is also covered by the Seoul City Bus Tour, which we used to travel the city’s various tourist spots in two of our four-day trip.

LIFE AT THE PALACE. Palace workers go about their usual functions like a well oiled machine. (Tyrone Chui)

Getting there: Commuting is a bit tedious as the area is uphill since the tower…

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HIMYM: A bittersweet end to a nine season wait

How-I-Met-Your-Mother-Season-9-Episode-12From the minute that it was announced that season 9 of How I Met Your Mother was going to be its last, fans of the show, including myself have gone sentimental, because really, it was hard to say goodbye to a show that made your weeks complete for nine years. And there was only one word that came to mind to describe these final 24 episodes — it was bittersweet.

Season 9 basically revolved around Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) wedding weekend at the Farhampton Inn, with flashbacks of the gang’s antics from the first eight seasons mixed with some stories that related to Barney and Robin’s wedding. It was also revealed how Ted (Josh Radnor) finally met the kids’ mother Tracy (Cristin Milioti), and how Marshall (Jason Segel), Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and the rest of the gang met The Mother in separate incidents way before Ted finally mustered up the courage to go up to the girl with the yellow umbrella at the train station.

From the first episode of the season, it already felt like a farewell. Ted was already packed to go to Chicago where he would start afresh without having to deal with Barney and Robin’s wedded bliss in New York. Of course, he has never completely gotten over Robin, and his sacrifice meant that he would be able to keep his friendship with the gang without things getting weird. Marshall and Lily have their own fresh start to look forward to, as with the newlyweds. The weekend is filled with a lot of legendary antics and the final season is a mix of the humor that made HIMYM such a guilty pleasure from the beginning — and sentimentality for having to let go of this group of people that seemed like a regular part of each week. Because everything happened in a space of two days, the format seemed different, yet familiar, which is a credit to director Pamela Fryman, who has been with the show from the start.

The flashforward to the future where Ted finally finds the girl of his dreams and how it is interwoven into the story was a great reward for all of the heartbreaks that Ted had to go through in the season’s nine year run. The fact that the mother was just as goofy as he was was an added bonus. When Cristin Milioti was first cast as The Mother, I had reservations because she wasn’t exactly what I had pictured for Ted after meeting all of the girls that he got involved in. But when she gelled so well with the gang, I knew she was going to blend well with the group’s chemistry. When she sang La Vie En Rose, she totally got my seal of approval. See, in the show’s nine seasons, one can’t help but root for Ted because he is such a pure soul. He loves his friends and he loves completely. The innocence in which he falls in love with women and the pureness of his belief in happily ever after connects him to the viewers so well that they feel like he is their brother — or in Barney’s case, Best Bro. I’ve always been Team Barney and Robin though just because there is no one in the world who gets Barney like Robin does so when they decided to get married, I was over the moon. Lily and Marshall also got their fair share of closure. The issue of Marshall’s judgeship and Lily’s dream job in Italy totally made viewers take a look at their own marriages and deal with their own imperfections.

I liked how HIMYM closed out the stories gradually — especially Marshall and Barney’s Slap Bet, which has been a running storyline for many seasons (and one of my favorites). I liked how everybody seemed to get their happily ever afters, despite the fact that they were going to be apart. And just when I thought that everything was going well, the last two episodes had a major bombshell waiting for me (and the millions of fans). It was filled with heartbreak.

