Category Archives: Movies and TV Series

Reviews on movies and TV series I’ve watched

Pitch Perfect 2

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Stop now if you haven’t seen Pitch Perfect 2 and don’t want to be spoiled.

I watched Pitch Perfect 2 with my friend Song in the cinema on Monday. Why? Because Anna Kendrick is hot. We both loved the first Pitch Perfect, so we made a deal to watch the sequel together when it came out.

I preferred the first one. It was tighter, had more substance and the characters were more relatable. Anna Kendrick is just as hot in the second movie, but her character Becca was just weird. She was so different from the Becca in the first show. The plot of second show was a lot more messy, and there were a lot more cringe-worthy moments, starting with Fat Amy’s “big reveal” barely five minutes into the show.

Even the songs were weird, but that’s a matter of personal taste. I didn’t recognize or like most of the new songs in the show, although the final version of Emily’s Flashlight was quite nice. Not as catchy as Cups, but pleasant enough. Not enough to redeem the whole show though.

Okay, I’m rambling randomly. Let me systematically hit PP2.

Cringe-worthy moments
Like I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of cringe-worthy moments, a lot more than the first movie. Come to think of it, I can’t actually remember a single moment in Pitch Perfect off the top of my head right now (I re-watched the first movie the day before with my parents), whereas I can recall several from the second like:
-the opening performance (wayyy too many props and very unlike the Bellas)
-Fat Amy’s crotch reveal at said performance
-the performance at the old people’s place
-Every scene regarding Fat Amy’s and Bumper’s (very) forced and awkward romance
-Becca’s weird attraction to the DSM’s female leader
-DSM’s not very bright second-in-command
-the weird riff-off that felt like a rip-off of the original riff-off and which the host made me think of Balls of Fury

I could go on. I get that it’s a comedy/musical chick-flick, but the plot and character development could have used a lot of work.

Character Development
Becca – The first movie was about Becca and how she fit into the Barden Bellas and made them better. She kept to herself, but eventually became a natural leader. In the second movie, she spends most of her time interning at a record producing company, getting coffee and burritos for everyone else. It was so different! Even when she spent time at the radio station in the first movie, she kept actively trying to get her music on air. Not in the second movie. She just kept to herself until she spontaneously mashed up Christmas carols with Snoop Dogg and the boss had to ASK her for submissions. Also, Jesse could have been played up a lot more.

Chloe – Another major character shift here. Chloe was the voice of reason and encouragement to Aubrey’s controlling ambitiousness in the first film. Now she’s the one obsessed with winning? Another thing: How old is Chloe? How long has she been in Barden University? I’m assuming she was at least a third-year in an average four-year college course, and since PP2 took place three years later, Chloe has been at Barden Univeristy for SIX years. She also mentions she failed a subject several times just to stay in BU. Like, damn.

Emily – I’m not sure what was going on with Emily. The blossoming romance between her and Benji was sweet, but it could have been developed lot better. I would have liked to see less of Fat Amy-Bumper and more Emily-Benji. I felt like Emily should have been more of the focus of the show, but then again I guess it could be argued that it would have turned out to be like a Becca V2 (i.e. new member pops in, saves the group and makes it more awesome than it was before).

Overall Plot
I felt like there was too much going on with the show, right from the get-go. Their opening performance for the President of the United States was so bad, even I could tell. I mean, what happened? It was more of a circus act than an a capella performance.

The change in music style was very obvious as well. In the first film, there were a lot of memorable and recognizable songs. Sing-along-songs. In PP2, not so much. Maybe I’m not a music nut, but the number of songs I recognized and was able to sing along to is significantly greater than the number of songs I knew in the second movie.

DSM, the new antagonist, was also very… weird. Competitive I can understand, but downright mean and straight up rude was just overdoing it. They didn’t even have any wit. Their song style was also very military, with strong, rigid movements and sounds, but that’s only one angle. They had so much more diversity in the riff-off then in their performances. How could this have been Europe’s top a capella team?

I’m happy that Pentatonix made a cameo near the end, but it would have been fun to have them as an actual team in the show. Heck, they could have been the “villain” instead of DSM. It would’ve been so much more believable.

I must say I’m pretty disappointed with the whole show. It didn’t meet the expectations and the hype, and it lost its connection to its audience via relatable songs. It did have some cool new elements like a brief beatbox battle, an original song and bringing back generations of Bellas at the finals, but the rest… bleah. I hope they don’t make a third movie.

The first show was so much better, it was perfect.

Pitch perfect.

