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28th-Jan-2011 07:24 pm - mada.li
I've decided to not update my journal with reviews anymore and just post it on my brand spanking new site, mada.li

So, if you are interested, check that shit out.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright, 2010)

And its Michael Cera again, in another quirky, cutesy rom-com with chic geek undertones. This time around, I'm more pleased with the outcome.

I think one of the reason might be that it is directed by Edgar Wright, he of "Hot Fuzz", "Shaun of the Dead", and the TV show "Spaced", all works that are lovingly stuffed with pop-culture homages.

There is three ingredients to a Wright work.

1) Pop culture homages
2) Confused twenty-somethings trying to find their way through life
3) Romance

Directors like Wright are successful for the same reasons that Apatow's movies work with young men. We are a generation of men that desires love and happiness, and not been able to fully show it or express it, are able to understand it by analogy of things they liked as kids. If you are talking to me about love, why not throw in a few zombies at the same time? It's easier for me to concentrate and get.

In "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World", Scott is desiring a new pink-haired girl and to get to her, he has to learn to communicate with her, understand her internal issues, and be able to come in terms with the fact that she had past relationships. All very grown-up and mature, but won't it help if we throw in a bit of 90s fighter games in it? How about having him literally fight each evil boyfriend in Street Fighter-style battles, get points, and advance each level.

Edgar Wright would make a great professor. I'd love him to write books or give lectures on in-depth scientific concepts using zombies and Mario. I'd learn much faster.

1st-Jan-2011 02:37 pm - Review of "Swingers"

Swingers (Liman, 1996)

They say, write what you know, and you know what? I’m glad most people don’t take that advice, otherwise 90% of all movies would be like “Swinger”. Unemployed actors in Hollywood trying to make it, while dealing with issues related to their age group and jokes that the writer would hear in his inner circle and feel was hilarious.

“Bad books on writing and thoughtless English professors solemnly tell beginners to 'Write What You Know', which explains why so many mediocre novels are about English professors contemplating adultery." – Science-fiction author Joe Haldeman

"Creative writing teachers should be purged until every last instructor who has uttered the words "Write what you know" is confined to a labor camp. Please, talented scribblers, write what you don't. The blind guy with the funny little harp who composed The Iliad , how much combat do you think he saw?"
- P.J. O'Rourke

“Swingers” is focused on a young man going through a breakup, and he is constantly whining, even though it has been six months. His friends, patient for some reason, listen to him and try to get him back in the game. Noteworthy among the friends is young, really young Vince Vaughn, playing the smooth-talking, ladies-man who is always giving advice on how to score with girls. We have seen characters like Vaughn in a lot of movies, but never so badly acted. He seems stiff and boring. Interestingly, I am currently watching the show “How I Met Your Mother” which has Neil Patrick Harris playing the same sort of character, and while “How I Met Your Mother” is only a sitcom (and not always that amusing), NPH’s role of the charismatic, ladies man is funny and even believable. You WANT to hang out with Neil Patrick Harris, but I wouldn’t want to Vaughn’s character, who only speaks in some sort of derivative 90s slang of calling everything “money”, as in, “You are so money!”

25th-Dec-2010 09:47 pm - TV Review of "An Idiot Abroad"

An Idiot Abroad (Sky 1, 2010)

[In the Taj Mahal] "This is where Diana had her photo taken when she was having her problems with Charlie. Everyone said this is why she looked so miserable, but to be honest I think she was just sick of being in India.”

When I listened to Ricky Gervais' old XFM radio show, I was mainly finding other work that Ricky Gervais had done. My first surprise was how much funny always co-writer Stephen Merchant was. But my real surprise came when I was introduced to their producer, Karl Pilkington, who turned out to be a down to earth, every day man, with a unique and honest view of the world. Who was very gullible and said a lot of stupid things, that made Ricky and Stephen mock and laugh at him. It was a brilliant mix of three different comical personalies.

After all the years of Ricky standing behind Karl, we finally have him on the screen, with his TV Show, "An Idiot Abroad", where Karl is send to the 7 wonders of the world. Stephen says that he believes travel broadens the mind, Ricky says his reason for sending him is because he knows Karl will hate it. It's his most expensive practical joke.