In a way, I would have wanted the series to end on a happy note for everyone, and I would have been happy if they had just stopped at that. But HIMYM, despite its silliness, is a series about the realities of life and friendship, and love. And while it didn’t exactly end the way I wanted, the ending totally made sense. And it ended with a hint of hope, which is the core of the show after all. In the end, it went full circle and everyone ended up where they should be — happy to have been part of each others’ lives. As for me, I can always watch the gang on DVD anytime I want to revisit their adventures, and that makes me happy too. It was a legendary nine seasons, and I would not have missed a minute of it.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Movie Review

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-2014_100650After the events in New York, Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans)  is still trying to adapt to the modern world where technology and data are indispensable. He is also constantly butting heads with Director Nick Fury for his unorthodox way of getting things done at S.H.I.E.L.D. But when somebody attacks Fury, severely wounding him, he somehow ends up at the Captain’s house, and his last words “Do not trust anyone,” haunts Steve. But more than the puzzle left to him by the superspy, Steve is intrigued by the masked assassin, whose super strength and speed matched his own at every level. With Fury out of commission, he is subjected to a massive manhunt by the very agency he is helping and he begins to wonder what conspiracy lies beneath Fury’s cryptic words and the secret government program called Insight, which seeks to rid the world of terrorist threat even before it happens.

I must say that The Winter Soldier was one of the movies I was most looking forward to seeing this year. Despite the studios wanting to keep TWS’s identity a secret, even going so far as having him wear a mask for all of the trailers until the first half of the movie, its really an open secret among Marvel fans that (spoiler ahead) Bucky Barnes became the Captain’s arch nemesis for a short while, a side effect from the experimentation done to him by those creepy evil scientists from Hydra before Steve rescued him and the gang in the original movie. I loved the rapport between Steve and Bucky in the first movie and I wanted to see how they reacted to seeing each other on opposite sides of the law this time around.

The Winter Soldier sure did take its time before the two besties came face to face. Basically, the movie spent the first hour just establishing how strongly principled the Captain was, which was weird because everyone who saw the first movie, plus The Avengers were already being told something that they knew all along. While there were some cool stunts and a lot of witty comments, I still felt that the banter was not enough to make the first half of the movie really interesting or compelling. The pace does kick up a notch when S.H.I.E.L.D comes after the Black Widow and the Captain and the action picks up from there.

Surprisingly, for a movie entitled The Winter Soldier, the movie hardly shows much interaction between Steve and Bucky. I would have wanted to see more of a struggle on Bucky’s part in reconciling his memories with the brainwashing but it only ever happened in one scene and then it was all Winter Soldier mode again. It would have been nice if there was a more profound bromance moment between the two, in my opinion, because they really had good chemistry and they’re both good actors.

What’s good about the story is that it remained faithful to the source material, making TWS flow consistently from the first film. Personally, I loved the fight scene where Bucky wielded Cap’s shield (in the comic books, Bucky eventually became the new Captain America when the original was assassinated. I’m not saying it will happen in the movies but you’ll never know). In terms of what’s bad about it, the plot wasn’t very original. World leaders wanting to keep an eye on terror threats and launching a massive offensive against said threats even before they happen? Its been done countless times before and TWS doesn’t really serve it any much differently. The only distinction TWS has from other movies is that its a Marvel movie and it has really cool superheroes to boast of. Of course, UFC champ Georges St. Pierre takes on a bit part for this film so its kind of cool, and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) are always assets to any movie. Anthony Mackie as Falcon, a newbie to the franchise, held his own as Steve’s sidekick. But after seeing The Avengers, TWD was a bit underwhelming.

All in all, Captain America The Winter Soldier was a really fun Marvel flick but it could have done with a bit more editing. There were some scenes that could have been trimmed down or replaced by more action packed scenes — after all, this is a movie about superheroes. Compared to the original, I felt that the first Captain America movie was stronger because people connected to the characters — all of them and not just the Captain, plus it told a more complete story. Don’t get me wrong.  The sequel was not bad. It had its moments but I felt like they sold the Captain’s dilemma a bit too hard for this one. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo should have had more fun with it like Joss Whedon did with The Avengers.

300: Rise of an Empire Movie Review

300-rise-of-an-empire-movie-poster-2When 300 came out in 2007, I really didn’t expect to like it because it was a guy’s film through and through. Blood, guts, and basically a bunch of guys showing off their toned bodies in skimpy outfits screaming for violence and mayhem. But director Zack Snyder truly stepped up and made sure that the characters came to life. This was after all, the movie that launched Gerard Butler to superstardom in his role as King Leonidas.When it was announced that there was going to be a sequel, I was a bit skeptical because 300 was so well done that hoping to equal or even top the first movie seemed like an impossibility.