-Jace

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Dissecting Splice

I watched Splice recently and I have mixed feelings about it.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

It was released in 2009/2010, but I didn’t watch it until now. I thought it was going to be a simple sci-fi type show about genetics, somewhere between Alien and Jurassic Park but it was all that and then some. I don’t even quite know how to start this review.

Hmm… I guess the first thing I want to comment on is the speed of the show. It was moderately slow at first, sped up in the middle and then felt rushed at the end. With no unexpected twists, it was relatively easy to follow and predict. I got every single prediction right, even down to the ending scene. The plot was obvious, but since it wasn’t a mystery or detective show, I didn’t mind that. It was very weird when it suddenly shifted from pure sci-fi to thriller starting with Dren rising from the dead and killing all three males. Even the part when Dren killed and ate a small animal could have been passed off as a genetic trait thing, not a psychopath indicator.

The second half of the show sped up a little once Dren became a small humanoid female instead of an amorphous bird-like creature. That was when it became interesting for me. I was a little weirded out at the cuteness, intelligence and childlike behaviour Dren exhibited. It was hard to stop thinking of Dren as a little girl and every time I unconsciously did so, the show would slap me in the face with her coiled legs, tail and four-fingered hands. I didn’t even mind her baldness or barely-human facial features.

Even though the pace was moderately slow, I still felt like there was a lot of information crammed into the show and there’s definitely a lot of design space left to explore. Splice could easily have been a shorter film with multiple sequels, which may or may not have involved Dren, even though it was killed in the end. I mean, after Clive stabbed it, it could have escaped to recover and come back stronger and more bloodthirsty, not unlike how the Xenomorphs in Alien adapt to their enemies and use their strengths against them. Dren was already shown to have accelerated healing and at least limb regeneration, almost to the point of it being a full on healing factor.

Oh. I see why they didn’t do that. I guess that might have been a little too much of an Alien ripoff.

After the show, I read the Wiki for Spice and found that the director, Vincenzo Natali, said there would probably not be a sequel, even though the ending seems to be a cliff hanger.

BUT WHYYYYY???

There’s so much design space to explore. For example, Elsa’s mutant child could grow, escape and start a whole new species by raping humans. Maybe even suggest that Dren is a very very very distant ancestor of the Xenomorphs. That would push the horror/thriller aspect even further.

Perhaps how about explaining how Dren grew the poisonous stinger back, or even how she he it grew it in the first place, given that none of it’s genetic components have “predatory characteristics”? That stinger is clearly an offensive tool. What about going the “government wants to create a secret bio-weapon-slash-perfect-soldier” theme?

They could have gone off the book too. Instead of turning Dren into a predatory creature with a vengeance in the end, they could have made it a very weird coming-of-age sequel, focused on Clive and Elsa teaching Dren to live as a human. Because, you know, for sweetness and family friendliness.

Okay nevermind, scratch that, that’s too weird.

Or is it?

I’m referencing the scene where Clive and Dren have sex, which was wrong on so many levels. Let’s start with moral incest. Forget that Dren itself is a big freaking moral dilemma and focus on the fact that Clive literally raised her and loves Dren as a daughter. Then we have the whole cross species thing, which takes beastiality to a whole new level. Why do the dirty with one non-human when you could do it with a human plus bird plus rabbit plus kangaroo plus whatever else Dren is made from at the same time?

That is one extreme fetish.

Don’t even get me started on the whole adultery thing. Is it adultery if you do it with a non-human? If yes, does masturbation or sex dolls count? Heck, is it adultery if you screw your wife’s clone? Because Dren’s human DNA comes from Elsa, which makes her a part clone.

I’m bordering dangerously on twin territory now, but before I move on, just let it sit in your mind that since Dren became male, Clive did a tranny.

There’s a whole lot of possibilities with Dren’s mutations. It’s unclear to me if Dren was evolving because of her genes, or if her mutations were the result of a type of rapid evolution in response to her environment. Like Darwin’s ability in X-men, or the Xenomorphs ability to draw genetic traits from their hosts? (I know I keep referencing Alien. I would apologise for that, but that would be a lie.)

Even if they wanted to explore the whole monster thriller genre, some of the mutations were just plain weird. Like her amphibious lungs. Side note: Clive was clearly trying to drown Dren, no argument there. Back to the lungs. Why amphibious lungs? Wouldn’t retractable gills be more logical? Or even permeable skin, allowing her to partially absorb oxygen in water, like amphibians?

The wings and frills on her back were also totally unnecessary. Dren is already a master of movement on land, with aquatic abilities. Giving her sky control is just overpowered. She doesn’t need to fly when she can already do Hulk jumps. I would have accepted her wings and frills if they were merely a way of maximizing skin surface area for her permeable skin to breathe in water, or even warming herself in the sun, like the dorsal sails of some animals do.