As Karl visits each city, he follows the plan that Ricky and Stephen have set up for him, with people to meet and places to visit, before ending with visiting the wonder in that particular city. Karl's reactions are funny, discomfort combined with confused, but to me, there is something else about Karl's visit that makes the show more than just a funny fish-out-of-water comedy. Karl's reactions are brutally honest. When we travel to places we feel are important, it is difficult to not say how impressive they are, even if we might not be that impressed by it. Stick a camera in front of our face, and we certainly do not want to ever say that visiting a wonder is not that big of a deal. But Karl does. If he isn't impressed by something, he says it. For example, for the most part, he is not impressed by the Great Wall of China (he calls it the Alright Wall of China), with a great observation. It seems most of the wall has been reconstructed, so most of it isn't even that old. So, it is just a newly built wall. He's right, how is that really that impressive?

"A lot of people say they go to India to find themselves. But what happens if I change, and go home and I'm all different? Suzanne's going "what's wrong with you?" and then she doesn't like the new me that I've found. And then I start to hate myself because I'm not the person I thought I was. I know who I am. Bloody hell I'm getting bills for Karl Pilkington left right and centre so I hope I'm him, 'cuz if I'm not I'm paying for someone else."

The Prophet (Khalil Gibran, 1923)

Khalil Gibran's most famous book is "The Prophet", a book of poetic musings, as told by a fictional Prophet, on various subjects, such as Love, Marriage, Death, and so forth.

It is in a way inspirational material, but it is different than the inspiration quotations you find in shitty little books sold in bookstores or feel-good books that seem to be made for either talentless housewives or insignificant employees at a large company to print out something to tape to the wall in-front of their face.

"The Prophet" is poetic, smart, and sometimes, does feel inspirational.

On Love:

"Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully."

On Marriage:

"Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love."

On Children:

"You may give them your love but not your thoughts."

On Laws:

"What of the cripple who hates dancers?"

On Self-Knowledge:

"Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth.""

On Religion:

"And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.
You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees."

And so forth!



The Everything Self-Hypnosis Book (Rene A Bastaracherican, 2009)

Every once in a while, I pick up one of this shitty books, hoping there is something that I will learn from it. You see, I’m more open-minded than one would assume. And no amounts of disappointments will discourage me.

And man, what a disappointment. Summary of the book: Record yourself, telling yourself what to do, listen to it, and you’ll be hypnotized!

I don’t just put everything down nilly-willy. I try them. So, I took the script for sleeping (I have troubles with sleep), recorded myself saying the script (in a soothing, and I will say, sexy voice) which was almost 10 minutes. I listened to it the first day and it didn’t work. I just couldn’t concentrate, my mind is all over the place, which is the reason I’m almost lost when driving. I just can’t focus on driving, my mind is working overtime on ridiculous ideas, thinking of everything. And when I’m listening to my sexy, soothing voice on how to imagine a cloud overhead with the number 99 on it, being blown away, and now it’s 98, and so on, my mind is somewhere else in 2 seconds.

I even tried the next day, but this time ridiculously drunk, which usually helps me sleep. But listening to myself actually got in the way of me feeling sleepy!


Battlefield: Bad Company (Xbox 360, 2008)

Give me a war game and ask me to shoot people in the head and I’m a happy little boy. I don’t ask for much, I’m easily pleased.

But “Battlefield: Bad Company” is a bit off the mark for me. I think games nowadays are so much geared towards multiplayer that single player takes a back seat. Way back, like at the cinema where all the seats are full because you bought a ticket at the last minute or because you are looking to make out instead of watch a film.

Well, the single player of “Battlefield: Bad Company” did not want to make out with me. I read a review of it where they mention that most of the environment is destructible, that is, you can bomb the fuck out of trees and houses, which is neat to read at first, until you realize that the whole environment is extremely repetitive. You are fighting in a green countryside with the same looking small houses, that there is no joy in destroying them. And the game is structured in a very annoying manner. Whenever you get killed you return back to your last autosave checkpoint. Except the enemies that you have killed before your death don’t respawn. So, you can pass any part of the game, no matter how hard, just by going back to the place. Even if you kill one soldier, it makes it easier on the next round. Where does the irritating part come in? It’s that the checkpoints are in the lousiest sections of the game. You run to the next war zone, kill a soldier or two, and get killed (which I did get killed a lot because I played at the hard difficulty, I like my games like I like my penis) and then you return to the checkpoint and start running again for 2 minutes. Get killed, run again to the same spot for two minutes. In other games, the checkpoints are at fantastic locations, places right before the action. So killed, you are shooting instantly. Killed, shooting. Not like this game, which is, killed, run, killed, run, argh.