Rise of an Empire is basically set during the Battle of Salamis, opening with Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) telling the Spartan troops that the war between the Greeks and the Persians started as long as ten years ago when a soldier by the name of Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) kills King Darius, the father of the God king Xerxes during the Battle of Marathon, the first Persian attack on Greek soil to rid the Athenians of the notion of freedom. The victory set off a chain of events borne of vengeance — the king’s ruthless naval commander Artemisia, against the Greeks who violated and killed her family then left her for dead, and Xerxes, whose hatred for Themistocles fueled his quest to make slaves of all Greeks. The film tackles the events before, during and after the Battle of Thermopylae where King Leonidas and the brave 300 held the Persians at bay, only to be betrayed by the hunchback Ephiliates.

The film held a lot of promise, and but it was also burdened by the the bar set by its predecessor. It had a template which to follow and follow it did, with the results not being quite as successful as it would have hoped. It had the unique visual styling  and effects utilized by the original. It had the sleek sophistication of the cinematography of the film. It had the kick ass scoring that turned 300 into an instant cult classic. But somehow, it was not enough to save this film, which spent too much time trying to emulate its predecessor and less on developing its own story.

In terms of action, no doubt that the film was full of different battle scenes. The setting was a war after all. Not just one war but three, as compared to the first movie’s focus on one. However, the style that was so effective in 300 failed to take in the sequel mainly because of the colors. Yes, the colors. While the crimson red capes of the Spartans complemented the semi noir style of the original, depicting each movement and each blood infested scene gloriously, the Athenians unfortunately were garbed in blue capes that looked quite flat and didn’t quite have the same impassioned effect of the Spartan uniform.

Another issue is the casting. I don’t know how the filmmakers decided on casting Sullivan Stapleton in the lead role but it was a mistake, in my opinion. The role of Themistocles was supposed to be the new Leonidas, true, with a different personality but this new hero looked too much of a nice guy to be a real threat to the legions of Persians attacking Greece. Come on. He held his own in the fight scenes and there was no shortage of moments given to him in this film but really, Queen Gorgo had more grit in her little finger than Themistocles had in his whole body. His men weren’t much better. They seemed like watered down versions of their Spartan counterparts. True, it was explained that none of them were actual soldiers unlike Leonidas’s band of 300 but personality doesn’t really require wielding a sword well. And none of this crew were memorable enough to be attached to.

Number three in my list of complaints was the amount of battle scenes at sea. While it was understandable that Artemisia was naval general, the sea somehow limits movement and therefore potential in the film’s battle scenes. And because of the noir style of filmmaking, the sea simply appears as dark waters that serve as a dark background for dark colored sea vessels, bearing darkly clad soldiers. The original at least had sharp golds and reds to balance the darkness but this one had nothing.

One bright ray of sunshine in this film is Eva Green as Artemisia. She was the only villain menacing enough to command a degree of caution if you ask me. Writers were correct in providing her a profound backstory because it just makes her portrayal of a cruel, scheming no nonsense general effective with so much more intensity. I wish they would have pitted her against Queen Gorgo because they were the only two characters really worth anything in this entire film. Because of Queen Gorgo, at least the last two minutes of the film were memorable. Thank you Lena Headey for signing up for this film.

All in all, what’s sad about this film was the wasted potential. Had the filmmakers only bothered to make the story more substantial rather than focus on the style, it would have been a better film. If they weren’t sure how to make it work, they should have hired consultants from the hit series Spartacus because that show had more substance in one episode than this entire hour and a half long sequel/prequel, or whatever it wants to be called. Overall, a substandard disappointment. Instead of Rise of an Empire, it should have been entitled The Fall of a Franchise.