Give her a scorpion tail? Sure. Make her hyper agile and flexible? Awesome. Superhuman strength? Cool. Predatory instincts and a desire for vengeance? A shoe in. Play on the feminism “fear” that women could be just as strong as or even stronger than men? Okay. But wings? No. Wings were just over the top for me.

I guess when it comes to Dren, or bio-engineering, for that matter, the sky’s the limit.

-Jace

How To Train Your Dragon 2

I caught How To Train Your Dragon 2 last Sunday with two of my best friends Song and Jia Kiat.

Yes, it was a stag party.

No, it’s not gay.

It’s totally manly to watch an animated cartoon that has tonnes of cuteness awesomeness. So there. Besides, I managed to get a 1-for-1 deal with my Safra card, as well as a $2 discount for the third ticket at Shaw. Averaged out to be about $6.50-$7 per person! That’s even better than watching on a weekday at non peak hours. Anyway, back to the movie.

Warning: SPOILER ALERT!!

I’m already a huge fan of the first How To Train Your Dragon so I was really excited to see the sequel. And boy did it deliver. I absolutely love Hiccup’s new armour and new innovative gadgets. I was especially impressed with his fire sword and how skillfully he weilded it.

Every story has one plot: Who Am I? I think I heard this from one of the Spiderman shows, and this was no different. It was about how Hiccup was still finding himself, the love between friends and family and always looking to end conflicts with non violent solutions.

Okay it was a kids show, so I felt that there wasn’t very deep character development other than for Hiccup. I was half hoping for more relationship development (especially with Astrid) or a coming of age show, but they took it in a whole new direction. Not that that’s bad! They focused more on the dragons; emphasising their feline qualities, making new dragons and showing off new secrets. Obviously the selling point of the show is the cuteness of the dragons.

One thing that hit me hard was the death of Hiccup’s father. I teared up then, but didn’t fully cry. I guess they could have emphasised the moment, but the story moved on quickly. I felt that some of the touching moments were ruined with comedy. Like when Hiccup’s parents reunited and Hiccup’s father serenaded his wife with an old song. They were constantly interrupted with Hiccup’s mentor’s bad singing.

Yes I forgot the characters names, okay? I suck.

So yeah the story moved quite fast and, while I like the dragons, I would have liked the relationships and characters to have had more development. Felt like there was a lot of overview, not enough details. I think I prefer the first movie though.

-Jace

A Million Ways To Die In The West

Yesterday, my best friend, Song, and I watched A Million Ways To Die In The West, a comedy by Seth MacFarlane, starring Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris and Liam Neeson.

Straight up front, I want to say that it’s an R-rated show because of vulgarities and sexual references. And no, there will not be a censored version because if there is then there’s no point watching the show at all.

I usually don’t enjoy slapstick and crude humor, but this show was actually quite appealing to me. I wouldn’t watch it again though. No, this is one of those shows I’d just watch once, laugh about it and say I’ve seen it, but it’s not on my re-watchable list at all. It’s stuff like The Hangover, Borat, The Dictator and Jackass that just annoy me so much and make me squirm in my seat with discomfort.

A Million Ways To Die In The West turned out to be pretty okay. Not fantastic, in my opinion, but not terrible either. The storyline was nice and simple, which is awesome because it helps the audience focus on the comedy instead of predicting plot twists. I was able to relax myself and just laugh. I did cringe at parts where the jokes were a little dry and especially at the part where he had to explain his own joke because the townsfolk were generally too dense to understand.

On a side note, I was very bothered by Anna (Charlize Theron) because she looked so familiar. She took everything in stride and wasn’t surprised by anything. There was a bar fight scene where she just continued doing what she did while the chaos ensued around her. It reminded me very strongly of Scarlett Johansson when she played Black Widow and just took out all the guards without breaking sweat. I knew it wasn’t her, but the familiarity kept bugging me. After the movie I checked her out *snigger* on Google and found that she played Mary in Hancock. THAT’S why she was so familiar and I pictured her as a very strong individual.

Anyway, this is the first crude humor movie I liked, which is something.

-Jace

50 First Dates

I managed to watch 50 First Dates last week and it was so beautiful! I think it’s my favourite romantic comedy ever, because I’m old enough to understand all the jokes and innuendos and I can fully appreciate the powerful messages in this lighthearted movie.

*Warning: Spoiler Alert*
If you haven’t watched this movie and you don’t want to know what happens, GET OUT NOW.

LAST CHANCE.

But seriously, this movie has been out for quite some time already.