The Company in question is called Bad Company because of their actions in the military, such as joyriding in a helicopter and damaging it, injecting a virus into a network, or other acts of damages. These kinds of destructive actions certainly do not please a military army that is aimed at destroying other countries. To punish these kind of mavericks, the US army puts them in the Bad Company, a squad with an above average mortality rate. Basically, these guys are extremely expendable.

You play the role of Private Marlowe, new to the company, and working with three other squad members, that fight beside you in the game, and of course, never actually die, which means its not really that immersive. And maybe it’s just the Hard Difficulty I was playing, but not only do they not die, they are completely incompetent. So, you just have three other soldiers shooting at the enemy, almost never getting any of them, and the enemy soldiers mainly shooting at you, usually ignoring your squad members.

But getting back to the characters and the story, the US Army is fighting some kind of unnamed war with made-up companies, but its full of Russians and Arabs, and I’m already feeling a bit uncomfortable. I don’t know, maybe its age, or maybe it’s because I’m in the Middle East and I live in the one of the members of the Axis of Evil, but the US army blazingly shooting at enemies for no real purpose does not make me happy. I like shooting Nazis in the head, but anything after that, and I can feel like I’m in some kind of weird surreal fantasy-reality loop, where I swear I can see my character shooting myself in the face, and applauding my own death. And to make it EVEN worse, the Bad Company guys stop following the government rules, go AWOL, chasing some kind of gold. It’s completely devoid of any morality, and I usually don’t even mind a game where your character is slicing up babies for fun, but at least in that situation, you know it’s WRONG, but here, it’s done with irrelevance and lightness, that, I don’t know, I’m rambling, but guys, war isn’t cool.

Final notes. Let’s discuss Multiplayer, which is the highlight of First Person Shooters nowadays. The multiplayer was…I didn’t play it. I’ve stopped playing Multiplayer long time ago. I play video games for the single player of it. Playing games is my ME time. It would like watching a movie at home, but the stereo system plugged in some kind of server, where you are watching the movie simultaneously with fifty other people who talked throughout it. If I wanted to play “Bad Company” with strangers I did not know, get shot at by trigger happy American kids while cursing me, I’d join the fucking army.

Notes from the Underground (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1864)

"The best definition of man is: a being that goes on two legs and is ungrateful"

I named my first blog after this book. So, maybe teenage me was affected by the book. But I don't know, maybe I was just impressed by myself reading a book like this and the name sounded cool enough for an online diary. Specifically given that the book itself is some sort of (fictional) diary, written by a man who describes himself as "I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unpleasant man. I think my liver is diseased" and "It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not know how to become anything; neither spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything." You can see how a angsty teenager like myself would like that and moronically see some resemblance to himself.

A decade later, I'm rereading the book with a new perspective. More matured and less impressed by myself, I figured it was time to have a revisit to the Underground Man.

The book has two major sections. The first half is the ramblings of the narrator, cynical, nihilist, and dark, it's more a raving of an angry man that is inclined to contradicting himself and offering paradoxes throughout his philosophical barrages. It is interesting with some gems, nuggets to make you go "hmm", but it is not an easy read, because IT…IS…RAMBLINGS.

"The formula 'two plus two equals five' is not without its attractions."

The second section moves away from this and offers an actual narrative of events. It has three anecdotes and that second half is a much better read. His ramblings take a backseat to telling a story and his musings give a background to the actions he takes in his anecdotes. The second half is a much better read. If the book's sections were reversed, I would have had difficulties finishing it. But once the stories started, it didn't take long for me to reach the end and wishing the narrator had told more stories from his life and ranted less in the beginning.

"Yes — you, you alone must pay for everything because you turned up like this, because I'm a scoundrel, because I'm the nastiest, most ridiculous, pettiest, stupidest, and most envious worm of all those living on earth who're no better than me in any way, but who, the devil knows why, never get embarrassed, while all my life I have to endure insults from every louse — that's my fate. What do I care that you do not understand any of this?"



50 Things You're Not Supposed To Know (Russ Kick, 2003)

Useless book. I really should stop reading things with a good title. “50 Things You're Not Supposed To Know” sounds good. What am I NOT supposed to KNOW? Tell me random book!

Well, Adolph Hitler’s blood relatives are still alive? I didn’t think that Hitler was a mysterious alien life-form. The Auschwitz was originally an IBM code? So? The Korean War never ended? I knew that. And so on. Most of them are related to USA and are simple trivia such as the age of consent is not 18 in all US states (I knew that too). Others are based on things that nearly happened but didn’t, such as two nuclear bombs fell on North Carolina by accident but did not explode.

The book made it sound like secret information that we were not supposed to know, but when one of the 50 things is that smoking is bad for you, you have to feel a bit let down.

16th-Dec-2010 11:58 pm - Anime Review "Aishiteruze Baby"

Aishiteruze Baby (Anime, 2004)

I don't what was worse about watching this anime, the fact that it was torturous to finish through my 20 episodes (it took me almost 8 months) or realizing that the 20th episode was not the last episode and there is actually 26 episodes.

Now, any other person would have watched the first two-three episodes and stopped. But OCD Me can't do that. I had to finish it, no matter how bad I found it, but  knowing after 20th episodes that there were 6 more episodes that I did not have was really frustrating! I don't want to watch anymore, but I feel weird knowing I watched it incomplete. But I will have to push through and pretend that there were only 20 episodes.

It's not like there is any cliffhanger ending. It even had a semi-neat ending. Anyway, I've been talking about my OCD rather than the anime, which is definitely, 100% not made for me. Although, I've enjoyed anime that has been targeted towards young girls, but those have been cute, silly, and funny, this anime is like me calling my friends over and playing doctor or house or something.

A playboy highschooler is irresponsible, good-looking, and a bit daft, attributes that drive girls wild. And how to make him even MORE APPEALING? How about a 5-year old cousin that has been abandoned by her mother and is now to be taken care of the high school teenager? Woo, my pussy is gushing waterfall, a bad boy that is also a good parent sort of?

Enjoy it, 11 year old girls.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360, 2010)

One of my favorite genres is First Person Shooter games. And the sub-category in that genre are war games and even better if it is World War 2 era and best when its “Call of Duty” franchise.

Well, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” is almost all of that except the World War 2 part. I just don’t like the “Modern Warfare” series of the franchise as much as their World War 2 era games. I like being part of a real war, amid the chaos and madness, and fighting for something big. With modern war, I always feel like a G.I. Joe douchbag. I don’t really support the American army in today’s world and I don’t feel that comfortable playing some gang-ho soldier thug shooting down underpowered “terrorists”.

It’s still a great game, but does not have the atmospheric feel of the World War 2 “Call of Duty” games. In those, there were parts where you felt like just one soldier among hundreds and bullets were whizzing past you, your fellow soldiers dying all around you, and it felt BIG. Not so much here.


Inception (Nolan, 2010)

I want to first get the “Inception”/“The Matrix” comparison out of the way. I don’t want to be overly dramatic but “Inception” has none of the qualities that made “The Matrix” such a trendsetting, exciting, and relevant film at the end of the 90s. We didn’t like “The Matrix” because of it being an action film playing with the concepts of the reality and non-reality, with lots of visual ingenuity, something that “Inception” also has.  No, we liked “The Matrix”, because all of us were Mr Andersons. Whether we were in school or at work, we weren’t really that happy. We watched “The Matrix” and imagined it was us, and there was something more to life, and we could be chosen, we could be The One, save the world, get the girl, and use our MIND to kick some ass! It was boyish fun, and it was the reason we always watched action films, but while we knew we could never be Jean Claude Van Damme or Bruce Lee, we felt that we could be Neo. It didn’t matter if we didn’t have muscles or skills, neither did Anderson. All that was needed was understanding that the life we lived in was not real. And understanding that, there were endless possibilities.

 There is none of that in “Inception”. I felt no joy, no awe, no wonder in playing with the idea of entering a dream world. In “Inception”, the non-reality world, the dream world, was dull. It was just like our real world, except people chasing you and trying to kill you. I wanted Cobbs, the experienced, professional, supposedly highly skilled dreamwalker, to have some sort of impact when he entered a dream. I wanted to see Reality Cobbs and Dream Cobbs having different set of skills. But the whole dream team never grabbed me the way the team did in “Matrix”. Ordinary people becoming much more when they enter non-reality. We don’t like reality because we don’t feel like everything is possible. If we have the same limitations in alternative worlds, then why care?