If you don’t know the story, here’s a summary. Adam Sandler plays Henry Roth, a Hawaiian playboy who works at an aquarium and has commitment issues. One morning, after his boat breaks, he comes into a diner to wait for the towboat and meets Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore) who is building a sculpture out of her pancakes. He goes up to her and they hit it off. She invites him to breakfast at the same diner the next morning and after some hesitation, he agrees. When he comes the next morning he finds that she doesn’t recognize him at all. The owners of the diner drag him away and explain to him that she had a head injury that resulted in her not being able to retain any new memories. She keeps reliving the same day over and over again. Henry takes it up as a challenge and every morning he devises ways and means (some of them brilliant, most of them utterly ridiculous) to hit on her. For a while, they don’t work, but he persists and finally succeeded.

As the story progresses, he makes a video for her to watch every morning so that she doesn’t need to be lied to anymore. Every day they go on dates and each time it’s a first date for her. There’s a short gag where she repeats variations of the phrase “Nothing beats a first kiss” several times. One day she finds out that he had plans to travel around the world in the boat he built, but he gave that up because she needed him more than he needed to travel. She feels guilty and decides to erase him from her life, that is, the videos he made for her, any mention of him in her diary and so on. He leaves but comes back and they get married. The end scene is where she wakes up and watches the video tape, then discovers she’s in a boat. She climbs up to the deck and is greeted by Henry who says to their daughter, “Go say hi to mummy.”

My mum says that she refuses to watch it because it’s so heartbreaking but this is a movie I will watch over and over again in years to come, if only to keep reminding myself of the lessons I’ve learnt.

Everyday is a new day
I think this was my first takeaway from the movie. Not to be afraid to just go out there, take action and make mistakes, because tomorrow will be a new day to start afresh if you need to. It’s really Carpe Diem and YOLO as it should be. Of course, he has a reset button and in real life we don’t, but the lesson still applies. Stop think what happens if it goes wrong.

What happens if it goes right?

Don’t give up the chase
Henry has to make her fall in love with him over and over again every single day. While that may be drastic, my takeaway here is not to take my partner for granted. Just because you’re in a loving relationship doesn’t mean you can give up the romance and dates and the chase. It’s all about the little things done simply because you love your partner and you’re telling him/her so.

Take everything in stride
There were plenty of awkward moments for Henry when his plans didn’t go well, but he always managed to improvise and work his way around it. I really want that ability and that’s partly why I love comedy and puns. They require me to improvise a lot and take every opportunity that comes my way.

The movie left me with a feeling of blissful happiness and a twinge of envy because I haven’t had a girlfriend before.

My goal is to have my future girlfriend’s friends and family say how lucky she is to have me when in fact the lucky one would be me.

The search continues…

-Jace

Her

So I watched Her last week. Mum was right; it was the very depressing and it made me cry.

Warning: Spoiler Alert!

Her is set in the near future with advanced technology. Among those technologies is an operating system (OS) which is actually sentient. It can talk to people, learn things, gain experiences and even have feelings. Of course, since when was computers having feelings ever a good idea?

But the show is a romance show, not sci-fi or horror, although the ending was still quite tragic.

I don’t think I could ever fall in love with a computer, even if it had Scarlett Johanssan’s super hawt voice. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t mind a girlfriend who was so much smarter than me in every way, but my primary love language is Physical Touch, so without touch, I wouldn’t feel…. loved.

The show was really awesome, but I think it would only be appreciated by sentimental people and hopeless hopeful romantics like me. Sad shows like this one always make me feel grateful that my life isn’t as bad as the protagonist’s.

Her definitely needs to be watched again and I shall do so when I finally get a girlfriend.

-Jace

Monk

This post was first published on my Tumblr on May 31, 2013, and is now updated with my experiences since then.

I finished all eight seasons of the TV series Monk a couple of weeks ago, and I was really upset when it finished. I mean, yeah it had a nice happy ending, but the story has finished. Book lovers will understand.

Almost every episode follows a somewhat typical storyline. Something about Adrian Monk changes, it affects his work, he catches the culprit, then somehow the change reverses, leaving him back at square one. It’s very sad and frustrating.

Some episodes are especially touching and/or emotional, when he is shown to miss his wife. It’s quite depressing, but it made me appreciate my life. That’s the thing I like about sad shows. It’s always much worse than your problems and it makes your problems seem small and easy to overcome.

Monk did teach me a lot. I’ve got a lot of practice with observing things and predicting the storyline. I don’t always see it and I don’t always get it right, but I do my best.

He has OCD and has to keep cleaning up and rearranging things. In a way, I can understand how it helps him solve cases. See, if everything is perfect, then you can see the imperfections and inconsistencies. I learnt how to be meticulous from watching this show.

I’m going to miss this show.

-Jace