Which brings me to the next thought. Has Christian Nolan never had a dream? Have none of the audiences or critics ever had dreams? None of the dreams I ever had were so devastatingly dull as the dreams in “Inception”. Dreams are illogical, chaotic, disjointed, surreal, and make some sort of sense only when dreaming. Remove everything that makes dreams unique, then you are not really left with something we should call dreams at all. I can understand the reason Nolan made it dreams so much reality-based and logical. Because it’s easier to engage the audience. You can’t make the great summer blockbuster with dreams resembling something Lynch would do, but I surely will not applaud Nolan for taking the easy route.

I read somewhere that Nolan waited before he made this film because he wanted to have big-budget film experience first. It was a good decision, because he knows what exactly the audience wants. But what the audience wants should not always be praiseworthy. Everything Nolan does in “Inception” is calculated to please the audience. But it really is an empty film, its biggest insult remains in being unable to capture a dream world’s illogical beauty. Nolan never really has fun with his own idea. His ultra-serious, humorless approach turned me off. And so busy in presenting his ideas that he never pulled back and allowed any wonder to enter his work. Barely getting into the movie, we see Cobbs failing at his job. Before we get into a movie such as this, I want to see someone like Cobbs being brilliant at his job, and then failing at a later stage. If I never see a successful execution of the whole concept of stealing an idea from someone while they are dreaming, then being told that inception, inserting an idea in someone’s head while dreaming, is almost impossible means nothing to me. I haven’t even been captured by the first idea, how is the second idea any different to me? And barely into the movie, I am being told about “dream within a dream”. Can’t we do this step by step? Can’t I first feel the amazement of entering a dream, get used to that, and then be presented by “dream within a dream”, so I go, “holy shit!!”

I want to wrap up this review, but I keep realizing how many things are wrong with film. Think about this. If you are a major corporation head that just had a group trying to steal something from you, BUT FAILED, why on earth would you suddenly offer them to do something even MORE difficult? If someone comes to my house to steal my laptop and I stop them, I bet my first thought wouldn’t be to offer them a job to steal Bill Gate’s laptop. Or how about a college professor introducing a young student protégé to his son-in-law so that he can offer her an ILLEGAL JOB? It’s irresponsible, but let’s just pretend the professor was irresponsible, but it’s also risky. Couldn’t the student just have gone to the authorities and reported that her college professor had introduced her to criminal activities? Of course, she easily accepts. Or think forward to another scene, where Cobbs is trying to drug his target. They do this complicated maneuver on the plane. Someone bumps into the target, steals his passport, hands it over to Cobbs, who then uses it to strike up a conversation with the target, gives him the passport back, has the stewardess bring them two waters, quickly puts in the sedation drug, and offers the target his glass. And then two seconds later we realize the stewardess is on the whole thing, so she could have just fucking drugged the water herself and brought it to him!

I could probably go on, but let’s conclude it.

“The Matrix” was about an ordinary man being able to be more than that. “Inception” is yet another heist movie about the guy doing just one final job. Both of them played around with the idea of reality/non-reality. The former used to create a wonder in us that has remained with us since. In the latter, it is merely a plot device to slightly tweak the heist genre. The comparison is not only unjustifiable, but almost an insult.


The Other Guys
(McKay, 2010)

"No, I don't like you. I think you're a fake cop. The sound of your piss hitting the urinal, it sounds feminine. If you were in the wild, I would attack you, even if you weren't in my food chain. I would go out of my way to attack you. If I were a lion and you were a tuna, I would swim out in the middle of the ocean and freaking eat you and then I'd bang your tuna girlfriend. "

There is a really funny movie here, but somehow it does not always work. I think that’s usually my problem with most comedy action films. You have some very funny dialogues, but the action scenes are usually just tiresome. Action scenes belong in edge of your seat action films or big blockbuster action movies, but wrapped around comical scenes, they usually feel like a waste of time. Only a few movies can be both exciting (action-wise) and funny at the same time.

“The Other Guys” is not one of them.  

Two superstar cops (played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) are constantly saving the city from criminals. But the movie is not about them, it is about the other guys, Allen (Will Ferrell) and Terry (Mark Wahlberg), two policemen that are at the opposite extreme of the cool duo. Allen is happy doing paperwork at the office and Terry is stuck with him, due to shooting a popular sports player by accident, causing him to be hated and mocked by other cops. Terry tries to push his partner into going out and solving crimes, but Allen is reluctant.

Most of this set-up is great and the dynamic between Wahlberg and Ferrell is great, with Wahlberg playing his second comical role in 2010. And man, Wahlberg is so short!

Would have been a better film if the action scenes had either been reduced or done better. Third act was not as good as the rest of the film, which brought the whole thing down.

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